Four Aztecs to Play in Senior Bowl Games

Four Aztecs, including Rashaad Penny (left), David Wells (center) and Nick Bawden (right) will play in senior bowls over the next two weeks (not pictured Kameron Kelly).
Jan. 18, 2018

SAN DIEGO - Four San Diego State football players are expected to play in senior bowl games in the coming weeks. Nick Bawden, Kameron Kelly and Rashaad Penny have accepted invitations to play in the Reese's Senior Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 27, while David Wells is set for the 93rd East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Wells, a Clovis, Calif., native, kicks things off for the former Aztecs with the East-West Shrine Game this Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The game is slated for a 3:07 p.m. ET start (12:07 p.m. PT) and will be broadcast live on NFL Network. A tight end, Wells will play on the West team, coached by Bobby Johnson of the Oakland Raiders.

Last year, Wells caught nine passes for 133 yards (14.8 avg.) and two touchdowns en route to being named a second-team all-Mountain West selection for a second straight season. According to Pro Football Focus, Wells caught nine of the 11 passes where he was targeted (81.8 pct.) in 2017 without dropping a pass. Over the past two years according to the website, Wells has not dropped a pass and has caught 34 of the 40 passes (85.0 pct.) he has been targeted.

Bawden, Kelly and Penny, meanwhile, will compete in the Reese's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 27. The game is slated for a 1:30 p.m. CT start (11:30 a.m. PT) and will be broadcast on NFL Network. All three Aztecs will play for the South team.

Only three schools - Alabama, Auburn and Virginia - have more players on the Reese's Senior Bowl roster than SDSU's three representatives. Additionally, San Diego State is one of just four schools with at least three players on a Reese's Senior Bowl roster each of the last two years (also Alabama, Auburn and LSU).

Last season, Bawden caught 15 passes for 103 yards (6.9 avg.) and a touchdown, while serving as the lead blocker at fullback for consensus All-American running back Rashaad Penny. According to Pro Football Focus, Bawden was the highest-graded fullback blocker in 2016 and the third best last year, despite playing the majority of the season with a club on in hand. His 588 snaps last year were the second most in FBS at fullback, despite missing the UNLV game with an injury.

Kelly put together another fine season last year, moving to cornerback from safety. He finished with 68 tackles (54 solo), three interceptions for 44 yards, eight pass breakups, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a quarterback hurry. Kelly, who earned first-team all-MW honors for his efforts, finished with 10 interceptions for his career, which tied for the 10th most in school history.

Penny, a consensus first-team All-American who finished fifth in the final voting for the Heisman Trophy last year, rushed 289 times for 2,248 yards (7.8 avg.) and 23 touchdowns, while adding 19 catches for 135 yards (7.1 avg.) and two touchdowns, 17 kick returns for 521 yards (30.6 avg.) and two touchdowns, and two punt returns for 70 yards (35.0 avg.) and another score. He ended up leading the country in rushing yards and all-purpose yards (2,974), and ranking second in rushing touchdowns and overall touchdowns (28), fifth in kick return average, tied for fifth in kick return touchdowns and sixth in rushing yards per carry (7.78).

Penny finished with the fifth-most rushing yards in NCAA FBS single-season history (2,248) and the fifth-most all-purpose yards (2,974). Penny ended the season with five straight games with at least 200 rushing yards, joining USC's Marcus Allen (1981), Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (1988) and North Texas' Jamario Thomas (2004) as the only players in NCAA FBS history to accomplish that feat.

SDSU finished 2017 with a 10-3 record, its school-record third consecutive year with at least 10 victories. San Diego State is scheduled to return seven starters on offense and seven on defense, along with its kicker and punter. The Aztecs kick off the 2018 campaign Sept. 1 at Stanford.

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