Throughout the duration of the last decade or so of Senior Bowls, the week of practice leading up to the game has held most of the attention in comparison to the in-game matchup of the American and National teams to close out the weekend. While media and talent evaluators are granted an opportunity to watch guys work live for the first time in practice—and surely the individual, 1-on-1, and team portions of the sessions present a clear window into the who’s who of the event—for this year, tomorrow’s game taken on a much higher level of importance for the quarterback talent set to take the stage. For Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell, Bailey Zappe, and Carson Strong, Saturday is the showcase of showcases and the last chance to captain an offense against a live defense. While each quarterback will receive roughly a tick over a quarter of work, what they do in their limited amount of action could hold massive weight toward where they ultimately hear their name called in April. Unlike in years past where the game could be a disappointing climax to what is such a nationally recognized affair, each and every moment the aforementioned prospects find themselves in between the hashes, unlike any other positional group competing, will have the spotlight will shine brightest on the guys occupying the pocket. What makes each performance—good or bad—so intriguing is the neutral environment each player has been thrust into during the week. Although Ridder and Strong have had the luxury to target perimeter weapons from their respective programs, and will likely do so tomorrow as a de facto security blanket if all fails, the presence of individual talent from different programs from unique conferences around the country will force each quarterback to holster the offensive workload—something each and every quarterback-hungry organization will be looking to see consistently throughout each player’s time under center. While this year’s draft class presents a trench-heavy group on both sides of the football—the prowess and sheer dominance of both defensive lines this week will also present an additional outlier to how each signal-caller will go about the operative process of leading an offense with just three days of live reps under their belt. From sliding protections to audibles to understanding the progression of reads on certain route concepts, while it’s been nice to see guys like Willis and Ridder showcase their ability inside the pocket working seamlessly in the intermediate areas of the offense in 7-on-7 portions of practice, as we know, it's much, MUCH different when guys are breathing down your neck under the fire of full contact. Each quarterback has been granted immunity to avoid being taken to the ground all week long, but when guys in Devonte Wyatt (Georgia) and Travis Jones (Connecticut) are breathing down your neck with JoJo Domann (Nebraska) and Channing Tindall (Georgia) flying through gaps on a blitz, everything extended from the pocket speeds up—exactly the situation scouts want to see in regards to how each quarterback handles being thrown the fire, similar to the NFL. Do they become flustered? How do they respond to adversity in an unknown environment? What does their body language exude; confidence through pressure or negativity when things don’t go their way? Every single detail down to the acute particulars of how each guy warms up is under the watchful microscope of NFL eyes, presenting an awfully intriguing platform as the race for QB1 enters the home straight away.
- Feb 16, 2022
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