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Pi Network

Lou: This week there will be a daily report here on Draft King direct from Mobile, Alabama, the site of the Senior Bowl on Saturday after noon. This comes as a special from the outstanding website, which has been a must-visit web information source for me for the past several years. Enjoy!

January 21, 2008

The Road to the Senior Bowl
By: Richard Garcia,

With the National Football League's season all but wrapped up, KFFL's coverage is focusing on the college ranks this week, as we hit the road to Mobile, Ala., to cover the 2008 Senior Bowl.

Monday morning began with the individual weigh-ins, followed by afternoon practices for both the North and South teams. While the future of the NFL was getting poked and prodded, we were on the last leg of what was a long journey to get out here; now that we're here, I kind of want to go back.

The effort to get out here began with taking a red eye flight from San Diego International Airport (Lindberg Field) to Atlanta. The four-hour flight wasn't that bad, but trying to sleep was virtually impossible as I struggled to use my blanket as a pillow and a blanket to keep warm. It wasn't a good balance; I was left cold and grumpy heading into what I was dreading the most; a four-hour layover at 5:00 a.m. local time in an airport.

The layover in the airport lobby was nice - I think I managed to get an hour of sleep between the freezing cold airport and the blaring volume of CNN on a hanging monitor. I don't know why, but airports seem to always be freezing cold. If it's 22 degrees outside in Atlanta, why not turn on the heat a little bit? Don't they know that people are trying to sleep?

Anyways, after managing to get a little bit of shuteye before a morning traveler woke me up by hitting me in the head with their laptop bag, which I still think was intentional to make me move, it was now time to get into the smallest plane I've ever been in. Trying to sit in the Boeing 717 comfortably is virtually impossible especially considering that I was crammed between two other individuals, one of which was our own Cory Bonini. The 717 isn't known for luxury, and in fact, offers as much leg room as the backseat in a Hyundai Accent with a seven-foot tall individual in the seat ahead you.

Despite the uncomfortable conditions, I managed to sleep for the majority of the hour it took to get from Atlanta to Pensacola, Fla. The hour drive from Pensacola to Mobile was as smooth as they get, while narrowly avoiding what could have easily been two tickets. Being accustomed to driving in Southern California my whole life, it's impossible to see open road ahead of you and not have your foot push the gas pedal to the floor.

After a few wrong turns, we finally arrived out our hotel. If first impressions mean anything to you, then my colleague comparing it to that of the one in the movie Vacancy should say enough.

All-in-all, I traveled 10 hours with barely any sleep before reaching our creepy destination and having to watch practice! Practice! Of all things while freezing my you-know-what off.

I know nobody wants to hear me whining for an entire page, so I'll use the final paragraphs I can fit on here to write about some of our observations from the first day of practice.

I'll begin with the quarterbacks from the North team, consisting of the University of Michigan's Chad Henne, University of Delaware's Joe Flacco and University of Southern California's John David Booty.

Henne displayed the most accuracy of the group. His strong arm was apparent for passes within 20 yards, but when throwing the deep ball, he looked to finesse the ball too much, which led to putting more touch on the ball than necessary. Henne looked good on some plays, with the defense making him look better for other plays.

Flacco's size and speed was apparent in the first day of practice. Flacco, who stands in at 6-foot-6, was the most inaccurate of the three quarterbacks. For just about every one accurate pass, there would be five that were over thrown. During one of his final repetitions with the defense out there, Flacco fumbled the center exchange three consecutive times.

Booty wasn't as involved as the other two quarterbacks when it came to scrimmaging with the defense. He was in for one series where he was able to drop back and pass the ball. Prior to that, he was in handing the ball off to the running backs. Booty didn't do anything that impressed me today. The South quarterbacks are made up of University of Tennessee's Erik Ainge, University of Hawaii's Colt Brennan and University of Kentucky's Andre Woodson.

Overall, Ainge looked solid with his foot work in both the five- and seven-step drops as well as the rollout drill.

Brennan was the quarterback who struggled the most during the first days of practice. He had issues with his five- and seven-step drops, mostly on the seven-step. At one point the coach made him do it eight times before moving over to one of the other quarterbacks.

Andre Woodson struggled in only one area on the first day. During the rollout drills, he was asked to do it several times and "glance" instead of focusing too heavily on the fake portion of the rollout.

A few of the running backs that stood out this first day were the University of California-Berkeley's Justin Forsett. Forsett showed good quickness and hands, burning University of Nevada-Las Vegas' Beau Bell two times down the seam, hauling in both passes from Henne and turning them up field for what would have been six. One another occasion, Forsett's shiftiness got the better of University of Iowa's defensive back Charles Godfrey, causing him to crumble to the ground.

Owen Schmitt, who is a running back in a fullback's body, was the other ball carrier that stood out. Listed at 251 pounds, Schmitt showed better than average hands, pulling in several receptions and finishing one off those by trucking a cornerback to the ground on one play. Schmitt also showed that not only could he dish it out, but he can take it, after making a catch in the flat and getting his helmet knocked off by USC linebacker Keith Rivers. He promptly jumped up, took off downfield helmet-less and looking for more contact.

Overall, it was a who's who of coaches and management that attended the first day. Some of the people on hand were Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Detroit Lions President and CEO Matt Millen, and super-agent Drew Rosenhaus.

The next couple of days out here in Mobile should be interesting. If you don't see an update come tomorrow evening from either myself or Mr. Bonini, then it might be time to call the authorities. Until then, I'm going to put the dresser over the door I found underneath the bathroom rug.


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