This is a repeat trip for Oklahoma State to Dallas while Missouri makes its first appearance in a “New Year’s Day” bowl game in some time. This old time Big 8 battle will be a challenging contest for Mizzou’s talented pass rushers and their underrated cornerback.
Justin Gilbert/CB/Oklahoma State: I heaped praise in Gilbert during my Big 12 preview back in August and mentioned how he would surprise scouts and he’s done nothing to disappoint. The versatile Gilbert has the ability to play in different defensive schemes and shows a feistiness to his game as well as the ability to help out as a return specialist. He has a tendency to fall asleep on plays occasionally but at the top of his game possesses the tools necessary to develop into a number one cornerback in the NFL. 2nd Round
Kony Ealy/DE/Missouri: The athletic Ealy is blossoming into a terrific defensive end and showed great improvement in his game this season. Looking almost like a power forward on the football field, he’s swift, can bend off the edge and holds up well against the run. Ealy is a prospect whose best football is ahead of him and like Gilbert, offers starting potential for the next level. 2nd Round
Michael Sam/OLB-DE/Missouri: Sam entered the season with a free agent grade but a season in which he totaled 10.5 sacks as well as 18 tackles for loss has pushed him into the middle rounds. Explosive, he fires off the snap and is relentless in pursuit of the ball handler. Sam has the athleticism to get to quarterbacks off the edge or catch the action from the backside. He’s a terrific football player, not a great athlete, and poor computer numbers are likely to leave him outside the draft’s initial 75 picks. 3rd/4th Round
E.J. Gaines/CB/Missouri: If you’re looking for an underrated senior cornerback, Gaines is your man. He offers just average size and speed yet does nothing but make plays against the run and pass. His ball skills are good enough to trust Gaines in man coverage and he shows a willingness to come up the field and stop ball carriers. He’s likely no more than a dime back/special teams player at the next level, yet Gaines should be very productive with those two responsibilities. 4th/5th Round