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2021 Senior Bowl Primer


Not all of the NFL has descended on Mobile, Alabama, this week, but a wide swath has again converged for the Reese's Senior Bowl.

The 72nd installment of the college all-star game remains on track to kick off at 1:30 p.m. (CT). It will be televised by NFL Network.

Several accommodations have been made because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some events having reduced access or getting nixed completely.

We'll be covering the event virtually this year — thinking about palm trees, cups of gumbo and Gulf shrimp po' boys — beginning with this primer.

What is the Senior Bowl?

The Senior Bowl began in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1950. It moved to Mobile the following year and has developed into the most prestigious college all-star game featuring seniors, players who have graduated and some approved redshirt juniors who are forgoing their final year of college eligibility.

Invited players are split into two teams that are coached by NFL staffs. Scouts and coaches convene to evaluate players through three days of practices (today, Wednesday and Thursday).

Is anything new in 2021?

Yep and yep.

First, the venue is changing. Ladd-Peebles Stadium hosted the past 70 Senior Bowls, but this year's game has a new venue: Hancock Whitney Stadium on the University of South Alabama campus.

Also new this year is a shift from naming the teams the "North" and "South" to the "National" and "American."

Who is coaching this year?

The Miami Dolphins coaching staff will coach the National team, and the Carolina Panthers staff will guide the American team.

Staffs are usually selected according to draft order, excluding those with new head coaches.

Despite going 10-6, Miami has the third overall pick from a previous trade with Houston.

Carolina, which finished 5-11, is scheduled to pick eighth overall.

The Vikings staff coached the 2012 Senior Bowl, giving them enough insight on Harrison Smith that Minnesota knew it wanted to trade back into the first round to select the safety.

That squad coincidentally also included Audie Cole, whom the Vikings drafted that year, as well as future safety George Iloka and quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Are there other recent Vikings ties?

Including Smith, Iloka and Cousins, a total of 16 Vikings who played at least one game for Minnesota in 2020 is a past participant of a Senior Bowl.

The list includes the following players:

2012: Smith, Iloka and Cousins

2014: Shamar Stephen

2015: Ameer Abdullah and Sean Mannion

2017: Jaleel Johnson

2018: Tyler Conklin and Brian O'Neill

2019: Garrett Bradbury, Kris Boyd, Mark Fields II, Dru Samia and Olisaemeka Udoh (Note: Cameron Smith, who was placed on the Non-Football Illness list before the season, also participated in this Senior Bowl.)

2020: D.J. Wonnum and Josh Metellus

How many 2020 Senior Bowl participants were drafted?

A total of 93 participants in last year's game were drafted in April.

That number equaled the total participants that were selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Any other local connections?

Defensive lineman Elerson Smith, who starred at Minneapolis South before heading to Northern Iowa, and North Dakota State offensive lineman Dillon Radunz, a top-10 finalist for Mr. Football for his play at Becker, are on the National roster. So is former University of Minnesota defensive back Benjamin St-Juste.