The college all-star game circuit is already past the midway point with the Tropic Bowl and East-West Shrine game in the rearview mirror for NFL college scouting departments. This week practices begin for the most renowned college all-star showcase, the Senior Bowl. Buffalobills.com will be providing coverage all week long and the John Murphy Show will be broadcasting live from Mobile for most of the week.
Here now are some of the notable names and storylines that will likely headline the week leading up to Saturday's game at Ladd-Peebles stadium.
Who's throwing?There are eight quarterbacks slated to be participating in Mobile this week. While Alabama's Jake Coker will be the one flooded by autograph seekers in Crimson Tide territory, there are a few others with a specific to-do list this week.
Louisiana Tech QB Jeff Driskell, a Florida transfer, has great size and a quality deep ball, but during the practice week he'll need to demonstrate improved accuracy and touch in the intermediate passing game. Something that plagued him even in his very productive senior season.
North Dakota State's Carson Wentz and the Bison capped another FCS title season, but he'll need to prove that he can perform against top flight FBS talent in Mobile this week to ease concerns about the level of competition he faced during his college career.
USC signal caller Cody Kesslersaw his throwing opportunities in an altered Trojan offense reduced in his final collegiate season. Kessler has to prove he can make all the throws as he's among the slightest in stature at quarterback at 6-1 and 215 pounds.
And Stanford's Kevin Hogan has a great college resume, but he has to convince NFL scouts that his unorthodox throwing mechanics can get the job done at the pro level.
Size on the edgesSometimes the Senior Bowl rosters aren't blessed with a tremendous amount of top end talent due to a large number of underclassmen declaring the year before, injured seniors or elite prospects who choose not to take the risk of getting hurt. Most NFL execs believe the talent on hand this week is pretty solid across the board, and if there's one area where the Senior Bowl is particularly strong is size.
Edge players on both sides of the ball will have the measurables when it comes to height. Eighteen players will measure in Monday at 6-6 or taller. Among the tallest players on hand in Mobile this week are BYU DE Bronson Kaufusi, Stanford OT Kyle Murphy, Penn State DE Carl Nassib and IndianaOT JasonSpriggs who all measure 6-7. Baylor DE Shawn Oakmanis the tallest at a towering 6-9.
Position transitionEvery year there are players trying to make a position change to enhance their chances at making it in the NFL. Ohio State's Braxton Miller began his transition from quarterback to wide receiver a full season prior to arriving in Mobile.
Miller played wideout for the Buckeyes in 2015 and had 26 catches for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He also 42 carries for 260 yards and a touchdown leaving some scouts wondering if the better transition would be to running back.
If Miller can't prove to be a technician with his route running to gain consistent separation, moving to running back might be the only avenue left to a viable NFL career for the former quarterback.
Another player whose size could mandate a position transition is OklahomaOLB Erik Striker. Lined up mainly as a stand-up edge pass rusher by the Sooners, Striker at just six-foot will have to show an ability to drop and cover and run and hit at the second level knowing most see him as a WILL linebacker in a 4-3 system.
Questions to answerJust about every prospect at the Senior Bowl has something to prove. Here are some of the players with some specific questions to answer this week.
DT Sheldon Day – Notre Dame – He was one of the more disruptive interior defenders in college football in 2015, but NFL scouts want to see if he can anchor against the run. His best fit is as a three-technique penetrator, but he'll help himself if he can show an ability to stand in and grind in run defense.
RB Kenyan Drake – Alabama – He was one of the most explosive players in the SEC, but no one saw much of him with just 77 carries in 2015 as he was buried on the depth chart. While he has physical tools suitable for the NFL level, Drake has to demonstrate that he can handle the physical demands at running back in the NFL. He'll need to excel in pass protection and run hard inside this week to help sell talent evaluators.
DE Noah Spence – Eastern Kentucky – An Ohio State transfer, Spence who was kicked out of the Big Ten for his addiction to Ecstasy, rehabilitated himself and passed a host of drug tests to resume his college career at Eastern Kentucky. He has first-round talent, but this is a giant week for him, perhaps more so in interviews with teams than on the field.
OT Cole Toner – Harvard – The Crimson product is a two-time First Team All-Ivy League selection as he was part of one of the best offensive lines in school history. The right tackle now has to show he can mirror and grapple with some of the top Power 5 conference defensive ends in Mobile.