Senior Bowl standouts from the SEC
Despite featuring 27 of the conference’s players, the 66th Senior Bowl was not the brightest moment for the SEC, as the North pummeled the South, 34-13, in Mobile, Ala.
Tied 10-10 midway through the third quarter, Minnesota’s David Cobb and Yale’s Tyler Varga combined for three rushing touchdowns for the North to put the game away.
The quarterbacks struggled throughout, completing just 39-of-71 for a combined one touchdown and three interceptions. Alabama’s Blake Sims, the crowd favorite, showed off his athleticism on several escapes and scrambles. He executed a nice slant route and a naked bootleg. But Sims’ scattershot passes were off target, as he completed 4-of-11 for 50 yards.
Sims’ first drive nearly ended in a memorable highlight as the Crimson Tide starter hit Auburn receiver Sammie Coates on a fade in the left corner of the end zone. Under collegiate rules, it would’ve been a touchdown, but Coates only managed to get one foot down inbounds. The Iron Bowl connection was not to be.
By most accounts, Coates impressed scouts during the week of practice, but didn’t give a great performance in Saturday’s game. In addition to a few other near-catches, Coates pushed off on one deep ball, drawing an offensive pass interference, and then allowed the pass to careen off his outstretched fingertips. He finished the game with one catch for 13 yards and did not play in the second half due to a groin injury.
There were a few SEC standouts in the game. Cameron Artis-Payne was the offensive star for the South, rushing 10 times for 43 yards with some nifty cuts. He also caught three passes for 35 yards, demonstrating his ability in the passing game, something he said was a priority during Senior Bowl week. Artis-Payne broke two tackles on a screen pass that went for 24 yards.
Playing at left tackle, LSU’s La’el Collins threw a block that sprung Artis-Payne for a 7-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage, then later cleared some room for Sims on two of his scrambles. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock highlighted his play on the broadcast.
Missouri’s best all-time return man Marcus Murphy arrived in Mobile on Friday night, but didn’t let that stop him from making good on three returns for the North. Murphy took a second-half kickoff 36 yards to give the North great field goal position and also returned his only punt for 10 yards.
Playing at cornerback, former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall made at least five tackles for the South. Late in the game, he incurred a pass interference penalty, bailing out a well-covered receiver at third-and-2. But there were no highlights of Marshall getting burned by receivers.
Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, a Doak Walker Award finalist, earned MVP honors for the North, producing 113 all-purpose yards despite nursing a hamstring injury.
The game included a two-minute warning at the end of the first and third quarter, with kickoffs to start the second and fourth quarters. Special teams were not the most glamorous part of the game, which featured three missed field goals and a bobbled fair catch by Jamison Crowder in the red zone that the South failed to recover due to a penalty.
To NFL scouts, the week of practice is much more important in terms of gathering information and evaluating players. The game isn’t meaningless, but it’s a nice reward after several days of intense work.