The 2010 Senior Bowl brought top draft talent from all over the nation together for a week of competition
The 2010 Senior Bowl was played last Saturday afternoon, and records indicate that the North defeated the South, 31-13. Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour threw two second-half touchdowns to turn a four-point game at halftime into a lopsided win.
LeFevour obviously made a good impression, and Cincinnati wide receiver Mardy Gilyard was named the game's MVP. Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount continued his career rehabilitation with a 36 yards on seven carries and the game's first touchdown.
In some ways, though, the winners and losers had already been determined well before kickoff on Saturday. The game itself can be an entertaining mix of some of the nation's best senior talent, but the most important part of the event - at least in the eyes of the hundreds of NFL scouts and coaches who congregate in Mobile, Alabama for the better part of a week - is the string of practices that leads up to the weekend.
As it does every year, the 2010 Senior Bowl attracted two things: draft-eligible stars looking to prove themselves against top-notch competition and NFL personnel pros working on their draft boards. The best chance for those two goals to come together is on the practice field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium from Monday through Thursday.
"Players can make a positive impression at the Senior Bowl," said Buccaneers Director of College Scouting, who led a 13-man crew from Tampa. "Now they have a chance because the whole NFL is there. Some general managers, maybe they haven't seen them live in person, though most of the scouts have seen them. It's just a matter of making positive impressions. At some positions, guys get a chance to show what they can do in situations they haven't been in much before. Maybe you haven't seen a quarterback take snaps from under center or a defensive end drop into coverage. You get a little bit different feel for them doing the things they're going to be asked to do at the next level."
Indeed, the player under the highest level of scrutiny in Mobile last week was Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner who is trying to prove he can succeed at his chosen position on the next level. Scouts who have pored over countless hours of Gator footage to get a feel for Tebow's true potential now could watch him actually perform within a pro-style offense, taking snaps directly from the center and working on his dropbacks.
Tebow and the South squad lost the decision on Saturday, with the former Gator completing eight of 12 passes for 50 yards and fumbling twice. Of course, it didn't help the South offense that this year's Senior Bowl seemed to be a little tilted, in terms of overall talent, to the defensive side of the ball. Tebow and his fellow South passers had to deal with not only learning a new system (imported by the Miami Dolphins' coaching staff) but also such on-the-rise cornerbacks as Boise State's Kyle Wilson and Virginia's Chris Cook.
"As is the case every year, each position group has talent at different levels," said Hickey. "In general, this year I would say that the talent level on the defensive side of the ball may be a little bit better than on the offensive side of the ball.
"There's going to be good players on both sides, and it was great to get to see these guys live, in a practice setting, being in a pro defense, being in a pro defense, doing the things they're going to be doing at the next level. You get to see them against good competition. Some of the guys are from smaller schools and maybe didn't get to play at the same level of competition. Now you get to see them against guys from the bigger schools."
Most NFL personnel men clear out of Mobile before the game itself is played, preferring to concentrate on the practices, which can supply many more reps for certain players and an opportunity to pit linemen or receivers and defensive backs in one-on-one situations. The visiting NFL folks also put their time in Mobile to great use after practice by completing dozens of the sit-down interviews with players that form a critical part of the evaluation process.
"That part went very well," said Hickey. "Our scouts did a great job of rounding up the guys we hoped to talk to. That's a very important part of what we do when we go to the Senior Bowl. We want to get to know these guys, their makeup, what makes them tick. Do we see them fitting in with our organization and our locker room? You also get a feel for where they are mentally and the amount of their exposure to pro systems, those types of things."
Saturday's game helped with that evaluation, too, perhaps more successfully for LeFevour than Tebow. Still, it was only one piece of evidence during an event designed to provide a week's worth of it. Once again, that mission was accomplished for the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFL at the Senior Bowl.