January 25, 2011

NFL scouts and decision makers breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday as the forecasted monsoon rains never materialized in Mobile, Ala. As a result both sessions were completed without a hitch during the second day of Senior Bowl practices. Several senior prospects are making a move up draft boards with stellar performances while a few highly-rated underclassmen were in town just to say "hello".

Patrick Peterson has been at the Senior Bowl since Monday, and though he's not participating in practice, the junior cornerback from LSU has been a very busy man.

Peterson has completed almost a half dozen individual interviews with teams on hand, most recently sitting down with John Elway and John Fox of the Denver Broncos, the team that owns the second pick in the draft. Julio Jones of Alabama was at practice Monday and made the rounds while Cameron Heyward arrived today. The Ohio State defensive lineman, who was expected to play in the Senior Bowl, told SI.com he sustained an injury to his left elbow during the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl. As reported yesterday, Heyward confirmed he underwent Tommy John surgery last week, which was performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Heyward also stated that while he will be unable to participate in any football-related activities for the next three months, the timetable has him performing a full combine-type workout, minus the bench press, sometime in the month of March.

One of the nuances of the Senior Bowl is projecting players to positions in the NFL which are different than the ones they held down in college. Take Greg Jones of Michigan State and Mark Herzlich of Boston College for example. Jones was a tackling machine at middle linebacker for the Spartans, winning All-American honors since his freshman season. Yet most feel his 5-foot-11 frame would not hold up at that position in the NFL. Herzlich, on the other hand, was a devastating pass rusher at BC that could also effectively defend in coverage prior to illness. Cincinnati Bengals linebacker coach Paul Guenther, who's coaching both linebackers for the North squad, told us Jones would be best at outside linebacker (weak-side) in a four-man front in the NFL while he projects Herzlich to inside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.

PAULINE: Senior Bowl practice report: Day 1

Much to the surprise of many, neither Jim Harbaugh nor any of his 49ers">49ers staff will attend the Senior Bowl. With the team desperately needs a quarterback and there are few potential prospects in Mobile, most thought the quarterback savvy coach would make an appearance to evaluate the talent.

Defensive tackle Stephen Paea of Oregon State suffered a meniscus injury to his right knee during practice Monday and will undergo surgery to repair the damage. Though not serious, the recovery time for such an injury is usually eight weeks and will likely prevent Paea from participating in the Combine.

With all the talk of money being paid to college athletes and players receiving unauthorized training at the expense of NFL agents, it's refreshing to hear a top-rated athlete shun these things in favor of his college degree. Such is the case with Nebraska safety Eric Hagg, a terrific middle-round draft pick that's done well in the early going at the Senior Bowl. Rather than ship off to train at a prominent facility, Hagg opted to prepare for the Senior Bowl and combine on the Nebraska campus so he can fulfill his final 12 hours of credits and receive his degree in sociology.

Several players really stood out in Tuesday's practice at the Senior Bowl. Here are the highlights.

Brooks Reed/DL-OLB/Arizona: Reed has been nearly unstoppable the past two days. He's showed great skill rushing the passer as well as the athleticism necessary to chase the action in backside pursuit. Reed is projected by many to line-up at outside linebacker in the NFL and was effective Tuesday the few times he was asked to stand up over tackle.

Titus Young/WR/Boise State: In a senior class void of talent at the receiver position, Young is making the most of his opportunity in Mobile. Young has been the quickest, fastest and most explosive receiver at the Senior Bowl. He's also done a good job catching the ball and many have compared his playmaking skills to Philadelphia Eagles star DeSean Jackson. Young is establishing himself as the top senior wide out in the draft.

Christian Ballard/DL/Iowa: Ballard beat blockers all day with his quickness, explosiveness and athleticism. He showcased a variety of moves, played with a non-stop motor and was constantly setting up shop behind the line of scrimmage. Most impressive of all was Ballard doing his damage at a variety of positions, lining up at both defensive tackle and end.

Ahmad Black/S/Florida: Black was considered a one-dimensional safety for most of his college career and viewed primarily as a run stuffer. But he's starting to change that opinion with his play in Mobile. Black has displayed effective skills against the pass and stood out in both one-on-one drills as well as during the scrimmage. He's made a number of terrific plays and has displayed himself as a defensive back that gets outside the numbers to assist cornerbacks.

Vincent Brown/WR/San Diego State: Brown has established himself as one of the most reliable receivers at the Senior Bowl. He runs solid routes, which enables him to consistently come free from defenders and the Aztec product always comes away with the reception. What's very impressive is how Brown fights defensive backs for the ball, and the way he's won out the past two days.

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