MOBILE, Ala. – The way Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage sees it, the Senior Bowl is still very much a viable part of the pre-draft process for all NFL personnel staffs.
And even more so for the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff that will coach the South team for Saturday’s Reese’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
“Obviously the hands-on experience behind the scenes, in the meeting rooms, the classroom capability of these players, and then the coaching on the field in terms of techniques and understanding, although the schemes are limited, I think there still has to be some learning that takes place,” Savage said following the introductory press conference at the Renaissance Riverview Hotel in Downtown Mobile on Sunday afternoon.
“I think all of that can really help in terms of giving a head start going into the combine and on this whole pre-draft evaluation process.”
Savage said that both the Jaguars coaching staff and that of the Atlanta Falcons, the staff working with the North team for the week, will take advantage of the week ahead.
“Both organizations have embraced the opportunity,” Savage said. “They have everyone and their brother on the bus coming down here.”
Before joining the Senior Bowl in May of 2012, Savage spent 20 years in the NFL as a coach, scout and executive. He served as director of college scouting and later director of player personnel with the Baltimore Ravens and spent four years as general manager of the Cleveland Browns.
Savage said that the improvement from an 0-8 start to a 4-1 start in the second half was evident after a July visit to Jaguars Training Camp.
“Everybody was so positive on Gus Bradley, the leadership, the passion for the game, the players really buying into it. To me that was really symbolic of the buy-in they’ve gotten in terms of really pushing the reset button and starting over.
“I think (Jaguars General Manager) Dave (Caldwell) and (Head Coach) Gus (Bradley) are going to make a great pair, and I think they’re going to do some tremendous things there.”
Savage on Underclassmen
The pre-draft process includes later evaluating over 90 college underclassmen who have declared for the 2014 NFL Draft, but who are not eligible to attend Senior Bowl events in Mobile this week.
Savage said that the increase of younger players leaving college early hurts the game of football at both levels.
“Personally, I think it’s bad for college football and I think it’s bad for the NFL because players are coming to the league after three years of college and they’re not ready. They don’t have the background.
“I think the talent, the size and speed, is probably better than it’s ever been, but the technique and understanding of the game is probably worse.”
Could there be a future for an all-star game including underclassmen who declare early for the NFL Draft?
“I think people that are at the league level, ownership level, general manager level, that’s a discussion they probably have to have sometime in the future.
“Right now I would say that it’s a zero percent chance.”
Quarterbacks in Mobile
Savage referenced that the senior quarterbacks participating in this year’s Senior Bowl could have some underclassmen ahead of them in a potential draft order.
“For the most part, the anticipation is that this is a group of quarterbacks that’s fighting to be the fourth quarterback taken,” Savage said. “Most are assuming that three juniors are going to go first.”
CBSSports.com rates the top three quarterbacks available as junior Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, redshirt junior Blake Bortles of Central Florida and redshirt sophomore Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
Savage added that Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, playing on the South roster, could make an impact this week. He played in the East-West Shrine Game last week, and completed 9 of 14 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, while leading two scoring drives.
“A lot of people really wanted to see him in terms of lifting him out of the small-school environment and putting him on this kind of stage.”
Carr Following Footsteps
Another South quarterback who could raise his draft stock this week is Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, the younger brother of former Houston Texans number one overall selection David Carr.
The elder Carr played in the 2002 Senior Bowl, and Derek Carr said his older brother told him what the Senior Bowl had to offer.
“Just everything that he’s told me about how great everyone was to him and just how classy it was, I wanted to strive to get here,” Carr said Sunday afternoon.
“It didn’t matter if they told me I was a lock to be number one (pick), I’m coming. I want to be here just because they treated my brother so well.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I would be here.”
-Fresno State QB Derek Carr on how he compares to players like Bridgewater and Manziel: “That’s above my pay grade. I’m going to go out and compete. I’m not scared to compete against anybody. We can throw any time, I’m not worried about that.”
-Northern Illinois S Jimmy Ward, a Mobile-area native, on not receiving any scholarship offers: “It gets on you, but everything happens for a reason. I knew how much passion I have for the game, I knew I was going to go far regardless. Just getting that opportunity to actually get on the field and play (was important). I sent a highlight tape to everybody in the nation, every D-I program and none of them came through. Somehow Northern Illinois found me and that’s where it was meant to be.”
Senior Bowl Buzz
-The National Football Scouting weigh-in is scheduled for Monday morning at the Mobile Convention Center, where every player for both teams will be weighed and measured on stage in front of scouts and coaches.
-The South team will practice at 1:00 CT Monday at Fairhope High School, while the North team will practice at 3:00 CT at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.