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Senior Bowl: QBs Kaepernick, Ponder have some proving to do

The quarterback position is the obvious focal point for any offense. Handling the ball on every play will tend to get you that kind of attention. But for a couple of quarterbacks on hand at this year's Senior Bowl there is some criticism to dispel.

University of Nevada signal caller Colin Kaepernick became just the third college player in NCAA history to rush for 20 touchdowns and pass for 20 in the same season joining Auburn's Cam Newton and former Florida QB Tim Tebow, who eclipsed those numbers in 2009.

Kaepernick also led the Wolfpack to a 12-1 record including an upset win over Boise State to ruin the Broncos national title hopes. His leadership and production are undeniable after he became the first player in NCAA history to pass for more than 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.  He's the only player in NCAA annals to rush for more than 4,000 yards and throw for more than 10,000.

All of those credentials are a big reason why Kaepernick is on the North team roster at the Senior Bowl in the first place, but Kaepernick believes he still has some convincing to do under center.

"I think just being able to run a pro style offense, being able to be a pocket passer are things that a lot of scouts have kind of knocked me on," Kaepernick said. "They say, 'You come from a pistol offense. You don't take snaps under center. Can you do that?' This week is my real chance to show them I can run a pro style offense. I can drop back, make my reads and complete the football."

As far as North team head coach Marvin Lewis is concerned, so far so good.

"I think Colin has come in and done a nice job," Lewis said. "He's adjusted well. He's got his footwork down. We had some free runners come through (on pass rush) and he was able to focus and move around in the pocket and get the ball downfield. That's an NFL requirement for the quarterback position."

There has also been talk that NFL coaches may want to alter his throwing motion, which has a big windup and is thought by some to be inconsistent when he's on the move. However, with his rock solid intangibles and a burning determination most evaluators believe Kaepernick's future in the league is one that could pay big dividends in time.

For Christian Ponder the questions that linger about his game are decidedly different. Playing in a pro style offense at Florida State he would appear to be a prospect that could potentially step into an NFL lineup early in his career and contribute.

His on field leadership skills throughout his career with the Seminoles has been readily apparent on a week-to-week basis in both his play and communication with teammates.

"I think ever since elementary school I've been in leadership positions and stuff and at quarterback it better come natural or you're not going to be a good quarterback," he said. "You've got to work on it definitely, but for me it usually comes natural."

Ponder's question marks lie chiefly with staying healthy after sustaining a grade three shoulder separation as a junior that required surgery, followed by a bursa sac injury in his throwing arm and a concussion at the close of his senior season.

"Yeah it was tough," said Ponder of having to deal with the injuries this past season. "I always did everything I could to get on the field, but it kind of started in Week 2 that I started battling injuries. It was frustrating, but the good thing was we were winning so that cures a lot of things and made it a lot better."

Ponder, who would have the bursa sac in his throwing arm drained each week so that he could still play during the season, feels good about the state of his throwing arm heading into this pre-draft process.

"I'm good," said Ponder. "I think it was a misnomer that it was my elbow. It was actually my forearm below my elbow. I'm 100 percent. I had surgery before the bowl game to clean it up and took a couple of hits on it in the bowl game and it was fine. So it's 100 percent."

South team head coach Chan Gailey thought Ponder's arm was sound after watching him make some downfield throws on Tuesday.

"He has a good arm," Gailey said. "I'm glad to see that his arm problems look to be behind him. He's thrown the ball well and probably thrown the deep ball better than any of the (three QBs) to this point. Christian is probably the more prototypical quarterback size-wise. He's the taller, bigger of the three."

Ponder has also been knocked for making the costly mistake late in games, which happened a few too many times in the eyes of scouts. Looking off safeties more effectively and sensing pressure more consistently are areas where scouts want to see improvement.

All that he and Kaepernick can do now is perform well in the practice setting and put on a good showing Saturday knowing it will be the last true game-like atmosphere prior to the draft to convince the naysayers.

"I'm settling in," said Ponder. "I'm getting used to the terminology and calling things out and I feel pretty comfortable. You have to take advantage of the opportunities your given."

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