Elite 8 as Sonic Characters: Part One

Elite 8

The Elite 8 tips off tonight at 6:09 PM EST, and the madness has been constant. Hopefully, it will continue. Most previews are offering insight into matchups, who they think will win, what bets to make, etc. But here, we aren’t doing any of that. It’s time to have some fun and compare some teams to some Sonic the Hedgehog characters in a completely meaningless way.

FAU vs Kansas St (6:09PM EST)

Sticks and Sonic from the show Sonic: Boom.
Sticks (FAU):
Florida Atlantic v Tennessee
Photo by Al Bello via Getty Images

Florida Atlantic. Primal. Weird. Energetic. A bit paranoid.  Frantic but effective, the FAU Owls boast both a top-30 offense and defense according to KenPom. The Owls shoot 36.5% from 3-point range, which is good for 45th in the country. The Owls went from never winning a tournament game to now being in the Elite 8. And just like Sticks, they would surely love a shiny trophy.

To do so, they will need more big games out of sophomore guard Johnell Davis, who has been fantastic this entire tournament. He is averaging 18.6 points per game in the tournament.

Sonic (Kansas State):
Michigan State v Kansas State
Photo by Elsa via Getty Images

This choice might be surprising at first glance. However, they’re a team with extreme confidence in their ability. An undersized point guard running the show that has America in love with passing once again.

One of the fastest teams remaining in the tournament, Kansas State is the Sonic the Hedgehog of the Elite 8. Kansas St is 43rd in KenPom’s adjusted tempo at 69.9, good for second in the tournament. They are 41st in possessions per game at 73.3, which is the top mark remaining in the Elite 8.

They are not the most highly regarded team, ranking just 20th in KenPom and 23rd in T-rank, but the combination of elite guard play from Markquis Nowell and fantastic wing play from Keyontae Johnson might be enough to get this team that finished second-to-last in their conference last year to pull off a miracle and perhaps make it to a National Championship game.

UCONN vs Gonzaga (8:49PM EST)

Knuckles (UCONN):

A bit (a lot) slower than Gonzaga and Kansas State, UCONN will rely on their strength and skill to win this game. Connecticut is not the best defense remaining, but they hold their own on that end. They rank 14th in KenPom’s adjusted defense. The Huskies are an elite offense, ranking third in KenPom on that end. UCONN is 1st in KenPom and second in T-Rank overall.

They are led by physical big man Adama Sanogo, but guards Tristen Newton and Jordan Hawkins will be their keys to success. They face an extremely difficult test in Gonzaga, but they definitely have enough to be able to win it all. 

Shadow (Gonzaga):

Gonzaga is one of the fastest teams remaining in the tournament. The Bulldogs are 44th in the country, averaging 73.3 possessions per game, the second-best among the remaining teams. Gonzaga has the highest KenPom adjusted tempo of any remaining teams, at 70.2, which is good for 39th in the country. They have a difficult test in UCONN, the top team in KenPom, and 2nd in Bart Torvik’s T-Rank.

The Bulldogs are a team that some people dislike because of their recent success and their failure to win it all. However, despite many people’s dislike for the program, they are a team, like Shadow, that can be fun to root for, even if they are the “villain”. If Drew Timme can have another monster performance, they might just have a chance.

Senior Bowl Risers and Fallers: Game Day

The Senior Bowl is a showcase event for players to prove to NFL teams that they are worth their selections, and on game day, a player’s performance matters to a certain extent, and can help them be “risers” and “fallers”.

However, context is important to remember, as the entirety of the week is much more important than anything that happened in the game — and the Senior Bowl itself is just a small piece of a very large puzzle that is the NFL Draft.

Senior Bowl Risers: Game Day

Photo Credit: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire
Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford

Michael Wilson was phenomenal throughout the week. The Senior Bowl game was no different. Wilson is 6015 and 216lbs. He displayed a terrific ability to adjust to the ball in the air, including a remarkable (and significantly underthrown) touchdown grab.

Lonnie Phelps Jr., Edge, Kansas

Lonnie Phelps Jr. had a fantastic Senior Bowl. Phelps is 6021, 251lbs with 32 and 1/8″ arms. He showed off impressive power throughout the game, as well as tremendous hand usage. He also added a strip of Chris Rodriguez to his stat line.

Payne Durham, TE, Purdue

Payne Durham really popped as a pass catcher on Thursday. He then built on that success with a good game performance. Durham is 6050, 258lbs with a 80 6/8″ wingspan. He had two catches on two targets for 24 yards, including a back shoulder throw from Malik Cunningham. He was able to showcase his versatility by doing a bit of everything, including lining up at fullback and carrying the ball, gaining two yards on the play.

Evan Hull, RB, Northwestern

Evan Hull was the most productive running back on the day. After having a very good first practice, he tailed off the rest of the week as others began to stand out. However, when it mattered most he flashed his potential, carrying the ball 10 times for 74 yards and adding two catches for 11 yards. Hull displayed solid burst and contact balance.

Karl Brooks, iDL, Bowling Green

Karl Brooks has had a great week at the Senior Bowl. He followed it up with a good game as well. Brooks is 6033, 303lbs with 32 2/8″ arms. Brooks had a (coverage) sack, as well as showed off his excellent hand usage, and a good swim move.

Ivan Pace, LB, Cincinnati

Ivan Pace had a terrific Senior Bowl game. Pace is a bit of an undersized linebacker at just 5102, but 231lbs at that height. He is well built and hits like a ton of bricks. He led the entire game in tackles with 1o, including nine solo, which does not include his phenomenal play where he leveled O’Cyrus Torrence straight into the running back.

Senior Bowl Fallers: Game Day

Photo Credit: Associated Press/LM Otero
Max Duggan, QB, TCU

Max Duggan was not good in the game. Duggan went just 4-9 for 26 yards. He was late getting to his reads and had to hold onto the ball. However, Duggan was named the American team’s top QB from the practices by the defensive players, and the practices are much more important than the game.

Jack Podlesny and Adam Korsak

Did Bryce Baringer or Chad Ryland do anything special for the National team? No. But they just weren’t as bad as the American team was. Baringer had one pretty solid punt that went for 47 yards with decent hang time that was fair caught. Ryland went 4/5, missing from 52 yards. It would’ve been beneficial to show more, but they didn’t fail miserably.

Now, the American team… they just so happened to. It started off well for them. Adam Korsak had a 45 yard punt downed at the 1, and Jack Podlesny made his first field goal from 35 yards out. After that, with Korsak’s next two punts, his average dropped to 35.7, totaling just 107 yards between the three. Podlesny would go on to miss a 30 yard field goal, as well.

Blake Freeland, OT, BYU

Blake Freeland had an up-and-down week. His Senior Bowl game performance was not good. He got beat with both speed and power by a couple different defenders, and did not make an impact on the game. On a positive note, he did show versatility by playing on both sides of the line.

Camerun Peoples, RB, Appalachian St

Camerun Peoples struggled a bit yesterday. Peoples is 6015 and 215lbs. On his lone carry, he gained 15 yards. However, in the passing game, he had two costly drops in a two minute drive. His two receptions went for a combined -3 yards.

Malik Cunningham, QB, Louisville

Malik Cunningham did not have a great week of practice. He missed Tuesday’s practice, and struggled to get into rhythm. He had issues throughout the game as well, including a bad turnover. However, he was able to provide ample value as a runner, adding five rushes for 22 yards and a touchdown.

Senior Bowl Week Recap

There were a lot of players who stepped up and had great weeks, far too many to name in a single article. The quarterbacks as a whole struggled, and I would venture to say not a single one stood out, despite some getting awards (their quarterbacks, they always will).

The running back group was extremely deep and talented, and would have been even more so had Roschon Johnson been able to stay healthy. Some receivers and tight ends were able to step up and produce.

A few defensive linemen showed their strength and technical ability, and some defensive backs showed out this week as well. Overall it was a solid, but not exceptional, group.

Gators Justin Shorter Accepts Shrine Bowl Invite

Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter accepts Shrine Bowl invitation
Photo Credit: 247sports.com

Florida Gators senior wide receiver Justin Shorter has accepted his invitation to participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl. Shorter transferred from Penn State for the 2020 season and has been with the Florida program ever since. Shorter is a fifth year senior, and a former five-star recruit.

He has been second on the team in receiving yards the past two years. Shorter had 577 receiving yards in just nine games this past season. He missed three games this year due to a hamstring injury. The improvements he made this season were very apparent. He surpassed his total yardage in three fewer games and increased his yards per reception by 6.5 yards.

Shorter is out of eligibility and will set his sights on the NFL Draft. The beginning of that process for him is in Las Vegas with the Shrine Bowl.

Justin Shorter’s Shrine Bowl Prospects

Justin Shorter is one of the bigger names that has currently accepted their Shrine Bowl invite, although the room is far from full. Currently, Zay Flowers out of Boston College and Jadon Haselwood from Arkansas are the other big names.

Flowers, Haselwood and Shorter are joined at the Shrine Bowl by Jadakis Bonds from Hampton and Dallas Daniels from Jackson State. Clayton Tune from Houston and Aidan O’Connell will play at quarterback in the game.

The East-West Shrine Bowl will take place on February 2, 2023, and is played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. If Shorter is able to impress, he can improve his draft stock dramatically. Shorter has improved as a deep threat, and if he can do that against other NFL prospects it should help his draft stock. Shorter also needs to show his versatility to run a full route tree and to not just be a jump ball receiver. If he can do so, he has a chance to rise up boards.

Gators QB Anthony Richardson Declares For 2023 NFL Draft

Florida Gators redshirt sophomore quarterback Anthony Richardson has declared for the NFL draft. Richardson was a first-year starter for the Gators this season, but has played in 22 games in total.

Florida QB Anthony Richardson has declared for the NFL draft
Photo by Mike Ehrmann via Getty Images

Anthony Richardson started in all 12 games this past season. The Gators went 6-6, including 3-5 in the SEC. Richardson went 176/327, a 53.8% rate, and had 2549 yards passing, for 7.8 yards per attempt. He had 17 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. Richardson also added 103 rushes for 654 yards — an average of 6.3 yards per rush — and had nine touchdowns on the ground.

Anthony Richardson had a 79.8 PFF grade on the season and had many high points, but he also had a lot of inconsistencies that may give NFL draft scouts some pause. There were four games in which Richardson graded below a 65 on PFF’s scale, including two in the 40’s.

However, he also had four games that graded above an 80. If he can eliminate his low end performances, he can be a much better overall quarterback.

Anthony Richardson’s NFL Draft Prospects

The NFL draft tends to love quarterbacks. They also tend to love prospects with extreme physical gifts. Anthony Richardson is both of these things. Richardson is currently looking as though he could be anywhere from a mid first-round pick to an early second-round pick. Richardson could rise in the draft due to his physical traits and an abundance of teams in need of quarterbacks.

Currently, Damian Parson of The Draft Network projects Anthony Richardson as the 9th overall pick in the draft. It is definitely a hot take, and Parson has him as the third quarterback off the board. NFL Mock Draft Database’s 2023 Consensus Big Board, a compilation of industry big boards and mock drafts, currently has Anthony Richardson as the 32nd overall player. They also have him as QB4.

Gators Ventrell Miller Accepts Senior Bowl Invite

Florida Gators senior linebacker Ventrell Miller has accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Miller, a sixth year senior, had a resurgent year coming back from injury this past season. Miller still dealt with injuries, including a fractured foot.

The defensive leader for the Gators, Miller was third on the team in total tackles with 74, including 34 solo and 8.5 for loss. For his career, Miller racked up 238 career tackles, 124 of which were solo, over the five seasons he played. The Gators have not had a bowl game announced, and Miller has not said if he will play in it or not, though he will most likely not.

Miller is out of eligibility and will set his sights on the NFL Draft. The beginning of that process starts in Mobile.

Ventrell Miller Needs a Strong Senior Bowl

Miller will look to impress scouts at the week long event that takes place in Mobile, Alabama. Practices begin Tuesday, January 31, 2023. The game takes place on February 4, 2023 at 1:30pm EST.

The linebacker group is an interesting group as currently constructed, with more invites to come. Joining Miller is Auburn linebackers Owen Pappoe and Eku Leota, Texas Longhorn DeMarvion Overshown and Iowa State Cyclone Will McDonald IV. The group also has Dick Butkus Award finalist and Washington State Cougar Daiyan Henley. Smaller school players joining them are Tulane’s Dorian Williams, Jackson State’s Aubrey Miller Jr., and Appalachian State’s Nick Hampton.

Ventrell Miller will need an impressive Senior Bowl to move up in the draft. Miller won’t be an elite tester at the combine. The best way for him to improve his draft stock is to show what he can do on the field at the Senior Bowl, both in the game and in practices. He will be expected to be impressive in meetings during the week as well, which is an important part of the week for participants. Miller must use his football intelligence and experience to stand out. If he can do that, he can rise up draft boards.