Independence Bowl 2011: UNC vs. Missouri Features Bevy of NFL-Caliber Talent

Wes ODonnellFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2011

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - NOVEMBER 21:  E.J. Wilson #92 ,Greg Elleby #67, Cam Thomas #93 and Quinton Coples #90 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after the game against the Boston College Eagles on November 21, 2009 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The Tar Heels defeated the Eagles 31-13.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl isn't circled on everyone's "must-watch" list over the next few days, but the NFL is certainly paying attention.

Tonight in Shreveport, Louisiana at Independence Stadium the 7-5 teams will put a number of talented prospects out on the field.

A lot of them will be wearing Tar Heel Blue.



Led by a potential-laden defensive front seven, the Tar Heels (again) will have a number of their players drafted this year.

Defensive lineman Quinton Coples didn't have the year many wanted to see from him, but at 6'6", 278 pounds, he is a built to dominate in the NFL. He has the speed, playmaking skills and overall athleticism to warrant a top 20 selection come April.

He faced a lot of double teams this year and didn't always give his all, but his versatility is very intriguing.

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 10:  Zach Brown #47 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts to making an interception against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Kenan Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

At his side is 6'3", 320 pound tackle Sylvester Williams. He's currently grading in the late second-to-third round range.

Two linebackers playing behind Coples and Williams, Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick, are also potential first rounders.

Brown is undersized at 6'2", 230 pounds, but he's a freak athlete with reported sub 4.5 40-yard dash speed.

Reddick is considered a better overall football player and has better size too.

The offense also isn't without a star, and features 6'4", 225-pound receiver Dwight Jones. The UNC senior has over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year.

Running back Giovanni Bernard is only a freshman (according to ESPN) sophomore (according to the school's website), but he'll be someone to watch for the next two years. He has over 1,500 yards of total offense this season and 14 total touchdowns.



TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09:  Tight end Michael Egnew #82 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates after scoring against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on September 9, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Sun Devils defea
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Tigers' best player is senior tight end Michael Egnew. At 6'6", 245 pounds he has the complete package, but has turned in a down year in terms of production in large part due to quarterback play.

But scouts remember him last year as one of Blaine Gabbert's top targets and he's likely a Day Two pick barring anything weird. Junior receiver T.J. Moe is also someone to watch.

Replacing Gabbert is sophomore James Franklin. The 6'2", 225 pound signal caller is not an NFL-caliber quarterback, but he is a gifted athlete.

He struggles at times, but can make plays and has 20 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions on the year with just over 2,700 yards passing. He's also rushed for over 800 yards and 13 touchdowns.

When it comes down it, the Tar Heels feature the better individual players, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the Tigers pull out the win. Either way, the Independence Bowl is worth the watch.