Notebook: Prospects Ready for Transition Time at Senior Bowl

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MOBILE, Ala. — Top draft-eligible players have descended on Mobile, Alabama, for the 70th Reese’s Senior Bowl.

A total of 114 prospects are beginning the multi-month job interview process that will include three practices by the North and South teams and Saturday’s game, which is scheduled to kick off at 1:30 p.m. (CT).

NFL Network is scheduled to televise the practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well as the game.

Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden and his staff are coaching the North squad, and 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff will lead the South.

Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy spoke with media members on Monday evening about the comprehensive effort to build the rosters through a six-month process, provide all 32 NFL teams with good assessment opportunities and adjust on the fly.

“We’ve put so much work in over the last six, seven months,” Nagy said. “That was really rewarding for us, just to see how jacked up these guys were to get boots in Mobile. We’ve got 114 out of 114. Really excited about this roster and this game.”

Transition time

Players will wear their college helmets one final week, but this is definitely a transition time to the NFL.

Nagy said Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew, who was assigned to the South, came up to him at breakfast Monday morning wanting to get his hands on NFL footballs and start getting snaps with South centers Ross Pierschbacher and Elgton Jenkins.

The pigskin shape is different in the pros, and so is the terminology, system and lining up under center more frequently.

“Having the coaches’ meeting [Monday] with Coach Gruden and Coach Shanahan, it’s huddling, it’s getting verbiage out,” Nagy said. “I think Kyle said he’s done the game two or three times, and Jon’s done it three or four times. They were just bringing up quarterbacks from the past that couldn’t even spit verbiage out.

“The hard part for these guys, the coaches try to simplify it, but going through the interview process and being pulled in different directions, dialing into that playbook a little bit, again, I think it’s more scheme and trying to become a pro and huddling and getting under center,” Nagy added.

Positions of interest

Nagy said he thinks the quarterback depth is strong, before noting some of the edge rushers that are participating.

“I think last year’s group was great, with Baker [Mayfield] and Josh Allen being top-10 picks, but one through nine [this year], and I’ll include Clayton Thorson in that, because Clayton was picked to come before he ripped that ACL in the bowl game. The people at Northwestern reached out to 10 NFL teams, and none of them had worse than a third-round grade. Clayton was probably the least-named of the group, and if you go back a year ago, nothing worse than a third-round pick.

“The edge-rushing class with Jaylon Ferguson and Montez Sweat, Oshane Ximines — you could run through the whole crew,” Nagy added. “I know the offensive line, I think, when we were going through the board back in November, I called 17 teams and went through the positions, I think the league is most fired up about the offensive line group.”

The “Junior” Senior Bowl

Out of the 114 attendees, 11 are graduated juniors with a year of college eligibility remaining.

Although the Senior Bowl has remained true to its namesake, Nagy said adding graduated juniors can help with the building of rosters and reward players who took care of their academics.

“I think that’s really beefed up the talent level of our rosters,” Nagy said. “We’ve really made it a point of emphasis for our staff. That was the value of having a staff full of NFL scouts. We have a network of guys at schools and other guys on the road where you can call an academic person. I don’t know how many agents called me about guys, ‘I’ve got a junior, he’s going to graduate,’ and then you call the academic person and they’re like, ‘No, he’s not graduating.’

“We had to prepare for it because we had roster spots saved for about 15 guys because we didn’t want to get to January and have 110 guys invited. Anthony Nelson from Iowa is a perfect example. That’s a guy we didn’t know about. If they’ve graduated, why should they be penalized for being a junior when they’ve got their diploma in hand? They’re not just bringing in juniors to say we’re bringing in juniors.”

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