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5 Takeaways from 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl


The 72nd Reese's Senior Bowl is in the books.

A reduced number of people from NFL teams' personnel departments, including the Vikings, descended on Mobile, Alabama, for the annual all-star showcase that included three days of practice and Saturday's game.

Organizers of the game were able to bring 136 draft-eligible prospects into somewhat of a bubble and modify the week's schedule in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changes included capping attendance at Hancock Whitney Stadium, which was hosting the game for the first time, well below the normal capacity. It also included an expansion for formal interviews.

View photos of the 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl that took place on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Alabama.

The Senior Bowl built spaces protected by plexiglass so that teams could conduct 15-minute in-person interviews with each prospect they wanted. That component figures to be valuable, as it is expected to be the only in-person interaction between teams and prospects during an offseason in which the NFL Scouting Combine will be dramatically altered.

The National team, which was coached by the Miami Dolphins staff, prevailed 27-24 over the American squad that was led by Carolina Panthers coaches. Here are five takeaways from Saturday's game, which uses modified rules.

Rules Refresher

Offenses must use balanced formations and are not allowed to use motions or shifts before snaps.

Defenses must play Cover 1, 2 or 3 and are not supposed to use stunts.

The only two kickoffs occur to start each half. The other possessions after scores begin at the 25-yard line.

Every quarter has a 2-minute warning.

Possession changes occur at the end of each quarter.

1. Fun-filled football

It clearly felt good to play football.

Several participants had just played earlier this month during the College Football Playoffs, but others had not taken the field for all of the 2020 college season, either because their school canceled/postponed its season or because the player opted out for COVID-19 concerns.

While some grappled with a bit of rustiness, all appreciated the opportunity to take the field in their college helmets one final time.

Group celebrations after big plays were fun to see, especially by the offensive linemen of the National team that helped Michael Carter reach the end zone after contact occurred 6 yards shy of the goal line.

North Dakota State's Dillon Radunz, who starred at Becker, started at left tackle for the National team and was involved on that play, as well as a congratulatory showering of Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores with Reese's peanut butter cups.

2. Other Minnesota connections

In addition to Radunz, Minneapolis native Elerson Smith (South Minneapolis High School and Northern Iowa) flashed at defensive end. Smith had a nice pass rush and would have been credited with a quarterback hurry but he was flagged for using his body weight to drive the quarterback into the ground.

Smith bounced back with a hustle tackle from behind to force a fourth-and-1 and tackled Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers for a 4-yard loss on a reverse later during the same possession.

Former Minnesota Gophers defensive back Benjamin St-Juste logged reps at cornerback and led the National team with two pass breakups.

3. QB again an MVP

Texas A&M's Kellen Mond started for the American team and found his groove in the second half. Mond finished 13-of-25 passing with 173 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed once and passed once on a pair of successful 2-point conversions, earing 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl MVP, an honor that Chargers rookie QB Justin Herbert claimed in 2020.

The American team split reps at quarterback between Mond and Jamie Newman, who played at Wake Forest before transferring to Georgia and opting out of the 2020 season.

Newman completed 10 of 14 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and interception. Alabama's Mac Jones, a popular figure in the state who just led the Crimson Tide to a national championship practiced during the week but did not play.

The National team started Sam Ehlinger out of Texas. He went 4-for-10 for 42 yards and a touchdown. Arkansas' Feleipe Franks followed and went 9-of-16 passing for 122 yards and a score. Notre Dame's Ian Book was 5-of-11 passing for 48 yards with an interception.

4. Runners and receivers

Carter led all running backs with 60 rushing yards. No other player rushed for more than 18 yards on the day.

The National team rushed 27 times for 88 yards, averaging 3.3 yards per carry.

The American team rushed 20 times for 31 yards, a paltry average of 1.6 yards per carry.

Louisville's Dez Fitzpatrick impressed early with a catch along the sideline for the National team and finished with game highs of six receptions and 90 yards.

UCLA's Demetric Felton caught two passes, including a 12-yard touchdown, and Mississippi's Kenny Yeboah was ruled in the end zone on a 21-yard touchdown.

South Carolina's Shi Smith led the American team with 57 yards on three catches, and Bowling Green tight end Quintin Morris added 52 yards on three catches. Rodgers scored the first touchdown pass by Mond, a 15-yarder, and caught the conversion pass.

5. Getting defensive

The National squad totaled four sacks, nine tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and an interception by Pittsburgh's Damar Hamlin.

The American team totaled two sacks, five tackles for loss, six pass breakups and an interception by Florida's Shawn Davis. Florida State's Janarius Robinson led all players with 1.5 sacks.