The Independence Bowl has been a standout event since 1976, hosting 71 first round NFL Draft selections in its history. This season, it’s hard to identify if there is a first round pick who will be on the field, but that’s a part of what these games are for. In 2021, the UAB Blazers will face the BYU Cougars with a chance to cap solid seasons on both ends.

UAB (8-4, 6-2 vs C-USA) enters the game just falling short of a chance to compete for the C-USA title with a last second loss to UTSA. Following that game, UAB lost its veteran quarterback, Tyler Johnston, to the transfer portal. That means that we should expect quarterback Bryson Lucero to start for the Blazers.

BYU (10-2, 2-0 vs AP top 25) is preparing to make it’s jump into the Big 12 and looks to finish out another very solid campaign in the year following the loss of the 2021 second-overall pick, quarterback Zach Wilson. The Cougars appeared primed to continue to pump quarterbacks into the NFL, as three quarterbacks played this season while navigating injuries and still brought the fire to the BYU offense. BYU finished the season with impressive 5-0 record against the PAC-12, including a win over the conference champions Utah, and an overall 6-1 record against power five opponents.

Independence Bowl – The Marquee Attraction: RB Tyler Allgeier, BYU

Tyler Allgeier (5’11” 220 lbs) is an exciting running back prospect looking ahead into the NFL Draft. He’s a strong runner, now collecting two 1000 yard rushing campaigns and scoring 34 total touchdowns so far in his BYU career. His contact balance is what sells his game, navigating through traffic with ease and getting to the next level. He shows some solid speed in the open field and has the ability to break big plays as a runner and a receiver.

Positive traits aside, Allgeier lacks some of the explosive ability that you’d like to see from a running back at the next level. He’s limited to a more power-based role, not something that is very prominent in the league right now. Allgeier could find himself used well and effectively in the right situation.

UAB players to watch

  • TE Hayden Pittman (Shrine Bowl)
  • EDGE Justin Thomas
  • CB TD Marshall

Hayden Pittman (6’3″ 230 lbs) has received a lot of praise over the last few years that he has played in the UAB system. He’s a tight end/H-back hybrid, capable as both a receiver and a blocker. While Pittman isn’t particularly a natural receiver, he can be effective underneath and offers a good bit of schematic versatility.

Justin Thomas (6’5″ 265 lbs) is an LSU transfer who has helped improve the Blazers pass rushing unit. Overall, Thomas looks to be a step slow and needs a lot of work. However, he’s collected 4.5 sacks this year and shows the potential to be a more technical hand fighter. Thomas might need to lose some weight to become effective but he’s a developmental piece for a potential NFL team.

Cornerback TD Marshall (6’0″ 200 lbs) transferred in from Samford in 2018, sitting a year due to the previous transfer rules. It’s paid off as Marshall has been an all-conference talent ever since. Converted from quarterback coming out of high school, the move has helped Marshall see the field. Marshall is a smart man corner with incredible speed. He plays with a likably physical style and plays excellent jam technique when in press.

BYU players to watch

  • TE Isaac Rex
  • X WR Neil Pau’u

Once a very hot prospect, tight end Isaac Rex (6’5″ 247 lbs) has somewhat slipped under the radar. Rex tore his ACL at the back end of 2019, and has somewhat become a forgotten NFL Draft prospect. Granted, it looks as though Rex has lost a step since his injury, but he’s still a capable receiver in every level of the field.

Neil Pau’u (6’4″ 215 lbs) is one of the big play threat receivers for the Cougars. With his size and frame, he attracts a lot of attention immediately at this level. His athletic profile, however, is very average and he struggles to consistently make catches. Pau’u has relied most of his career on using his length and size to make catches over smaller defensive backs. That doesn’t translate to the next level well at all.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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