The 63rd Senior Bowl got underway Saturday in front of another sellout crowd of rabid football fans on the Alabama Gulf Coast town of Mobile. The Senior Bowl is south Alabama’s Super Bowl and the entire town anticipates this week all year long with numerous celebrations and their famous southern hospitality.North Team
Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson started the game for the North team and had mixed results during his first quarter playing time. On a positive note Wilson did lead the North team to 10 first half points on 4-of-7 passing for 45 yards, but on a negative note he threw an interception on a late toss allowing the safety to move into position to make the pick. Wilson was much more impressive when improvising and showed excellent speed and a strong arm.
Boise State’s Kellen Moore is not an impressive physical specimen but not many can argue with the numbers he put up during his college career. Moore’s arm is not particularly strong but what he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in heart and smarts. Moore’s numbers weren’t overly impressive, 6-for-12 for 50 yards and an interception but still managed to make some decent throws and showed the ability to move away from pressure.
Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, like the other two North quarterbacks, didn’t put up huge numbers (5-of-11 for 115 yards with a TD and an interception) but showed a good field presence and did lead the North to their final touchdown, a 41-yard toss to Gerell Robinson.
The North team’s running backs were led by Boise State’s Doug Martin and the University of Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead. Pead, the Big East Player-of-the-Year, carried the ball eight times for 36 yards and Martin added 19 yards on four carries and showed good speed and excellent vision. Martin’s downfield block in the second half was key to springing Robinson on his 41-yard TD reception.
Arizona State WR Gerell Robinson at 6-foot-4 was easily the most impressive receiver for the North team Saturday. Robinson has just two catches but his 41-yard score in the second half was the game-clincher. Robinson’s size and ability to run after the catch most certainly impressed the scouts and NFL personnel in attendance.
The offensive line was fairly solid for the most part, and although they did give up three sacks during the game, the North team's quarterbacks were well protected and given ample time to throw. Anchoring the offensive line was Ohio State tackle Mike Adams who probably saw his draft stock rise along with his singing bonus. Adams had a good week of practice and an even better game using his 6-foot-5 inch frame and huge wingspan to hold off some of the South’s best pass rushers. Scouts would like to see a little more of a nasty streak at times but Adams most likely will be the first Senior Bowl tackle to be drafted this April, not worthy of the Buccaneers’ No. 5 pick however.
Besides Adams another Ohio State product, center Mike Brewster, had a solid week and good game. Brewster anchored the middle and gave up few QB pressures and helped the North team run for 98 yards on the day. Washington’s Senio Kelemete was another who impressed and may have also seen his stock rise with a good week of practice and game on Saturday.
Defensively the North team did a great job particularly against the run, limiting the South to just 62 yards on 20 carries. Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner paced the North with seven tackles, an interception (coming close to a second pick in the 2nd quarter), a tackle-for-loss and one pass breakup.
On the defensive line Marshall defensive end was easily the most impressive, collecting two sacks, three tackles and a batted pass in the first half. Marshall flashed the same quickness and burst we saw during practices in Mobile earlier this week and was another who might have seen a couple zeros added to his signing bonus.
Another player who had a standout week of practice and made more of a name for himself was Michigan’s Mike Martin. Martin’s size makes it difficult to figure out where he fits on many NFL rosters but his tenacity and hustle on every play will earn him a spot playing on Sunday somewhere next fall. Martin finished with three tackles but his disruption was clearly evident on Saturday.
Oklahoma defensive back Jamel Fleming had four tackles, an interception and a forced fumble to pace the secondary. Costal Carolina’s Josh Norman, a late addition to the North roster after playing in last week’s East-West Shrine game, had three tackles and a pass breakup, helping his draft stock rise for the second week in a row.
Pead earned Player-of-the-Game honors with two dynamic punt returns setting up scores on each, first with a 60-yarder then following it up with a 38 yard return later in the game. The scouts in attendance, including the Bucs contingent surely were impressed with Pead’s tough running and his ability to get outside breaking contain on his two punt returns.- By Mark Cook
The South squad entered Saturday's contest as the favorites to win in the eyes of many analysts due to their stronger talent level, but ended up disappointing after putting together a solid week of practice. Just like in any All-star football game, the team with the better play at quarterback is the one most likely to win and this was no different in the 2012 Senior Bowl. The South team quarterbacks struggled all week during practice and that translated into their lack of success on Saturday evening.
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, who some scouts and draft experts believe could be selected early in the draft, did not play like a top tier QB prospect should, throwing two critical interceptions in the game. Weeden started out the game well before throwing the costly picks and finished his outing with five completions on nine attempts, but threw for just 56 yards. Many scouts were comparing Weeden's situation to that of Redskins QB John Beck and Beck ended up getting drafted with the 40th pick in the draft. After an average performance during Senior Bowl week, Weeden could be picked anywhere in the early to mid-round range and that will all depend on how desperate teams are for quarterbacks this year.
The other South quarterbacks, Nick Foles and Ryan Lindley, also put together mediocre practices during Senior Bowl week, but Foles easily had the best game of the South QBs. The Arizona product put up efficient numbers, completing 11 of 15 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. The key stat is that Foles did not turn the ball over. Lindley, like Weeden, struggled, completing only 10 of 21 passes for 103 yards and one interception thrown.
The running back play on the South team wasn't anything special, but the back that stood out was Mississippi State's Vick Ballard. Ballard ran for 29 yards on seven carries (4.1 average) and showed off his power, consistently dragging defenders up field and picking up many of his yards after contact. Ballard was also very solid in pass protection.
Louisiana Tech's Lennon Creer, the MVP of the East-West Shrine Game, didn't fare as well in the Senior Bowl, gaining just 10 yards on four carries. Baylor's Terrance Ganaway also didn't put up very impressive numbers, running for 18 yards on five carries.
The most impressive wide receiver of the game was Joe Adams from Arkansas. Adams fumbled the ball early in the game, but made up for his mistake by catching 8 passes for 136 yards on the night. Adams ran great comeback routes and consistently gained separation from defenders. The Arkansas product also showed his strength, breaking a few tackles and turning short completions into long gains, doing a great job of getting yards after the catch.
Arizona's Juron Criner also had a great game after turning in the best week of practice out of the South team wide receivers. Criner ran good routes and did a great job of adjusting to the football, making six catches for 77 yards and scoring a touchdown. The only bad play from Criner was a drop on a quick slant, in which the receiver displayed alligator arms in fear of getting lit up on the play.
Criner could have easily had a monster game if it wasn't for the poor quarterback play of the South team. Criner ran a good route in the endzone and got a lot of separation on his defender, but the pass intended for him was overthrown. On the next play, Criner also got open in the back of the endzone but the QB couldn't find him. In the fourth quarter, Criner finally got rewarded for his effort, catching a 20-yard touchdown from his Arizona teammate Nick Foles.
Another big receiver that stood out was Jeff Fuller. Fuller ran well with his 6-foot-4, 217-pound frame and hauled in three receptions for 19 yards. The Texas A&M product along with Criner and North Carolina's Dwight Jones aren't likely to be targeted by the Bucs in April, as the team already has big receivers and is looking to acquire speed at that position. New head coach Greg Schiano's offensive philosophy includes taking shots down field and a fast player like Adams may be more along the lines of the player Tampa Bay is looking for at wide receiver this offseason.
The South team tight ends didn't get too involved in the passing game, but Alabama's Brad Smelley had a great diving catch on the sideline for a gain of 24 yards on his only reception of the day. Smelley has looked great all week catching the ball, but his lack of size (6-foot-1, 233 pounds) will make it hard for him to find a home at tight end in the NFL.
Throughout the game, the South's offensive line was inconsistent. The unit provided solid protection at times in the passing game, but struggled to open up very many holes in the running game. This was a very disappointing effort for a group that was considered to be a strength of the South team.
Offensive lineman Cordy Glenn, in particular, had a poor outing. The Georgia product was dominated a few times and on one play he was pushed back to the inside by North team defensive end Vinny Curry, allowing a sack. Glenn also was pushed back on another play that caused pressure on Weedon and forced him to throw an interception.
LSU guard Will Blackwell stood out for his positive play and had a good performance for the most part on Saturday. Blackwell looked very athletic, creating big holes and doing a great job of pulling in the running game. Blackwell was a consistent blocker and did a great job of getting to the second level throughout the game.
The South defensive linemen turned in a solid performance, but this unit was also inconsistent at times. North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples had trouble playing contain in the running game and got pushed to the outside on too many occasions, but displayed a great effort rushing the passer and consistently got around the offensive tackle he was battling. On one play, Coples got around tackle Senio Kelemete, after the North team offensive lineman tried to cut him low, and the North Carolina product came up with a big sack. Coples finished the game with three tackles, two of which were for a loss of yards.
Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson also had a great game, but was too aggressive at times and fell for a few play action passes. Thompson finished the day with two tackles and one was a great play he made in the backfield to cause a four-yard loss.
Florida State's Nigel Bradham was the most impressive linebacker of the game, showing great effort and speed to make a sack on QB Russell Wilson, who was rolling out to the right off of a play action fake. It was Bradham's great closing speed and pursuit angle that ensured the sack on the mobile Wilson. Bradham was active around the ball the whole game and displayed good form tackling, finishing the game with three tackles.
Miami's Sean Spence and North Carolina's Zach Brown tied for the lead in tackles among linebackers and both finished the game with five a piece. The athletic Brown made good reads for the most part in the passing game, but was pushed back a few times in the running game.
In the South team secondary, there were a handful of players that stood out and played well on Saturday. This unit played very well together as a whole and Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris did a great job of coaching up these players all week.
North Carolina safety Antonio Allen was very active around the football. Allen played very physical and consistently made solid form tackles inside the box from his safety spot. Allen also led the South squad with seven tackles on the game. LSU's Brandon Taylor was another safety who stood out and he made a great jump on the ball to pick off a Russell Wilson pass in the first quarter while playing the center of the field.
Former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins also had a solid game after putting together a great week of practice. Jenkins displayed solid form tackling in the running game and showed that he was not afraid to make tackles at the line of scrimmage from this cornerback spot. Jenkins even made a touchdown saving tackle on special teams when he stopped returner Isaiah Pead after a 38-yard gain. Jenkins did make a critical mistake though, allowing one touchdown to receiver Marvin Jones after getting a good jam, which in turn caused Jones to get in front of him for the reception.
The cornerback that had the most inconsistent game was Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward, who was penalized twice for pass interference. Hayward struggled at times this week in practice to keep up with speedy receivers and it showed during the game. Hayward did, however, come up with an easy interception in the back of the endzone when a receiver gave up on his route, and the Commodore also broke up a touchdown pass intended for Marvin McNutt.- By Andrew Scavelli
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