Saturday, December 20, 2008

Senior Spotlight: Bowl Week - December 20-21

QB Willie Tuitama/WR Mike Thomas, Arizona - Las Vegas Bowl vs. BYU

The spread attack brought over from Texas Tech by Sonny Dykes last season has agreed with the Wildcats’ signal caller and top receiver. As a junior, Willie Tuitama saw a boost in his numbers, leading the Pac-10 in both touchdown passes and passing yards. While his touchdown passes (28 to 21) and yards (3,683 to 2,763) have dipped as a senior, the California native has been more efficient in his final campaign in the desert leading the ‘Cats to their first bowl appearance under Mike Stoops. His completion percentage is a career-high 64.6 percent and he is averaging 7.59 yards per pass, up from 7.03 last season. Tuitama has a strong arm and is a good athlete, but lacks ideal size and bulk. Mike Thomas was also a Pac-10 leader a year ago when he led the conference with his 83 receptions as a junior and racked up 1,038 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns (an Arizona single season record). Like his partner Tuitama, Thomas saw a drop in production in 2008 (70 receptions, 796 yards, four touchdowns), but should not be overlooked, as he is as dangerous as ever. The wide out has very reliable hands and is stronger than he appears, with quickness and speed being his biggest strengths. The Texas native has improved significantly since his freshman campaign, becoming a more polished receiver and a better route runner. His lack of length and bulk limit his potential, but he has the ideal skill set as a slot receiver. Thomas is also a dynamic return man and dangerous on reverses, end-arounds…or whenever he touches the pigskin.

CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest - Eagle Bank Bowl vs. Navy

A pure coverman, Smith has the type of speed, quickness and fluid hips that allow him to stay with even the best wide receivers. Smith gets a good read on the ball and his hands are receiver quality, as evidenced by his 20 career interceptions, which ties him with Dre’ Bly as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time leader. Once he gets the ball in his hands Smith is dynamic – simply put, he’s a playmaker. He is also a sure tackler who can be aggressive against the run (23.5 career TFLs) and a solid blitzer (9 career sacks). He can even lay the wood despite his lack of ideal size. Smith is also durable – he hasn’t missed a game during his four years at Wake Forest and will put on the pads for the 50th time as a Demon Deacon. Smith has the swagger and cover skills to be a lockdown cover corner at the next level.

QB Tom Brandstater, Fresno St. - New Mexico Bowl vs. Colorado St.

The Bulldog has shown improvement throughout his career, which is not all that uncommon for quarterbacks at Fresno State. Brandstater’s development as a decision maker, in his accuracy and at throwing the ball down field, speaks to both his coachabilty and work ethic. He’s not a scrambler, but Brandstater has good speed and can move the chains or find the goal line with his legs if necessary. Brandstater is an impressive athlete for a man of his size, but could use some more bulk. In his lone bowl experience, which came last season, Brandstater earned the Humanitarian Bowl MVP Award in their 40-28 victory over Georgia Tech. The 6’5 signal caller completed 23-of-30 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown, adding another 40 yards on the ground, including a 24-yard scoring scamper. The 24-year old is also regarded as a leader and is very bright, as he was a Draddy Trophy semifinalist.

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Wake Forest University)