MOBILE, Ala. — NFL officials from all 32 teams and 110 draft eligible college prospects have descended on the Gulf Coast for the 66th annual Senior Bowl, which is being presented by Reese's for the second straight year.
The showcase has been an annual tradition since its inception in 1950 and remains a reunion of rival staffs that have the common goal of locating the best players possible for their respective teams.
View the top 50 behind the scenes images of from the 2014 season.
Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage on Monday outlined changes to this year's game:
1) Schedule — instead of scheduling arrivals for the Sunday before Saturday's game, the decision was made to push it back a day. Savage said the change helped avoid travel conflicts during conference championship games, slightly increased the window between other all-star games and aligned practices for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before a community day of service Friday.
2) Two more two-minute drills — each period of the game will include a two-minute drill at its conclusion.
"The biggest difference is the fact we're going to add a two-minute warning at the end of the first and third quarters like they did at the Pro Bowl last year," Savage said. "That will create four different opportunities for the quarterbacks to manage the clock and try to go down and score."
3) Nickel added — Savage said the NFL improved the addition of having a nickel package on defense so that teams can opt to play a fifth defensive back.
"With the game including three and four wide receiver packages so much of the time, the chance to get a slot corner play over that kind of receiver is a big part of the NFL game now, so we added a nickel."
4) Cover 2 also available — Savage said defenses will also have the option of playing Cover 2, but the decision to do so took offensive evaluations into consideration.
"It will give the quarterbacks a couple different pictures, coverage-wise."
5) New color scheme — The uniforms will incorporate orange in the color scheme instead of the red, white and blue to enhance the partnership with Reese's.
"We're all in on the orange, so we've oranged-out our uniforms, cleats, our gloves, outfits," Savage said, wearing an orange tie. "I'm channeling the best Gus Malzahn outfits I can wear."
6) Increased involvement — with visits scheduled Friday to two hospitals and 16 schools, as well as a meet the players fan experience on the agenda, Savage said this year's festivities have more interaction than ever before.
What may or may not change going forward?
Savage was asked if a spot would still be kept open for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner. He said if Mariota "decided he wanted to come here, we would welcome him and put him on the North, and they would have four quarterbacks, but for the most part, every indication has been that he's not planning on coming, but he has not signed with an agent yet, so at some point, we might be able to tap into his competitive nature and say, 'You know what, I should go audition for the team that's picking second in the draft.' "
Update: Savage announced before Tuesday's weigh-in that mariota officially declined after
As far as other roster spots, Savage said the league allowed "some leeway in bringing some extra players, say at wide receiver, specifically, an extra linebacker or two, compared to a 53-man roster."
Injuries are unlikely to prompt additional players being brought in as replacements, Savage said.
"If we have a player that has a strain or turns his ankle in the next couple of days, unless it's a certain position like tight end or maybe a safety, we probably would just go forward," he said.