The Senior Bowl is next week and since the National Championship game has ended, there has been a plethora of things to happen since. For one, there will be no NFL combine this year in Indianapolis, at least not in the traditional fashion. Schools will have their pro days and it is going to be fully virtual.
Since this news came out, you have seen a lot more big-name players get that invite. The National Champions have added four of their own to the Senior Bowl (Mac Jones, Devonte Smith, Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood) and North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt and his brother Sage Surratt from Wake Forest.
There will be a lot going on and it will be fun to watch how these guys interact with each other out of their comfort zones. With that being said, let us dig into a few guys to keep our close on eye this upcoming week.
Grant Stuard - LB - Houston
The long flowing locks won't get you missed by many. Grant Stuard is one of those players that coaches crave. He is an athletic and very energetic player. Stuard has seen time all over the field playing at running back, safety, nickel cornerback and linebacker. In 2020, Stuard played full-time at linebacker, amassing 55 tackles in only seven games. He has an excellent tackling technique and will bring down the ball-carrier when he hits you. However, to be that three-down linebacker at the next level, Stuard will have to work on his cover skills. He will have his chance at the Senior Bowl to prove that he belongs in the NFL Draft.
Tarron Jackson - DL - Coastal Carolina
He is a prospect that has gone under the radar. That's until Coastal Carolina worked their way up to an 11-1 season and a No.12 ranking in the final poll. Tarron Jackson was a leader for that Chanticleers defense. Jackson finished his senior season with 38 tackles, nine sacks and 39 quarterback hurries. Going up against some of the best seniors in this class, it will be vital for Jackson to show what he has against better competition and move his name up draft boards before the 2021 NFL Draft. Jackson was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award and a semi-finalist for the Bednarik Award.
Justin Hilliard - LB - Ohio State
He will be one of three senior linebackers representing Ohio State while playing in this year's Senior Bowl. Justin Hilliard and his teammates Tuf Borland and Baron Browing will show off their skills and prove to go to the next level. Some will argue that Hilliard was one of the Buckeyes' best defensive players this year, even though he only started three games, including the National Championship game against Alabama. Hilliard was a massive part of that game and showed his worth. When Hilliard is on the field, he made plays. Hilliard is an outstanding tacker and has a great football IQ when it comes to reading where the ball carrier is headed. Injuries (Achilles and biceps) have made a significant impact on his college career.
Ambry Thomas - DB - Michigan
He opted out of the 2020 season in August, so we couldn't see him play this year. Well, now we will get the chance to see him in a bit of action during the Senior Bowl this week. Ambry Thomas is a speedy cornerback that can also see time in the return game. He has had only one year of college experience, playing only a total of 128 snaps before his 2019 season. Thomas lacks the size and physicality and can get overpowered by bigger wide receivers. It will take a big Senior Bowl week from Thomas to show what he can do on the field against players like DeVonta Smith.
This year’s Senior Bowl seems to carry a lot more weight than in years past with no combine and only pro days. Many players have a lot riding on this upcoming week that can make or break their draft stock. This week we went over four defensive players; next week, before the Senior Bowl, we will go over four under-the-radar offensive players to keep an eye on.