What to watch in Senior Bowl game
January, 25, 2013
By Todd McShay | ESPN.com
MOBILE, Ala. -- Premier talent rises to the top at college all-star games. It can take two or three days, but by the end of a long week of scouting-friendly practices -- full of one-on-one drills and other situations that highlight NFL prospects' strengths and weaknesses -- the top players are easy to identify.
The 2013 Senior Bowl is no exception. Plenty of players have had good weeks, and these five have been the best in Mobile this week.
1. North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams
2. Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher
3. Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson
4. Connecticut CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
5. Georgia DT Johnathan Jenkins
What should fans be looking for when the Senior Bowl game itself kicks off? Here's a look at some of the top scouting points to consider as the game approaches:
Momentum on their side
Florida State ILB Vince Williams and California CB Marc Anthony were better than expected this week and are looking to capitalize on strong practice performances.
AP Photo/Ben Liebenberg Vince Williams stood out from the crowd thanks to his speed and closing burst.
Williams' range -- particularly his straight-line speed and closing burst -- have been impressive, and Anthony showed good playmaking instincts while getting his hands on more passes than any other defensive back here.
Others who flashed this week: UCLA DE Datone Jones, Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene, Florida RB Mike Gillislee, Kentucky G Larry Warford, Missouri Southern DL Brandon Williams, Southeast Louisiana DB Robert Alford, Connecticut LB Sio Moore and Wake Forest FB Tommy Bohanon.
Two who need to show up
The practice week was underwhelming for defensive ends Ezekiel Ansah and Margus Hunt, both of whom lack ideal experience and are still raw talents.
We knew there would be some bumps in the road for Ansah, but he simply failed to flash as often as we expected given his rare combination of size, power and speed.
Hunt looks the part with his massive (6-foot-8¼, 277 pounds), well-proportioned frame and exceptional wingspan (82¼ inches). He continues to improve his hand usage and was disruptive at times throughout the week, but Hunt's lack of suddenness really stood out when studying him during one-on-one drills and team reps.
Others who need to step up: Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib, Kent State G Brian Winters and Virginia OT Oday Aboushi.
Five things to watch
After a week spent gathering scouting notes on practice situations, there are a few things we'll be studying closely once the game actually kicks off. Here are five of the most intriguing:
1. Denard Robinson's conversion. The standout college quarterback continues to be bothered by a right elbow (ulnar nerve) injury as he transitions to wide receiver, though he was cleared for full contact Wednesday and Thursday. That allowed Robinson's quickness and open-field running skills to finally shine through. However, he fought the ball more than expected (and the bar was set low to begin with) and did not appear as fast on vertical routes in live action as he seems to be on tape. Robinson needs to cap the week by catching the ball well and showing he is improving as a route runner.
2. Will Mike Glennon continue to separate? Glennon was clearly the most complete of the six quarterbacks on the Senior Bowl rosters. His arm separates him from the pack, but there are still concerns regarding his ability to maneuver in the pocket and command a huddle. Teams in need of a quarterback -- the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets -- will be keeping a close eye on those two aspects of Glennon's game Saturday.
3. Are any other quarterback's gamers? Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), EJ Manuel (Florida State), Zac Dysert (Miami (Ohio)) and Nassib all experienced their fair share of struggles during the practice week. Most of them, particularly Wilson, made improvements as the week progressed. However, playing quarterback is all about how you perform in game conditions. We will be watching closely to see if any of the five are up to the challenge.
4. Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson vs. UCLA DE Datone Jones. This will be a great opportunity to see two things. First, can Jones continue to stand out as a 4-3 defensive end in game situations? Second, this matchup provides a good comparison of Johnson and Fisher, whose biggest struggles during the week came against North teammate Jones.
5. Big play wide receivers. This year's wideouts aren't the most polished group, but we saw a lot of big-play ability from vertical threats like Marquise Goodwin (Texas), Terrance Williams (Baylor), Markus Wheaton (Oregon State), Tavarres King (Georgia), Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech) and Aaron Dobson (Marshall).
Goodwin is a straight-line route runner who needs a lot of work on intermediate routes, but he can flat-out fly. The former two-time national long jump champion turned a lot of heads this week with his ability to take the top off the defense. Williams and Wheaton have the best combinations of size, speed and college production in the group. King had his struggles this week, but we've seen plenty of examples of his deep-threat ability while facing SEC competition during the season. Finally, Dobson and Patton are not as fast as the first three, but both have deceptive acceleration and have been making a lot of plays down the field.