If you were like the dozens of fans at the Rose Bowl, and myself at home, you watched what many believe to be the fourth most prestigious, seniors-only all-star game college football has to offer, the National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl.
With Oregon State getting goose-egged in both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, this was potentially going to be the last chance to see Artavis Pierce (RB) and Noah Togiai (TE) sporting Beaver black and orange, with Jake Luton (QB) and Blake Brandel (OL) currently having open invitations to the Hula Bowl next weekend.
If you missed the game, and I don’t know why you would, it treated you like every other Beaver game over the past few seasons, starting out promising and ultimately letting you down. Here are a few highlights, and lowlights, from Saturday’s action.
The Good: Pierce began the game as lead back, seeing touches on the first three plays of the game (two rush, one reception). However, poor run blocking stopped what looked to be a well-drawn up third-down draw play, a rare compliment for a coach (Marvin Lewis) that is non-voluntarily out of the NFL. After that, Pierce was essentially done for the day, seeing only one more touch, taking advantage of a rule that doesn’t allow more than four defensive players on the line of scrimmage and scoring what might have been the easiest two-yard touchdown of his life.
The Bad: To say the overall usage of Oregon State players was “disappointing”, would be an understatement. Jake Luton attended but didn’t play, Pierce didn’t see time past the first quarter, Blake Brandel was used sparingly, and Togiai didn’t see action until the second half, with mostly blocking duties during clock management. While it is known the most important part of these “all-star games” are the practices prior, with the games themselves providing an opportunity for the San Diegos and Ohios of the world to showcase their talent, I have to believe the casual fan, as casual a fan that would watch this game was not tuning in to see the top seniors the FCS has to offer.
With Blake Brandel seeing inconsistent time on the field, it was hard to get a good gauge on his overall performance, but from his small sample size there was nothing that showed me the transition to the next level will be smooth, or at the same position. He looked decent in run blocking but completely disinterested in passing protection, which is becoming more of a priority in today’s NFL. Overall, his play wasn’t poor, but this is not what I expected from an athlete that was, statistically, one of the top tackles in the nation. The good news for Brandel is the NFLPA won’t be the last pre-draft chance to ace his interview, as noted above, he currently has an open invitation to the Hula Bowl, will likely attend the NFL Combine, and close everything out at Oregon State’s pro day.
Stock Up: Noah Togiai had a stat line leaving something to be desired, gaining zero yards on zero receptions with zero targets. If that is all you followed, you missed a player running clean routes both from the stance and the slot, finding open space regularly. Despite his complete inability to be seen by whoever was behind center, Togiai was able to show off his underrated run blocking, with a combination of power and intensity that is rarely seen in at these types of events. Expect this game to be the first domino of Togiai’s ascension up NFL draft boards.
Next Up: Hula Bowl January 26th, NFL Combine February 23rd – March 2nd, Oregon State Pro Day TBD.