Denard Robinson will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Antwaan Randle El at this year's Senior Bowl.
The 63rd Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., kicks off Saturday (Jan. 26, 2013) at 4 p.m. EST on NFL Network â or Ladd-Peebles Stadium, if you want to scout from a front row seat. Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions are coaching the South squad, with Dennis Allen and the Oakland Raiders leading the North team.
But hereâs what to really watch for between the lines once the game gets going:
1. Elite Left Tackles
Texas A&M true junior Luke Joekel isnât eligible to compete at the Senior Bowl; heâll probably be kicking it with Johnny Football attempting ridiculous trick shots or gambling or something else crazy. Joekel is considered this yearâs top left tackle prospect â and a legit candidate to go No. 1 overall in the draft to the Kansas City Chiefs.
But a pair of first-round candidates will be in Mobile. Central Michiganâs Eric Fisher (6â7â, 305) will man the blindside up North and Oklahomaâs Lane Johnson (6â6â, 303) handles the big money spot down South. Both dancing bears have been cashing in during practice all week, with Fisher working his way into fringe-top-10-pick range.
2. QB Shuffle
Before arriving on the scene at Super Bowl XLVII, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick were low profile Senior Bowl quarterbacks from Delaware and Nevada, respectively. But they arenât the only recent success stories, four Senior Bowl quarterbacks have been taken in the first-round over the past three drafts.
This year crop of QBs includes NC Stateâs Mike Glennon, Arkansasâ Tyler Wilson, Oklahomaâs Landry Jones, Syracuseâs Ryan Nassib, Florida Stateâs EJ Manuel and Miami (Ohio)âs Zac Dysert. With so many teams still unsettled at quarterback, one of these signal-callers could make a late charge up draft boards like Vanderbiltâs Jay Cutler (No. 11 in 2006) or TCUâs Andy Dalton (No. 35 in 2011).
3. Family Traditions
Several familiar surnames will be doing pops and/or big bro proud in Mobile.
Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant studded out during practice this week and might have earned a first-round grade â although he wonât go as high as Marcus Trufant (No. 11) did out of Washington State back in 2003.
USC safety T.J. McDonald weighed in at 6â2â and 205 pounds, with a similar frame to his old man Tim (6â2â, 215) â who went on to a six-time All-Pro and Super Bowl XXIX championship career after being the No. 34 pick in 1987.
Oregon O-lineman Kyle Long is the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of former No. 2 pick Rams defensive end Chris Long. After measuring in at 6â7â, 312 with shorter than expected arms, Kyle may have to kick in from tackle to guard â but heâs still likely to carry on the Long tradition of his NFL family.
4. Denard X-Factor
The Senior Bowl has proven to be fertile proving ground for quarterbacks-turned-receivers/runners/return-specialists like Indianaâs Antwaan Randle El (MVP in 2002) and West Virginiaâs Pat White (MVP in 2009) â both of whom went on to be second-round picks after MVP efforts in the Senior Bowl.
This year, Michiganâs Denard Robinson has had a choppy week of practice while trying to prove he can successfully transition from quarterback to triple-threat playmaker. âShoelaceâ will have one last shot to perform in pads â after a career that saw Denard X. pass for 6,250 yards, rush for 4,459 yards and account for 91 total TDs.
5. Raw, Unreal Athletes
Although Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker wonât play in Saturday afternoonâs game, Danny Lee Jesus stole the show during weigh-ins earlier in the week â checking in at 6â5â, 355 pounds and carrying his weight with impressive ease. Fluker's fellow Crimson Tide national champion, linebacker Nico Johnson, will give local Bama fans a reason to yell "Roll Tide," however, so Nick Saban's club will be well represented.
On game day, all eyes will be on potential 3-4 elephant man Ezekiel âZiggyâ Ansah, BYUâs 6â5â, 270-pound pass rushing specimen who has only been playing football for three years but has been called the ânext Jason Pierre-Paulâ by some. A few splash plays in the Senior Bowl would go a long way to securing Ziggyâs status as a first-rounder.
Arguably the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the Senior Bowl â and maybe the entire 2013 draft pool â is 359-pound Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins. To no oneâs surprise, Jenkins was the heaviest man on the scales in Mobile and will be one of the players with the most ground to gain or lose on Saturday.