Unlike any other event prior to this April's draft, Senior Bowl week allows a collective group of scouts, coaches, and league general managers the opportunity to view players in action, in a close environment.
The results have been eye-opening for some.
Many of these players are facing their initial indoctrination to professional style football. The Oakland Raiders coaching staff led by Head Coach Norv Turner leads the North squad, while Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Head Coach Jon Gruden leads the South team.
Both coaches are running these practice sessions in a manner consistent with those of NFL teams. The Tampa Bay coaching staff is implementing a west coast style offense for the South team.
Impressing scouts and coaches remains a constant battle for many of these players in Mobile, Alabama. Talent on both sides of the ball has impressed, but potentially none more so than offensive tackle Khalif Barnes of Washington. Barnes, a senior had his season cut short due to a wrist injury. Known as a devastating blocker, he has displayed his talents this week in practice, to the awe of many scouts and league personnel in attendance.
Defensive tackle Mike Patterson has been an imposing talent in practice sessions thus far. While measuring just under six-feet tall, Patterson of USC has been close to unstoppable. Again on Wednesday, Patterson defeated double teams, while knocking the opposition off his feet. Frequently, coaches and scouts alike applaud the effort of this rising talent.
At one of the so-called skill positions, Oklahoma wide receiver Mark Clayton has caught the eye of many in attendance. This polished, natural athlete has caught almost every pass thrown his way, even some of the spectacular variety. From beating big defenders in the short field to outracing cornerbacks down the sideline, Clayton is silencing the critics which questioned his ability to be productive at the next level.
Impressive as well in drills has been the duo of Matt Roth and Jonathan Babineaux of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Both players are showing tremendous explosion, quickness and intensity, displaying a consistent pattern of disrupting game plans in the backfield. Coaches have fallen in love with the way each player gives one-hundred percent until the whistle blows.
Virtually unknown, Marcus Johnson has done well on the offensive line. The former Mississippi blocker has made a seamless transition to the west coast offensive system. His ability to annihilate the opposition on the move has coaches smiling and has moved Johnson into the draft's first day.
The practices wrap up with tomorrow's no pads day and the week culminates with Saturday's kick-off. In a draft year being touted as "weak" Senior Bowl practices have once again given NFL scouts an inside look at the nation's premiere senior talent.
The results will loom large as we head towards April.