MOBILE, Ala. — Reese's Senior Bowl week is up and running again.
The 75th iteration of the college all-star game is scheduled for noon (CT) Saturday on NFL Network.
Nearly 140 draft-eligible players, including more than a dozen underclassmen, were rostered on American and National Teams as of Tuesday, the first of three consecutive practice days at the University of South Alabama.
They arrived Sunday and Monday to the glow of a region that began celebrating Mardi Gras last Friday.
Reese's Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy opened the morning with a press conference in which he described the official addition of underclassmen to the Senior Bowl rosters.
"It's been a different process with the addition of the juniors. I'm sure a lot of you have probably heard me say, this is our best roster," said Nagy, a former NFL scout who was hired in June 2018 and has built a personnel department to scout invitees. "I don't mean to sound boastful at all. These should be our best rosters when you can open up the underclassmen pool. It's certainly helped. It's certainly helped the star power of the game.
"Most of the juniors that we took, I think that number ended up being, like, 16 or 17, those guys for us were all fourth round or higher players," Nagy added. "Mostly Day 2 players. And some Day 1 players. So it's certainly helped the game."
The decision was announced in early November, but the Senior Bowl had been preparing for that scenario. Nagy said NFL teams had been interested in modifying that policy for years.
Other changes in the college landscape, the launch of Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) funds now available for college athletes, as well as fluidity with coaching changes, continue to impact the way the Senior Bowl builds its rosters.
There are a total of 54 underclassmen who were granted special eligibility to declare for the draft this year, down from a number that has smoothly sailed beyond 100 in previous years.
Vikings Assistants in "Coach Up"
Last year, the Senior Bowl shifted from having two entire NFL staffs serve as coaches to a "Coach Up" format that elevates coordinators and assistant coaches to roles for the week that are above their current respective roles.
Vikings Defensive Backs/Passing Game Coordinator Daronte Jones is the Defensive Coordinator, Vikings defensive assistant Imarjaye Albury is the Linebackers/Edge coach and Vikings assistant defensive backs coach Michael Hutchings is the Defensive Backs coach for the National Team this week.
They'll be able to work closely with their position groups on the field and in meeting rooms, peeling back the layers of multiple players in an ultimate-get-to-know-you opportunities while adding responsibilities within a game week to develop their own coaching careers.
Other Vikings assistant coaches are attending the Senior Bowl, along with multiple members of the Vikings personnel department (more from them later this week).
A sun-soaked "Chamber of Commerce weather" day unfolded Tuesday, greeting players in shoulder pads, shorts and helmets.
The National Team is practicing from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and the American Team is following from noon to 2 p.m. each day.
There's plenty to see and hear across the field as players participate heavily in 1-on-1 drills designed to allow for clear evaluations. Here are a couple of observations, as well as some others' posts on X (formerly Twitter).
In the National Team's practice, a perfectly lofted pass by former Washington QB Michael Penix, Jr., to former Penn State tight end Theo Johnson behind coverage generated a "hell of a throw" comment from a coach.
Penix joined NFL Network's coverage, explaining what it is like to team with former Oregon (and Auburn) QB Bo Nix for a week, as well as what he hopes to show this week after helping the Huskies advance to the 2024 CFP National Championship Game:
Nix participated in a media session after Nagy, and Alabama.com posted a cut-up of his throws from Tuesday:
Instead of airing it out, the 33rd Team took an aerial look at a battle between offensive lineman Taliese Fuaga (Oregon State) and edge rusher Laiatu Latu (UCLA).
In the American Team's practice, as coaches were imploring defensive backs to find the football on deep passes against receivers, cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett (Auburn) showed clean technique in breaking up a throw to Xavier Legette (South Carolina).
ESPN's Jordan Reid offered a colorful descriptor for cornerbacks who tried to put a lid on receiver Ladd McConkey:
For a lighthearted wrap, I thought this was a gem of a comment from Taylor Lewan, who was drafted 11th overall by the Titans in 2014 and started 100 of the 105 games he played for them: