Linemen rule roost at Senior Bowl
NIU's Larry English was the most consistent pass rusher during the week
The senior QB class doesn't have the depth of previous drafts
WVU's Pat White might be a perfect fit with 'Wildcat' offenses in the NFL
MOBILE, Ala. -- The final chapter of the 60th annual Senior Bowl was completed on Saturday night after the team from the South defeated the North 35-18. Like the preceding week of practices, the game provided several performances of note and a few to forget.
Pat White was listed as one of our biggest sliders of Senior Bowl week on Friday because of his poor showing in practice. The West Virginia quarterback is having the last laugh. White was named MVP after directing two scoring drives and passing for 95 yards with one score, as he led the South to victory. NFL teams now have a decision to make: Do they forget what they saw in practice and just brand White as a gamer who lights it up once the ball is kicked off? Or are they unimpressed because the rules of the Senior Bowl game (no blitzing, no press coverage) lend a helping hand to quarterbacks? This story will continue at the NFL Combine.
The best pass rusher during Senior Bowl practices was Northern Illinois' Larry English. In the game, English showed the versatility that will endear him to NFL decision makers. Besides lining up at defensive end, English also played outside linebacker. He showed the ability to be a disruptive force playing in space and the speed and athletic ability necessary to effectively stop the run.
If English was the best pass rusher at the Senior Bowl, Robert Ayers was not far behind. The Tennessee product turned in two sacks last, including a fourth-quarter sack which resulted in a South touchdown. Ayers blew past highly rated offensive tackle Philip Loadholt, showing great edge speed, then blasted quarterback Rhett Bomar, who fumbled the ball in the end zone which and into the hands of South defenders for six points.
Quinn Johnson (LSU) has been one of the best lead blockers in the nation for the past three years, a talent he showcased on Saturday night. Johnson was responsible for a number of blocks during South touchdown drives, which sprung ball carriers free for large gains. Johnson also displayed skill handling the ball, something he was rarely asked to do at LSU. He had a pair of important receptions during the South's first touchdown drive, then carried the ball into the end zone for the second score. Adding another dimension to his game will only enhance Johnson's value as he only carried the ball 16 times in college and caught just four passes.
Tyronne Green, who had a solid week of practice, continued his momentum through the game. Green handled BJ Raji (Boston College) in one-on-one blocking during the game and was the only lineman to successfully contain the defensive tackle at any point last week. Green looked terrific in protecting the South's three quarterbacks all evening. He's an athletic lineman with the skill needed to play in a zone-blocking scheme.
Iowa defensive lineman Mitch King did not pass the eyeball test when he measured in at just 6-feet, 1˝ inches and 275 pounds on Monday; but don't let that fool you. King proved on Saturday he's a real good football player. He made plays behind the line of scrimmage, in the box and on special teams. King is reminiscent of several former Hawkeye defensive linemen, such as Jonathan Babineaux and Aaron Kampman; prospects who were considered too small and too slow to play in the NFL ... yet late-round picks who went on to have long and prosperous careers at the next level.
Signal-caller Graham Harrell benefited from the wide open offense at Texas Tech, allowing him to take snaps from the shotgun almost exclusively. During the game, he struggled lining up underneath center. On the game's first drive, Harrell tripped over his offensive guard dropping into the pocket. On the same series, Harrell threw a bounce pass when he was unable to properly set up. He struggled with his footwork most of the night and was constantly off balance throwing the ball. Harrell also displayed very poor arm strength. The difference was startling when Bomar, a traditional pocket-passer from Sam Houston State, took over the offense.
Cincinnati cornerback DeAngelo Smith continued to give up a large number of receptions in the game last night, just as he did earlier in the week. Smith played soft coverage and ended up surrendering a 39-yard touchdown reception to Mississippi receiver Mike Wallace, who ran past him down the sidelines. There's concern Smith will struggle at cornerback and may ultimately move into safety because of his poor coverage skills.
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