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2009 Senior Bowl: Practice Review
By NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange

MOBILE, Ala. -- Scouts usually arrive at all-star games knowing a player's deficiencies from studying film. Some players display unexpected skills working in a different system or when surrounded by talent superior to their college teammates, making the chances of a player moving up a draft board greater than they are of moving down based on these postseason practices.

Consider that last year these players left Mobile having helped their standing with scouts: quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Chad Henne, wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Eddie Royal, cornerback Leodis McKelvin and defensive end Kendall Langford. The first 10 prospects listed below all excelled this week and could enjoy similar success on draft day 2009 and beyond.

Prospects not impressing scouts the past few days should note that 2008 Senior Bowl disappointments wide receiver Adarius Bowman, wide receiver Dorien Bryant, defensive end Chris Ellis (a third-round pick) and quarterback Andre Woodson failed to make any kind of mark as rookies.


Senior Bowl Practice Stars:

DT B.J. Raji, Boston College: The most impressive player on the North team, hands down. He pushed his way into the top half of the first round, quite literally, with his dominant bull rush against some very talented interior blockers.

C/OGs Alex Mack, Cal and Max Unger, Oregon: The battles between Raji and Mack/Unger were the highlight of the week. Raji would bully his way by them on the first one-on-one rep. On the second, Raji would be halted in his tracks by the Pac-10 pivots with a strong anchor and nasty attitude. Both displayed some versatility when shifting to left guard -- Indianapolis had success with 2008 draft picks OG/C Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard, which made teams think more about these position shifts.

OT Michael Oher, Mississippi: Scouts and the media may take shots at Oher's background and perceived intelligence, but coaches will tell you the "eye in the sky doesn't lie." Anyone watching practice saw an amazing athlete at one of the more important positions on the field. Oher also took to coaching, learning how to deal with former Tennessee DE Robert Ayers' inside moves on Monday and controlling him on Tuesday and Wednesday.

DT Peria Jerry, Mississippi: In the very large shadow of Raji and his teammate, Jerry quietly proved he can be a force at the three-technique and just might wind up a first-round pick.

CB Coye Francies, San Jose State: Used his wiry strength (6-feet, 179 pounds) to hit receivers whenever possible in the light-contact scrimmages. In addition to his toughness, Francies has fluid hips and good ball skills.

TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State: His blocking skills, on the line and at the second level, were as advertised. Pettigrew displayed soft hands and an ability to use his body to shield and separate from linebackers in coverage.

DE David Veikune, Hawaii: Even going up against a stud like Oher, Veikune never quit. His motor was always obvious on film, but scouts still liked what they saw whether he was lined up on the left or right side of the line.

WR Patrick Turner, Southern California: After coming to life as a senior with 10 receiving touchdowns, his stock continues to rise. He looked good starting from the weigh-in (6-5, 220, 33-inch arms) and didn't stop shining when he hit the practice field. He looked very quick for his size and his hands were solid.

CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest: Three interceptions in three practices. He was running the receiver's route for him and putting on a show with his ball skills. He's not very big and did struggle in press cover drills. But he'll learn that technique and is likely to go to a zone coverage team.


Honorable mention:
--QBs Rhett Bomar (Sam Houston State) and Nathan Brown (Central Arkansas): They weren't great, but they weren't overwhelmed.

--RB Andre Brown (North Carolina State): Ran strong into the hole and over defensive backs.

--FB Tony Fiammetta (Syracuse) and Quinn Johnson (LSU): Both guys made pads pop all week and caught passes better than expected, especially in Johnson's case.

--WR Brandon Gibson (Washington State): Ran crisp routes and showed good hands.

--RB Rashad Jennings (Liberty): His quick feet at 6-1, 234 pounds are even more impressive in person.

--DT Mitch King (Iowa): Only 275 pounds, but scouts love his violent hands and high motor.

--LBs Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga (Southern California): Maualuga and Cushing did not have to come, but made the most of their trip.

--TE Shawn Nelson, Southern Miss: A fluid runner, he showed soft hands (when not looking into the sun) and a willingness to block despite a wiry 238-pound frame.



Senior Bowl Practice Disappointments:

QBs Cullen Harper (Clemson), Graham Harrell, (Texas Tech) and Pat White (West Virginia): Harrell needed to shine this week to separate himself as the top senior quarterback; White was out to prove he can be a quarterback at the next level instead of moving to receiver; Harper just wanted to get himself back on the NFL radar as a draftable prospect. None of them accomplished their goal. Harrell's arm strength and Harper's wobbly, inaccurate passes did not wow scouts. White's ball looked nice but he wasn't accurate enough to give coaches confidence he will excel at the position.

SS William Moore, Missouri: Coming in as the top-rated safety, Moore's stiffness in space, inconsistent hands and slow reactions are forcing teams to re-evaluate him for a potential move to linebacker.

DE Will Davis, Illinois: Davis was considered a top prospect as a junior but could not carry the expectations into 2008. He spent most of this week struggling to beat his man off the edge and getting engulfed when trying to bull rush. Teammate Derek Walker may have had a bigger impact.

OT Troy Kropog, Tulane: Given the chance to prove himself against top players, Kropog wasn't up to the challenge. He has the size and potential to be a starting tackle in the NFL, but it may take a bit longer than scouts had hoped.

OL Herman Johnson, LSU: Teams are well aware of what he has done at guard, so they gave him a chance to prove himself this week at right tackle. "Big Herm" (he officially weighed 382 pounds) really struggled with his lateral quickness and footwork on the edge. He'll likely stay inside, which isn't necessarily a bad thing except for the financial ceiling being greater for perimeter blockers.



Chad Reuter is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.



Related Links:

* 2009 Senior Bowl: Practice Review

* 2009 Senior Bowl: Wednesday Practice Reports

* 2009 Senior Bowl: Tuesday Practice Reports

* 2009 Senior Bowl: Monday Practice Reports

* Senior Bowl Journal: Oregon State OG/OT Andy Levitre

* 2009 Senior Bowl Measurements, Excel Spreadsheet: Height, Weight, Hand, Arm, Plus/Minus notes from listed

* Senior Bowl Rosters

* Senior Bowl Preview

* Senior Bowl TV Schedule



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