Notes On Tiders In The Senior Bowl

Having never covered a Senior Bowl in the all-star game's 58-year existence, this year I headed to Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium for a contest featuring six former Alabama players. With Alabama coming off it's 13th national championship, this would be more than the Tim Tebow show. It made this year's game an unofficial championship celebration and a salute to the six ex-Tiders as South all-stars.

The South team, which featured recent Alabama football stars Terrence Cody, Javier Arenas, Mike Johnson, Colin Peek, Roy Upchurch and Leigh Tiffin, lost the game, 31-13. And, as could be expected, and to paraphrase ex-Bama announcer Paul Kennedy, the parking lot and much of the sold-out 40,646 capacity stadium was crimson.

Tiffin, Johnson, and Cody started for the South, and were supported by Julio Jones, who showed up decked in Foley High gear to cheer on his boys Also on hand was Bob Baumhower and CTSN color man Phil Savage. Also spotted: Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Jerrell Harris, Greg McElroy and Preston Dial. This team sticks together. The crowd roared when the PA played "Sweet Home Alabama." Get the picture?. To the categories:

PRESS BOX FARE: After arriving early and having to wait an hour for press box access, we were treated to a pre-game meal of spicy grilled chicken fingers, Italian pasta with meat sauce, Caesar's salad and dessert. Highlight: the brownies. Reminder to self: don't complain about free food, especially with a post-game meal at Felix's Fish Camp on the causeway to look forward to. Duly noted, and in fairness, the half-time chili dog was not half-bad. Not that The Varsity has anything to worry about…

PEEK PERFORMANCE: One of several Tide players who improved their stock at this week's practices was tight end Colin Peek. For the game, Peek overcame an early drop and caught two passes for 31 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown from Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson. Anyone who covered the Crimson Tide this year will tell you Peek is one interesting fellow to talk to. He is basically a different breed of cat. Peek was quite appreciative of the ovations he got in Mobile from Tide fans.

"It was definitely entertaining, playing in Mobile, Alabama in the Senior Bowl, in the home state of the team that you played for in college, and getting a touchdown. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the victory. It was just a tough day for us out there, but I met some great people, and I'm taking a lot of (new) friends away with me from this place."

And he had a quick answer for anyone concerned about a foot injury that hampered him on and off during his college career.

"I know when you've dealt with injuries, teams are going to pry on you, poke and prod you to see if you are 100 per cent, said Peek. "I'm so thankful that I've been able to come out of this situation after dealing with tough injuries like I've had. I think teams are going to look at that, but at the end of the day, I played all season and I'm playing in the Senior Bowl and hopefully will do very well at the combine.

"I would pass a physical with flying colors right now. More people I think worry about that stuff than me. At Alabama they try to be very protective and cautious because they don't want to lose a player during the season."

CHURCH ON SATURDAY: Running back Roy Upchurch was a late addition to the South squad, and feels this week's practices really helped him draft-wise.

"It's been a great week," he said. "It was fun. I still have a little (rehab) work to do, but hard work pays off. I'm just going to just go out and continue to work, and hopefully I can get a shot.

"I'm just glad to be out here. It was a great experience, and I loved representing Alabama. I loved the crowd."

Saturday, Upchurch played sparingly. He had no official stats, but did have a pass glance off his hands.

KICKIN' TIFFIN: Leigh Tiffin hopes this week will get him at least a free-agent tryout for an NFL squad. Tiffin acquitted himself quite well in the game: On PAT's, he was one-for-one. He attempted two field goals and made both , from 43 and 33 yards.

"It went well, man. I thought I did about as well as I could have," said Tiffin, "especially considering the weather out here: cold and windy. I enjoyed this, and I'm glad I came down here."

MIKE MAKES HIS MARK: Guard Mike Johnson started at left guard, and from all accounts, had a good week of practice in the trenches.

"We played pretty hard, but the North just had a better day today," he said, adding that he enjoyed "getting to be around all these players I've watched all year, and getting a chance to know those guys."

CLIMBING MOUNT CODY: The South ran a 4-3 defense so Cody started at defensive tackle rather than his usual nose guard slot, and was credited with three tackles, one for a loss of two yards, and he forced a fumble. Cody showed up weighing 370, and at Monday's weigh-in displayed man-boobs that would make Andre Smith proud. But then the pads went on. Word among opposing offensive lineman was that blocking Terrence Cody, or trying to, was no fun. For his part, Cody is trying to change a stereotype of him held by scouts.

"I'm known as a dominant run stopper, but I also want to be known as a pass rusher. I can start to show that here, where I couldn't show it during the season." As for the game? "We had our little ups and downs. I think I played pretty good. I had a lot of fun, getting to play against a lot of people you really don't get a chance to go against. "

With the NFL Combine looming, Cody added , "I've got to get ready to work."

IN THE ARENA(S): Fan-favorite Javier Arenas's goal this week was to show he was more than just a kick-returner and extra defensive back (but those were the roles played Saturday). Though not a scout, Ole Miss receiver Shay Hodge had played against Arenas three years and all this week in practice. It seems daily work with Nick Saban paid off. Arenas was selected as a captain for the game by his teammates.

Said Hodge: "He's very smart. He pays attention to details on where receivers break, and the number of yards they're supposed to break on. And he's very quick on the ball, When I played against him, we didn't hardly ever go deep. The way he plays his technique, you can't get over the top on him unless you just get way outside him and try to straight up outrun him."

For the day, Arenas didn't officially rack up a lot of stats. He had a huge 60-yard punt return wiped away by penalty, and also lost a 10-yard kick-off return for the same reason. That's 70 yards that did not count. It didn't get better, either. Following a Tim Tebow fumble, Arenas was beaten deep by Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard for a 32-yard TD that put the game out of reach with 11:21 to go

But, as he always does, Arenas will bounce back, get drafted and make a pro team, according to most scouts in attendance.

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