As I wrote earlier in the week in my Prospect Preview piece, I had the privilege of attending and covering the seventh annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the historic Rose Bowl. While for the majority of game the scoreboard remained untouched, that didn’t necessarily mean the competition playing was as lackluster. For any All-Star game, it’s a tough transition for these players to quickly adapt to the abundance of former NFL experience, absorb that tutelage, and still put out a clean product. However, there were a few players who were able to shine in the City of Angels on Saturday.
Troy Apke, SAF, Penn State
For obvious reasons, I have to begin with the game’s Most Valuable Player. Until late in the 4th quarter, the MVP award was certainly up for grabs, and that’s when Apke pulled it out of the sky — literally. Troy Apke picked off an airmailed prayer from former Michigan QB John O’Korn. Not only was Akpe able to secure the win for the National Team with the interception, he showed off his ball skills by returning it 53 yards. Fellow NFL Draft prospects Saquon Barkley and Marcus Allen were sure to express their excitement for their Nittany Lion brother.
Apke also had seven tackles in the game. If you’re planning on watching film on the many Penn State pro hopefuls his year, be sure to include Apke in your study.
— Saquon Barkley (@saquonb21) January 20, 2018
Adonis Jennings, WR, Temple
Adonis Jennings, the 6’2”, 196 pound receiver made arguably the most “SportsCenter” worthy play of the afternoon. The play was a ball throw by John O’Korn on a deep go route. Here you’ll see Jennings pluck this ball over Chris Jones (Arkansas) and AJ Howard (Appalachian State).
Jennings actually made a couple other impressive catches on the day, one that included him working back to the quarterback on a scramble and securing a 3rd down catch along the sideline. He led the game with 61 receiving yards, and showed that he has the “stretch the field” playmaking ability that NFL teams desire in their young wideout talent. Jennings gave me a reason to go back and watch some Temple games from this past season.
Andrew Motuapuaka, LB, Virginia Tech
While watching game film of Andrew Motuapuaka in December, I mentioned that he deserved way more credit in draft circles than he had previously received. While his lack of hype had been understood, with him being a smaller and under-the-radar linebacker, the NFLPA game was his coming out party.
Statistically, he had one of the more impressive showings; as he collected 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and an effort-rewarded fumble recovery on the goal line early in the contest. Motuapuaka plays with a ton of passion, and I was happy to see my early evaluation of him be correct. He will be a guy to make a practice squad or even a 53 man roster with his hustle and intelligence. No longer can folks sleep on him.
It is astonishing how there’s no type of draft love yet for Andrew Motuapuaka. That needs to change. pic.twitter.com/WF9bUzcN5Q
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) December 12, 2017
Alvin “AJ” Howard, DB, Appalachian State
To be honest, I had never heard of AJ Howard until seeing him in my handed-out program before the beginning of the game. That’s on me, because Howard’s track record speaks for itself. While at App State, Howard appeared in 51 career games for the Mountaineers; including starting every game his freshman, junior, senior season (via the App State Athletics website). Howard made one of the more eye-popping plays of the game with this strong pass breakup.
Howard had great instincts during the game and I noticed his ability to break on routes well. Like Adonis Jennings of Temple, AJ Howard is giving me a reason to review some App State football games from 2017.
Jamil Demby, OL, Maine
While Jamil Demby won’t get the glamour shoutout with a highlight clip in this article, he might’ve had the most to gain in this game. When I spotted Demby during halftime warming back up, I noticed his massive frame (6’4”, 322 lbs). He’s known for his mauling ability in the run game and has the physical strength to grip and dominate any opponent to line up against him. He was one of the guys who had scouts buzzing during the week, and for good reason.
He’ll have the chance to keep improving his draft stock, as it was announced he would replace Western Michigan OT Chukwuma Okorafor in Mobile next week at the Senior Bowl. I see Demby being strictly an interior lineman at the next level, but regardless, he has a huge opportunity ahead of him to prove he’s worth a potential high draft pick.
As @LedyardNFLDraft notes, Western Michigan T Chukwuma Okorafor is no longer on the North Senior Bowl roster.