Commentary

Arizona's Tuitama, Colorado State's Johnson kick off bowl season with a bang

Todd McShay's latest Draft Buzz looks back on the first weekend of bowl season and updates Scouts Inc.'s rankings of the top 32 NFL prospects.

Originally Published: December 22, 2008
By Todd McShay | Scouts Inc.

Draft Buzz Extra
Which prospects have the most to gain during bowl season? Which are looking to raise their profiles? Todd McShay has the answers. Draft Buzz Extra Insider
The 2008-09 bowl season has kicked off, and of the dozens of pro prospects playing in the first five games, no individual stood out more than Arizona QB Willie Tuitama and Colorado State RB Gartrell Johnson.

Tuitama finished his roller coaster of a career on a high note, passing for 325 yards and two scores in a 31-21 victory over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. The senior quarterback displayed good touch and accuracy throughout the evening, particularly on the deep ball. Leading the Wildcats to a pair of impressive victories in their final two outings -- Arizona beat Arizona State 31-10 in its regular-season finale -- certainly helps Tuitama's cause as a late-round prospect.

[+] EnlargeWillie Tuitama
Kirby Lee/US PresswireWillie Tuitama's up-and-down career ended on a high note against BYU.
Johnson flat-out carried the Rams to victory just a few hours earlier. The 5-foot-11, 227-pound back rushed 27 times for 285 yards and two fourth-quarter scores in a 45-30 win against Fresno State. Granted, he isn't the first back to shred Fresno State's poor excuse for a run defense this season, but Johnson took it to a new level. His body control and competitiveness stood out as he consistently kept his balance and churned out yards after initial contact. Johnson also showed versatility as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught five passes for 90 yards, giving him 375 total yards on the afternoon.

Johnson's lack of elusiveness and breakaway speed will hurt him during the draft process, but he has proved he has enough quickness, power and run instincts -- in addition to valuable experience on special teams -- to warrant late-round or free-agent consideration.

Tuitama and Johnson won't be the only players to grab the attention of NFL scouts this bowl season, though. Here's a scouting primer for the remaining 29 games:

Five most anticipated individual matchups
• Alabama LOT Andre Smith vs. Utah DE Paul Kruger
• Texas WR Quan Cosby vs. Ohio State CB Malcolm Jenkins
• Cincinnati WR Marshwan Gilyard vs. Virginia Tech CB Victor Harris
• Iowa RB Shonn Greene vs. South Carolina MLB Jasper Brinkley and OLB Eric Norwood
• LSU LOT Ciron Black vs. Georgia Tech RDE Michael Johnson

The Top 32
Below is Scouts Inc.'s updated rankings of the top 32 prospects for the NFL draft. Underclassmen continue to dominate the list, and until the official decision date in mid-January, we will continue to include in our top 32 and overall rankings all underclassmen we deem worthy of a first-day (Rounds 1 and 2) grade.

(Note: * denotes draft-eligible junior; ** denotes draft-eligible third-year sophomore)

Scouts Inc.'s Top 32 Prospects
Player Position School Height Weight Grade
1. Andre Smith* OT Alabama 6-4⅞ 341 98
2. Sam Bradford** QB Oklahoma 6-3½ 218 98
3. Aaron Curry OLB Wake Forest 6-1¾ 247 97
4. Michael Crabtree** WR Texas Tech 6-2½ 208 97
5. Malcolm Jenkins CB Ohio State 6-0 195 97
6. Aaron Maybin** DE Penn State 6-3½ 250 97
7. Matthew Stafford* QB Georgia 6-2½ 235 97
8. Jeremy Maclin** WR Missouri 6-0⅝ 198 96
9. Everette Brown* DE Florida State 6-4¼ 252 96
10. Eugene Monroe OT Virginia 6-5⅛ 310 96
11. Rey Maualuga ILB USC 6-1⅞ 260 96
12. Brian Orakpo DE Texas 6-3½ 255 95
13. Vontae Davis* CB Illinois 5-11⅞ 203 95
14. Gerald McCoy* DT Oklahoma 6-3½ 243 95
15. Mark Sanchez* QB USC 6-2½ 225 95
16. Jermaine Gresham* TE Oklahoma 6-5 266 95
17. B.J. Raji* DT Boston College 6-1¼ 334 94
18. Knowshon Moreno** RB Georgia 5-10⅜ 207 94
19. Jason Smith OT Baylor 6-4½ 300 94
20. James Laurinaitis ILB Ohio State 6-2 240 94
21. Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State 6-5⅝ 260 94
22. Chris Wells* RB Ohio State 6-1 235 93
23. Michael Oher OT Mississippi 6-5 330 93
24. Terrence Cody* DT Alabama 6-4½ 375 93
25. LeSean McCoy** RB Pittsburgh 5-11 205 92
26. Jerry Hughes** DE TCU 6-2 245 92
27. Tyson Jackson DE LSU 6-4¼ 295 91
28. Taylor Mays* S USC 6-3½ 225 91
29. Greg Hardy* DE Mississippi 6-4⅛ 267 90
30. Brian Cushing OLB USC 6-2¾ 253 90
31. Ndamukong Suh* DT Nebraska 6-4 305 90
32. Percy Harvin* WR Florida 5-10¾ 187 90

Todd McShay is the director of college football scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998.