College passers go back to square 1 for NFL audition
By JOHN ZENOR
The Associated Press | January 26,2013
Senior Bowl quarterback Landry Jones of Oklahoma warms up during a practice for today’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
MOBILE, Ala. — Quarterbacks at all-star games have tough assignments.
The six Senor Bowl signal callers will be playing off cliff notes of a new offense, throwing to unfamiliar receivers and taking snaps from a new center in Saturday’s NFL showcase. And they’ll all do it from under center, not the shotgun for those more accustomed to the spread in college.
All the while with dozens of scouts, coaches and NFL execs studying their every move on and off the field. Not that anyone is complaining considering the potential rewards.
“It’s a job interview so you’ve got to be ready to go when it’s time to go,” Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib he said.
That could mean a lot of money for those who deftly manage the tasks. The game might be the most relaxing part of the weeklong job fair.
West Virginia’s Geno Smith, widely considered the top quarterback prospect, skipped the Senior Bowl.
That left Nassib, North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon and Zac Dysert of Miami, Ohio, as the North quarterbacks and Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson on the South.
All piled up big college numbers, then had to start over on Monday.
“We’re used to the first day of practice just about every ball on the ground, fumbled exchanges, all those things,” said the Detroit Lions’ Jim Schwartz, coach of the South team. “But from the time all three of those quarterbacks stepped into the huddle on the first day they had good command and weren’t botching snaps and they were making accurate throws.
“People underestimate how difficult that is when you come into an environment like this.”
The six quarterbacks bring plenty of experience to the task. They’ve logged an average of 10,000-plus career passing yards and 71 touchdowns led by Jones, a four-year starter who passed for 16,646 yards and 123 touchdowns for the Sooners.
Even with players like Smith and a host of juniors at various positions not around, the Senior Bowl has some projected first-round talent, according to mock drafts. That includes Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, Baylor receiver Terrance Williams and Brigham Young defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah.
The quarterbacks get a chance to display their arms, brains and leadership.
“I look around and there’s some really talented quarterbacks here, guys that I’ve been hearing about all year long and watching on TV,” said Nassib, whose team beat West Virginia and Smith in the Pinstripe Bowl said. “It’s a very competitive class. I just have to make sure I go out and play my game and try to prove myself to these teams here.”
Glennon is a strong-armed 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who is projected as a potential top-10 pick by some. They all share similar goals for the week.
“I just want to prove that I belong in the NFL and that I can win games in the NFL,” he said. “I know it’s hard to prove that in one week, but they have a good eye for it. I just want to prove that I can make the right throws, I can make the right decisions and execute well enough to lead an offense to victory.”
At least one Senior Bowl quarterback has been chosen in the first round of the past three drafts, including Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden (22nd, Cleveland Browns) last year.
Christian Ponder and Jake Locker both made the cut two years ago and Tim Tebow was a first-rounder in 2010. It remains to be seen which quarterbacks have helped or hurt their cause this week.
“It’s a big week for all of us,” Glennon said. “A lot of players that come here help themselves out tremendously. I think we all realize the opportunity in front of us, and that’s why it’s such a great event.”
Their targets include Michigan’s converted quarterback Denard Robinson and Williams, the nation’s leading receiver. Williams caught 97 passes for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns — including a 17-catch, 314-yard effort on Sept. 29 against West Virginia.
That topped the performance a week earlier by Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton, who gets to team up with Wilson for another week, at least. Hamilton had 10 catches for 303 yards against Rutgers.
Meanwhile, Florida State’s 6-foot-4, 237-pound Manuel impressed Schwartz with his physique.
“The thing that pops out is his size,” said Schwartz, who also praised his accuracy. “(Ben) Roethlisberger’s a big quarterback but I think he’s got nothing on Manuel. He’s got super long arms. He looks like a tight end out there. He’s just a really, really big man.”