2022 Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Alabama at the University of South Alabama
Thursdays practices were moved indoors up the hill into the pavilion. The better weather conditions combined with an extra day of gameplan assimilation added up to two superb practices.
The speed and tempo picked up which made from great television. The intensity was high. The NFL evaluators stood with their toes on the sidelines completely circling the field, eyeing the drills and scrimmage periods. They are a constant reminder of the massive stakes involved with every rep in Mobile.
I got to speak with Reese’s Senior Bowl CEO Jim Nagy on ESPN2. This event has really exploded during the past five years – the quality of the players has never been higher. Ironic to see players skipping out of New Years Six bowl games…but showing up at the Senior Bowl week ready to work. They understand the opportunity. The upside here is enormous.
What did we learn on Thursday?
We learned that offensive tackle Trevor Penning (UNI) has a nasty streak and plays with an edge. He repeatedly continued to block and compete through the echoes of the whistle, showing more than ample grit. Penning stepped up against Power 5 competition and cemented his status as a late first round or second round selection. Penning aced the weigh-in with a 6-7 and 330 pound measurement. He squats 625 pounds and has a wingspan of 83 5/8 inches with 34 3/4 inch arm length. He is large and mobile with some technique to clean up, but the overall vibe was that the NFL scouts and GM’s in attendance were extremely impressed.
The hardest working athlete that I saw during the week in Mobile was Zion Johnson (6-2 3/4 314 pounds), the OG/C from Boston College. Johnson played left guard for the Eagles this season. He allowed zero pressures in 2021 and just one sack in 2,288 career snaps in three seasons in Boston. NFL franchises view him more as a center, so Zion played inside all week, where he stood out as the top interior prospect in Mobile. He stayed after practice each day, ripped his footwork and snaps at center. Covered with sweat, twenty minutes after his teammates had hit the bus, Zion is still on the field working on his craft. The graduate student transfer from Davidson was named the Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Player of the Week. He has a computer science degree. His work ethic and versatility have him right on the fringes of being a first round selection.
I would not be surprised when the Lions draft Florida running back Dameon Pierce. The under-utilized runner has a professional attitude, passion and intensity that is obvious in his practice mannerisms and body language. I could see that his “all in” character traits were well received by the Lions coaching staff. He’s the type of person you want in your building and your fox hole.
If you’re looking for a franchise quarterback, I don’t think this draft has what you seek. Malik Willis (Liberty) and Kenny Pickett (Pitt) proved to be the best of this bunch, but i wouldn’t go chasing up the draft board for a QB this year. Willis has escapability and mobility. He has an accurate and powerful arm. Is he a Top 10 pick?
Jalen Tolbert balled out during the Senior Bowl week practices. He is a young wide receiver from Mobile, Alabama who grew up going to the Senior Bowl. It wasn’t the strongest of wide receiver classes at the game this year – but Tolbert stood out during the practices, interviews, meetings and film sessions. He garnered wide spread praise and proved he can play at the next level.
Senior Bowl PLayers On the Rise
Person Winfrey (DT Oklahoma) draft stock went through the roof during the two days of practices during the week. His choppy footwork and get-off were unblockable during one-on-ones. I had covered OU at Kansas this year and don’t remember our crew talking about him much. He had 23 totals tackles for the season with 5.5 sacks. He ramped it up a notch in Mobile for sure, earning some dough with a draft upgrade.
Chad Muma, a Wyoming linebacker, led all players with nine tackles in the Senior Bowl game on Saturday. The 6-3 242 pounder is most comfortable in the middle and also showed the versatility to cover running backs and tight ends in the coverage game. He began his career as a safety and ate and lifted his way into a linebackers body. Muma excels against the run and made 129 tackles for Wyoming. He will bring stability to his NFL defensive unit.
Our ESPN analysts repeatedly raved about Jalen Pitre, a Baylor safety. Pitre stands out because he’s a nickel/linebacker hybrid, a position less player that many teams will covet. Jalen flies around and makes plays. If put into the right NFL scheme he offers second round value. Jalen is always engaged, shows great focus and energy being well schooled in Waco by coach Dave Aranda.