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Senior Bowl Highlights and Standouts

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One of the highlights of the college football year took place today at the Hancock Whitney stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The biggest NFL job interview for these players (perhaps until the Combine). Who’s draft stock rose today?

MOBILE, AL – FEBRUARY 02: American quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty (7) during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice session on February 2, 2002 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Offense

Malik Willis who obtained a 94.5 rushing grade during the season, showed elusiveness in keeping the American team alive early in the game. His scrambling ability was the limit of the offense in the 1st quarter (48 yards rushing and 11 yards passing 2/4 completions)

Kenny Pickett has done nothing to harm his draft stock this week with 6/6 completions, an 89-yard day, and a touchdown with a screen/pick route pass to Abram Smith (Baylor, RB and one of the players of the whole week); despite all the headlines being about the size of his hands (sigh!)

Desmond Ridder looked comfortable rolling out of the pocket and throwing the ball away when required. He made some deep throws to drive the ball down the field in the 4th quarter.

He made his 2nd touchdown pass in the 4th quarter, received by Jake Ferguson (tight end, Wisconsin). Ridder’s day finished with 68 passing yards and 2 Touchdowns.

One theme of the game was Sam Howell vs the National team defense – Howell faced significant pressure all game from a hungry defensive line.

Perrion Winfrey demonstrated motor and determination to generate pressure from the interior, Winfrey picked up 2 sacks, Travis Jones had success collapsing the pocket, driving Cade Mayes into Sam Howell. Furthermore, Howell was subject to a strip-sack by Boye Mafe early in the game.

MOBILE, AL – FEBRUARY 02: American quarterback Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky (17) during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice session on February 2, 2002 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Howell ended the game with 6/9 67 yards. Howell looked almost without care of incoming pressure at times as tried to keep his eyes downfield, staying stable and confident in the pocket whilst going through his progressions; then when he needed to run to create a play, he did so effectively, not only gaining a first down but also showing clock awareness during 2-minute play.

He got a 3rd quarter touchdown (17mph speed) on a keeping rush to the outside in the red zone after TJ Pledger (running back, Utah) who made a couple of good plays in the game set up the red zone opportunity after breaking a couple of tackles.

Bailey Zappe (QB, Western Kentucky) struggled when he replaced Howell later in the game and was hit hard on a sack by Mafe late in the 3rd quarter and again by Jesse-Luketa (Penn State) and by Travis Jones (UConn) via means of driving the offensive lineman back into the quarterback.

Dameon Pierce (Florida) – a powerful running back, willing to run through defenders, lowering his shoulder to gain an extra yard or two. He gained a number of first downs, even from difficult field positions.

MOBILE, AL – FEBRUARY 02: American defensive back Alontae Taylor of Tennessee (6) during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice session on February 2, 2002 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Defense/Special Teams

Jordan Stout – A solid day’s work for the Penn State punter. He started the day with a booming 65 yarder in the first quarter by the Penn State punter which left the returner running backward to recover the ball and led to a subsequent scramble just outside their own end zone to gain excellent field position for the National team. Again, early in the second half, he pinned the American team inside their own 5-yard line after two disastrous snaps by Cole Strange (center, Chattanooga).

Alontae Taylor (Tennessee) achieved a solid interception on an underthrown pass from Carson Strong. Alontae high-pointed the pass really well to make the pick. DeAngelo Malone (Western Kentucky) drove Trevor Penning (tackle, UNI) back into Carson Strong, despite giving up size to Penning.

Senior Bowl MVP has to be split between the front 7 of the National team. They – particularly Boye Mafe and Jesse Luketa- bullied the American team quarterbacks. Notable running back play was also solid, particularly Rachaad Whyte and Abram Smith who both improved their draft stock today.

Final Score: National 20 – 10 American. Boxscore available here

Next up: the NFL Combine!

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Main Image Credit

MOBILE, AL – FEBRUARY 02: American quarterback Sam Howell of North Carolina (14) during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice session on February 2, 2002 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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