First Responders Bowl Prospect Preview: Luke McCaffrey Takes on Underrated Texas State Squad

There will be several 2024 NFL Draft prospects facing off with Texas State and Rice in the 2023 First Responders Bowl, including Owls WR Luke McCaffrey.

The 7-5 Texas State Bobcats will play the 6-6 Rice Owls in the 2023 First Responders Bowl. How many NFL Draft prospects will play in this game, and what are their projections at the next level?

First Responders Bowl Prospect Preview

Opportunity abounds for both Rice and Texas State this bowl season. Texas State has never won a bowl game. They were only eligible once — in 2014 — and were not chosen despite being 7-5. This year, they’re in the lineup, but Rice is just as hungry for a win.

Interestingly, 2014 was also the last season that Rice won a bowl game, when they scored a victory in the Hawaii Bowl. Both teams exceeded expectations this year and achieved prominence at the Group of Five level, and both have NFL Draft talent to watch.

Rice NFL Draft Prospects

Luke McCaffrey, WR

In Luke McCaffrey, the Owls have a prospect who could legitimately be selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. McCaffrey, the younger brother of San Francisco 49ers star RB Christian McCaffrey, started his career as a QB at Nebraska, but he’s wasted little time becoming a top-flight receiver.

Two years into his WR transition, the younger McCaffrey logged 68 catches for 963 yards and 12 touchdowns and added 13 carries for 101 yards in 2023.

At 6’2″, 200 pounds, McCaffrey has smooth athleticism and body control, and his usage versatility could make him a discount Puka Nacua.

Tre’shon Devones, CB

After four years as a primary CB reserve for the Owls, Tre’shon Devones broke out with a stellar 2023 campaign, putting up two interceptions and 10 pass deflections.

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He’s a high-energy short-area athlete with great swivel freedom at 6’0″, 183 pounds, but the next step of Devones’ development is becoming more confident in what he sees with his eyes.

Gabriel Taylor, S

The younger brother of the late Sean Taylor, Gabriel Taylor had another productive season as a starting safety for Rice’s defense. In 2023, he added 58 tackles, a sack, two interceptions, and eight pass deflections to his career totals.

At 5’10”, 190 pounds, the younger Taylor doesn’t have the same size his brother did, but he’s still a reliable two-phase playmaker with a physical edge.

Texas State NFL Draft Prospects

Tavian Coleman, DT

Texas State’s roster is stronger than one would assume. The team has visibly improved under head coach GJ Kinne, and especially on the defensive side of the ball, there are gems to unearth.

Utah State transfer Tavian Coleman leads off that list.

At 6’1″ and 280 pounds, Coleman was born to be a disruptor. He started at Trinity Valley Community College and then played at Utah State in 2022. In 2023, he’s amassed 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss for the Bobcats, using his natural leverage and lightning-quick first-step to stay active.

TJ Finley, QB

You may remember TJ Finley from his days at LSU and Auburn. He’s now transferred to Texas State and has been one of the primary forces in the team’s emergence. In 2023, Finley completed 264 of 385 pass attempts (68.6%) for 3,287 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

Finley is still eligible, so he may be a name to watch more closely in the 2025 NFL Draft cycle. But the 6’7″, 246-pound signal-caller improved as a passer in 2023 and demands attention as the Texas State program trends up.

Ben Bell, EDGE

At around 6’2″, 238 pounds, Ben Bell safely falls below many NFL teams’ size thresholds, so he’s likely a PFA prospect at best. But as his eight sacks and 13 TFLs in 2023 show, he’s a high-motor rusher who can use his natural leverage and affinity for space to his advantage.

Joshua Eaton, CB

Joshua Eaton was originally a three-star recruit who played sparingly at Oklahoma. Still, he’s broken out as a quality starter for Texas State in 2023, with a TFL and seven pass breakups working the boundary.

Eaton is most effective in side-saddle, where he has the athleticism to throttle up with receivers at 6’1″, 180 pounds.

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