Players who made good Senior Bowl week impressions

MOBILE, Ala. — The inclement weather here along the Gulf Coast forced both Senior Bowl squads to take their practices indoors to the Mobile Convention Center on Thursday. That’s OK, though, because at this stage of the week it’s all dress rehearsal.

Monday was the day to install the offense and defense. Tuesday and Wednesday provided us with the good stuff — contact drills in pads — which really allowed scouts and general managers to study the prospects. Now, it’s just back to the finishing touches before Saturday’s game.

With that in mind, here’s a list of players who made good first impressions with me after watching them practice up close all week.

  • Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden has separated himself a little bit at the quarterback position. He’s just had a real solid week. I think he’s going to cause some people to do their homework on a 28-year-old rookie, which is something unique in this process of evaluation. It’ll be interesting.
  • The South defensive line has shown all week that it’s the strongest position group of both teams. Between South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and North Carolina’s Quinton Coples, you’re looking at three first-round picks.
  • North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins has shown me that he’s a first-round pick from the perspective of a gifted player with physical ability. Teams will just have to figure this kid out and whether or not the past off-the-field issues that forced him to transfer out of Florida will come back to haunt him as a pro.
  • Georgia OT Cordy Glenn forced me to reevaluate him. At first, he seemed like a good fit to play guard and maybe even start at the next level. But I think he has the ability to play tackle, although I’m not sure if it’s on the left side. But I like him a lot. He’s massive. He doesn’t have great feet, but he’s long.
  • Virginia LB Cam Johnson was very good this week. I’m not sure where you play him as either an outside ‘backer or a defensive end, but he’s got good length and is strong. I was impressed by the way he rushed the quarterback.
  • Arkansas WR Joe Adams displayed some great quickness this week, which will make him a dangerous return specialist. But he also did a good job of catching the ball with his hands.
  • Arizona WR Juron Criner really surprised me. He’s a little quicker than I thought he’d be at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. There could be something there with him.
  • Ohio State OT Mike Adams had a good week for the North team. He’s got good feet and is a natural pass protector.

– Mike Mayock

Gulf Coast storms force Senior Bowl squads to adjust

MOBILE, Ala. — The North squad left the team hotel Thursday morning for practice at Ladd Peebles Stadium as scheduled, but didn’t stay very long.

As expected, the weather has turned ugly, and about 20 minutes after warm-ups began, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier‘s staff and the North squad were on the team bus and headed for the Mobile Convention Center.

The thunderstorms and heavy rains that slammed Louisiana on Wednesday have made their way to Alabama and are expected to push into the Florida panhandle. The storms aren’t supposed to clear until late afternoon or early evening.

This means the North and South will have to adjust their training regimens on this fourth day of Senior Bowl week. The North is already using the convention center to complete its practice session; the South will have to do the same this afternoon.

Vikings open to trade talks for No. 3 overall pick

MOBILE, Ala. — Well, now. Here’s something Vikings fans maybe didn’t think about before: their team trading the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

You’d figure that, with QB Christian Ponder entering his second season, there’d be no question Minnesota would seek to assist him with either a stud left tackle (USC’s Matt Kalil?) or a No. 1 receiver (Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon?).

But thanks to general manager Rick Spielman‘s comments Wednesday during Senior Bowl practice, it might be time to consider the Vikings open for business.

“It will be, I think, very busy on draft day,” Spielman said in an interview on the NFL Network set. “We’re the third overall pick, so we’ll be looking at all the options. If someone wants to come up and get our pick, we’re going to be more than willing to listen.”

For the record, all but one of our experts’ mock drafts has the Vikings selecting Kalil.

Age nothing but a number for Oklahoma State QB Weeden

Brandon Weeden during practice (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

MOBILE, Ala. — Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, like the rest of us, keeps getting old. Questions about his age, however, do not.

“I haven’t done an interview in a long time where I haven’t talked about my age …” Weeden said Wednesday after Senior Bowl practice. “I got used to it about eight months ago, and I just realized there’s nothing I can do to change it. I took a different approach. It doesn’t bother me anymore, because I’m so used to talking about it.”

What’s the big deal? Well, Weeden is 28 years old, making him by far the oldest prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft. In fact, he’s older than Aaron Rodgers by nearly two months, which tells you just how late to the draft party Weeden is because of his previous minor league baseball career.

Where it gets tricky for scouts and general managers is that Weeden has the qualities of an NFL quarterback. He’s got the height at 6-foot-4. He’s got the strong arm. He can throw a tight spiral. And he’s accurate, with a career 69.5 completion percentage.

That all started to surface during the final padded practice on Wednesday.

And in case anybody forgot, Weeden out-dueled Stanford QB Andrew Luck, the projected No. 1 overall pick, in a memorable Fiesta Bowl earlier this month.

If Weeden was 22, we might be talking about him and Luck going 1-2 in April. As it stands, though, Weeden will be asked about his age from now until then.

“I can change a lot of things, but I can’t change that birth certificate,” Weeden said. “That’s just kind of my response. It’s there, and I just have fun with it. It’s more of an advantage than anything. There aren’t any negatives. I think I bring a lot of value with my age, my maturity and how stable I am both mentally and physically.”

Georgia’s Glenn willing to play anywhere along O-line

Cordy Glenn (Dave Martin/AP)

MOBILE, Ala. — NFL teams interested in drafting Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn will have a decision to make.

Does Glenn belong at left tackle, the position he played last season? Or does it make sense to move him inside to guard, where he spent most of the time as an underclassman?

If what the player thinks matters at all to scouts and general managers, well, just know that Glenn is perfectly fine with whatever comes his way.

“I just want to play,” Glenn said Wednesday following Senior Bowl practice. “I feel like I’m versatile. Everybody can see that I can play multiple positions and contribute in more than one way. I just want to play football, honestly.”

Glenn is massive at 6-foot-5½ and 346 pounds, and with 35-inch arms, he seems fit to play tackle. Looks can be deceiving, however, as he struggled a bit during Wednesday’s session against edge rushers.

Glenn came into Senior Bowl week projected as a mid to late first-round pick with potential to immediately start as a guard in the NFL. A big reason for that is his footwork, which he developed playing basketball and soccer as a kid.

It’s pretty clear that Glenn is wanted by many NFL teams. It’s just a matter of where they’ll want to play him. He’s got the rest of the week to show everyone what he’s made of — not that performing in front of scouts matters more than just proving his worth to himself.

“I don’t know if there is pressure necessarily to perform for them. It’s more for myself, man,” Glenn said. “I really don’t like to lose. I like the competition. It’s been fun this week going up against some of the best in the nation.”

Wisconsin QB Wilson isn’t short on confidence

MOBILE, Ala. — Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson is short by NFL standards. A short man’s complex, though, he does not have.

As far as Wilson is concerned, scouts and general managers need only to pop in some game film to realize his height won’t have any bearing on his ability to quarterback at the next level.

Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson at Senior Bowl drops back to pass during practice at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

“You turn on the film and you realize it’s not a factor,” the 5-foot-11 Wilson said Wednesday after Senior Bowl practice. “I don’t get many balls batted down ever. It’s just one of those things that people try to knock on me. But I make all the throws and just try to win games.”

In 2011, his only season with the Badgers after transferring from North Carolina State, Wilson led Wisconsin to an 11-3 record, including a heartbreaking defeat to Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Wilson finished with a career-high 33 touchdown passes to just four interceptions and dramatically improved his accuracy with a 72.8 completion percentage.

Those numbers speak volumes, but what makes Wilson “intriguing,” as NFL network draft guru Mike Mayock says, are his intangibles. Mayock has even gone so far as to compare Wilson to Doug Flutie.

“I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t throw the football extremely well and couldn’t run well,” Wilson said. “The fact that people talk about my leadership and my intangibles is really important. For a great quarterback, you want to be a great leader, a great competitor, a guy who pays attention to detail. I definitely think I have that.”

Wilson just lacks the height. If teams continue to hold it against him, then so be it. He plans on persevering either way.

“The Lord made me this way for a reason. …” Wilson said. “It’s a bit of motivation, because if that’s the only thing that people can knock on me, it’s not a bad thing.”

Neither is the feedback he’s been getting during conversations from NFL teams.

“Teams really, really like me and my talent and the way I throw the football,” Wilson said. “That’s a great thing. My goal is to be great, to win a Super Bowl one day. I just got to keep working. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of fortitude to stay in it every single day. But that’s my goal.”

Redskins’ Morris still ‘youngry’, even as DBs coach

You think being demoted from head coach of Buccaneers to defensive backs coach of the Redskins would have some sort of negative effect on Raheem Morris? Not. At. All.

Find out what Morris had to say Tuesday in his first public appearance with his new team at Senior Bowl practice.

Five observations from first padded practices at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. — The first day of padded practices for the Senior Bowl took place Tuesday, providing the first real look at some of the top prospects who will play in Saturday’s showcase game. Here are five observations coming out of the two practice sessions between the North and South teams:

  • I thought the most impressive group was the South’s defensive line. Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw and Quinton Coples, to me, are all first-round picks, and they’ve all played like first-round picks. I’m particularly interested in Ingram, because he’s got an atypical body type at 6-foot-2 and 276 pounds. You’ve got to figure out how to use him, but he’s played really well so far. Bottom line: These three guys represent the best position group heading into Saturday’s game.
  • The defensive backs from the South squad have been tremendous. It’s pretty obvious why cornerback Janoris Jenkins is so highly rated. Even though he’s had his problems off the field, like having to transfer from Florida to North Alabama, his physical skill set is obvious. Dwight Bentley, the small-school kid from Louisiana Lafayette who weighs just 176 pounds, had a great day yesterday, according to several scouts. I was really impressed by him today; he’s really helped himself.
  • Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn impressed me today. He’s a massive kid at 6-5½ and 346. He’s got 35-inch arms, and I thought he hung in there really well during the 1-on-1 drills. I also liked offensive lineman James Brown from Troy. He, too, did well in the 1-on-1 drills.
  • To me, it looks like the South team has more high picks, more first-round picks, on its roster. You can see them playing with a higher level of skill. I just need to see more from the quarterbacks.
  • The North quarterbacks, their two little guys, intrigue me. I don’t know what you do with Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, but I am intrigued by him. I want to watch more of him, because of what he did at Wisconsin and at North Carolina State before that. He’s only 5-10½, so he doesn’t fit into a mold, but I’ve said it before: He reminds me a little bit of former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie. Wilson gets outside of the pocket and can make plays. If a team is open to having a quarterback of that size and takes a chance on him, he can be a pretty special kid. On the other hand, Boise State’s Kellen Moore is not athletic, a tough thing for a quarterback who is less than six feet tall and has an average arm. However, he’s got one of the most anticipatory throws in the college game. He’s so good at that, which is why he has some potential.

Michigan-Ohio State rivalry heats up at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. — Teammates at the Senior Bowl certainly aren’t trying to rip each other’s heads off … unless we’re talking about players from Ohio State and Michigan. Then it becomes a different story.

The 114-year old rivalry between the two schools found its way here front and center Tuesday, with Buckeyes center Mike Brewster and Wolverines defensive tackle Mike Martin refusing to back down from each other during contact drills.

“It’s always heated, but it’s fun. It’s good competition,” Martin said. “We always go after each other, and he’s a good player. We’re both here at the Senior Bowl trying to show our stuff, so it’s great.”

If trying to impress NFL scouts and general managers wasn’t enough of an incentive, Brewster and Martin aren’t about to let one be outdone by the other.

It’s not that they hate each other. They just can’t ignore where they come from when they’re lined up across each other in the trenches.

“We’re definitely cool off the field,” Brewster said. “He’s one of my best competitors. We’ve been going at it for four years. We know if we don’t bring it 100 percent, one is going to eat up the other one.”

Said Martin: “It’s been a four-year war between us. Like I said, he’s a good player. We’ll both say the same thing about each other, but when we get out here, we’re out here for each other’s heads. You can’t ask for anything better than that when it comes to competition.”

Oh, this ought to be a fun one to watch all week.

Can Boise State’s Moore benefit from Tebow effect?

MOBILE, Ala. — When you think about it, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore isn’t all that different from Tim Tebow when the Broncos’ QB was going through the draft evaluation process in 2010.

Question marks were abound back then about Tebow’s unconventional left-handed throwing motion and his ability to run a pro-style offense coming out of Florida. Those same concerns currently hang over Moore like a grey cloud, as well as his 5-foot-11 frame, which is near midget status for NFL quarterbacks.

Boise State QB Kellen Moore drops back to pass during a 2012 Senior Bowl practice. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

Just like with Tebow, though, one thing that can’t be denied is Moore’s winning pedigree. That’s ultimately what landed Tebow in the late first round despite all of his inequities after initially being projected as a third- or fourth-round pick. So what will it mean for Moore, who, at the moment, figures not to be selected until the third day of April’s draft?

“I think certainly a lot has to be said for that,” Moore said Tuesday after Senior Bowl practice with the North squad. “As far as just playing the quarterback position, you got to play it at a high level and be able to win games. That’s the bottom line; that’s your job.”

In that regard, nobody has ever done his job better than Moore, whose 50 career victories made him college football’s winningest QB ever. It can’t hurt, either, that Moore was very accurate with a 69.8 completion percentage.

That’s got to count for something, but will it be enough to offset Moore’s deficiencies? Will it be enough for a team to take a chance on him sooner rather than later?

Moore isn’t worried about it one way or the other.

“I don’t really know,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of different ways to look at things. Some people may look at it differently than others. You just need one team to like you, and you’ll be good.”

Bills, Bengals staffs will coach Senior Bowl

The coaching staffs for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl will come from the AFC. The Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals have been selected as the two staffs for this year’s game, Senior Bowl officials announced today. The Bills staff will coach the South squad, while the Bengals’ will head up the North team.

“It is an opportunity that you look forward to because of the opportunity to work hands-on with some of the top players in the nation,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said of the Senior Bowl. “Anytime you can do that, you get a much better read on a guy — whether he can learn and retain, his work habits and his leadership. All of those intangibles that you can’t get off of film or in interviews.”

The 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 29 in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game and all practices will be televised live by NFL Network.

Two-way player Marecic wins Hornung Award

Football’s 60-Minute Men have been extinct for some time now. There was a brief reemergence in the 90s when Deion Sanders played both sides of the ball, but those mythic creatures with names like Thorpe and Nagurski

Stanford's Owen Marecic has played fullback and linebacker for the Cardinal. (Jason O. Watson/US Presswire)

haven’t been seen on a high level since the Eagles’ Chuck Bednarik, who retired in 1962.

Extinct that is, until Stanford LB Clinton Snyder went down with a knee injury in 2009 and coach Jim Harbaugh called upon FB Owen Marecic to fill in for him. Just like that, the 60-Minute Man was reborn.

Marecic won the inaugural Paul Hornung Award last night, given to the most versatile college player in the country. The 6-foot-4, 244-pound senior played in all 13 games last season, averaged 110 plays in each and even scored a TD in last week’s Orange Bowl victory against Virginia Tech.

So did he have any doubts he could handle all work and no rest?

“I actually never doubted the decision because my philosophy is to do whatever the coaches tell me to do so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a go,’” said Marecic when he was in New York last month as a member of the National Football Foundation’s Scholar-Athlete Class. “I had the confidence that they were going to play the best player and they weren’t going to let my performance slip at either position. So I put my trust in the coaches and thankfully things have worked out.”

Marecic, who finished fifth on the Cardinal with 51 tackles, added that he had a lot of assistance from his fellow linebackers, who helped speed up the learning curve so he could adjust to the flip side of the ball. As for the toll it took on his body, Marecic heaped praise on the Stanford strength and conditioning team — a team he’ll be sticking with until the NFL Scouting Combine so he can finish his degree in human biology. That field of study must have come in handy when he was trying to figure out all the body aches after his no rest for the weary year.

“Actually, I’ve been concentrating in infectious diseases which doesn’t really translate,” said Marecic, who has a 3.5 GPA. “There wasn’t a class on the effects of football on your body in the bulletin, but there should have been. I could’ve used it.”

While there’s speculation that his old coach, Harbaugh, might grab him for the 49ers in the draft, Marecic said at the time that he would be happy wherever he could contribute, but as a fan he’s been waving a Terrible Towel since childhood.

“My dad’s family is from Pittsburgh so I’m definitely hard-core Steelers,” said Marecic. “Troy Polamalu is my favorite player. It’s amazing how he just pours himself into the game and I love the way he handles himself both on and off the field.”

So was Polamalu the inspiration for his own long hair?

“Nah, I grew mine to donate it to Locks of Love,” said Marecic. “But I heard Troy’s hair is actually insured. That’s impressive.”

2011 Senior Bowl roster taking shape

The Senior Bowl is a can’t-miss event that NFL scouts have circled on their calendars to gauge the prospects of future NFL stars. Names are starting to trickle in as to who will play in this year’s event.

West Virginia speedster Noel Devine, Boise State wideouts Austin Pettis and Titus Young, as well as Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder and Alabama’s Greg McElroy have all committed to the event.

Devine, who is the school leader in all-purpose yards with 5,690, will look to make a lasting impression on scouts despite missing time during the season due to a toe injury. Despite his injury, Devine rushed for 844 yards and six touchdowns for the Mountaineers this season, good for seventh in the Big East Conference.

It’s hard to imagine Boise State’s recent success without two of their top wide receivers. Pettis and Young have been a part of Broncos teams that have gone 48-5 in the last four years and the duo combined for 2,166 yards and 19 touchdowns this season alone. Pettis will leave Boise State as the all-time leader in receptions and touchdown catches, while Young will leave as the all-time receiving yards leader.

Ponder has battled an arm injury throughout the year.

McElroy, who led the Tide to a BCS Championship as a junior, is excited to compete against his peers on January 29 in Mobile, Alabama’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“Being invited to the Senior Bowl is probably single-handily the greatest honor you can achieve as a college football senior,” McElroy said in the announcement that appeared on Seniorbowl.com. “I’m very thrilled and very much looking forward to competing against the best that our sport has to offer and it should be a great experience and great learning opportunity as we approach and embark on the next step of our football careers.”

More names will soon be announced as the seniors finish up their postseason play.

The Senior Bowl features two teams (North vs. South), coached by NFL coaching staffs. It is widely regarded as an NFL coaches convention due to the high number of front-office personnel that will attend the event. Last year, head coach Jim Schwartz of the Lions and Tony Sparano of the Dolphins coached the two teams. The 2011 game will kick off at 4:00 p.m. ET and the contest will be nationally televised by NFL Network.

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