Senior Bowl Is Serious Business

NFL Scouts are in their element this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, and many college players are outside of familiar elements for the first time in a few years. Name and reputation might give one player a head start over another, but with very few exceptions, everyone in Mobile has the same shot to impress the scouts or regress with them, steadily affecting their NFL Draft status at the end of April.

The Senior Bowl is the first big event in the draft preparation. Players will flock to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on February 23rd for the next big event. Then many players will have a shot to work out in front of teams as scouts travel in a group to several colleges, including Alabama, for a pro day.

Alabama players at the senior bowl are getting the once over more times this week than they have in the last 4-5 years. In Scout.com's practice and weigh-in notes players whose styles and tendencies we came to no well are getting a fresh look.

The weigh in notes are interesting to us because they can be interpreted to speak to the worth of Alabama's strength and conditioning program. True, a glimmer can be got from that, but it more so seems to demonstrate that players personal motivations are overriding.

It was noted and discussed that Brodie Croyle is "Slender" and "looks like a high school kid". You should have seen him in 2001. That said, Croyle weighed in six pounds heavier than "tone and thick" Roman Harper, and with a larger arm measurement. (Croyle was some two and three quarter inches taller than Harper.)

It's no surprise that Mark Anderson is making a quick name for himself among the scouts. Anderson had an outstanding senior season, but he still never exploded on opposing teams like many of us expected him to. His first step has forever been one of the fastest on the field, even when he was closer to 200 pounds than the 254 "v-shape and cut" he weighed in at the Senior Bowl.

Early reports from Mobile noted twice his "burst off the edge" and that Anderson is "stronger than expected." The reports also Can be overwhelmed at the point of attack but counters with solid hand play. Anderson's skirmish with Auburn's Marcus McNeil Monday afternoon led the practice notes. McNeil, by the way, was noted for showing up late and for "putrid" overall technique, but McNeil's highlight was knocking Anderson on his back side on a down block.

Senior Bowl practice observations of Freddie Roach and DeMeco Ryans have been interesting to compare. Ryans was noted at the weigh in as "Rock solid" and Roach as "no tone… thick with potential." No surprise there.

Ryans got a downright sour report from Monday, saying that coaches were constantly chiding him. What Alabama fan would have thought that? On Tuesday, the reports lauded his pass coverage ability and said Ryans "struggled in run defense. Again a surprise for the guy who seemed to have his nose in most every running play in the past couple of years.

Roach, the man who had his hands on more would-be interceptions than anyone at Alabama since Antonio Langham, was given high marks for his run-stopping prowess. The notes said he "looks and plays like a two-down defender." Someone tell the NFL that footballs seem to hunt Freddie.

Roman Harper was too deep to stop the run on Monday, but on Tuesday he "worked well in supporting the run." Things can change fast.

The larger question, I suppose, is what do the practice notes on former Tide players say about Alabama? What impact did the program have on them? It might be tempting to evaluate Alabama's strength and conditioning program – or other aspects – based on some of the pro observations. But remembering that these players were a part of many different systems, that's hard to do.

What is easier is to calculate what impact they had on Alabama. From there, how Alabama handles replacing these and the other departed seniors, will say a lot.


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