Senior Bowl: Added players want chance to shine

The South squad wrapped up practice on Thursday and the only thing left is walkthroughs and the game on Saturday. The stands continue to empty out and scouts missed three new prospects that joined the South squad.

Wide receiver Airese Currie replaced Roddy White on the South roster. Currie looked a little slim on the field but displayed his trademark quickness and athleticism.

Currie led the team with 61 receptions for 868 yards, including 14 of twenty-plus yards.

The Clemson Tiger flew into Mobile early Thursday morning and was on no sleep. He arrived at 10:30 AM and was thrown right into the fire on Thursday afternoon, running routes against the defensive backs and trying to be noticed.

"It wasn't too bad," Currie explained after practice. "Getting used to the terminology and getting accustomed to hearing it – it wasn't too bad. I picked up on the pace pretty well."

He admitted he was "tired, worn out" from the late flight in but he was not ready to trade the exposure for anything. Currie had set one of his goals to make the Senior Bowl roster and not be on standby as an injury replacement.

"I really wanted to be here," Currie said. "I wanted to show the scouts what I could do because we didn't get a chance to play in a Bowl game (at Clemson). It was an obligation for me to get out here and compete one last time before I moved on."

Currie will be in the lineup on Saturday, another day to prove his worth to the NFL scouts. They may not be in attendance, but they will surely watch the game tape when some of the best in the ranks of college football play each other.

Nick Collins, a defensive back out of Bethune-Cookman, got into town on Wednesday night and dove into the playbook. Collins is here to replace Eric Green and Carlos Rogers – still on the roster but out with hamstring injuries.

Collins, a soft-spoken athletic corner, is following in the footsteps of Rashean Mathis, another protégée from the Wildcat program. Collins admits that he has leaned on Mathis when they cross paths and Mathis has given him advice to make it to the next level.

Collins collected six interceptions his senior season of college had 44.5 tackles and 13 pass breakups, leading the team in all three categories.

According to head Jon Gruden, Collins will have an easy time making the transition. He says there are only so many coverage's that the South will run while Currie has to learn 58 pass plays.

"It is a challenge," Gruden said. "It is certainly not as challenging on a corner because there are such limited coverage's."

"It was difficult for me on the first day trying to learn everything," Collins said. "I am trying to learn everything as quick as possible. I think I have it."

Coming out so late in the week could be a detriment to a player like Collins. He has a lot on the line this week, especially coming from a small school.

"Hopefully they will watch the game films and I will make some great plays," he said.

While noting that he wants to make plays, Collins also was mindful of making sure he comes across as a quality person.

"My character is going to play a big part in this, getting to the next level," said Collins.

The last member to join the South squad is offensive lineman Michael Watson out of West Virginia. With the team out of pads, Watson will do most of his learning on the field on Saturday.

Gruden called his job the toughest to learn.

"It's too bad we didn't have the pads on today," the coach said. "Given that we are at the end of the week, it is hard to get a real good feel about a guy like Michael Watson. You can speed and transition in Curry. You can see that Collins has athleticism."

The coach admitted that Watson might be limited on the field. With so little time to teach him the gameplan, he is not worried about putting him in jeopardy, injury-wise.

"I am going to try and live in my hopes and not in my fears," said Gruden. "This is a guy that knows how to play football. He has played a lot of football at West Virginia. We will count on him being ready."

One thing that is certain, none of the players will be enjoying the Mardi Gras parade in Mobile. With such close scrutiny all-around, they can ill afford to have something go wrong outside the gates of the hotel.

A few players hesitantly admitted that they had been to Bourbon Street but all were careful enough to say they would not be joining the festivities of Thursday night.

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