Tuesday, January 20, 2009

All Star: Senior Bowl Report - Day 1

Mobile, AL – A total of 104 senior prospects started the process of impressing the NFL scouts, coaches and front office staff that has traveled to Alabama following a week of doing evaluations in Houston, Texas at the East-West Shrine Game.

A host of star names failed to depart their current training facilities, so the group features a handful of possible first round picks, but mainly 2nd to 4th round choices following this year’s group of underclassmen entering the draft.

I headed over to the North practice site on Monday afternoon as both teams spent 90 minutes on the field at the same time, which will not happen the next two days. I had two evaluators, one a former NFL scout, in attendance for the South practice, which is reflected in the proceeding report.

Tuesday and Wednesday’s workouts will feature two-hour workouts in full pads, so the 1-on-1 sessions and team drills will provide some lively action and big hits.


Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew…
stood out as a clear cut above the other tight ends thanks to his natural size and than today showing he can get open down-field and be a solid blocker at the point of attack. Has good, but not great straight-line speed; still carries a mid-to-late first round grade at the moment.

- Sam Houston State quarterback Rhett Bomar… had the most “Live” arm of the three North QB’s; Graham Harrell (Texas Tech) and Nathan Brown (Central Arkansas). He had the most velocity on his out routes and the windy conditions had little or no effect on his ball. Well-built has a sturdy frame and among this group his physical traits have a real chance to shine.

- San Jose State cornerback Coye Francies…
passed the eye-test during the morning weigh-in. Shows fluid hips and very good make-up speed, closing on the ball several times. His excellent size and footwork helped make him someone scouts were talking about at the South practice.

- Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King…
won most of his 1-on-1’s thanks to impressive quickness and use of his hands. Did not stay blocked too often during the first practice. Quick to see and read the play, very good penetrating his gap off the snap, but lacks ideal size to play every-down inside.

- USC linebacker Brian Cushing… made a very good impression during the morning weigh-in; he’s a solidly built 6’3”, 245 pound ‘backer. Can look a little stiff at times, struggles to get proper depth on drops, needs to turn and run sometimes rather than being fluid enough to just adapt on the move. Looks best attacking the line of scrimmage and making plays in front of him.

- Cal-Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden… great natural size, long, lean frame and did not appear to be 227 pounds as he did not have much fat on his body. Not a natural route runner. Had some trouble adjusting to similar level of competition in terms of ability, caught some balls against his body. Will still do well on jump balls or vertical routes, but he had some issues gathering himself and accelerating in-and-out of his cuts.

Purdue running back Kory Sheets… showed good hands out of the backfield and opened some eyes with his burst in the open field. Had good vision as a runner and several scouts noted he could be a very good all-purpose type back at the NFL level.


- Cincinnati defensive end Connor Barwin…
he was given jersey #82 and practiced the entire afternoon at tight end after spending his senior campaign on the defensive side of he ball. Following practice he said that a lot of teams wanted to watch him practice at tight end, but that he could still take reps at defensive end or even play both ways in the game itself.

- West Virginia quarterback Pat White… struggled throwing the ball, handling the windy conditions and then when he did throw a good ball it was dropped by one of his receivers. Not sure if he was not use to the NFL football or it was just a bad day at the office, but at Tuesday’s practice it will be huge for him to rebound before scouts think about seeing him at wide receiver.

* A quick poll of those watching the afternoon practice session at Ladd-Peebles Stadium revealed that most believe Mike Singletary (49ers), Rex Ryan (Jets) and Raheem Morris (Buccaneers) will have the most success as first-year head coaches next season.

* An assortment of underclassmen and even some of the seniors that opted to pass on playing in the actual Senior Bowl game are expected to arrive on Tuesday and be around the practices and team hotel in order to attract the attention of NFL scouts and coaches.

* According to several sources the annual Monday night welcome cocktail party was far less attended than in years past. It also seems like although Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Miami Dolphins executive VP of Football Operations Bill Parcells were in attendance Monday morning that the total number of decision-makers currently in Mobile is also down a significant amount.

* The wheeling-and-dealing among current staff members, both coaches and scouts, that have seen major adjustments in their head coach or front office was obvious during the weigh-in process and shortly there after as those wearing Chiefs, Browns, Buccaneers and Lions gear were all concentrating on making contact with friends throughout the room after taking care of the initial business at hand; charting the height, weight arm and hand of the 104 senior prospects.

Photo Credit: WVU Sports Communication, College Press Box (USC, Oklahoma St.)