The Hunt Report: What to know from Tropical Bowl week, including top prospects, standout performers, more | 31left

Back on the road again to another all-star event, this time it’s the Tropical Bowl in Orlando, Florida. What makes this game unique this year is that they’ve added two additional days to the front end of the week, where guys who just missed the regular Tropical Bowl roster got to compete in a two-day practice and scrimmage format in front of the scouts from all across the professional football ranks.

Some guys who performed well were rewarded with a call up to the regular Tropical Bowl week. Don’t forget that we will have scouting reports on all of these guys, which you can at www.footballgameplan.com/2023DraftGuide.

With a lot on the line for these guys, it yielded some spirted and competitive days of work under the Florida sun.

Tropical Bowl scrimmage

CB Prince Washington: 5-7 175, Sacramento State

Don’t let the size fool you — Washington plays a big man’s game out on the perimeter. He competes really well, and competed extremely well during 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and team periods. Really impressive week for the former Hornet.

CB Darius Williams: 5-9 189, Texas A&M-Commerce

The Lions had three defensive prospects in this game, and all three guys put TAMU-Commerce on the map. Williams, the son of the late, former Denver Broncos star Darrent Williams, was simply outstanding in coverage. At times you thought he was the receiver with how well he covered the route. I also thought his ball skills were top notch.

CB Natrone Brooks: 5-9 165, Southern Miss

Speaking of top-notch ball skills, Brooks showed that he had that as well with his requisite ball instincts and awareness in coverage. He was in the running for the best defensive back of the week with how well and consistent he performed. 

CB Tye Freeland: 5-9 191, William & Mary

My colleague and former NFL player Leger Douzable made a mention about Freeland’s game earlier in the week, so I was glad to be able to see him during practice. He’s got some good flexibility on the backend, capable of playing on the inside as a slot or even as a combo safety. Coming from that William & Mary program, I wasn’t surprised with how well he was in run support.

DB Carthell Flowers-Lloyd: 6-1 193, Stony Brook

Another program that just churns out quality pro prospects at defensive back is Stony Brook. Coach Diamond Weaver does a great job developing his guys, because they come into these all-star game settings technically sound. Flowers-Lloyd can play virtually anywhere in the secondary, which is good for him, as a lot of teams may view him as an outside corner or safety prospect. He’s got the length to make things rather difficult for both the quarterback and receiver. 

RB Aaron Dawson: 5-9 216, Valparaiso 

I was very impressed with Dawson’s explosiveness. This is also something he showed last week at the College Gridiron Showcase. Where this stood out the most was in the passing game. Once he gets a step on the backer, he’s able to accelerate and close on the ball, hauling in the reception. This was also on top of the stellar job he did in the run game, hitting the hole with authority. 

RB Joshua Samuel: 5-10 213, Austin Peay

Samuel couldn’t have started the scrimmage portion of the week any better, as he took the opening carry of the scrimmage 70-yards to the house for a touchdown. He’s got good run power and is very comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield. I’m glad he was able to showcase his long speed on that touchdown run.

RB Fred Jackson: 5-8 172, Mercer

Jackson is going to be a game-day matchup piece for an offense. He’s a slasher-type as a runner, who is able to exploit an open lane for a big play. And in the passing game, he’s as good as your slot receiver. During the scrimmage, he had a fantastic deep reception, setting his team up in scoring position. 

QB Tyler Kulka: 6-0 219, Lawrence Tech

Kulka had the most impressive week of the quarterbacks. He was the most consistent during any team period, and even in the scrimmage, he just found a way to keep the chains moving, which is all you can ask for from your QB. He also showcased good placement on his short-to-intermediate passes as well.

WR LaMartez Brooks: 6-1 205, Murray State

Brooks plays like a 10-year NFL veteran. He’s got so much polish within his route running that he’s never covered, or at least it looked that way throughout the course of the practices this week. He’s got both physicality and finesse, which is the type combination you’d want to have as a receiver. 

WR Dohnte Meyers: 5-9 184, Delta State

Meyers’ game reminded me a lot of former LSU star Skylar Green. He may be shorter but isn’t smaller, as he’s got some muscle to him and plays with that same physicality of a taller receiver. What stood out the most to me all week was his excellent body control, getting in and out of his breaks and attacking the ball away from his body.

WR Brian Smith: 6-3 221, Missouri Valley

Smith has been steady this postseason at three different events. And what has been the common theme for him at all three stops has been his physicality. He’s a well put together wideout who plays above the rim well and can essentially get inside position whenever he wants. There’s also a potential pathway for him to become a flex TE as a pro, a la Robert Tonyan of the Green Bay Packers.

Here’s a look at some of the WR/DB 1-on-1s from the Tropical Bowl scrimmage:

OL Russell Baker: 6-4 315, Texas State

You can tell when a player is well coached, because every step, movement and action is functional. That aptly describes Baker and what he put out there on film this week in front of scouts. It is also why he was rarely one to give up pressure as well.

OL Tyrone Chambers: 6-3 397, Kentucky State

Chambers is a very large man, but moved rather well for a guy his size. Inside at guard is where he can grow, blossom and develop into a real problem up front. There was no bull rushing him and no disengaging from his blocks once he put those hooves on you.

EDGE Celestin Haba: 6-2 258, Texas A&M-Commerce

Haba definitely made the most noise out of any defender in attendance. He essentially changed the course of the scrimmage with two explosive hits on the QB, coming after he quickly beat the offensive tackle around the edge for the big play. He’s got really good size and gave scouts a ton of homework to do on him when they get back to their offices.

DE Marcus Bragg: 6-4 240, Auburn

Bragg has the “off the bus” look for a defender: long, lengthy and athletic. The good news is that we got to see him utilize all three during the scrimmage. He’s very twitchy coming off the corner and plays a lot longer than his listed size. 

DT Isaiah Forte: 6-0 282, UAB

Forte has quickness off the ball and the heavy hands you want to see from someone on the interior. Despite coming in at 6-feet tall, he was an issue for offensive linemen all week during the 1-on-1s and team periods. 

Here’s a look at some of the OL/DL 1-on-1s from the Tropical Bowl scrimmage:

Other Tropical Bowl scrimmage standouts:

  • DB Dwayne Thompson II, Valdosta State
  • DB Justin Castell, Davenport
  • S Blaine Netterman, Delaware Valley
  • DT Anthony Watts, Marshall
  • WR Andre Ross, Union College
  • OL Hayden Huttula, Michigan Tech
  • S Shannon Showers, West Florida
  • DB Kyeon Taylor, Kean 
  • DB Jermichael Isom, California (PA)
  • DB Terrell Wallace Jr., American International College
  • CB D’Ante Smith, Texas A&M-Commerce
  • CB Isaiah Huff, Assumption
  • DE Jason Mercier, Jackson State
  • EDGE Isaiah Curry, Valdosta State
  • RB Tyler Hoosman, North Dakota
  • LB Mikail Webb, Alcorn State
  • LB Joshua Adewumi, Salisbury University
  • DT Quent Titre, Rice
  • DT Demarcus Elliott, Indiana

Here’s the full scrimmage from this portion of Tropical Bowl week:

Tropical Bowl

The official Tropical Bowl game week started Thursday with an entirely new roster of players, split up into two teams (American and National). Prospects performed in front of a lot of the same pro scouts from earlier in the week, and in many respects, we saw more scouts head into town Thursday for these two days of work before heading out to Pasadena, California, for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl next week.

Game organizer Michael Quartey does an excellent job with this event. I’ve attended the Tropical Bowl since 2017 and have been impressed with the collection of talent each year. From this game I’ve seen players get called up to the three major all-star games (NFLPA, Shrine and Senior Bowl), earn invites to the NFL Scouting Combine and even find themselves getting drafted as well.

American Team Standouts

QB Connor Degenhardt: 6-5 214, New Haven

Degenhardt throws the ball with so much confidence and conviction that it’s awesome to watch him get in a grove and rip it around the yard. During both 7-on-7s and in the team two-minute drill, he made snap decisions with the ball and consistently got it out to the right option more often than not. He’s put together a strong string of postseason all-star game performances, as he starred in the FCS Bowl, College Gridiron Showcase and now the Tropical Bowl.

RB Ellis Merriweather: 6-0 220, UMass

The great part about attending these all-star game practices is seeing guys do things they weren’t asked to do much of while in college. That was the case for Merriweather, who showed tremendous proficiency in the passing game. From a route running perspective, he consistently got separation from the defender and caught the football away from his body with ease. His pass pro was excellent during blitz pickup. We even saw him get reps as a kickoff returner. In my opinion, he might be this year’s Julius Chestnut or Isiah Pacheco.

WR Dylan Classi: 5-11 190, Princeton

Classi’s route running was the most impressive part of his week here in Orlando. It was the work within his stem and at the top of his route where he found his separation. He’s got really good, quick hands that were able to snatch the ball out of the air and, in some cases, away from the defender. He also brings great value as a special teamer in the return game.

WR Tyjon Lindsey: 5-8 170, Oregon State

Lindsey kept defenders in crisis mode at the top of his route because of how explosive he was out of his break. Don’t ever give him a two-way go, or it’s over. He drew a lot of “oohs and ahhs” throughout the week.

WR Adonicas Sanders: 6-0 194, Temple

I thought Sanders was the most explosive of the receivers. He got off the line of scrimmage with ease, was quickly able to stack the defensive back and accelerated like a Ferrari on the Autobahn tracking the ball and hauling it in. Expect to see his name being talked about around the pro day circuit as well.

WR Caylin Newton: 5-10 205, William & Mary

The last time I saw Newton in a live setting was back when he was the QB at Howard University, as I was the color analyst on a handful of those games. He started to get work at receiver while at Auburn before reuniting with William & Mary coach Mike London to finish out his career. He’s still a raw prospect at this position, but I came away impressed with the nuance he showed in getting off press coverage. He caught the ball well and showed that he’s capable of being a physical inside wideout at the next level.

WR Dwayne Lawson: 6-5 207, Missouri Southern State

Another former QB turner WR, Lawson was a physically imposing presence out on the perimeter this week. For such a taller receiver, he was able to get in-and-out of his breaks really well. I also think he could be a flex TE potentially at the next level, like former Iowa State receiver Hakeem Butler.

TE Camren McDonald: 6-4 242, Florida State

McDonald was the best tight end throughout the week. He was so impressive, he received a call-up to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl after the second practice, so he won’t be participating in the Tropical Bowl game Saturday. Confident hands and top-tier route running are what had the scouts buzzing on both Thursday and Friday.

CB Datrone Young: 5-8 173, Duke

How active and feisty can you be as a defensive back without being too feisty and active? That’s the biggest key for young defenders. Young was able to straddle that line perfectly with his play. His closing speed and activity around the ball were excellent.

Here’s a look at the WR/DB 1-on-1s from the American Team:

OL Drew Bones: 6-5 325, Illinois State

Bones has excellent core strength, and it showed vs. the defenders who tried to power rush him, as he would not relent. In the run game, he was able to get movement during team periods and showed a lot of polish overall.

DT Nick Andrews: 6-2 297, Bethel University (TN)

As the only NAIA prospect at the Tropical Bowl, Andrews proved that the stage nor the level of competition were too big for him. He had a stellar week, bringing the same energy he had throughout his all-star game circuit, as, you guessed it, he has played in three games so far this December-January. 

EDGE Dominic Quewon: 6-3 257, Southern Miss

Speed-to-power is what you hear scouts and evaluators use when describing pass rushers, and that’s what Quewon was able to show this week. He has a one-arm stab that frustrated offensive linemen. Once they got used to that, he had a vicious spin/chop off of it. A well-nuanced rusher indeed.

LB Marquez Bembry: 6-2 221, UConn

The pro game is more of a passing league with speed and range being paramount for a defensive back-seven prospect to showcase. I thought Bembry made the most of his week, showing he can matchup 1-on-1 with backs and tight ends in the passing game. When you’re able to do that, you can be trusted to be on the field on all three downs.

EDGE Tyler Tate: 6-2 256, Millersville

Like Degenhardt, Tate has definitely made the most of his postseason all-star game circuit, spending time at the three games. Once again, the Division II edge rusher made his presence felt during the short week of work here in Orlando. 

I spoke with him after practice on Day 2 to get his thoughts: 

Here’s a look at the OL/DL 1-on-1s from the American Team:

Other American Team standouts

  • QB Todd Centeio, James Madison
  • OT Cedrice Paillant, Marshall
  • RB Jeremiah Nelson, Kutztown
  • DB Chris Jefferson, Purdue
  • WR Jerome Kapp, Kutztown
  • CB Caleb Biggers, Boise State
  • WR Marcell Barbee, Texas State
  • CB Ronald Kent Jr., Central Michigan
  • CB Gurvan Hall, Utah State
  • WR Johnny King, Southeast Missouri State
  • LB Tylar Wiltz, Pittsburgh
  • OL Joshua Donovan, Arizona
  • OL Micah Vanterpool, Hawaii
  • LB Marcus Haynes, Old Dominion
  • OL Gray Davis, Colorado State
  • EDGE KeShaun Moore, Hampton

National Team

WR Ronnie Blackmon: 5-7 185, West Georgia

Blackmon’s explosiveness almost immediately jumps out at you when he’s on the field, giving the secondary fits throughout the week, in both 1-on-1s, and during the 7-on-7 period. He did so well that even the heckling defensive backs on the sideline had to give him his props.

QB Fred Payton: 6-0 215, Mercer

Payton plays with a certain level of calm at the position and did a really good job with both getting the ball out quickly and placing the ball where it needed to be. He was consistently on target during the week.

DB Maxwell Worship: 6-0 204, Vanderbilt

Worship showcased very good versatility during the practices. Some teams may see him as a slot corner or as a combo safety. Needless to say he made himself some coin this week in Orlando.

RB Todd Sibley Jr.: 5-9 221, Albany

I thought Sibley was the most consistent out of the backs on the National squad. What really stood out to me was how comfortable he was in the passing game, both as a receiver and in pass pro.

WR Braxton Burmeister: 6-0 194, San Diego State

This is the second all-star game we’ve brought up Burmeister’s name. He had a really stellar week of work at the Tropical Bowl, fresh off of doing the same thing in Fort Worth, Texas, at the College Gridiron Showcase last week. 

I caught up with him after practice to get his thoughts on how the last two weeks have been for him:

WR Joshua Okechukwu: 6-2 217, Fort Hays State

Really good polish shown by Okechukwu this week. From his initial release to the sauce he puts on his routes at the apex, he consistently worked himself open and was also strong at the catch point. 

WR/TE Jordan Murray: 6-3 245, Hawaii

Murray has the flexible and versatile skill set that scouts covet. I thought his athleticism was on display this week, as you can see him fill a multitude of roles for an NFL team. He can be a flex TE or a big slot for certain teams. 

CB Justin Broiles: 5-11 191, Oklahoma

Technique and activity at the catch point will always standout during a practice, and Broiles did a masterful job closing in on the receiver as the ball approached. It was really good to see him excel in both 1-on-1s and in 7-on-7s.

CB D’Jordan Strong: 5-9 182, Coastal Carolina

Strong played like a guy who had played a lot of games in college. Very good click-and-close defender who also showed he’s not afraid to run up in run support. I thought he attacked the ball in the air rather well.

Here’s a look at some of the WR-vs-DB 1-on-1s from the National Team practices:

EDGE Sayrend Musgrove Jr.: 6-3 237, Concord (WV)

There’s something there with Musgrove, as he’s got a really good frame and solid athleticism. During OL/DL 1-on-1s is where he shined, showcasing the twitch and bend to turn the corner.

EDGE Chukwuemeka Manning: 6-1 272, Austin Peay
This was an impressive showing for Manning, who showed he could rush over the guard or the tackle with the same level of excellence. He was also disruptive during team periods as well.

OL Tykeem Doss: 6-4 366, Southern Miss

Personally, I thought Doss was the best offensive lineman there for the National team. He was such a tough matchup for edge rushers during 1-on-1s and was able to carry that over into the team period. He was primarily on the left side during practice, but could find a home on the opposite side.

LB Guy Thomas: 6-2 232, Colorado

Thomas was a twitched-up edge player who flashed both days with the different ways he got himself to the QB during pass rush drills. He definitely showed potential as a blitzer this week.

OL Wade Willet: 6-4 302, Sam Houston

If I thought Doss was the No. 1 OL this week, Willet was No. 1B. He was the most technically sound lineman there. His feet and hands were consistent, he showed that he was able to sit and anchor to stop a defender who tried to power rush him, and he did a great job resetting his hands to be in better position to win the rep.

OT Kendrick Sartor: 6-6 330, Marshall

I won’t quite call him Flozell “The Hotel” Adams, but that’s how Sartor went about his business this week. He was so patient in his set-up, his punch and when he chose to reset his hands. I don’t think he gave up a pressure all week in 1-on-1s, nor in team periods. He also excelled in the run game.

P Rhys Byrns: 5-11 194, Louisiana 

I may not have scouted ALL the punters in the country, but Byrns will get my vote as the best one. I used to return punts, and the one type of punt that frustrates returners is one with distance and hang time, and that’s what Byrns consistently did when he booted the ball this week.

Here’s a look at some of the OL/DL 1-on-1s from the National Team practices:

Other National Team standouts

  • WR Jayshon Jackson, Ball State
  • WR Mac Hippenhammer, Miami (OH)
  • WR Ontaria Wilson, Florida State
  • WR Carlos Carriere, Central Michigan
  • LB Trevor Nowaske, Saginaw Valley State
  • LB Jordan Carmouche, Arkansas State
  • LB Amir Siddiq, Charlotte
  • DL Michael Nobile, Delaware Valley
  • DE TyJuan Garbutt, Virginia Tech
  • CB Robert Carter, West Georgia
  • CB Kevin Hyde, Slippery Rock
  • S Koby Perry, UCF
  • DB Myles Mason, Louisiana Tech
  • WR Elijah Harper, Adams State
  • DL Jacob Sykes, UCLA
  • OL Isaac Miller Cochran, Air Force
  • CB Kaleb Oliver, Western Kentucky
  • WR Eric Gallman II, Duke

2023 Dream Bowl

There was another all-star game taking place this week, starting as the Tropical Bowl was in full swing. It was the 2023 Dream Bowl. This is the first year of this event being in Texas, as for the last few years it resided in Salem, Virginia.

Here are a couple of prospects to keep an eye on from this event:

QB Noah Mitchell: 6-3 207, California (PA)

Mitchell is another solid QB prospect coming out of the PSAC, with the other being Tyson Bagent, who is headed to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Mitchell’s game reminds me a lot of Josh Freeman. He’s got the arm to work touchdown-to-checkdown in the passing game, while also being accurate on the move as well. He is coming off of a stellar career with the Vulcans.

S Terrence Harris: 6-1 200, Clark Atlanta

When you watch CAU film, you’ll see Harris flying up in run support with a ferocity that causes the runner to hesitate, second guess his intentions and subsequently get stopped in his tracks. Harris also closes like this on the receiver, whether it’s closing on a reception attempt or condensing a route and taking an option away from the QB. 

Next up: NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and East West Shrine Bowl

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