The 2023 Senior Bowl illustrated the abundance of draft-eligible. Now, where will these talented players end up in late April?
Jake Haener and the National offense secured a 27-10 dominating win over the Americans in the 74th annual Senior Bowl. After the game, Haener said he looks forward to getting back to California and continuing to work on his game ahead of the NFL Combine in March. “It just feels good to get it done with the team.” Haener told NFL Network after winning MVP, “At the same time I love proving doubters wrong.” Hejoins quarterbacks Justin Herbert, Daniel Jones, and Dak Prescott who all won the MVP award in Mobile, Alabama.
Haener and Harris Connection
The Fresno State product finished twelve of nineteen passes for 139 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. Haener was the leading passer for the day. The Fresno State quarterback also converted a 44-yard pass to Stanford receiver Michael Wilson. The ball wobbled through the air but the Stanford receiver tracked it over two American players. Harris showed off his release and catch radius all week. He finished the game with 4 catches for seventy-six yards and a touchdown. After the game, Haener said the two had natural chemistry all week.
Hull Set the Tone
Northwestern running back Evan Hull started the game with a 24-yard run. He finished the day with 74 rushing yards on ten carries. He also added two receptions. Eku Leota, American defense end of Auburn, shouted out his former running back as the toughest runner to defend in Mobile. “He’s a patient runner but when he hits the hole,” Leota said after the game, “He really hits it.” The National Team scored on the first drive and never looked back. They held a 17-3 lead in the first half.
Underrated Defenders Play Big
Linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. from Cincinnati finished with 10 tackles. The five-eleven linebacker said his height gives him a major chip on his shoulder. “Really the only thing that’s stopping teams from drafting me is my height,” Pace Jr. said after the game, “Stop worrying about my height, you got a ball player.” On the other side, Jackson State’s Aubrey Miller registered a team-high seven tackles, including a loud hit on the first play. Miller is also a sub-six-foot backer. Florida A&M edge Isaiah Land registered a sack on the game’s MVP in the fourth. He also made a solid play versus the run earlier and almost sacked Houston Clayton Tune for a safety. Land is a six-three-inch safety.
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One For Devin
Corner Anthony Johnson of Virginia registered the American’s only touchdown. Johnson scored off an interception of Malik Cunningham in the fourth. Johnson changed his number for game day to honor his teammate Devin Chandler who died in the November shooting. He took the 37-yard interception return on the sideline.
QBs Highs and Lows
Cunningham converted a one-yard run into a touchdown. He was three-for-five on passing attempts for the day. The Louisville QB also added twenty-two rushing yards on five attempts. Shepherd QB Tyson Bagent was efficient. He finished with seventeen of twenty-two with 136 passing yards. Bagent holds the NCAA All-division record for touchdowns with one-hundred-fifty-nine over his career. He did throw an interception on his team’s final drive Clayton Tune of Houston also had a good day with nine completions on twelve attempts for seventy yards. TCU QB Max Duggan did not have a great day with several overthrows. Duggan finished four of nine with twenty-six passing yards.
Names To Know
Linebacker Daiyan Henley of Washington State made a huge fumble recovery in the third. Kansas edge Lonnie Phelps forced the fumble on the exchange between Duggan and Chris Rodriguez Jr. Henley made plays in the run and coverage all week. He said he looks forward to being the first Washington State linebacker drafted in a while. Rodriguez led his team in rushing with 6 attempts for 27 yards. The Kentucky running back lost his mother in January. He looked good in the American practice all week. His biggest highlight was a catch in the middle of the field, where he dodged three tacklers.
Unheralded Brilliance Shining In Mobile
Purdue Payne Durham made several big plays for the Nationals. That included a two-point conversion with just under two minutes left in the first half. Durham caught a pass from Cunningham a few seconds earlier, which brought his team into scoring position at the one-yard-line. Durham flashed similar abilities all week. He also shined as a blocker. LSU edge Ali Gaye of the Americans sacked Haener on the first drive of the 2nd half. Gaye was aggressive in one-on-ones all week. He showed strong hands throughout the week in Mobile. Maryland’s Chad Ryland hit four field goals for the Nationals. His longest was from 42 yards in the third quarter.
Ep 114: Aaron Rodgers, OBJ, and The New York Jets
by Full Press Coverage on March 25, 2023 at 12:09 am
Did Not Play, Still On Radar
BYU QB Jaren Hall sat out the game after leading the National quarterbacks all week. Dawand Jones of Ohio State was in meetings but did not practice or play after the first day. Many players sat out to avoid injury. The National team was led by Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Graham said he was really proud of all the players for making a commitment to be the best at what they do. “You got to applaud them,” Graham said about both teams’ performance. Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy led the American squad. Both teams were led by coaching staff composed of assistant coaches from around the NFL. This was the first year they did not utilize the entire coaching staff from a single team.
American Trench Warriors
- Minnesota John Michael Schmitz battled all week. He was one of the more consistent linemen all week. Some buzz predicts him going in the first round. Schmitz allowed only two sacks in two years starting.
- TCU interior linemen Steve Avila made himself some money. He’s not a big guard but he showed his consistency in one-on-ones. When I talked to him after practice, he also said he looked forward to working more at center. Avila allowed no sacks last season.
- Florida lineman O’Cyrus Torrence was also very consistent all week. Torrence started 11 games for the Gators after starting his career at Louisiana. In team, he helped the American offensive line gash a few big runs. At media day, he said he feels comfortable at either guard spot.
- Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright was among the better tackles on both teams. Wright credited basketball and jump rope for his quick feet. After practice, he said he prides himself on his finesse but also wants to show he can be a power player. The right tackle allowed no sacks last season.
- Tulane running back Tyjae Spears made several highlights as a receiver and runner in practice. He finished last season with 1,581 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. At media day, I asked him about the buzz around his draft stock and he said he was just keeping his headphones on to block out the noise.
- Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu dominated the second day of practice. He made a couple of big plays against the run game. The Big Sky defensive player of the year also made a couple of plays in coverage. He got more comfortable working inside the tackles as a middle linebacker. Mapu also commanded the American defense.
- Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave dominated headlines headed in. He turned heads with his movement and size. Musgrave said he wanted to prove he was healthy. He also wanted people to know it was his first injury since high school.
- Oklahoma running back Eric Gray finished the game with seventeen rushing yards on five attempts. He looked good as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Gray said he really started to believe in himself last year. Gray finished with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage last year.
- Ole Miss receiver Jonathan Mingo looks and runs like an NFL receiver. He was solid all week, despite not getting the ball much in the game. Mingo finished last season with fifty-one catches for 861 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
- North Dakota State offensive lineman Cody Mauch flexed at both guard and tackle. He’s a physical lineman who plays with strong hands and leverage. Mauch played in several championship seasons for NDSU. He told me he that while it’s not the same level of competition as the NFL, his body is prepared for a long NFL season.
- Coastal Carolina DT Jerrod Clark was another player who caught my eye in practice. He is a big physical nose tackle who moves really well. Clark said he really enjoys watching Vita Vea and Kenny Clark. Like them, he wants teams to know he’s more than just a true zero technique.
- Notre Dame edge Isaiah Foskey had some ups and downs in practice versus a talented offensive line. The Fighting Irish’s career sack leader had a highlight play completely bullying a tackle in one-on-ones. Foskey said he’ll play with his hand down or as a standup linebacker. He even lined up as a three-technique at points.
National Team Quick Hits
- Admittedly, I didn’t watch a lot of the skill guys individuals and seven-on-seven. However, many people did call out Illinois safety Sydney Brown as a guy who made himself some money.
- Stanford corner Ky Blu Kelly also showed great movement and coverage abilities in team. A lot of outlets called him out as a riser.
- USC corner Mekhi Blackmon was also solid. He had three interceptions, one forced fumble, and twelve passes defended in his lone season at USC. At Media Day, he told me he was just glad to have the opportunity as a lot of Junior College and California products get overlooked for the Senior Bowl.
- Boise State Safety J.L. Skinner entered the week as a player to watch due to his combination of size and versatility. In Mobile, he played deep safety and in the box. He said he wants to show people his speed at the Combine as that often gets overlooked. Skinner left Mobile early after finding out his aunt died.
- Cincinnati tight end Josh Whyle earned himself some extra looks in a talented tight-end group. Whyle finished his career with 15 touchdowns over three seasons. He consistently found ways to get open. Pace Jr. said he’s always been that big and fast as the two have been playing together or against each other since little league.
- Cal safety Daniel Scott finished one foot short of having a sweet interception in the game. Scott finished each of the last two seasons with three interceptions.
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