There aren't many sporting events where the lead-up is actually more prominent than the actual game. But the Senior Bowl is definitely one exception.
Most of the coaches, scouts and front-office personnel spend most of the week in Mobile, Ala., watching the practices and then they're long gone when the game takes place.
But since we were down in Mobile for the majority of the time, we can at least finish it off with a game recap.
To some surprise, the South handily defeated the North, 24-10 Saturday. It was only considered a surprise since there are more projected first-round picks on the North squad. But the South team looked much more functional and played more as a team. (Hey, maybe Chan Gailey and his Bills staff is on to something!)
But Florida State's Christian Ponder started the game at quarterback, threw two touchdowns en route to an Offensive MVP award. Ponder was 7-of-13 for 132 yards and two scores.
On the defensive side, Texas A&M's Von Miller took the top defensive honors. Miller, the highest-projected overall player at the Senior Bowl, didn't disappoint, despite trying to convert to an outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. Whatever his position might be, Miller can play some football and he did it Saturday. Miller was credited for four tackles, including two for loss.
As for the some other guys who stood out:
· Miami, Fla. WR Leonard Hankerson (6-1, 205) had a great week of practice and wasted no time in making some big plays Saturday. He caught a 49-yard pass from Ponder to start the game, and finished the drive with a touchdown pass for an early 7-0 lead for the South. Hankerson led all players with 100 yards receiving.
· Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is another "tweener" player, but also like Miller, was a force off the edge for the North team. Kerrigan spent most of the day harassing the South quarterbacks and proved he could be a solid pass-rusher at the next level.
· Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor certainly has a first-round body – at 6-3, 337 with phenomenal strength. The question mark on him is character and playing consistently. He was consistent every day in practice and then carried it to the game. Taylor might be headed towards the late first round if he has a solid workout and interviews at the combine.
· Taylor's college teammate – Danny Watkins of Baylor, is another guy who probably made himself some money this week. Watkins, who a former firefighter in Canada until just four years ago, is still learning how to play football but he catches on quick. Even this week, his first three days ever to play guard, Watkins (6-3, 312) was impressive and carried into this game on Saturday, where he started at left guard. For a guy who can play two positions, with great strength, he will be a hot commodity come draft day.
· Georgia guard Clint Boling (6-4, 310) was also a standout for the South offensive line. Boling showed an impressive amount of ability, especially to pull on sweeps and screens.
· Boise State WRs Austin PettisandTitus Young were good all week long, and although Young had a tough drop pass early in the game, both of them helped their stock this week. Young is probably the fastest player at the Senior Bowl. Everyone loves speed.
· On the flip side, Colorado OT Nate Solder didn't have his best game on Saturday. If Von Miller was the top player here, then Solder was pretty much No. 2. But he didn't carry a great week of practice into the game. He gave up a sack early in the game and had some other rough moments against speed rushers.
· Washington QB Jake Locker was probably the biggest name of the entire week, but wasn't overly impressive in the game. Locker was 6-of-10 for 98 yards.
So that's it for the Senior Bowl. Now it's on to the Pro Bowl on Sunday, and then of course the Super Bowl this week. Who says Bowl week is in December and early January?