The Cure Bowl is more than a game. From Orlando, Florida, this game setting is a fund raiser for the fight against cancer, collecting donations for cancer research. Since 2015, the Cure Bowl has raised over $3.88M worth of funds in the fight against cancer. This season, on December 17th, 2021, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will take on the Northern Illinois Huskies in a game aired on ESPN2 at 6:00pm ET.

Coastal Carolina (10-2, 6-2 vs Sun Belt) comes off their near perfect 2020 season with another 10-win season in 2021, only this time they struggled to compete with Appalachian State and Georgia State, the two teams that they surrendered their losses to this season. The Chanticleers played a weak out of conference schedule, facing Kansas, Buffalo, and UMass, looking to collect their first undefeated season. However, the amped competition in the Sun Belt spoiled that surprise, and the Chanticleers find themselves here.

Meanwhile, the MAC Champions from Northern Illinois (9-4, 7-2 vs MAC) are seeking their first ten win season since 2014, when the school finished 11-3 and won the MAC title. The Huskies took down Georgia Tech and Maine out of conference this season, but fell to Michigan, Wyoming, Kent State, and Western Michigan.

Cure Bowl – The Marquee Attraction: RUSH EDGE Jeffrey Gunter, Coastal Carolina

Jeffrey Gunter (6’4″ 260 lbs) is an exciting RUSH EDGE prospect, best suited in a 3-4 defense as the outside linebacker who pretty much exclusively rushes the passer. He’s really worked on getting faster this offseason, gaining an extra step to become more effective outside of the backfield as a defender. He’s shown it too, getting to the quarterback faster in 2021 and being more effective as a run defender.

While his production has dipped from 2020 to 2021 on the stat sheet, Gunter has still been terrorizing quarterbacks in the Sun Belt. His production lacks from teams trying to avoid his side of the field, which is a bonus to his game.

Coastal Carolina offensive prospects to watch

TE Isaiah Likely (6’4″ 240 lbs) is one of the most intriguing tight end prospects in this class. He is a very versatile prospect with the size to create problems as a big slot and the strength to work against linebackers. He’s capable receiving on all levels of the field, as a vertical threat going deep and as a possession receiver underneath. He also offers some run blocking ability. Likely has a chance to be a mid-round pick this spring and likely (pun intended) will see a successful NFL career.

WR Jaivon Heiligh (6’0″ 190 lbs) is the big playmaker and the most trusted receiver in the Coastal Carolina offense. He’s not the fastest player in this class, but he’s fast enough and has a tremendous feel for the field to maneuver to space. His hands are good and he offers some route-running ability. I like Heiligh as a potential late round target.

Coastal Carolina defensive prospects to watch

DT CJ Brewer (6’2″ 290 lbs) played as a 1-tech and a 3-tech at Coastal Carolina, but going forward he projects best as a 3-tech at the next level. Brewer is a gap defender who has a good first step and some decent mobility to attack the interior of an offensive line. I think he needs a little bit more size to really become a threat on the NFL level, but the tools are there to work with.

We really like Slot CB D’Jordan Strong (5’9″ 175 lbs) but it’s going to be very hard for the NFL to overlook his lack of size and length. His wingspan is just 70 1/8 inches, and his arms are under 30 inches. That being said, Strong has a physical style where he prioritizes disrupting the catch point. With that style and moxie comes intrigue, and I think Strong is a potential PFA who could slide in as a late round selection.

Northern Illinois prospects to watch

Clint Ratkovich is a phenomenal talent oozing with potential and upside that gets NFL clubs excited. He’s a versatile weapon in an offense – a fullback, a running back, an H-Back, wildcat quarterback… If Northern Illinois has needed Ratkovich to step in and fill a role, he’s filled it. That being said, he’s still significantly undersized. To play fullback and H-Back in the NFL, he really needs to put on about 15 pounds.

It’s not likely that Rocky Lombardi enters the NFL Draft this cycle, but his growth throughout the season is worth mentioning. Lombardi, a transfer from Michigan State, has some intriguing tools to his game. He’s most likely a career backup at best, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lombardi float around the NFL on practice squads for a couple of years.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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