Notebook: Savage’s Senior Bowl standouts

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage offered his opinion on some of the standouts this week. Plus Auburn coach Gus Malzahn speaks, a small-college lineman impresses and injury updates.

MOBILE, Ala. — The Senior Bowl wrapped up its practice sessions on Thursday afternoon at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, but several players were able to leave positive impressions on the scouts in attendance.

One of those scouts was Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, the former Cleveland Browns general manager.

“Big people that jumped into my vision were Laken Tomlinson from Duke, offensive guard,” Savage said Thursday. “I’d say Carl Davis from Iowa definitely helped himself this week. Defensive tackle. Skill-wise, I thought Phillip Dorsett’s speed was quite obvious. I thought he showed a lot more skill as a route runner than maybe people anticipated. Then how about Kevin White from TCU, the corner? I thought he was very good.”

Savage’s opinion carries weight in NFL circles after working in the league as a coach, scout and executive for 20 years, including his time with the Browns and also as director of college scouting and later director of player personnel with the Baltimore Ravens.

Alabama coach Nick Saban visited Tuesday’s South squad practice in Fairhope to check out his players.

On Thursday, it was Auburn coach Gus Malzahn who stopped by Ladd-Peebles Stadium to watch his contingent of participants on the South team.

Malzahn met with the media for a few minutes and answered a variety of questions, including about whether he would be interested in coaching in the NFL at some point.

“I’m happy at Auburn,” he said. “I love being at Auburn. We’ve got a bright future, a lot of great things going on. We just need to get back to winning championships.”

Malzahn spoke glowingly, as expected, when asked about several of his former players, including quarterback-turned-cornerback Nick Marshall, wide receiver Sammie Coates and defensive tackle Gabe Wright.

But the coach was perhaps the most enthusiastic when speaking about running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who rushed for 1,608 yards and 13 touchdowns this past season.

“Cameron Artis-Payne’s a winner,” Malzahn said. “He does all the little things right. The protections. He blocks. He check-downs. He’s got good hands. He just does everything. He’s a great worker. Cam’s got a lot of winner in him.”

The coach was also asked about standout receiver Duke Williams deciding to return for his senior season and not leave early like Coates decided to do.

“He wanted to. He said he had some unfinished business,” Malzahn said. “He said, ‘Coach, I want to come back.’ Him and Jeremy (Johnson), they have been throwing on their own. He’s excited. He’s got a chance to really be a special player we feel like.”

Williams led Auburn with 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns this past season despite missing two games. The 6-foot-2, 216-pounder had seven receptions for 121 yards against rival Alabama but missed the Outback Bowl after being suspended for a violation of an undisclosed team rule.

One of the most interesting players in Mobile was offensive lineman Ali Marpet from Division III Hobart, which is located in Geneva, N.Y.

After measuring nearly 6-4 and 307 pounds on Tuesday, Marpet proved during the three practice sessions that he was worthy of the invitation. He more than held his own, which will make him a name to watch in the middle rounds of the upcoming draft.

Marpet was selected as the Liberty League co-offensive player of the year, becoming the first offensive lineman in the league’s history to be so honored. He started 13 games at left tackle as a senior and did not allow a sack.

Wright, the Auburn defensive tackle, and Missouri defensive end Markus Golden both missed the South’s practice on Thursday after suffering injuries. Those two have been among the most impressive players in practices this week.

Wright, who injured his left foot in practice Wednesday, is expected to play in the Senior Bowl on Saturday.

Golden pulled his groin during Wednesday’s practice. His availability for Saturday’s game is uncertain.

Savage announced on Twitter on Wednesday that a few players would miss the Senior Bowl after suffering injuries.

Those players were UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis, Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd, TCU offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje and Penn State linebacker Mike Hull. Senior Bowl Coverage

Rosters: North South

Practice schedules: Tuesday through Thursday.

Game: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. (NFL Network)

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at

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