North Squad Players To Watch During Senior Bowl

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 27, 2012 – 4:06 pm

After spending about a week with the North squad in this year’s Senior Bowl, including observing 3 practices and a walk-through, I’ve compiled a list of players who’ve stood out and who you should keep an eye on during Saturday’s game.

The list is limited to players from the North squad only, but keep in mind that several players from the South squad merit attention as well. In fact, NFL Network and Vikings preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock, who will serve as a game analyst on Saturday, has said that the South’s DEs may be the best position group in this game.

For now, though, we’ll focus on the North players and they’ll appear below in alphabetical order…

OL Mike Adams (Ohio State) – Listed at 6-7, 323 pounds, Adams has prototypical size for an NFL LT and I believe he’ll be playing LT during the game. With Mayock suggesting that the South squad’s DEs could be the best position group in this game, it will be interesting to see how Adams fares in pass protection. USC’s Matt Kalil, Iowa’s Riley Reiff and Stanford’s Jonathan Martin are considered by many to be this class’ top LTs, but a good showing by Adams in the Senior Bowl followed by a good week at the Combine could cause some to start shuffling their LT rankings.

DL Jack Crawford (Penn State) – I believe Crawford will play mostly DE in this game, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Regardless, Crawford appears to me to have an NFL-ready body and it won’t surprise me if he’s a 1st-round pick in April. He stood out more early in the week than later, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a monster in the game on Saturday. He’s the type of player who could have an MVP-type of performance on Saturday, and he’s going to instantly make an NFL team’s DL better in a few months.

WR T.J. Graham (NC State)– While not the best WR on the North team, in my opinion, I do believe Graham has as good a chance as any player on the North team to wow those who watch the Senior Bowl. I believe this because he has great quickness and is a consistent “hands” catcher, which means he doesn’t typically catch a pass by trapping it against his body. He’ll play mostly in the slot, and I think he’s one to keep an eye on during this game.

DE/LB Cam Johnson (Virginia) – One of the North defense’s stand-out players this week, Johnson will likely play DE in this game. He’s listed as a LB, but I’ve seen him lined up as a DE most of Senior Bowl week. I believe he’s displayed the traits of a player who could be an effective base DE and a productive pass rusher at the NFL level. He does have some “hot-and-cold” to him, meaning he’s a streaky player, but it’s not a bad thing to have a streaky player on your team, especially during those times when he’s on fire.

CB Leonard Johnson (Iowa State) – Guys such as Morris Claiborne and Dre Kirkpatrick have gotten the most attention, but Johnson is a player who merits serious consideration once we get past the 1st round of the draft. He’s listed at a smidgen under 5-10 and 198 pounds, but I believe he’ll play a bit bigger than that because of his willingness to be physical and because of his tackling ability. He’s a feisty and emotional player, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him have a monster game on Saturday.

DL Shea McClellin (Boise State) – A gritty, hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone type of player, McClellin has impressed during the week of practice. He’s listed as a DL and primarily plays DE, but he has also demonstrated the ability to stand up and play OLB. I’m guessing that he’ll have his hand on the ground as a DE in this game because the Vikings run a 4-3 defense, but I believe he’s gritty and talented enough to develop at either position. He’ll be around the ball a lot during the game.

WR Brian Quick (Appalachian State) – In my view, Quick is the most talented WR in the North team’s deep WR corps. He’s certainly a raw player in terms of ability and he has a lot to learn before he can play the WR position at the professional level, but from an ability and potential standpoint I think Quick is the North team’s best WR. He is a great leaper, has good speed, measures in at 6-3½, 222 pounds, and is a well-spoken individual who is quick to credit his teammates. He may play at a small school, but I think Quick has big-time ability and I’m excited to watch him play in the game after a great week of practice.

DB Harrison Smith (Norte Dame) – I’m a big fan of Norte Dame, but even with that bias set aside I believe Smith is a player who could wow some people during the game. He’s a long, rangy safety who doesn’t necessarily fit the traditional NFL mold, but he’s a good team player who could excel at the NFL level if he lands in the right environment and is asked to play the right role. He’s got some grit to him, and I think he’ll be an aggressive player against the run and against pass catchers coming across the middle. Smith is listed at just under 6-2, 212 pounds.

QB Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) – He’s shorter (5-10) than you’d like your QB to be, but there’s no denying that Wilson is a playmaker. And for what it’s worth, I’ve heard several of Wilson’s North squad teammates talk him up big-time during interviews here in Mobile. Wilson has charisma and the ability to make those around him better. We saw Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave use a lot of moving pockets with Christian Ponder during the 2011 season, and I think you’ll see something very similar with Wilson on the field and Musgrave designing and calling players for the North. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Wilson plays more than the other North squad QBs, and I believe Wilson could have an MVP-type of day.

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Teams Make Final Preparations For Saturday’s Senior Bowl

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 27, 2012 – 3:37 pm

Friday was a fairly light day in terms of on-field work for both the North and South squads in Mobile, Alabama, as the teams began making final preparations for Saturday’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Both teams had an hour-long walk-through at the stadium in the morning, returned to the hotel for lunch, and then players from both teams visited a local children’s hospital. While the players visited to the children’s hospitals, coaches stayed back at the hotel to make final adjustments to the game plan and meet with NFL Network for production meetings.

NFL Network will broadcast the game on Saturday, with kickoff slated for 3:00 p.m. CT. Paul Burmeister will have play-by-play duties, Mike Mayock and Charles Davis will handle the game analysis, and Heath Evans and Rebecca Haarlow will report from the sidelines.

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