The weather in Mobile isn't great. The temperature at Ladd-Peebles Stadium has yet to reach 50 degrees and it's been raining. That makes for some good adverse conditions in which to test the quarterbacks on hand, and so far Heisman Award winner Troy Smith and Michigan State's Drew Stanton have answered the bell.
Most observers were convinced Stanton, who I touched on in our last segment of Draft '07: "Unfinished Business," was inconsistent on Monday but found a groove yesterday. Smith was regarded as the most impressive quarterback in the field the first day, when he also tipped the scales at a respectable 6-0/222. Stanton, Smith, and Houston's Kevin Kolb are vying to be the No. 3-rated signal caller heading to the Combine.
I read in this blog that the NFL Network's Mike Mayock has pinpointed Kolb as a possible fast-riser in the months leading up to April 28. It's tough to gauge how he's fared this week with a limited account of his reps in drop-back drills, but I do know one knock against Kolb is that he played in a passer-friendly spread at Houston and may struggle with an initial learning curve. Also having faced marginal competition could make that transition more difficult. His throwing motion is a wind-up, three-quarters delivery, but the ball seems to come out of his hand just fine. What stands out is Kolb's ability to release from the pocket and make throws on the run, his adequate arm strength, and his tact. Kolb threw just four interceptions to 30 touchdowns as a senior. He also ran for four.
Meanwhile, LSU's JaMarcus Russell, a Mobile native, sent his best regards to Senior Bowl participants via an unlikely source: injured Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. Quinn and Russell, currently the draft's top two hurlers, have been training together at the Athlete's Performance Institute in Tempe, Arizona. Quinn won't practice this week or play in Saturday's game, but that doesn't mean he's not mixing it up in other ways.
Panthers Like Brady?
There is some talk around the Senior Bowl that Panthers representatives showed a special interest in Quinn when he made his surprise appearance on Monday. John Fox and Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis go way back and Carolina may be looking for 31-year-old Jake Delhomme's successor. Delhomme struggled in 2006, so Quinn could be starting by mid-season if Delhomme falters again, and the Panthers trade up in the first round. Currently holding the No. 14 overall pick, Carolina would likely have to shop a Kris Jenkins or a Chris Gamble to move up the board, possibly dangling Gamble and their pick to Detroit at No. 2. Despite a rough Sugar Bowl, I can't see Quinn falling past Miami at No. 9.
Wideouts Up and Down
We know Virginia Tech's David Clowney can separate, but can he catch the football? Granted his quarterback (redshirt sophomore Sean Glennon) was a disaster in 2006, but Clowney still managed 34 receptions. That hasn't translated to the Senior week practice field, however, as Clowney dropped numerous passes on Day One and didn't stand out yesterday. A projected mid-round selection, Clowney's sprinter speed will keep him draftable, but maybe only in the latter rounds.
The consensus is that Dwayne Bowe of LSU is the top receiver prospect at the Senior Bowl. Mayock called Bowe a certain first-round pick, and he's exceeded expectations. Aside from dropping a handful of catchable passes, Bowe's speed and body build have impressed. The Vikings, Rams, and Steelers could all have interest.
Others who have stepped up their games are sure-handed Auburn wideout Courtney Taylor, a lanky athlete with questionable straight-line speed who could help instantly in the slot, Clemson's Chansi Stuckey, and Chris Davis of Florida State. Davis has electrifying quickness but needs to polish his routes and get stronger. Stuckey is a speedy converted quarterback who could be a steal at the end of the draft's first day.
David Irons of Auburn and Thorpe Award winner Aaron Ross have stood out as cover corners at the Senior Bowl. Irons, the running back Kenny's older brother, has been inconsistent, partially due to the fact that he's extremely aggressive. But he's made plays others at Senior week couldn't hope to make in one-on-one drills. Irons has an injury history dating back to his JUCO days that'll affect him in April but he could solidify a second- or third-round grade with a strong finish before Saturday's game.
Ross, who played at Texas, has shown exceptional footwork and an ability to stay with most wideouts. A first-team All American, Ross could fit as an instant nickel corner for a team like the Cowboys if Aaron Glenn decides to call it quits or Anthony Henry switches to centerfield. It was interesting to see Longhorns first-day safety Michael Griffin, not especially touted for his cover skills, line up in the one-on-one drills and hold his own.
Did You Say Linebacka?
As expected, Ole Miss inside linebacker Patrick Willis has been impressive so far. South coach Mike Nolan, who coached DeMeco Ryans at the Senior Bowl last year, said "(Ryans) didn't make the initial impression that Willis has on me. I'm not saying that Willis is a better player, but I'm just saying that Willis has really jumped out early on." Willis also measured in at 6-1/240, which is at least five pounds heavier than anticipated. One theory has the Giants moving up for Willis and sending Antonio Pierce to the weak side.
First Trade Rumor
The New York media has been pushing Jets and Giants management to make an offseason move for Michael Turner since last October. Apparently it may happen. One report early Tuesday afternoon said the Jets would be willing to part with the No. 25 pick overall in exchange for Turner, who would presumably be the "thunder" to Leon Washington's "lightning." The Jets will certainly continue to keep their eyes on Senior Bowl talent, however, and have already shown reported interest in Penn State's Tony Hunt and Auburn's Kenny Irons. Just about everyone likes Hunt and his improved size, so he may not be around at 25 if the Jets wait to pull the trigger on a Turner trade.
Already on the Mend
In addition to the minor "bursa sac" in Quinn's knee, some other prospects are dealing with injuries. Nimble 5-7 tailback Garrett Wolfe, the nation's leading rusher in 2006, has already dropped out of the Senior Bowl due to a hamstring suffered in practice Monday. A Darren Sproles lookalike from Northern Illinois, Wolfe entered the draft process with a wealth of injury concerns and a late middle-round grade, so if he can't perform at the Combine he might fall out of the draft altogether. First-day defensive end Dan Bazuin of Central Michigan was an absolute terror at the East-West Shrine game, recording 2.5 sacks and garnering Defensive MVP honors, but isn't participating this week due to a knee injury, the extent of which is unknown. Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas is skipping out and says it's because he's "not in good enough playing shape." Thomas may think he's already got a top-ten pick in the bag.
Talkative Rutgers tight end Clark Harris isn't putting to bed concerns about his toughness by quitting after the first day of drills due to a toe injury sustained in the Texas Bowl. It won't be a surprise if he falls far on draft weekend. LSU wideout Craig Davis is out with a groin injury. Likely 3-4 outside linebacker and possible first-rounder LaMarr Woodley tweaked a hammy on Monday and re-aggravated it Tuesday, forcing him from drills. His status for the game is uncertain. Washington State wideout Jason Hill, already coming off an injury-plagued season, twisted his ankle on Monday but made it out for Tuesday's session. LSU's LaRon Landry isn't at the Senior Bowl for reasons unknown and Gaines Adams, a rush end from Clemson, was told by his agent to skip the function.
East-West Shrine Game
If you caught this game last week, three players other than Bazuin had to stand out. New Hampshire's David Ball in particular dominated the contest for stretches. Analyst Bob Davie pointed out that Ball, who broke Jerry Rice's career record for touchdowns at the D-IAA level with 58, runs just like Chicago Cub Jeff Samardzija. Originally recruited to run track at New Hampshire, Ball leapt for a 51-yard grab in the game and looks sure to be drafted.
Little-known Lane's Jacoby Jones, a 6-4 specimen who accumulated over 2,000 all-purpose yards in his senior season, looked explosive in the Shrine game after a reported strong week of practice. With teams undoubtedly scouring the college ranks for the next Marques Colston, look for Jones to draw comparisons when he hits the Combine floor in February.
Fresno State wideout Paul Williams, who is also in attendance at the Senior Bowl, delivered at the East-West Shrine, torching Georgia Tech corner Kenny Scott for a 79-yard touchdown thrown by Nevada's Jeff Rowe. To cap his end-zone dash, Williams pointed back at his defender ala Reggie Bush in the NFC Championship. He later apologized for the unsportsmanlike act.
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Interesting Draft News
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