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First impressions

Early winners and losers as the Senior Bowl kicks off

Posted: Tuesday January 23, 2007 7:22PM; Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2007 7:31PM
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Dwayne Bowe' sure hands and tenacity are making an impression on the NFL's head coaches and general managers in Mobile.
Dwayne Bowe' sure hands and tenacity are making an impression on the NFL's head coaches and general managers in Mobile.
AP
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By Tony Pauline, Special to SI.com

MOBILE, Ala. -- Amidst the cold and occasional rain, the 2007 Senior Bowl kicked off on Monday morning. One of the most important weeks of scouting leading up to April's draft, the majority of the NFL's head coaches and general managers are in Mobile to scout the nation's top senior talent.

Here's a breakdown of those who've impressed and those who have not the past two days.

Risers

Dwayne Bowe/WR/LSU: The Tigers' big possession wide out has caught everything thrown his way during the first two practices. Bowe has shown soft, natural hands yet at the same time a mean streak when he must battle for the reception.

David Irons/CB/Auburn: Over shadowed by his brother (Kenny) throughout college, Irons has stood tall here in Mobile. He has shown the ability to shutdown opponents and has battled hard every day. His efforts have been commended by the coaches and Irons has significantly improved his draft stock.

Antonio Johnson/DT/Mississippi State: The big athletic tackle has far and away been the best lineman on the South team. Johnson has been quick off the ball and tough to stop. He has bull-rushed defenders off the line or finessed his way past them. NFL scouts always knew Johnson had great potential and he's starting to show it at the Senior Bowl.

Adam Carriker/DL/Nebraska: If Johnson is the best defensive lineman on the South then Carriker is the best one on the field to date. Carriker has also been impossible to stop, displaying a great combination of power, speed and smarts.

Tony Hunt/RB/Penn State: Hunt surprised everyone by checking in a little heavier than expected at 239 pounds. Yet that seems to have positively affected his game. Hunt has been a monster carrying the ball on the inside and equally productive as a blocker.

Sliders

Joe Newton/TE/Oregon State: The big tight end has looked slow and sluggish. And while he's effectively caught the ball, most of his receptions have come no more than five yards off the line of scrimmage. To make matters worse Newton's blocking has been subpar.

Fred Bennett/CB/South Carolina: A terrific athlete, Bennett is struggling with his football skills in Mobile. Slow to react, Bennett has gotten beat a number of times and seems to be doing too much thinking and not enough playmaking.

Marcus McCauley/CB/Fresno State: McCauley has been beaten like a drum the past two days. Consistently giving up deep receptions, McCauley has also allowed numerous catches in underneath coverage.

Ryan Harris/OL/Notre Dame: While fundamentally sound, Harris has not shown the bulk or strength to stay with Senior Bowl players, never mind NFL stars. Used at both tackle positions, he's been pushed off the ball all week.

Tyler Palko/QB/Pittsburgh: A try-hard passer with solid short-range accuracy, Palko has not displayed the arm strength or physical stature to play at the next level.

Senior Bowl Notes: After pulling out of the game late in the process, Brady Quinn of Notre Dame stepped in front of a small gathering of the media here Sunday night. Quinn explained the injury was a bursar sac in his right knee and was recommended to sit this one out by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews. While many are still skeptical about the whole situation Quinn hung around for two days and interviewed with NFL teams, facing the music. Another player drawing the ire of NFL scouts for pulling out of the contest is offensive tackle Joe Thomas of Wisconsin. Thomas explained he felt he had nothing to gain playing in the Senior Bowl. Scouts on hand remarked all Thomas had to do was look at the performance of D'Brickashaw Ferguson from a year ago. One so good it solidified Ferguson as a top-four pick.

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