As the NFL season moves toward the ultimate party, the Super Bowl, the focus of many of the teams is what is required to move to the next level. A big part of the NFL offseason is for each of the 32 NFL teams to discover those gems to take their respective teams to the next level. The first step in this process is the annual Senior Bowl held each year in Mobile, Alabama.
After two losses in a row, the North Squad defeated the South Squad, 31-13. The main backstory leading up to this game was the performance of proclaimed former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow of the Florida Gators. Other stories would include which player or players would change the draft order with their game this week. The teams were coached by Jim Schwartz and his Detroit Lions team (North team), and Tony Sparano and his Miami Dolphins team (South team).
Since winning the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship as a freshman (2007), and another National Championship in 2009, expectations have been high for Tebow to head to the NFL. Many have questioned his mechanics and ability to lead an NFL-style offense. No one can question your heart or your work ethic. However, the heart is not a successful NFL quarterback.
Tim Tebow struggled all week in practice, especially with his pocket mechanics and conscience. He started the game by completing his first 11-yard pass, and that turned out to be his longest pass of the game. He finished 8-12 for 50 yards and missed twice. His units brought him a total of 3 points. This was certainly not a promising start to his NFL career.
The former Heisman trophy winner wasn’t the only NFL contender on the field. This game was dominated by the North from start to finish, with most of the action happening at the scrimmage line. Led by Eric Olsen and Mike Iupati, the offensive line provided the running and passing lanes for the group of quarterbacks leading the North offense. Altogether, the North generated more than 460 yards. Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard accounted for 179 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
Also impressive on offense was the play of Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour. He led the North to two touchdowns in the second half, scoring a TD and passing through another. LeFevour had a good command of the offense and showed leadership in moving the ball down the field.
However, the true story of the game was the game of defending the North. Led by Brandon Graham (Michigan), Sean Witherspoon (Missouri) and Daryl Washington (TCU) they were able to force a total of 6 turnovers. Brandon Graham had 2 sacks and 3 tackles for a loss and was consistently in front of the southern quarterbacks. Sean Witherspoon was as effective in passing coverage as he was in stopping the run. Witherspoon was also dominant on special teams. Daryl Washington recorded 4 solo tackles.
All of Brandon Graham’s effort, which also included a forced fumble, resulted in him winning the game’s MVP award. That was his stated mission heading into the Senior Bowl. During an interview on the sidelines during the game, he said his goal was to get in and win the MVP. His game on Saturday may have pushed him into the first round, where he is projected to be a DE or outside linebacker.
The Senior Bowl is just the beginning of the pre-draft events. The next stop for many of these athletes, including freshmen who drop out of college early, is the NFL Combine. The Combine is an invitation-only event, where players can essentially show their skill in a skill competition. The Combine, along with individual pro days attended by NFL scouts; They represent the last chance before the draft for these players to establish their potential value.
The first step has been taken by these young people. The drama will continue for Tebow watchers. However, those who love soccer should keep an eye on many of the other youngsters like Graham, Weatherspoon, Hilyard and others.