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Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson are almost universally viewed as the top four quarterbacks for the 2023 NFL draft class.
Three of the four are underclassmen, though. Levis chose not to participate in this year’s Senior Bowl, as he continues to recover from injuries he suffered through his final season on campus. One source went as far as telling Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline that Levis’ decision not to participate in any all-star festivities bordered on “occupational suicide.”
Without any of the top prospects, the Senior Bowl turned to a Heisman Trophy finalist, the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns, Louisville’s all-time leader in total touchdowns, one of the most accurate passers in BYU’s history and the reigning first- team All-Mountain West and All-AAC quarterbacks.
Despite the accolades, the group got off to a slow start Tuesday. On Wednesday, we created some separation.
TCU’s Max Duggan has a slight edge over the rest of the group through two practice days. Duggan has gotten the ball out quickly, extended plays, showed anticipation and completed a few tight-window throws. Duggan is generally considered a middle-round possibility, but another strong day of practice, coupled with a solid-to-good performance in the all-star game, could push him to the top of the second tier of incoming signal-callers.
Louisville’s Malik Cunningham could overtake Duggan depending on how he performs through the rest of the week. Cunningham is the most natural athlete of those in Mobile with the best overall arm talent. However, he has a small and slender frame (6’0″, 188 lbs).
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Cunningham didn’t take the field until Wednesday after playing in the NFLPA Game and showed the tools to possibly stake his claim as the best in Mobile.
From there, BYU’s Jaren Hall hasn’t made the type of throws to make scouts notice. Fresno State’s Jake Haener forces the ball into coverage too often, albeit he’s playing with all-new teammates. So his strengths —such as anticipation, touch and feel in the pocket—don’t really come to the forefront in this setting. Finally, Shepherd’s Tyson Bagent sprayed balls all over the field and lacked any consistency with his placement or his decision-making. The Division II prospect can push the ball downfield, but inconsistency stems from poor mechanics.
In previous years, quarterbacks used the Senior Bowl as a stage to propel themselves further up draft boards or solidify themselves as top prospects. As it now sits, this year’s crop doesn’t feature a spotlight performer, though the possibility still exists they can impress both on and off the field to work their way into a Day 2 selection.
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– Four wide receivers continue to impress through two days of practices.
Michigan’s Ronnie Bell is a very consistent possession receiver who routinely made contested catches. Michigan State’s Jayden Reed serves as deep threat with the twitch to beat defenders at the line of scrimmage and creativity in his routes to get consistently open. Houston’s Tank Dell works well off releases and runs good routes. Stanford’s Elijah Higgins almost looks like a tight end with his 6’3″, 228-pound frame. He plays that way as well by using his size to body off defenders with proper positioning to snap passes.
– On the other side of the ball, multiple talented defensive backs flashed with quality plays.
Among the National squad, Stanford’s Kyu Blu Kelly had one of the best overall efforts Wednesday with one interception to end a team session and another near-pick during a later period. His anticipation of him in zone coverage is outstanding. Iowa’s Riley Moss is a terrific athlete who came up big Wednesday with an acrobatic interception during the one-on-one period. He has showed the ability to play in man coverage from both press and off alignments.
Virginia’s Anthony Johnson Jr. had a good day of practice on the American side of the ledger. He has very good length and size (6’1″, 207 lbs) and with the movement skills necessary to compete. His coverage has been sticky with a slight blend of physicality. Kansas State’s Julius Brents also brings excellent size (6’3″ , 202 lbs) with the ability to match up against smaller, twitchier receivers, plus the fluidity to drop his hips and get out of breaks with little wasted movement.
– Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore continues to impress. The 6’2″, 284-pound defensive lineman bumped outside and spent most of Wednesday at defensive end, after playing plenty of 3-technique during the previous day. Adebawore has the quickness to beat blockers off the snap yet the build and strength to hold at the point of attack.
– Tulane’s Tyjae Spears has dynamic change-of-direction skills. His stop-start quickness after pressing the hole allows him to bounce runs to the outside, where he ripped off a couple of long gainers.
– North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch continues to switch positions. After primarily playing left guard during the National squad’s first practice, the collegiate left tackle started to snap the ball and got multiple reps in one-on-ones and team sessions at center.
— Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu plays so much bigger than his listed measurements of 6’3″ and 217 pounds. He flies downhill with nasty intentions to play through blocks and blow up plays. He also has the length and fluidity to drop into coverage and affect throwing lanes.
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– Texas running back Roschon Johnson broke his hand during Tuesday’s practice but continued to play through the injury. According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel and Matt Miller, the injury won’t require surgery, though his week in Mobile is done.
– After setting the scouting world abuzz Tuesday, Ohio State’s Dawand Jones didn’t participate during Wednesday’s practice. The massive right tackle reported “concussion-like symptoms” with a headache, and medical personnel removed him from the action for precautionary reasons, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Jones’ status for the rest of the week remains to be determined.
– Oklahoma offensive tackle Wanya Morris walked gingerly off the field with trainers before the American team’s practice ended.
5 Questions with Tennessee OT Darnell Wright
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B/R: As a junior, you started at left tackle, even though the previous two seasons were primarily spent on the right side. This season, a move back to right tackle occurred. Are you more comfortable on the strong side?
DW: “I’ve had more experience on that side. I’ve been through two full training camps at right tackle. it’s just what I’ve done the most.”
B/R: Are NFL teams asking about the possibility of being a left tackle and to work out at that position?
DW: “Either way, I’m hoping to show I can play both. Having previously played both, I feel comfortable after continuing to work on each side. My primary experience might be at right tackle and they’ve seen me there. I believe I can do either, if need be.”
B/R: At 6’5″ and 342 pounds yet only 21 years old, what kind of growth potential can still be found in your game?
DW: “I think I can still get stronger. My body getting stronger, as a whole, will come with age and time.”
B/R: Is your primary goal this draft cycle to show your versatility or improve on technique?
DW: “It’s a little bit of everything. I want to show consistency throughout everything that I do. I think my film shows flashes. A trend upward exists throughout the years. It comes down to consistency, which is important to show at the Senior Bowl .”
B/R: What did it mean to be a team leader during the resuscitation of the Tennessee Volunteers football program?
DW: “It feels good to be a part of something special that we had been working toward for a long time. When you put all of the work into something, it’s great to reap the benefits.”
bleacher report scout Cory Giddings contributed to this notebook.