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What we learned at Senior Bowl practice (1/23)

Posted Jan 23, 2018

Giants.com's Dan Salomone wraps up the day at Senior Bowl:



Part of the job description for every NFL player is addressing the media.

The 2018 Senior Bowl participants learned as much at Tuesday’s media day in Mobile, Alabama. Players stepped up to the microphone before heading to Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the first day of practices.

Here were the highlights:

*Eight quarterbacks are participating at the Senior Bowl, divided evenly between the North and South rosters. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, who threw 37 touchdowns to nine interceptions in his final collegiate season, will not take part in on-field activities due to a foot injury. He did, however, speak today and said he would be “100 percent” by the NFL Scouting Combine, which will take place February 27-March 5 in Indianapolis. Rudolph said the foot is not a big issue and expects to have the boot taken off within a week.

The injury didn’t stop him from attending team meetings led by Bill O’Brien, whose Texans coaching staff is leading the South team. Vance Joseph and the Broncos are coaching the North.

Like a lot of college quarterbacks, Rudolph will have to adjust to the pro style.

“You’re expected to go into a huddle with two or three plays and be able to go from one to the other quickly and command the offense in the huddle,” he said. “Make sure you’re the only one talking, everyone’s listening, and getting to the ball quick. One of Coach O’Brien’s pet peeves – he’s already talked to us – when we break that huddle we’re running to the line, let the quarterback kind of see the defense right to start making some adjustments.”

“I told these guys today I have a 12-year-old son Michael at home who could run these plays,” O’Brien said after the first team meeting. “I mean we’re not reinventing the wheel. You can only be in certain formations. This is not a scheme fest. This is an evaluation fest. This is a chance for these guys to go out and compete. You really don’t want them thinking too much, and if they are, that might tell you something about them.”

Rudolph is part of a quarterback class that has been hyped for well over a year now. In terms of Senior Bowl participants, he’s competing with the likes of Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.


So what sets Rudolph apart?

“I think my ability to throw the ball down the field,” he said. “We stretched the field like nobody else in college. With the guys we had, my ability to throw the post, the go ball and be accurate at that as well as my production, experience, and durability over four years and consistency. Statistically, I’ve raised the bar every single season and I’m going to continue to do that at the next level to the best of my ability. So you’re just getting kind of the complete package.”

Rodolph’s injury created an opening for Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee, a former transfer from Tulane.

“Last year, honestly, we didn’t have a strong group. It wasn’t a very deep group senior-wise,” said Phil Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl. “And this year, when I went to the Manning Academy back in the summer, there were some intriguing prospects there. I’m like, ‘Wow, this might be one of those years where we bring eight quarterbacks, like we did two years ago.’ And so as it unfolded that’s what happened. We were excited about the quarterback class.

“It was disappointing that Mason Rudolph had to pull out with the foot injury, but it gives Tanner Lee the opportunity of a lifetime. I met Tanner down at the Manning Academy when he was at Tulane and then at Nebraska, he can really spin the football.”

*NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah today released his initial list of the top 50 prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, placing Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 1 overall. The general thought is that the running back class consists of him and then everyone else, but San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny wants his name in the mix.

“It’s the media. That’s what I take it as – it’s the media,” Penny said of the perception of the running backs. “It’s really not the NFL scouts or anybody else. … I’m just excited to have my name mentioned at least. Just to make the most of it, that’s why I’m here to get more opportunities than what they’re getting -- just to show the scouts that I’m proving [I can] play just as well as they are. So I’m excited to be here and see where it takes off from here.”

For the Aztecs, Penny took over for the NCAA's all-time leading rusher Donnel Pumphrey but made a name for himself by finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting while becoming a consensus first-team All-American. That’s what happens when you lead the nation in rushing yards (2,248) and all-purpose yards (2,974).

Penny is looking to follow in the footsteps of Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who was named the 2017 Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. Hunt was a third-round draft choice out of Toledo. 

“When he came from the Group of Five, that gave hope for a lot of Group of Five running backs and a lot of Group of Five players,” Penny said. “So just seeing what he’s done in the NFL and how he’s so successful and all that he’s accomplished, it’s definitely an inspiration. So I’m excited to see where it goes on from here, and I know I can probably contribute the same way he’s done.”



*Ranked No. 10 on Jeremiah’s list was Marcus Davenport, an “intriguing” defensive end prospect out of Texas-San Antonio. Davenport was the 2017 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year after setting school records with 17.5 tackles for loss, including 8.5 sacks.

Similar to Penny and Barkley at running back, Davenport thinks the pass rusher class is more than just North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb.

“There are great players,” Davenport said. “I’m not even talking about myself. I’ve really seen a lot of great players. I looked up to a lot of these guys, especially coming out of high school and not being highly recruited. So a lot of these guys really are underappreciated.”

Davenport weighed 198 pounds coming out of high school before growing into a 264-pound frame at his heaviest.

“It was more like see food, eat food,” Davenport said of his growth spurt. “Anytime I had to think about food I actually went and ate. So I would get one meal for now, one meal for later, and end up eating both of them now.”

Now he’s big enough to take parts from the top pass rushers in the NFL and apply them to his game.

“There’s a big three,” he said. “I try to imitate all them at one point. Calais Campbell’s power, J.J. Watt’s motor, and Von Miller’s speed.”