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UVA football’s Blanding, Kiser, Benkert rolling dice playing in Military Bowl?

military bowlYou wouldn’t blame UVA seniors Quin Blanding, Micah Kiser or Kurt Benkert for sitting out the Military Bowl.

I’m seeing draft boards projecting each of the three going between the third and fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, which would translate to roughly $2 million to $3 million in salary and bonuses, assuming a rookie four-year deal.

That’s a lot of coin, obviously, for guys who are thisclose to being professionals. They’re literally a game away.

A game in December, in Annapolis, Md. AccuWeather projects a high temperature of 51 that afternoon, with rain.

A sloppy track, two 6-6 teams playing out the string.

Kiser is coming off thumb surgery, one of several issues ailing him down the stretch in the 2017 season.

Blanding doesn’t seem any worse for the wear than anybody else on the defensive side of the ball at UVA.

Benkert just finished up his second season running for his life behind a makeshift offensive line, throwing 473 passes, getting sacked 30 times, scrambling another 31.

Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette famously skipped their teams’ bowl games last year, citing their desire to focus their energies on getting ready for the draft, and some threw their hands in the air in response, predicting the end of the bowl system, while others said, Good for them, smart move.

I’m in that latter camp.

Reason being, I think back to 1998, when a guy named Anthony Poindexter was a projected top 10 pick, came back for his senior season, and blew his knee out in Scott Stadium late in a win over N.C. State.

‘Dex went from being a top 10 pick to getting taken in the seventh round, played a few games on special teams, and was done after two NFL seasons.

Poindexter left millions on the table because of one misstep on a tackle.

At least that Virginia team was still playing for something – at the time, the ‘Hoos were ranked 16th in the nation and were still very much in the running for an ACC championship.

This year’s Virginia team is 6-6, after losing five of its last six games, and, sure, it’s feel-good to be playing in a bowl for the first time since 2011, but the bigger accomplishment is making the bowl.

The game itself is meaningless, ultimately.

Credit to Blanding, Kiser and Benkert for getting themselves ready as if it was the CFP semifinals.

I just hope each of the three gets through four quarters unscathed, and hears his name called in April.

Story by Chris Graham

 
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