Just finished up the Senior Bowl’s opening press conference. Phil Savage, as always, led it and had three players speak to the media: Alabama LB Reggie Ragland, North Dakota St QB Carson Wentz, and Penn St DT Austin Johnson.
Some highlights from all four.
– Savage praised Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coaching staff for their continued work with the Senior Bowl. 2016 makes it the Jaguars’ third year in a row. Joked that he should be a permanent coach in Mobile. On a more serious note, Savage said that Bradley “makes it fun for them.” He and the rest of his staff will coach the South while Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys will coach up the North squad.
– The work that goes into forming the Senior Bowl, about 110 players total, is extensive. It starts 8-10 months ago and Savage views it as the NFL’s 33rd franchise. He says collectively, he and his team personally viewed roughly 50 players.
– Every player that is given interest by the Senior Bowl is vetted by “three to four” NFL scouts. Every single one of these prospects have a serious shot to get drafted and in all, Savage estimates that between 90-100 will hear their name called on draft day.
– There are two focuses this week: competition on the field and connection off it. Savage brought in Morgan Stanley as a partner, in addition to main sponsor Reese’s, to help give players and families financial education. Players also went through a media training session to prepare them for this 72 hour whirlwind.
– Only one rule change this year. They’ll mirror the NFL and kick 33 yard extra points.
– Supposed to be a rainy week in Mobile. Savage said Wednesday’s practice could get moved back with the North Team practicing from 12-2 and the South 2:30-4:30. That decision will be made by 10 PM tonight.
– William Jackson III, a CB out of Houston I was anxious to see, decided to bow out of the week due to a lingering knee injury suffered in the bowl game.
– Glenn Gronkowski, Rob’s younger brother, was compared to the Baltimore Ravens’ fullback Kyle Juszczyk by Savage. Steelers’ fans should be familiar with him. Gronkowski is viewed in that H-Back mold but has a chance to prove himself this week, just as Juszcyk did out of Harvard. Gronkowski is also one of the few juniors here, allowed to come in because he has completed his degree.
– Savage was high on Ragland. Said he had the size of a MIKE linebacker and the speed of a WILL. He’ll line up at OLB this week after Ragland personally called and requested to.
– Shawn Oakman has the look, passing the eyeball test, but it does little to translate on tape. Savage even admitted the NFL generally needs to see more from him. Big week for Oakman.
Reggie Ragland Press Conference:
– He says he wants to play between 245-250 pounds. Currently at 255.
– Requested to play OLB to show he can rush and cover. From the way he describes it, his ability to drop is the biggest thing he wants to prove to scouts and scouts want to see from him.
– He’s always had an absurd amount of athleticism, whether it was hitting 440 foot home runs at 12 years old or being able to dunk in 6th grade. I’ve been able to dunk since…never.
– It was tough sitting behind so many other players for the first two years. But he said it helped him learn the game. Called C.J. Mosley the best player he’s ever seen and a guy he could go to with questions, bypassing the coaching staff.
– Teams currently view him as a middle linebacker. He’s met with a couple of teams including the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, and Green Bay Packers.
– Ragland came off as a soft-spoken but articulate player that is extremely humble.
Carson Wentz Press Conference:
– He’s here to address the FCS doubts that is carried by the North Dakota State tag.
– Called it a “tremendous opportunity” to work with Jason Garrett, a former QB, and Scott Linehan.
– He looked like me freshman year. Says he was 5’8, 125 pounds his freshman year of high school. By junior year, he spiked up to 6’3 170. Now, he’s expected to weigh in around 6’5 235. So…less like me.
– Says he’s met with about half the league already.
– Well-spoken but knows how to work a room. Like a true quarterback.
Austin Johnson Press Conference:
– Said he wants to show his hustle and ability to run to the football the most this week.
– Think he’s versatile. Can play the nose, the three, and even the possibility of a 5 tech in the 3-4.
– Talked to ten teams. Included the Packers, Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland Raiders.
– Flight in went well. First time flying ever. I made it. Flight was delayed a bit but if that’s the worst of the trip, then it was a good one.
– First meal. Chick Fil A. So not exactly southern cuisine. Hopefully for dinner. Big thanks to our friends at TouringPlans.com for paying the way for my meals. Still better than McChickens.
– Haven’t been around this many people in a long time. The hotel is very casual here on the first day. Players and teams talking informally. Laid back but very busy. Everyone talking football. It’s amazing. A true Mecca.
– Have yet to see a single Pittsburgh Steelers’ coach or scout. Sure they’re around. But they’re doing a great job of staying in the shadows.