2017 Dream Bowl observations: Shallow talent pool not helped by system

The fifth annual Dream Bowl in Virginia Beach had plenty of big plays, but just one sure-fire NFL player in Delaware offensive lineman Connor Bozick.

What really hurt players, especially the quarterbacks, was a reliance on the spread offense instead of the coaches in an all-star game designed for professional scouting to use more pro-style systems.

None of the quarterbacks who played in the 38-30 win by the Crusaders team over the Patriots squad on Jan. 16 will see an NFL field.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t other players who could join Bozick in the NFL.

Wingate receiver Jordan Berry, Ohio Dominican defensive back Billy Eakins, Southwest Baptist defensive lineman Vice Epenesa and Pittsburg State defensive back Darrius White all had nice weeks in front of 27 NFL scouts in Virginia Beach.


Anthony Autry Jr., WR, Texas A&M-Kingsville – A former Georgia Tech player, Autry had three catches for 35 yards in the Dream Bowl. He has good size at 6-foot-2, 188 pounds with a 40-yard dash time around 4.6 seconds. He lacks the explosiveness you’d like to see, but is a good possession receiver. Autry had 87 catches for 1,587 yards and 16 touchdowns with an average yards per reception of 18.2 yards in two seasons with the Javelinas.

Xavier Ayers, WR, Western New Mexico – Ayers is 5-10, 190 pounds and does not have top-end speed to really get noticed. What he does have is outstanding productivity at the D-II level, with 80 receptions for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns to earn him All-American honors.

Jordan Berry, WR, Wingate – Berry has sure hands, but he is only 5-10 and 171 pounds. He’s the same height as Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, but 20 pounds lighter. Berry caught 48 passes for 717 yards, a 14.9-yards-per-catch average that led the South Atlantic Conference. Berry doesn’t let the ball get into his body and is instead a hands catcher. He led Wingate in receptions each of his four seasons and could get a shot in an NFL camp, where the right strength coach could add the necessary weight to get him NFL-ready.

American Sports Network

Delaware offensive lineman Connor Bozick

Connor Bozick, OL, Delaware – Bozick will be an NFL draft pick following an impressive college career. He does just about everything well, pulling, pass blocking, run blocking, understanding zone schemes. A two-time All-CAA selection, Bozick started 34 of the 46 games in which he played and is a monster at 6-5, 320. Bozick was a standout tackle at Delaware, but will likely be moved inside to guard at the next level.

DeJon Coleman, RB, Dixie State – Coleman has excellent vision, good speed and runs with patience. He finished the Dream Bowl with 58 yards on six carries, including a 37-yard burst in the first quarter. He’s 5-8, 181 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.5 seconds. Coleman ran for over 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns at Dixie State, setting school records. Coleman has great balance and strength and will return punts with a fearlessness needed in the face of oncoming gunners. His ability to return kicks could get him a camp invite somewhere.

Dakota Conwell, QB, West Liberty – The 6-1, 210-pound former Arizona signal-caller put up big numbers in northern West Virginia with 6,766 passing yards and 70 touchdowns to go with 1,533 rushing yards and 16 scores to be a three-time all-conference selection. But he does have a concussion history, suspending his career because of it. He’s got a strong arm, but accuracy is also an issue for Conwell and it’s unlikely a professional football career is in his future.

Newberry College

Newberry running back Romelo Doctor

Romelo Doctor, RB, Newberry – Doctor is a big, physical runner with 23 tough yards on six carries at the Dream Bowl. He’s 5-11, 215 pounds with 4.8 speed and was a two-time all-conference selection in the ECAC. Listed as a fullback at Newberry, Doctor is an excellent blocker, but a powerful runner. He ran for 1,235 yards as a junior and followed it up with 704 yards and 11 scores his senior season. He also caught 28 passes for 209 yards after making 26 receptions for 237 yards and two touchdowns in 2015.

John Dudley, TE, Greenville College – The 6-3, 240-pound St. Louis native won’t win any foot races, but is a very good route runner and has reliable hands. He also knows how to work the scramble drill and isn’t afraid to catch the ball in a crowd. He caught 32 passes for 590 yards and nine touchdowns last season for the Division III Panthers.

Russell Fallacara, OL, William Patterson – Fallacara did not have a great week and then struggled during the game. He failed to create holes and was overmatched by interior rushers while trying to pass block. He’s also too small for a guard at 5-10, 280 pounds and it’s unlikely he gets even an Arena League job.

Robert Healy, RB, East Stroudsburg – Healy has nice hands out of the backfield and is a solid blocker. He had the key block to spring Coleman for his long run. Healy owns just about every school rushing record at East Stroudsburg. He set the single-season rushing record last year with 1,163 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also led the team in receiving as a junior with 52 catches for 757 yards and three scores. His 3,993 rushing yards are a career school record and he added 1,915 receiving yards. Despite his productivity at the D-II level, Healy is only 5-9, 194 pounds with a 40-time around 4.9 seconds. That isn’t nearly good enough to get NFL teams interested.

Trevor Heitland, RB, Coe College – Heitland led all of Division III with 1,913 rushing yards, averaging 6 yards per carry. He’s 5-9, 194 could be a nice third-down option in the pros, as in the CFL, with 149 career receptions for 1,822 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also returned both punts and kicks in college, but his 40-yard dash time is in the 4.8-second range.

Daniel Jones, WR, Southwestern Oklahoma State – Jones capped a nice week with three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown in the Dream Bowl. He made a nice adjustment on the ball for his 34-yard touchdown reception. Jones was a dynamic player at the D-II level, leading the Bulldogs with 61 receptions for 968 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 157 rushing yards and serving as the team’s primary returner. He was the conference’s player of the year, but the problem with his NFL potential is that he’s tiny at 5-6, 150 pounds and not a speed demon with a 40 time in the 4.5-second range.

Jeff Kidd, QB, LIU Post – Kidd has a strong arm, but isn’t very accurate and will throw it into coverage when pressured. He has great size, though, at 6-4, 219, and was his conference’s player of the year last season after throwing for 2,825 yards and 28 touchdowns 340 rushing yards and four scores in 11 games. Kidd led LIU Post to an undefeated regular season and second Northeast 10 title in three seasons.

Justin Lane, QB, Central Washington – Lane threw for 2,653 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, with a school-record 469 yards coming in his collegiate finale, completing nearly 78 percent of his passes in a 37-30 win over Humboldt State. Lane has nice size at 6-2, 200 pounds, but not the strongest arm and struggled with accuracy during the Dream Bowl. He does move well and can throw on the run.

Easton Melancon, QB, Louisiana College – Melancon is too short to play in the NFL, standing under 5-10 and weighing 216 pounds, but he could find a spot in an indoor league. He has big hands and a strong arm, but has Tom Brady-like speed (slow). He also needs to work on his accuracy, completing only 54 percent of his passes for 3,116 yards and 34 touchdowns to 15 interceptions in two seasons.

Duluth News-Tribune

St. Cloud State receiver Jameson Parsons

Jameson Parsons, WR, St. Cloud State – A two-time nominee for D-II player of the year, Parsons is a dynamo on the outside. The 6-2, 200-pound Minnesota native caught 71 passes last season for 1,142 yards and seven touchdowns. High-end speed, with a 40-yard dash time around 4.75 seconds, is about the only thing lacking in his game, but he makes up for it as a diligent route runner. Parsons is an athletic, polished route runner, tracks the ball well and catches just about everything thrown his way thanks to his large hands.

Casey Perry, OG, Charlotte – Perry is supposed to be Charlotte’s best offensive NFL prospect in the program’s four-year history. But he struggled against both speed and power rushers in the Dream Bowl. The 6-2, 343-pound Perry started 25 games for the 49ers and is a solid run blocker. But his lack of athleticism is apparent in pass protection against adept pass rushers. As the only FBS player in the Dream Bowl, he should have dominated; instead he gave up sacks.

Seth Peters, QB, Hendrix – Peters led the nation with a 74.3 completion percentage and threw for 3,013 yards with 26 touchdowns. At 5-10, 203 pounds, he does not have the size NFL teams want and he came from a system that relied heavily and short passes, so arm strength is a question mark. But he started games over four years and is a natural leader on the field. He just may have to play somewhere other than the NFL to fulfill his professional football dreams.

Adam Prince, OL, Wisconsin-Stevens Point – Prince really struggled in the Dream Bowl, with pass rushers exposing his lack of athleticism. Prince doesn’t slide his feet or use his hands well to keep pass rushers at bay. He looks the part of an NFL tackle at 6-6, 330 pounds, but plays like a lumbering bear instead of a dancing one with heavy feet.

Ryan Radke, WR, Thiel College – Radke had capped a nice week in Virginia Beach with an excellent showing in the Dream Bowl with three catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. A three-year starter for the Tomcats, Radke left Thiel as the school’s all-time leader with 6,108 yards of total offense. A quarterback at Thiel, Radke threw for 2,308 yards and 21 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, last season while rushing for another 1,109 yards and 12 scores. At 5-10, 180 pounds and a 40 time around 4.8 seconds, it’s unlikely Radke will get an NFL shot despite his gaudy numbers at the D-III level.

Jeremy Salmon, TE, Maine – Salmon has great size for a potential NFL tight end at 6-3, 270 pounds. He’s a solid receiver, but an adept blocker and would be an ideal fit as an H-back at the next level. A three-year starter at Maine, Salmon was primarily used a blocker by the Black Bears. He finished his college career with 34 receptions for 502 yards and a touchdown. He had two catches for 42 yards in the Dream Bowl.

Matthew Valentine, OL, Bemidji State – Valentine is surprisingly nimble for 6-4, 315-pound Division II player. He pulls well and has enough speed to get out in front of the ball carrier. A three-year starter at Bemidji, Valentine was a D-II All-American and played well in Virginia Beach. Valentine could get a rookie camp invite with a chance to earn a spot in an NFL camp.

Bo James Villarreal, OL, Texas A&M-Kingsville – Villareal is long and has decent size at 6-4, 280 pounds, but he is not a very good athlete and, worse, isn’t that aggressive. He lets rushers come to him instead of attacking them. That results in speedy pass rushers getting to the edge and beating him. He doesn’t slide very well and gets caught backpedaling. His professional football dreams were likely squashed at the Dream Bowl.

Hendrix College

Hendrix College running back Dayton Winn

Dayton Winn, RB, Hendrix – Winn is basically the Christian McCaffrey of Division III. A two-time D-III All-American, Winn was fourth in Division III with 1,888 all-purpose yards and third with 24 total touchdowns. The problem with Winn is that he’s only 5-9 and barely 160 pounds. Though he’s got just 4.5 40-speed, Winn is shifty in the open field and does a nice job of following his blockers.

Devlon Wortham, RB, Southeastern Oklahoma State – Wortham runs hard and catches the ball well out of the backfield. The 5-8, 200-pound Texas native ran for 1,140 yards and 18 touchdowns last season for the Savage Storm, adding seven receptions for 62 yards and a score. He ran for 32 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the Dream Bowl. Wortham has nice explosiveness once he gets the ball in his hands and won’t shy away from contact.

Alex Attia, DL,Seton Hill – Attia is a thick 6-1, 304 pounds and strong up front. He gets excellent penetration, able to use his hands to shirk blockers. Attia had 48 tackles last season with 13 for loss and six sacks for the D-II Griffins. Seeing Attia get a camp invite would not be a surprise.

Kevin Chapple, LB, Lock Haven – Chapple put up plenty of big numbers at Lock Haven. The 5-11, 236-pound Columbus native had 96 tackles, 16 1/2 for loss, with 5 1/2 sacks last season. He added a pair of sacks in the Dream Bowl to cap a nice week. Chapple has a non-stop motor and plays to the whistle. He doesn’t have great speed, but is one of those players will give a relentless effort on every play. Despite his lack of speed, Chapple is a very good athlete and had a 9-foot broad jump in Virginia Beach. He also has a high football IQ and very good instincts. He needs to add some weight to have a real shot in the NFL, but the potential is there.

Josh Davis, LB, Henderson State – A three-time all-conference selection, Davis is a tackling machine. But at 5-10, 243 pounds with a 40-time around 5 seconds, he’s too small and slow for the NFL. He makes up for his physical limitations with good instincts and finished his career with 298 tackles, 31 ½ for loss, and 8 1/2 sacks.

Ohio Dominican

Ohio Dominican defensive back Billy Eakins

Billy Eakins, DB, Ohio Dominican – Eakins has good ball skills and is dynamic with the ball in his hands, returning a Lane interception 37 yards for a touchdown. Eakins had three picks last season for the Panthers, who play at the D-II level. The 5-10, 184-pound safety added 48 tackles and a sack to cap his career as a four-year starter. While not a burner, Eakins does have decent speed and has an explosive break on the ball. He could get a shot in an NFL camp or, at the very least, a CFL opportunity.

Vice Epenesa, DT, Southwest Baptist – The former Missouri Southern lineman and Samoan native dominated D-II competition in Bolivar, Mo. Epenesa is massive at 6-5, 301 and strong, with a good burst off the ball. Epenesa finished his senior season with 53 tackes, 8 1/2 for loss, and five sacks from the interior. He even had an interception, knocked down a pass at the line and blocked a field goal. He blocked an extra point attempt during the Dream Bowl, adding to his special teams value. The NFL isn’t afraid to dip into the D-II talent pool, especially for dominant defensive linemen – see Baltimore’s Brandon Williams – and Epenesa could be a late-round pick.

Troy Gahm, DE, Alma College – Gahm has a great burst off the ball and is like a missile when rushing the quarterback. He also has a knack for slapping the ball, forcing three fumbles last season and getting another strip-sack in the Dream Bowl. The 6-4, 233-pound Michigan native had 11 1/2 sacks last season to finish his career with 22 sacks. His sack total increased every year and had added 44 1/2 tackles for loss, including 18 1/2 in 2016. While he’s quick off the ball, Gahm won’t win any long foot races and his vertical and broad jumps aren’t very impressive.

Tavares Garner, CB, Henderson State – Garner is a fundamentally sound tackler and was highly touted coming out of high school. He began his career at Texas A&M, but spent his final two seasons at Division II Henderson State in Arkansas. He’s 5-10, 193 pounds and had 30 tackles, four for loss, with a fumble recovery and three passes defensed last season. He was an all-conference selection as a junior.

Emanuel Ivey, S, Fairmont State – Ivey is a little small for a safety at 5-11, 188 pounds and lacks ideal speed with a 40-time of around 4.7 seconds, but has a knack for being around the ball. He had five interceptions last season, after picking off two passes in 2015. He had an impressive Dream Bowl with three pass breakups and team-high seven tackles for his Crusaders club. Ivey began his career as a cornerback and plays with a fearless confidence coaches like.

Kevin Joseph, CB, Southwestern Oklahoma State – Joseph had a gimme interception in the Dream Bowl, and he was a ballhawk for the Bulldogs. The 5-10, 180-pound Miami native picked off four passes last season after transferring from Santa Ana College. Joseph has good instincts, but isn’t that fluid of an athlete. He’s also not fundamentally sound as a tackler, as he’d rather lay a big hit than wrap up.

Faulkner University

Faulkner defensive back Josh Keys

Josh Keys, DB, Faulkner – The 5-11, 190-pound Texas Tech transfer tackles well in the open field. He dominated NAIA receivers and led Faulkner with four interceptions to go with 66 tackles, three for loss, and 12 passes defensed. Keys has serious off-field issues though, dismissed from Texas Tech following multiple failed drug tests. Keys, who was heavily recruited out of high school, says he’s learned from his mistakes.

Jaquille Oden, DE, Newberry – Oden posted 18 tackles for loss and seven sacks last season and then played extremely well in the Dream Bowl. The 6-2, 250-pound Spartanburg, S.C., native does a nice job of retracing his steps to get a pair of sacks on consecutive plays in the third quarter of the Dream Bowl.

Deric Robertson, DB, Southwestern Oklahoma State – A transfer from the Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Robertson breaks well on the ball and does a nice job of reading the quarterback. He had 62 tackles last season, with three interceptions and a trio of passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and a tackle for loss. Robertson also has good size at 6-2, 200 pounds

Malik Sims, DB, Shenandoah – The 5-10, 191-pound Maryland native isn’t afraid to come up to help against the run and tackles well. He had a career-high 14 tackles in a game last October and finished his senior season with 92 tackles with an interception and forced fumble.

Devante Thomas, CB, Chadron State – Thomas is extremely talented, but his lack of size at just 5-7, 182 pounds, will probably prevent him from getting to the NFL. The former Western Kentucky defensive back diagnoses routes well and has a very good break on the ball. He had just one interception and five pass breakups last

Northwestern College

Northwestern College defensive end Sam Van Ginkel

season, but had a great week in Virginia Beach.

Sam Van Ginkel, DE, Northwestern College – Van Ginkel has a nice burst, excellent vision and uses his hands well to keep blockers off of him. He also has great size at 6-5, 245 pounds and showed very well at the Dream Bowl. Van Ginkel definitely has a pro future after being named an NAIA All-American twice. He was also the Great Plains Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in 2015 and leaves college as the GPAC’s all-time sacks leader with 39 1/2.

Darnell Vickers, DL, West Liberty – A 6-1, 284-pound Akron native, Vickers constantly faced double teams in his three seasons at West Liberty after transferring from Florida A&M. He was still a three-time all-conference selection and finished his career with 22 tackles for loss and four sacks. He played extremely well in the Dream Bowl, abusing interior linemen to pick up a sack.

Pittsburg Morning Sun

Pittsburg State defensive back Darrius White

Darrius White, DB, Pittsburg State – White shined on special teams in the Dream Bowl, which bodes well for an NFL future. He’s only 5-9, 186 pounds, just a tad smaller than Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Pitt State was White’s third college, however, after going from a JuCo, where he was a two-time all-conference selection, to Georgia Southern for a year, and then to Pittsburg. White had three interceptions for the Gorillas and finished his college career with six picks.

Jarvis Williams, DL, Eastern Illinois – Williams played up and down the line for the Panthers and in the Dream Bowl. He gives a relentless effort and a ferocious pursuit to the ball. He had 7 1/2 sacks to go with 82 tackles, including 19 for loss, over two seasons at EIU. He’s undersized at 5-11, 256 pounds, and will have to impress scouts at the EIU pro day to get NFL scouts interested.

About Ron Clements

Wisconsin native, former Marine, Summa Cum Laude graduate of East Carolina University and a working sports journalist since 1999.