News, notes after Mon/Tue Sr Bowl practices

 

SENIOR

MOBILE, Ala. – A few random observations, on the field and off, after two days of Senior Bowl practices:

–    Of the six quarterbacks participating here, the South’s so far have looked better, with all the understandable and valid small-window caveats. Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), Landry Jones (Oklahoma) and E.J. Manuel (Florida State) have thrown much more accurate and snappier passes than their North team counterparts. Wilson might wind up ahead of the bunch. Manuel has plenty of arm strength, but he doesn’t seem to get much of his body into his throws; he’s all arm. That leads to inaccuracy, and he told me on Monday the thing he has to work on most is his consistency.

–    Of the North team QBs, Mike Glennon of North Carolina State throws the best pro-ready ball. Glennon truly is a string bean (nearly 6-foot 7, 220 pounds), but his footwork is better than you’d expect. The knock on Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib has been that he throws only one speed and at one trajectory – hard and low. While his throws are low, in simple drills he skipped more than a couple of medium-range, cross-field outs, and even skipped one standard deep slant. He appears to lack the requisite NFL arm strength to make such passes effortlessly and consistently; perhaps his arm was sore. Miami of Ohio’s Zac Dysert really struggled on Tuesday in some passing drills, but – like Nassib – made better throws in live-action 11-on-11 drills.

–    Heads of dozens of NFL coaches and scouts all turned in the east end-zone stands on Tuesday morning when Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano walked by. Many probably wanted to run down the aisles and shake Pagano’s arm off, but refrained. One who did offer regards merely asked about the family. Pagano, who missed most of his first season in Indy while successfully battling a rare form of leukemia, no doubt appreciated everyone’s restraint.

–    New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan appears even more svelte than he did after shedding 103 pounds last off-season. Maybe his wife will get a tattoo of him some day soon.

–    Michigan’s Denard Robinson is here as a wide-receiver and kick-return prospect, despite having been one of the top rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history. The speedy Robinson is clearly a fantastic athlete, but he’s as raw as raw gets in both of his new vocations. He looks lost in both, frankly. He catches too many simple passes against his body, rather than with his hands, and is pretty much lost trying to judge punts. Robinson was held out of drills against defensive backs, as the nerve damage in his right (throwing) arm still has not healed in the three months since he first suffered the injury. He tried to throw a ball back to the quarterbacks at one point in Tuesday’s North-team practice, but it wobbled badly and didn’t make it, going only 15 or 20 yards in the air.

–    Among defenders, defensive end Alex Okafor (Texas) is raising eyebrows. He has a powerful, fast burst around end as a pass rusher, and is nasty to boot.

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JAY GRUDEN ‘GLAD’ TO HAVE INTERVIEWED FOR 4 NFL TOP JOBS:

MOBILE, Ala. – Maybe Jay Gruden’s name will now surface as often as his older brother Jon’s does when NFL head-coaching vacancies arise.

As it was, four of the eight NFL teams that fired their head coaches at the conclusion of the 2012 season interviewed the younger Gruden, offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It was a great experience for me, and I’m glad I did it,” Gruden told me on Tuesday, as the North team practised for Saturday’s Senior Bowl college all-star game.

The Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and Jacksonville Jaguars all interviewed Gruden, but each wound up hiring someone else as head coach.

“I was probably a longshot in some of the cities,” Gruden said. “But, still, I’m glad I did it. It was a great process. The owners are passionate about winning. The GMs are all excited – young guys trying to put together a winner. It was neat to go through the process.”

At age 45, Jay is four years younger than Jon, the current Monday Night Football colour analyst for ESPN and former NFL head coach with Tampa Bay and Oakland. He led the 2002 Bucs to a Super Bowl championship.

Jon’s name annually gets thrown out as a candidate once head-coaching jobs become available.

Jay’s probably will now too. He said he didn’t feel pressure in the interviews, and wasn’t upset about going 0-for-4.

“There’s really not a lot of pressure on you when you have a job already that you really like and enjoy, and your family likes the area,” Gruden said of remaining in Cincinnati. “When you go out and interview somewhere else, if you get the job, great. If not, you’re still happy where you’re at.”

 

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CHIP KELLY’s IDEAL GAME: A BILLION TO NOTHING:

MOBILE, Ala. – New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s renowned creativity and boundary-pushing apparently knows no bounds.

He dreams up new words on the spot, and takes hypotheticals to their extreme.

At least he did after the North team’s Senior Bowl practice on Monday, in answering questions about what he’s looking for in the offensive and defensive coordinators he has yet to hire.

“We’re all in a society where you want one word to describe everything,” said Kelly, whom the Eagles hired last week from the University of Oregon.

“I don’t think I can describe a defensive co-ordinator with one word.  There are so many different things you’re looking at. How detail-oriented is he? What type of teacher is he? …”

Then the light bulb went off.

“I’ll give you a new word: shutout-ability,” Kelly said. “That would be the one overriding quality, and I have no idea how you would define that – but that’s actually a pretty good word. I’m gonna tell everybody. If you have shutout-ability, then I want to talk to you.”

Asked hypothetically what he wants in an offensive coordinator, Kelly kept rolling, linguistically.

“I’m not being gruff, but I’m not a hypothetical guy. Hypothetically, I want a guy who can score a billion points a game. When people ask me hypothetical questions, fine, then I’d like to score 25,000 points in a game, hypothetically.”

Betcha Kelly dreams of 25,000 to 0 boxscores, though.

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TE’O TEAMMATE: I DIDN’T KNOW DEAD-GIRLFRIEND STORY WAS BOGUS

MOBILE, Ala. – A four-year teammate of Manti Te’o’s on the University of Notre Dame football team on Monday said he was unaware if other teammates were suspicious the star linebacker’s dead-girlfriend story was a fabrication.

“I don’t know. All I knew is that he had a girlfriend, and that was the extent of it,” centre Braxston Cave told me, after his North team’s first practice before Saturday’s Senior Bowl college all-star game.

“I try to stay out of people’s personal business.”

From last September until this month, Te’o had given many interviews in which he claimed his close girlfriend, Lennay Kekua*, had died of leukemia on the same day his grandmother did back in September.

Te’o – college football’s top linebacker – rode the wave of resultant sympathy all season long. He finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Last week, however, it was revealed that Kekua never existed.

In an off-camera interview Friday night with ESPN, Te’o claimed he was the victim of a cruel hoax – that the woman he met online deceived him, making up the name and duping him into believing she loved him.

Despite rampant speculation he was in on the deception, Te’o steadfastly denied it – as did the university in an earlier news conference.

But Te’o admitted he “tailored” stories in interviews about aspects of that relationship, even after he said he was informed in early December the romance was a sham.

One report late last week suggested that some members of the Notre Dame football team knew the relationship was bogus.

“Not that I know of,” said Cave, one of a group of strong senior leaders that helped the Fighting Irish finish the regular season undefeated, before getting slaughtered by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS national-championship game on Jan. 7.

Has all the speculation hurt Te’o?

“Absolutely,” Cave said. “This is a huge time in his life, and to have all these outside distractions, you never want to see that for such a great teammate. and such a great football player.

“He’s a tough kid. He’ll get through it.”

Asked if Te’o is, well, more gullible than most young men of his age, Cave said:

“People make mistakes. He thought he had someone that he loved, and he went with it.

“The social media aspect is bigger than it’s ever been. Guys make mistakes, and you live and learn. He’ll be fine – he’ll be fine.”

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* – Should I have boldfaced the name of someone who does not exist? Hmmmm.

 

 

 

 

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