Fiesta Bowl Primer 2010

Dale ThortonCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2010

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 14:  Defensive end Jerry Hughes #98 of the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Fiesta Bowl
TCU vs. Boise State
Tonight, 8 p.m. EST, FOX


What to watch for:

The spotlight is now on:

TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes might be the best senior prospect no one is talking about. The reason? He plays at TCU and rarely gets any kind of national exposure.

However, trust me when I say this: Hughes knows how to rush the passer. He currently has 11.5 sacks this season after leading the nation with 15 last year.

Hughes is a bit undersized at 6'2", 257 pounds, but he plays with impressive bend and leverage on contact, uses his hands well to shed blocks and consistently is able to reach the corner with his first step.

Plus, he looks so natural dropping his pad level, maintaining his balance and flatting out around the edge that you can’t help but think he’s going to be an impact pass rusher at the next level. He’s one guy definitely worth keeping an eye on tonight, and I expect him to play well in a much-deserved prime time game.

Senior supreme

Coming into his senior year, TCU linebacker Daryl Washington had all of two starts to his name and was being asked to replace former defensive standout Jason Phillips. However, Washington has done nothing but impress in 2009.

At 6'3", 234 pounds, he displays the range of a safety, is fluid in space, and is quickly able to get after the football. His ability to run sideline to sideline and close in pursuit is one of the main reasons the TCU defense plays so fast: He makes it very difficult for opposing running backs to consistently reach the edge.

He’s only a first-year starter and still needs some time to work on his instincts and overall feel for the position, but the upside is there for him to mature into a starting-caliber linebacker at the next level. He could also develop into a very good special teams player as he develops at the position.

Mr. Shutdown

Boise State also knows how to play some defense, especially in the back end, and features one of the nation’s top cornerback prospects in Kyle Wilson.

Wilson is an undersized defender at 5'10", 186 pounds, but showcases impressive body control and balance in his drop with the footwork/burst to quickly close on passes in front of him. He also displays the type of deep speed to turn and run with wideouts down the field and is very difficult to gain separation from.

He consistently is able to stay in the back pocket of receivers out of their breaks and routinely puts himself in position to make plays on the ball. Wilson is a guy I expect to see completely blanket one side of the field tonight and eventually to mature into a starter in the NFL.

He knows how to score

Boise State wideout Austin Pettis is expected to play tonight and, according to head coach Chris Petersen, “he’ll be a factor somehow, some way.”

Pettis currently has 14 touchdown catches this year and has quickly emerged as one of the nation’s top red-zone threats. He’s a big target at 6'3", 202 pounds, but it’s his body control and coordination when asked to go up and get the football that make him so difficult to cover.

Pettis isn’t a burner down the field, but he picks up speed as he goes and displays the short-area quickness to gain a step on corners and use his big frame to box them out. He looks like the quintessential possession-type receiver at the next level, and if he’s somewhat healthy for this game, I expect him to be a factor.

You don’t need a big name to make an NFL roster

OG/OT Marshall Newhouse, TCU (6'3", 320)

A three-year starter at left tackle and possesses an impressive blend of body control and overall athleticism for a lineman his size. Lacks the length needed to play on the blind side at the next level but makes for an intriguing guard prospect.

OT Marcus Cannon, TCU (6'5", 348)

A king-sized right tackle prospect who displays good pop in the run game and consistently is able to win on contact.

RB Jeremy Avery, Boise State (5'9", 173)

He’s only a junior and is undersized, but every time he gets his hands on the ball, the tempo of the Boise State offense picks up. He’s dangerous in space, can make plays out of the backfield and looks like an intriguing third down type of back in the NFL.

SS Jeron Johnson, Boise State (5'1"1, 195)

A ball-hawk in the secondary who showcases good instincts and loves to lay the wood on contact. However, he lacks range and ideal size and might have a tough time finding a spot in an NFL secondary.