College area scout Todd Brunner checks in for his latest Brunner's Blog, updating you on the Senior Bowl as the week of practice winds down.
There was some bad weather in Atlanta the day before I was supposed to head out and so the morning flight I was scheduled to be on never made it up to Philly. It got cancelled and they bumped me to a later flight and I ended up getting to Mobile late night on Sunday. I did get to catch the fourth quarter of the Giants/Packers game, but unfortunately my bags did not. They ended up in San Antonio, Texas and it took two days before they arrived. So, I was in the same clothes for two days before it got here. Fortunately, nothing was missing so it's just another misadventure by the airlines.
It was great to be down here in Mobile once again, especially since our coaching staff is again coaching the game. We were all talking about how we really won't know what it would be like to be outside of the ropes, because we've been behind the ropes for the last three years, as opposed to the other 30 teams who have to wait in line and try to set up times that most oftem don't end up working out. It's such a big advantage to be able to grab these kids when they are grabbing lunch or dinner or hanging out in the players' lounge. That's a big advantage and we've really gotten to know these kids on a much more friendly basis instead of a formal sit down interview process. I think we are able to talk to these guys and get a more honest answer to our questions than we would on a scheduled interview where things are a bit more rehearsed.
It's great to see my guy from Delaware, quarterback Joe Flacco, down here because it really thrusts him out into the spotlight, and gives him a chance to get some work with a pro coaching staff. It helps him out and he's gotten better every day this week and I think he's opened a lot of eyes. I think he has a great chance of going on the first day of the draft.
I felt like in terms of the North squad, Cal wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins was definitely a guy who stood out. He made some great plays and really showed his speed out there. We had a guy who came in late on our squad from Appalachian State who is really fast as well. If you watched the game where they beat Michigan, this was the wide receiver who was running by everyone.
I was assigned the defensive backs to watch this week and there were several who caught my eye. For the North, the kid from Cal, Thomas Decoud, has stood out. Terrell Thomas from USC stands out because of his size. He's got length as we say in scouting terms, and he uses that to his advantage. One guy I like is the free safety from Notre Dame – Thomas Zbikowski – who is actually a professional boxer. He's an intense player, and the kind of guy you want on your team. He's a guy I think any coach would want because I think he'll just go play football – defense or special teams or anything else you ask of him.
On the South squad, I liked the LSU corner Chevis Jackson and the corner from Troy, Leodis McKelvin. They are both very fluid athletes and will be playing in the league next year with a very good chance to go high in the draft. Other guys who have stood out are Patrick Lee from Auburn and Simeon Castille from Alabama. Castille has played corner, but a little at safety too. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a cousin of the kid in San Diego, who had a huge year for the Chargers. Dominique has had a very good week of practice. He is athletic as all get out. He's a little raw, but he's got tremendous athletic ability and he's made some great interceptions, going up in the air to out jump some people. He's also had some diving catches and he's a guy that with some coaching up on his technique, will to be reckoned with.
My brother Scott came down, a former NFL quarterback, as he has been working with athletes at Test Performance as a secondary business. They train athletes for the Combine, and even high school athletes for college, so he's actually been working with Joe Flacco. Being down here gave him a chance to watch Flacco and to talk to other coaches and scouts about Joe to see what he might need to work on.
The week really slowed down on Thursday withthe last day of padded practice on Wednesday. It's not as intense after that point, and most coaches and scouts take off. After three practices, you've got a pretty good feel for what these guys can do, so most guys schedule flights after Wednesday night's big seafood dinner they put on. Guys will go to that and get stuffed on catfish, shrimp and oysters and then usually return to their home cities on Thursday.
I attended the North practice Thursday morning, and it rained steadily for the entire session. I had to cut out a little early to catch my flight back.
All in all, this has been a great year. Last year, we were supposed to stay at the hotel we stayed at this year, which is just about two blocks from where the players and the two coaching staffs stay. This property wasn't done last year, so we stayed on the other side of the water and it was a long haul. This has been much smoother, and I've spent most of my time actually at the players' hotel tracking down different guys I needed to interview. With as much access that we have to the players, it's nice to be close by.
One of the guys who I really enjoyed meeting was Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan. If you spend a good hour with him, you might only get about five or six words in with him because the guy can talk, and he's got GREAT stories. He's funny and very entertaining, similar to the receiver from Texas in Limas Sweed, who might have a future in broadcasting. He is very amusing and eagerly grabbed the camera and started interviewing other guys for our website, which was highly entertaining.
I'm not sure what will happen in the game on Saturday. Last year I definitely thought the South had the better talent and we ended up losing the game. This year, I think the South has better speed, although the North probably has better talent. So, we'll see. It'll be interesting. We all get the tape from the game and we'll watch that, but I am sure it will be very competitive regardless of who wins. The guys have worked hard this week and I expect they'll come out and perform well.