2010 Senior Bowl Report

By John Avvento and Bryan Dietzler

Senior BowlThe nations best were on display Saturday in mobile Alabama for the 2010 Under-Armor Senior Bowl. Not surprisingly, the results were a mixed bag for many of the NFL scouts and talent evaluators on hand. Holding true to form, the annual scrimmage in Mobile, a 31-13 win for the North squad, created as many questions as it produced answers from the current crop of senior draft hopefuls. In a game in which the North dominated, some big name players struggled mightily. QB Tim Tebow followed up a very uneven week of practice with a lack-luster performance( 8-12 50yds 2 fumbles). Tebow looked uneasy in the pocket and his passes lacked the zip the NFL scouts were hoping to see. In addition, concerns about his somewhat elongated throwing motion (think of a lefty Byron Leftwich, only not as pronounced) were heightened as he looked very slow in getting rid of the ball. Tebow was charged with 2 fumbles, as well. The Florida southpaw also disappointed in the one area scouts expected him to excel; scrambling with the ball. His speed looked ordinary and he did not seem to be very instinctive.

Considering QB Tim Tebow had an awful time handling the exchange from center during the Senior Bowl practices, I guess you can argue his showing on Saturday was an improvement. Tebow’s a work in progress if any team is looking to draft him as a quarterback. He is at least 3years away from being a capable starter in the NFL, if at all. Any talk of this kid being a high draft pick is not only premature, but its wishful thinking! Tebow was not alone in struggling against a tough North squad. In fairness, at times his offensive line had a rough go of it against a very active and fast North front seven.

The North’s defense was lead by the guy who I personally touted as maybe the best pure pass-rusher in this years crop, Michigan’s DE Brandon Graham. Graham led the way for the North with two sacks and a forced fumbled. He was also very stout against the run, showing not only the strength at the point of attack, but the discipline to stay at home on misdirection plays. There has been a lot of talk about his perceived “lack of ideal size.” Graham is measured at about 6’2,” and many teams like their rush OLB’S and defensive ends to be 6’3 and up. But to be quite honest with you, I heard the same knocks on Lamar Woodley, who was never considered a top tier, sure-fire first round talent. I watched as my beloved Jets took Vernon Gholston with the 6th overall pick 2 years ago. The first thing I said to myself was he wasn’t even the best pass-rusher on the field during the big 07’ Ohio State/Michigan tilt. Woodley was that guy, bar none!

Coming into this weeks Senior Bowl, Graham was considered a high to mid second round talent by most, however NFL Draft Dog has hid him in the first of of their 2010 Mock Draft since the pre-season..

Selfishly, with the Jets picking as late as they are, I was hoping Graham would stay under the radar a bit. If this kid is not a top 15 pick, something is wrong with the way these kids are evaluated.
Other players who shined were Safety Taylor Mays of USC. The knock on Mays has been his cover skills. Some question whether or not he’s capable of playing that centerfielder role in an NFL defensive backfield. The question for many scouts is whether or not Mays is more suited to play inside the box as a strong safety who can really support the run. I’ve even heard whispers he could possibly be moved to linebacker if he’s drafted by a team that plays the old Dallas defense from the mid 90’s or today’s defense of the Colts. It says here that would be a mistake for sure! He is a commodity not only because of his talent, but his size makes him an unusual asset for any defensive coordinator. Yes, the kid loves to hit and he is bigger than most safeties, but his skills in coverage are far better than most give him credit for. He followed up a strong week of practices with a solid game, picking off a long pass right around the goal line. Mays is no Roy Williams! This kid is far more instinctive, fluid and flips his hips much better than Williams did coming out of Oklahoma a few years back. Safety Taylor Mays has every chance in the world to be as good as the late Shawn Taylor!

On the offensive side of the ball, Ole’ Miss fans no doubt were heartened by the way Dexter McCluster represented their program against the best of the best at Mobile. McCluster was extremely active catching passes out of the backfield and showed the quickness and speed scouts have been excited about. Of course, the question remains how well he can hold up with his slight frame (5’9” 170 depending on who lists his weight). He was charged with a fumble after taking a big hit from Nebraska’s Larry Assante.

The surprise showing of the day came from Central Michigan’s QB Dan Lefevour. Who clearly was the most polished passer on the field Saturday. Lafevour finished just 5 - 10 for 97yards, including an 19yard scoring strike to go along with a rushing TD. His arm strength was more than fine and he looks to be a kid whose stock will be on the rise these next couple of months. Cincinnati’s Marty Gilyard needed a strong showing after a lack-luster effort in the bowl game against a superior Florida defense and standout CB Joe Haden (the top cover corner in the draft). The word was beginning to circulate that WR Mardy Gilyard was not the same player when pitted against superior talent. Lets face it, the Big East, although it’s come a long way in recent years, is by no means the SEC! His strong showing in the practices leading up to the game and his play in the Senior Bowl has all but silenced those whispers. In addition, lets give some much deserved kudos to Gilyard for doing something no politician would dare dream of doing today; coming clean about something sordid from his past. Gilyard spoke openly about an arrest he had for possession of marijuana while he was in high school. As Gilyard put it, it happened when he was “young and dumb.”

The speedy, big play machine’s willingness to talk openly about his past is certainly a far cry from some of today’s athletes who not only try to conceal their past, but run from taking responsibility. What’s more, Gilyard did something we almost never see nowadays, he brought up the topic long before he needed to. You can be sure teams are going to grill him about the arrest once he arrives at the scouting combine in February, so his decision to be pro-active about discussing the incident was a welcomed change from how contemporary athletes wage damage control these days, but it was also a calculated and tactically smart play on his part. As we all know, character is a big factor in determining when and if a player will be drafted. Gilyard’s honesty about his past will only help this young mans case.

Take the former WR from the Florida Gators, Percy Harvin, for example;. Like Gilyard, he’s explosive and a big play waiting to happen. Harvin lasted until Minnesota picked in the mid to latter part of round 1 last April. Concerns about his character and his use of marijuana during his final year at Florida was a huge factor for Harvin and NFL scouts leading up to the draft. Percy Harvin was a top 5 talent and virtually every GM would agree to that assessment. However, whispers regarding his character, his unwillingness to discuss the incident in totality and his perceived “cocky attitude” cost the young man millions and allowed an already very good team (Minnesota) to luck out into drafting a top notch, big play receiver in the NFL!

Speaking of character, all eyes were on Oregon RB LeGarrett Blount, who was suspended for the majority of the season after punching a Boise State player and going after the Boise fans in the stands last September. Blount ran well (35 yds rushing on 7 carries, including a 14 yard TD romp) and showed some nice acceleration for a big back. One has to wonder just how much his past will hurt his draft stock. Remember, this is a kid who has had more than one infraction while he’s attended Oregon University. In fact, he was previously suspended because of some less than acceptable conduct and some very poor decisions he made prior to this most recent disaster.

Other players who may have improved their draft stock include Tulane’s speedy Jeremy Williams (6 catches for 83 yds, 1 rush for 27 yards). Oklahoma States strong armed Zack Robinson, who threw for a score and executed a fantastic scoring drive in a 2-minute, hurry up offense. Although he did turn the ball over twice. Once on a poorly thrown pick and the other thanks to a strip sack from behind by the best player on the field Saturday, Michigan’s Brandon Graham.

But let’s remember, these kids get an awful lot thrown at them in such a short period of time, especially the quarterbacks. It’s really a lot to digest for any kid fresh out of college, regardless of the program he comes from. That’s why I was extremely impressed with OSU’s Robinson. To see him operate that offense so efficiently in the hurry up and look so poised in doing so, I thought it might have been the single most impressive display at the game. He has the size, the arm strength and the intangibles to be a real solid quarterback on the next level. Next up for these NFL hopefuls is the leagues annual meat market in February. See you at the scouting combine, kids!

More Senior Bowl notes from Bryan Dietzler:

The 2010 Senior Bowl was held this past weekend in Mobile, Alabama and it certainly didn’t disappoint as the North team, led by quarterback Dan Lefevour beat the South squad 31-13.  Several players improved their draft stock in this game while others may have taken a step back thanks to a rough week in practice or less than stellar performance in the game.  Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was one of those guys who didn’t help himself much in this game.  There are some notes on how some of the players at the Senior Bowl played below giving some indication on how well or how bad their draft stock was affected in the game.

The North squad got the first score of the game in the first quarter when kicker Brett Swenson booted a 43 yard field goal to put the North team up by three.  The South squad would tie the game when kicker Leigh Tiffin kicked a 43 yard field goal still in the first quarter.  In the second quarter, the North squad would go up 10-3 when running back Lagarette Blount rushed 14 yards for a touchdown.  The North squad would add another touchdown after Austin Layne recovered a fumble and took it in six yards for the score.  That put the North squad up 17-3.  The South team made it 17-6 on another field goal by Tiffin (33 yards).  The South squad would make it 17-13 after Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson fired a 19 yard pass to Alabama tight end Colin Peek towards the end of the half.  It was 17-13 at halftime.

In the second half, the North team started to take charge as Lefevour ran one yard into the end zone to put the North up 24-13.  The North squad would get the final score of the game, in the fourth quarter, when wide receiver Mardy Gilyard caught a 32 yard pass from Lefevour to make it 31-13.  That is how the game would end.

Here are a few observations on some of the players that took part in the Senior Bowl:

Dexter McCluster-RB-Ole Miss-This explosive player looked good early on at times but didn’t show a lot for scouts.  He didn’t hurt himself any in this game but didn’t help himself much either.

Tim Tebow-QB-Florida-The talk all week was about how poorly Tebow was doing in practice and whatever he was doing wrong continued on in the game.  While he was dead on with shorter passes early in the game he could not connect deeper down the field and ended up fumbling twice.  He looked out of place behind center.  Tebow definitely hurt himself during the Senior Bowl week and in the game.

Lagarette Blount-RB-Oregon-Despite the fact Blount has had some problems with his anger he turned in a pretty good showing in this game.  If an NFL team decides to roll the dice with Blount they could end up getting a decent second running back.  He definitely raised his draft stock in this game.

Tony Pike-QB-Cincinnati-Pike looked pretty good early on in this game but it looked like he was nervous to start and did have a couple mechanical errors.  He did lead a touchdown drive but looked like he started to break down a little bit in the second quarter.

Dan Williams-DT-Tennessee-Williams looked pretty good early on in the game.  He had a pass batted down and proved that he is hard to run against.  He definitely raised his stock in this game.

Dan Lefevour-QB-Central Michigan-Not too many people gave Lefevour a chance at getting drafted any higher than the sixth round but after his performance in the Senior Bowl Lefevour is looking more like a third rounder.  He played pretty well in this game and is quick on his feet and his ability to run the ball is definitely a plus.  He did improve his draft stock greatly and could have moved himself up a couple rounds after his performance in this game.

Sean Weatherspoon-LB-Missouri-Weatherspoon was all over the field in this game making plays and even had an interception.  He displays a great attitude both on and off the field and is a leader (and an inspiration) to his teammates.  Thanks to his play here he is almost assured of being taken in the first round of the draft in April.

Zac Robinson-QB-Oklahoma State-Robinson did end up playing pretty well and showed great poise in the game.  He should get a much bigger look by NFL scouts going into the pre-draft workouts over the next few months.

Colin Peek-TE-Alabama-Peek showed us that he can catch passes after having been a blocker for the most part (especially in the national championship game).  He should get a much closer look at scouts now after his performance in the Senior Bowl.

Terrence Cody-DT-Alabama-Cody showed us just how big of a guy he is and that he can really plug up the middle (in the running game).  He should have raised his stock a lot in this game.