Senior Bowl Game Recap
By: Sideline Scouting Staff
January 29, 2011
Christian Ponder - Senior Bowl MVP
The South squad was a two-point underdog coming into Saturday night's 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl game, but clearly looked like the better team throughout the whole contest. Led by Florida State's Christian Ponder, the South team scored immediately, and never relinquished the lead to the North squad. The South out-gained the North 215-18 in the first half, and dominated in nearly every facet of the game. Miami (FL) Leonard Hankerson and Ponder had excellent chemistry throughout the contest, while the North squad could not get anything going during the first half.

The South squad took a 17-0 lead into the locker room at the half, but allowed the North to gain a little momentum in the second half of the ballgame. The North scored ten unanswered points in the third quarter, and looked to be working toward a big comeback. A couple stalled drives and a missed field goal by Kai Forbath in the fourth quarter doomed the North squad, however. Ponder won the MVP Award, going 7-13 for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Hankerson caught one of those touchdowns en route to a five-catch, 100-yard performance. The South squad also dominated the ground game with 127 net rushing yards to the North's zero, and Louisville's Bilal Powell and Kentucky's Derrick Locke combined for 98 yards on 21 carries.

Coming into this game we wanted to keep an open mind about all of these prospects. We were able to watch all of these players for the past five days and form opinions on each one. There were things that we liked about a prospect that other experts would dislike, and vice versa -- there were things that we didn't see in a prospect but other experts did. We came into Saturday looking to give the most accurate evaluation possible without any skewed opinion.

Quarterbacks: Florida State's Christian Ponder was the game's MVP and had an excellent day, showing great poise under pressure and accuracy within short areas. The South started the game with a deep pass to Hankerson for 49 yards, but the ball was underthrown and Hankerson had to make a nice play on the ball to come down with it. However, his short to intermediate throws looked great. Ponder's first touchdown pass was a timing route to Hankerson and Ponder threw the ball to the back shoulder, giving only his receiver a chance to make the play. He consistently looked like the best quarterback on the field and ended up with a game high 132 passing yards and two touchdowns. Ponder is very much a candidate for a West Coast offense due to his accuracy in short to intermediate routes and could go off the board on the second day.

Colin Kaepernick
It was an up and down day for Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, who needed a big day to validate the hype surrounding him this week. He looked poised in the pocket and only took off to run when under heavy pressure, which was nice to see. He threw an interception in the second quarter, though it was not his fault. He threw a perfect pass to Mike McNeill in the middle of the field, but McNeill tipped the ball up and it was intercepted by K.J. Wright. Kaepernick's stats are a little underwhelming, competing just four of nine passes for 53 yards and an interception. But, he did show many of the things that scouts wanted to see from him today, notably footwork, accuracy, and being able to work inside the pocket. His stock may have risen more than any other player in Mobile this week, but if the Senior Bowl practices was all we had to go off, I wouldn't take any of the six quarterbacks in the first three rounds.

Derrick Locke
Running Backs: Kentucky's Derrick Locke is one guy we haven't talked about much this week, but probably should have. Locke appears very shifty between the tackles and runs with good forward lean. The North defenders were having a hard time bringing him down to the ground. His combination of quickness and low center of gravity makes him very tough to get a good shot on him. He ended the game with 11 carries for 37 yards.

Da'Rel Scott
The numbers for Maryland's Da'Rel Scott may not look that impressive -- five carries for 15 yards -- one touchdown and one reception for 34 yards, but when he came into the game, he gave the North squad a much needed boost. He runs low to the ground, keeps his feet moving, and has terrific straight-line speed. His 34-yard reception set the North up with first and 10 at the South 17 yard line. Shareece Wright was then called for pass interference in the end zone setting up a first and goal at the one yard line. Scott ran up the middle for a one yard score which brought the game to 17-10 late in the third quarter.

Bilal Powell
Bilal Powell (Louisville) led the South squad in rushing with ten carries for 51 yards and added an eight yard reception. He looked explosive and consistently gained yardage on every carry. He has been a constant riser since the season started and his ascension continued throughout the week. He weighed in at a much better height and weight than expected and performed well in all of his drills. He did not stand out about the rest of the running backs throughout the week, but his performance in this game should garner him some extra attention.

Noel Devine
At the beginning of the second quarter, the North appeared to try to feature West Virginia's Noel Devine, giving him seven carries throughout the quarter. He was completely ineffective, gaining eight yards on his seven carries. He did score a touchdown, punching the ball in from the one yard out, but he longest run of the day was for three yards and he simply will not be able to run between the tackles in the NFL. His stock has dropped all week since weighing in at 160 pounds and I would not be surprised if he went undrafted at this point.

Leonard Hankerson
Wide Receivers: Miami (FL)'s Leonard Hankerson, the Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game, had a tremendous day, catching five balls for 100 yards and one touchdown. He has proven throughout the week that he is the best receiver in Mobile this week. Hankerson did drop one football that hit him square in the hands, which is the big concern with him. I would expect Hankerson to go in the top half of the second round and he could sneak into the back-half of the first if he runs well at the combine.

Dane Sanzenbacher
Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher was a late addition to the North roster, but he did a nice job meshing with the team's quarterbacks from the start. Sanzenbacher is a crisp route runner, very much like former Buckeye receiver Anthony Gonzalez. He has quick feet and makes very solid cuts. Although he is barely over 5-11, he has enough speed and route-running ability to find a home in the NFL, most likely as a slot receiver. Sanzenbacher led the North squad with five catches for 62 yards, and looked to be the go-to receiver toward the end of the game when the team needed to move the chains. He almost certainly improved his draft stock by coming to Mobile this week.

Jeremy Kerley
TCU's Jeremy Kerley got a lot of attention this week for having a solid week of practices. He looks like a legitimate NFL receiver, and played pretty well in the game as well. Although he only had two catches for 29 yards, one of those catches went for a touchdown from Ponder. Kerley ran a post route and caught the pass just outside of the endzone, using his momentum to carry him in for a touchdown. I don't think Kerley is a standout receiver by any means, but he was sure to have caught some teams' attention this week in Mobile. Look for him to go somewhere toward the end of the fourth round in this year's draft.

Lance Kendricks
Tight Ends: None of the tight ends impressed me in game aside from Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks. He's always been a willing blocker that played with reasonably good leverage and was a well-rounded player coming from a run-first program in Madison. He was able to neutralize Allen Bailey as a blocker but he's even well known for his pass-catching ability and hauled in two catches for 39 yards, including a 27-yard run and catch from Ricky Stanzi that helped the North move the chains for the first time with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.

A pass from Colin Kaepernick on target to Nebraska's Mike McNeill was dropped into the waiting hands of K.J. Wright for the only interception of the contest. Lee Smith (Marshall) also had a dropped pass and committed a holding penalty on first and goal, forcing the North into a first and 20 before settling for a field goal. Alabama's Preston Dial started at fullback for the South. Tennessee's Luke Stocker and Arkansas' D.J. Williams both had impressive weeks of practice but combined for no catches and just one target (Stocker).

Nate Solder
Offensive Line: Generally during the Senior Bowl you have to be careful analyzing offensive linemen as many players are playing a position different than what they played in college (i.e. tackles getting looks at guard, guards at center, etc.) but the two players that really stood out for having a poor game were Colorado's Nate Solder and Arkansas' DeMarcus Love. Solder is big and athletic but he was constantly beat inside and manhandled by Texas' Sam Acho and was responsible for and beat by Acho on one sack that forced a Locker fumble. DeMarcus Love would be a liability at tackle at the next level and was dominated by Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan on back-to-back plays in the second quarter (sack, holding). Inconsistent footwork and technique and lack of balance will necessitate a move to guard in the NFL.

Derek Sherrod
Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod had a very solid week of practice and impressed during the game as well. He's a very good run blocker who fires off the line into his run blocks and explodes out of his stance and was run behind on fourth and goal from the one to extend the South lead to 17-0 in the fourth quarter. Georgia's Clint Boling had a monster block on Notre Dame DT Ian Williams, allowing Devine to take a screen pass from McElroy for 12 yards to the three before they punched it in from the one yard line. Boling can pull and get to the second level and does a solid job getting in the way of defenders in space and sealing them from the ball and could get looks as either a right tackle or as a guard in a zone blocking scheme. Chad Reuter of CBS Sports and NFL Draft Scout observed that after one day of practice, the South OL was the best he's ever seen in Mobile from top to bottom.

Defensive Line: Sam Acho was named South's Most Outstanding Player. Acho has a similar frame to former Texas Longhorns Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle and could be a blitzing linebacker in a 3-4 at the next level. Kerrigan will also get looks as both a 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. In addition to Acho and Ryan Kerrigan, there were several standouts on the defensive line.

Ian Williams
Notre Dame's Ian Williams was an intriguing player coming into this week. The Senior Bowl rosters did not boast a wealth of talent at the nose tackle position, but Williams looked like a good candidate at weigh-ins, and played pretty well during practice. During the game, Williams recorded five tackles, including a seven-yard sack on Greg McElroy in the fourth quarter. He isn't necessarily a big space eater, but he has a suitable frame to play 3-4 nose tackle in the NFL. He looked pretty good this week, so expect his stock to rise in the coming months as a result.

Jeremy Beal
Oklahoma's Jeremy Beal was the offender on the offside call that negated a McElroy interception in the second quarter, but he looked pretty good otherwise. Beal played a lot of linebacker toward the end of his career at Oklahoma, but played at right end in the game. He made the most of the opportunity, recording four tackles and a huge sack on Andy Dalton from the blindside. It looked like he may have jumped offside on the play, but the replay was inconclusive, and it was not called on the field. Regardless, Beal got a great jump and made the South squad pay for leaving Dalton vulnerable. Beal didn't have a great week of practice and will likely have to adjust to a new position in the NFL, but he has a ton of upside at the 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE positions.

Brooks Reed
Arizona's Brooks Reed is a hustle pass rusher with a non-stop motor and would be best fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker as well. He's a solid pass rusher who gets good bend on the corner and impressed all week in practices and it carried over to today's game as well. He finished for two tackles for loss, one sack and one quarterback hurry. Reed has made some money in Mobile this week, and might be considered as early as the second round.

Pierre Allen
Nebraska's Pierre Allen did not stand out during the week of practices, and stood out in a negative way during the game. Allen looked extremely undisciplined, accounting for two costly personal fouls. He had a roughing the passer call go against him in the second quarter that set the South team up in the red zone, and then a facemask call in the fourth quarter that essentially ended the North's chances of mounting a comeback. The facemask call was very apparent, and one has to wonder how NFL teams view a player who displays poor discipline and dangerous play during a college all-star game. Expect Allen's stock to fall because of a poor week.

Miami (FL)'s Allen Bailey was also unimpressive and a non-factor but he's such an intriguing athlete to envision him falling out of the first two rounds. He's an athletic specimen but simply not a great football player at this point.

Von Miller
Linebackers: Texas A&M;'s Von Miller did a pretty good job of showing critics what else he is capable of doing on the football field. His pass-rushing skills have never been questioned, but he needed to have a good game tonight to show he is capable of playing the linebacker position for three downs. He won the Under Armour Defensive Player of the Game Award by recording four tackles, two of which were for a loss. He looked good in open space throughout the game, and showed he is capable of doing more than just rushing off the edge. He didn't do much to display his coverage skills, and that will still be a question mark in the coming months, but he certainly looked capable of playing the linebacker position tonight, at least in a 4-3.

Colin McCarthy
Miami (FL)'s Colin McCarthy didn't stand out much during the week of practices, but he looked good during the game. McCarthy is not a unique athlete, but like several other linebackers in this year's class, McCarthy has a lot of hustle in him. He made three tackles (one for loss) in the game tonight, and seemed to be all over the field. He made a great tackle on a wide receiver screen to Vincent Brown, and displayed a little bit of a mean streak throughout the contest. McCarthy won't wow anyone with his physical tools, but he's a good football player, and people took notice tonight.

Mason Foster
Washington's Mason Foster has been one of my favorite linebackers in this year's draft class, and he did not disappoint this week. Foster is another high-motor player. He takes a lot of pride in playing the game the right way, and it's easy to see why coaches love him. He had a pretty good week of practice, but really shined during the game tonight. Foster led all defensive players with eight tackles, and although he did not do anything with a lot of flair, that's never been his style. Foster is a football player, and he has shown why he deserves to be an early-round pick in this year's draft.

Greg Jones
Michigan's Greg Jones quietly had a productive night. For all the talk of Jones being too short to play the inside linebacker position, he played pretty well. He tied Kendric Burney for the second-most tackles during the game, right behind teammate Mason Foster. Jones is another player that did not stand out much during the week. He still has to work on his footwork and instincts in pass coverage, but he had an extremely productive career at Michigan State, and appears to have the ability to carry that on to the next level.

Kendric Burney
Defensive Backs: North Carolina's Kendric Burney was a guy that had to earn some respect this week because of his weigh-in results, but it didn't take long for him to make a name for himself this week. Burney looked great at practice all week, and secured a starting spot in the game for the North squad because of that. During the game, Burney defended a lot of passes successfully and looked like a legitimate NFL cornerback. He did give up a touchdown to Leonard Hankerson, but Hankerson ran an incredible route and the back-shoulder pass from Christian Ponder was right on the money. I wouldn't put too much stock in Burney getting beat on that play. Burney also recorded seven tackles (all solo). He had a terrific week, punctuated by winning the North Team Most Outstanding Player Award.

Richard Sherman
Stanford's Richard Sherman was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, but he stood out immediately because of his size. Sherman is almost 6-3, and has the ability to run with a lot of smaller receivers. He didn't exactly shine this week in practice, but he stepped up during the game. Sherman deflected two passes, and would have had a beautiful interception had the play not been called back for an offside penalty. He did nearly get beat by Hankerson late in the game on a shifty double move, but Sherman showed good recovery speed and awareness, popping the ball out at the last moment and breaking up the play. He was somewhat of an unknown coming into this week, but he looked good enough to solidify himself as a mid-round pick.

Jalil Brown
Somehow, Colorado's Jalil Brown got the starting job for the game tonight. He did not look good in practice all week, and picked up right where he left off by giving up a 49-yard catch to Leonard Hankerson on the first play the South team ran. He looks very stiff in the hips, has questionable footwork, and needs to do a better job of locating the football. I don't think Brown has bad physical skills. He has a good frame and very good speed. He just did not impress this week based on performance. I don't think he hurt his stock terribly, but Brown is not a player I expect to see jumping up the boards over the next few months.

Marcus Gilchrist
Clemson's Marcus Gilchrist did not really stand out during the game, but it is worth nothing that he spent a lot of time practicing at safety this week, and he started at the position during the game. He is a pretty versatile player, and is the kind of defensive back teams look at to fill holes and add depth on draft day. He has experience at nearly every defensive backfield position, and may take some people by surprise on draft day. In the long run, I believe the Senior Bowl helped Gilchrist's stock.

Relevant Links:    Final Stats (PDF) - Quotes - Post-Game Notes

(March 23) -- The Sideline Scouting crew has been hard at work compiling its latest mock draft, and it is now posted. The 7-round mock includes every pick, prior to compensatory announcements, in the upcoming draft. Make sure to click on over and check out how your team could fare in April. Sideline Scouting's 391-page draft guide PDF is also now available for purchase for $5, so be sure to equip yourself with the most comprehensive draft coverage available.

*Blaine Gabbert
QB, Missouri
*Marcell Dareus
DT, Alabama
*Cameron Newton
QB, Auburn
*Da'Quan Bowers
DE, Clemson
Von Miller
LB, Texas A&M;
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