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2023 Tropical Bowl Post-Game Recap and Analysis

10 former MAC stars participated in a contest under dreary conditions in Orlando this past weekend in front of an audience of pro scouts.

Tropical Bowl, under fair use

The 2023 Tropical Bowl was a one-sided affair on the scoreboard on Saturday afternoon on a rare grey day in Orlando, Florida, as the American Team took down the National Team by a final score of 48-10 at Camping World Stadium.

The American Team, dressed in Miami Vice Blue, took the first possession of the game for a touchdown and never looked back from there, building a 24-3 lead at the half and continuing that pace in the second half, forcing several turnovers-on-down in the process.

Alas, in games such as this, the scoreboard isn’t so important as much as the tape the players are putting down, as scouts from 31 NFL teams and the other three major U.S. leagues were in attendance to watch players in-person both throughout the week and on Saturday.

A dozen MAC players were invited to the game, with several of those players taking part in the game itself. Only two of the invitees did not see game action, with Ohio safety Tariq Drake picking up a minor injury during practice and former BGSU quarterback Matt McDonald withdrawing prior to the event.

We wrote down some of the major notes regarding said MAC participants after looking at scrimmage tape and the game archive:

Seven MAC players saw snaps on opening possessions for their respective sides

It’s generally notable to see who comes out on the field first, as those are the players who earned enough trust from the coaches to be depended upon to lead the team on the opening possessions. Of the 10 players who wound up seeing the field, seven of those players were starters or otherwise saw action on the first possessions as part of the rotation.

Central Michigan OL Jamezz Kimbrough was the starting center for the American Team offense on their first drive, which ended in a rushing touchdown after taking the ball over 75 yards downfield. Lined up on the opposite side for the National Team defense was former Western Michigan LB Corvin Moment and Kent State hybrid player Marvin Pierre (who was lined up at outside linebacker.)

Former Akron Zip Noah Gettman was both starting holder and punter for the American side, though he didn’t see a lot of playing time doing the latter due to the offense’s success. The few boots he did get off were generally excellent, pinning the opponent inside the 20 at least once.

On the National Team offense, former CMU receiver Carlos Carriere and Ball State receiver Jayshon Jackson started on the outside spots, with former CMU cornerback Ronald Kent Jr. and Buffalo safety Jahmin Muse getting starts at their respective positions for the American Team defense, while also seeing time on special teams.

Pair of Chippewas and a Bull stand out for the American Team

The American team was the clearly dominant side on Saturday afternoon, but it was the culmination of a great week of work overall, especially for three former MAC stars.

Jamezz Kimbrough was perhaps the most impressive of the three, dominating one-on-one drills during the week from the center spot, and showing off his versatility along the line, seeing time thorugh all four quarters at center, right guard and left guard. Kimbrough was able to use his hands effectively to turn linemen away from the play several times, even putting a handful of opponents to the ground. He did have one bad snap from the left guard position to give up a pressure in the second half, but made up for it on the next play by turns-tiling a pressure to allow the quarterback to get a big gain downfield on play action.

Ronald Kent Jr. also had a great week playing primarily at the boundary position and as a gunner on special teams, though he did also log time in as a slot corner. Kent was instrumental in forcing a punt in the second half, peeling off coverage of Mac Hippenhammer to blitz the backfield as an extra rusher. The throw was forced and ultimately tipped at the line behind the play. He also showed decent discipline as a gunner, able to keep pace with returners and separate from his assignment.

Jahmin Muse was a player who earned his starting role due to his sticky one-on-one coverage during the week. He was also effective in coverage from the safety spot, starting most of the first half. Muse was effective, especially in the second quarter. Muse started the drive by sniffing out a play at the line, shifting from the two-high safety alignment to slot defensive back, jamming the receiver in press coverage. He would follow that up by showing good run support on a screen pass from his usual spot before logging in two slot snaps, with one undercutting the receiver on third down and one covering the deep route on fourth down.

Four MAC stars contribute in major roles for the National Team

Things were fairly grim for the National Team, but there were still a few highlights for some familiar names.

For instance, three MAC receivers were trusted to carry some significant playing time for the National Side, with Carlos Carriere and Jayshon Jackson declared starters in the first half, while Mac Hippenhammer took most of the second half snaps.

All three receivers were named standout performers from the bowl prep practices by CBS Sports reporter Emory Hunt, showing the amount of trust they picked up from coaches over the week.

Carriere was especially good in one-on-one work, consistently getting open and catching the ball due to excellent route running on short and intermediate looks. Due to general struggles offensively for the National team, Carriere didn’t get targets or register stats, but there was still a lot to be encouraged by.

Jayshon Jackson was the receiver of interest in the first half for the National Team, hauling in all three of his targets, including a long gain of 39 yards to press the American Team defense. Jackson was a particular standout on Saturday afternoon with 75 total yards, including a game-best 65 yards after the catch. He led the National Team in total receiving yards and was second-best in receptions, while turning in the third-best performance of receivers on either side.

Hippenhammer was the most targeted of the trio, with most of his snaps coming in the second half. Hippenhammer showed his ability to win one-on-one coverage battles throughout the week, getting open downfield on enough plays to where he was targeted on key downs. Unfortunately, the connections weren’t always there in the game, as Hippenhammer finished with one catch off four targets. He had a faux pas on a fourth-down pass late in the game, getting hold of a ball in double coverage before having it knocked out for an incomplete pass on a tackle from behind.

Defensively, former Kent State backer Marvin Pierre availed himself well, taking on primarily an outside linebacker role in this contest and showing consistent zone and spy coverage thoughout. Pierre was not as constant in filling run gaps (there’s one touchdown run early in the first half where he hesitated on filling a gap which stands out), but he did enough to show off his potential. His best play of the day was on an interception by a teammate, where he read the eyes of the quarterback from his zone coverage and ran to the intended receiver, jumping to the ball to get in the way of it. He was slightly late on the jump, but it was encouraging to see at the very least.

Individual stats

American Team:

  • Noah Gettman (Akron): two punts, 86 net yards, long punt of 43, one punt inside-the-20. Also handled holding duties on PATs and one field goal attempt.
  • Jahmin Muse (UB): two tackles
  • Ronald Kent Jr. (CMU): one tackle

National Team:

  • Jayshon Jackson (Ball State): three receptions on three targets, 75 yards, 65 yards after catch, long of 39 yards
  • Mac Hippenhammer (Miami): one reception on four targets, eight yards
  • Marvin Pierre (Kent State): one tackle