I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes. Bowl season is all around me, so let the prospects glow. (Yes that’s a Love Actually reference).
It’s bowl season and throughout the bowl season, I’ll be bringing Green Bay Packers’ fans a viewer’s guide for each bowl game. We will start with the Friday, Dec. 17 slate of games.
Throughout these guides, we will be taking a look at one prospect per team that Packers fans should be watching. So, get your favorite holiday drink and let’s take a look at the four prospects Green Bay fans should be watching.
Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Toldeo. Noon (ESPN)
MTSU safety Reed Blankenship (12)
Reed Blankenship, Safety, Middle Tennessee
Blankenship will finish his career at Middle Tennessee as the program’s all-time leader in tackles.
During his five-year career at Middle Tennessee, Blankenship recorded 415 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, nine interceptions, and 19 pass deflections. As Blankenship heads into his final game as a Blue Raider, the instinctive safety has 106 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, and eight pass deflections on the season.
“He has an exceptionally high football IQ,” Sam Doughton, a staff writer for Middle Tennessee athletics said when I asked him what Blankenship’s greatest strength was. “The Blue Raider defense often talks about ‘reading their keys’ as the play develops in order to be in the right place at the right time, and Reed clearly can read his keys well.”
More from Doughton: “He is seemingly in the right spot, at the right time, every single play. If he’s not the guy making the tackle, he’s usually the second or third guy there. That exceptional field awareness supplements his tackling ability, which is also very good. He’s tough to get out of when he wraps you up. It’s one of the major reasons that C-USA coaches named him First Team All C-USA this season.”
Tycen Anderson, S, Toledo
A day-three prospect, Anderson is another instinctive, safety that’s at his best playing close to the line of scrimmage. The former three-star recruit is a tough-nosed run defender that could make an immediate impact at the next level as a core special teams player.
This past season, Anderson has recorded 41 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack. For his career, he has 234 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, and 20 pass deflections.
Cure Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina. 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
(AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Clint Ratkovich, RB, Northern Illinois
The Kyle Juszcyk of the 2022 NFL Draft. To quote Mike McCarthy, “just one hell of a football player.”
Ratkovich is as tough as nails and has the versatility to line up at running back, fullback, or tight end. The “ultra back” finished his lone season at Northern Illinois with 12 rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns.
While his numbers on the ground (448 rushing yards) are not eye-popping, when Northern Illinois has needed the tough yards on third and short, Ratkovich has answered the bell.
“The guy just doesn’t go down,” Eddie Carifio, the sports editor for the Daily Chronicle said. “He’s been great for the Huskies in short situations, and not just in goal-line situations. The Huskies are one of the best fourth-down teams in the country, and Ratkovich is a big part of that. Fourth and one or two situations are a no-brainer.”
Prior to arriving at Northern Illinois, Ratkovich spent three seasons at Western Illinois. During that three-year stint, Ratkovich caught 128 passes for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ratkovich can do a lot of different things for a football team. He can earn the tough yardage on third or fourth and short situations. He can be a dangerous pass-catching weapon out of the backfield. He can lineup at fullback. He can play on special teams.
Jeffrey Gunter, Edge/LB, Coastal Carolina
Gunter has an intriguing blend of length, strength, and athleticism. He looks the part, standing at 6-4, 260 pounds. The Coastal Carolina edge rusher was listed as No. 8 on Bruce Feldman’s annual Freak’s list in 2021.
From Feldman “At 6-4, 273, Gunter vertical jumps 39 inches and broad jumps 10-2. He’s bull-strong in the weight room too, benching 435 (doing 225 for 30 reps), squatting 525 and power cleaning — with no wrist straps — 365. His pro shuttle time of 4.37 also is terrific.”
Playing the bandit position in Coastal Carolina’s defense, Gunter has been a disruptive force over the past three years. During that three-year span, the versatile edge defender has recorded 35 tackles for loss and 17 sacks.