Aug 17, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans offensive tackle Tytus Howard (71) walks off the field during the game against the Detroit Lions at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

NFL, Senior Bowl partner for inaugural HBCU combine

The NFL is partnering with the Senior Bowl to hold a pre-draft combine for top prospects from Historically Black Colleges and Universities next January.

The inaugural HBCU combine, scheduled for Jan. 28-29 in 2022 in Mobile, Ala., will be similar to the NFL combine and include interviews as well as on-field and medical evaluations. Select players from four HBCU conferences — Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — and other HBCU institutions will be invited to participate.

“Throughout NFL history, HBCU athletes have exemplified a standard of excellence both on and off the field,” Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement. “The HBCU Combine is part of honoring that legacy and making every effort to accelerate exposure of HBCU draft prospects to all NFL clubs. The game is better when all have the opportunity to compete.”

The combine, originally scheduled for March 27-29, 2020, in Miami and postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held at the University of South Alabama, home of the Senior Bowl game set for Feb. 5, 2022. The release noted that a key objective of the timing and location is to ensure maximum opportunity for HBCU players to interact with NFL representatives as nearly all 32 NFL teams generally attend the Senior Bowl.

“Over the years, the Senior Bowl has served as a showcase for some of the top Black college football players in America, including seven of our game’s 56 future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and this event will help many more HBCU players secure further attention and exposure from all 32 teams,” said Jim Nagy, Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director, in the statement.

An HBCU scouting committee, comprised of current and former league executives, will evaluate and select the participants. The Senior Bowl will provide medical and football personnel to capture pre-draft information.

No HBCU players were drafted in 2021, and just one player was picked in the seventh round in 2020. In 2019, Alabama State offensive lineman Tytus Howard was a first-round pick by the Houston Texans after playing in the Senior Bowl.

–Field Level Media

Jan 30, 2021; Mobile, AL, USA; National tight end John Bates of Boise State  (87) and National offensive lineman Brenden Jaimes of Nebraska (67) and American linebacker Janarius Robinson of Florida State (96) in the first half of the 2021 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Senior Bowl shifts to February in 2022

The Senior Bowl is moving to February, a result of the addition of a 17th game to the NFL regular season.

The game, held annually in Mobile, Ala., is shifting from its traditional January date on the schedule and will be played Feb. 5, 2022.

By changing the date, the pro prospect showcase for NFL teams will continue to be played during the week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The next Super Bowl is set for Feb. 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.

The first Senior Bowl was played in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1950, and moved to moved to Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile the in 1951. In 2021, the game moved to new Hancock Whitney Stadium at the University of South Alabama.

–Field Level Media

Jan 30, 2021; Mobile, AL, USA; National quarterback Feleipe Franks of Arkansas (8) throws in the first half of the 2021 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Feleipe Franks helps National team win Senior Bowl

Feleipe Franks of Arkansas passed for 122 yards and a touchdown Saturday to help the National team beat the American squad 27-24 in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Franks’ 21-yard touchdown pass to Ole Miss tight end Kenny Yeboah gave the National team a 27-16 lead with 11:57 left in the game. Franks completed 9 of 16 passes.

American quarterback Kellen Mond of Texas A&M completed 13 of 25 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns and was named MVP of the contest that featured NFL draft prospects. Mond received increased playing time since Alabama’s Mac Jones was unavailable due to an ankle injury sustained in Thursday’s practice.

Jamie Newman, who played for Wake Forest before transferring to Georgia and then opting out of the 2020 season, was 10-of-14 passing for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the American squad.

Two other quarterbacks saw action for the National team: Ian Book (Notre Dame) was 5-of-11 passing for 48 yards and one interception, and Sam Ehlinger (Texas) completed 4 of 10 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.

The National’s Michael Carter (North Carolina) had a game-high 60 rushing yards and one touchdown on eight carries. Dez Fitzpatrick (Louisville) caught six passes for 90 yards for the National team and was named Offensive Player of the Game.

Tulane defensive end Cameron Sample (American) was named Defensive Player of the Game after he recorded seven tackles and a half-sack.

The National squad led 13-0 at halftime before Mond guided two third-quarter touchdown drives as the American team took a 16-13 lead. But then, with 44 seconds left in the quarter, Carter scored on a 12-yard run to put the National team ahead to stay.

The National team was coached by Brian Flores and the rest of the Miami Dolphins’ staff. Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers’ staff coached the American squad.

–Field Level Media

Jan 27, 2021; American quarterback Mac Jones of Alabama (10) throws during American practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama, USA;  Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama QB Mac Jones could miss Senior Bowl with injury

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is in danger of missing Saturday’s Senior Bowl after injuring his left ankle during Thursday’s practice at Mobile, Ala.

Jones, a Heisman Trophy finalist, said he wasn’t sure he would be able to play in the contest.

“I’m not going to go out there if I’m not 100 percent,” Jones said after the practice. “It’s not fair to my teammates to not be 100 percent and try and play and not play well. I’m going to make the decision, but hopefully I can get treatment and see how it feels.”

Jones is still nursing a right leg injury from the College Football Playoff title game victory over Ohio State earlier this month. He immediately knew there was an issue with his left leg when he sustained the injury.

“I kind of rolled my ankle a little bit. I was more worried about my right leg, but now my left leg is a little hurt,” Jones said. “I didn’t get to finish (practice), but I don’t want to risk it at this point. Get treatment and figure out how I feel.”

Jones is on the American Team. The other quarterbacks on the squad are Kellen Mond of Texas A&M and Jamie Newman, who played for Wake Forest before transferring to Georgia and then opting out of the 2020 season.

The team is being coach by the Carolina Panthers’ staff. Head coach Matt Rhule said Jones was having a highly productive practice prior to the injury.

“He went for a while there, started limping at the end, so I just said, ‘Hey, why don’t you go see the trainer?’” Rhule said. “Last thing I want to do is see the kid get banged up. He was having a hard time. I thought he had a good day, just had to get it himself healed up.”

Jones passed for an Alabama single-season record 4,500 yards and threw 41 touchdown passes this season, He finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting behind winner and teammate DeVonta Smith, and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman-winning WR DeVonta Smith skips Senior Bowl measurements

A scale and measuring tape became the big story at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday in Mobile, Ala.

Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith of Alabama, participating in the draft prospect event along with multiple Crimson Tide players, opted not to have official height and weight measurements taken on Tuesday.

Smith, listed at 6-1, 175 pounds on the Alabama roster, said he will wait until the Alabama pro day in March to have those measurements recorded.

Size is the critical question for evaluators attempting to make an appraisal of Smith’s NFL value. He is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2021 draft and is Field Level Media’s top-rated wide receiver.

Smith is not participating in on-field workouts after injuring his pointer finger in the national championship game earlier this month.

Entering the NFL at 170-175 pounds is not unprecedented, and recent examples include Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs. But Smith also was clocked at 4.21 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the South Alabama pro day.

Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Alabama. Smith also led the team in receptions last season, when he opted not to enter the 2020 NFL Draft but watched teammates Henry Ruggs (12th overall, Las Vegas Raiders) and Jerry Jeudy (15th, Denver Broncos) be selected in the first round.

One of the NFL’s all-time great wide receivers, Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts, measured at 6-0, 181 pounds at the Scouting Combine. The 13-year pro was drafted 19th overall in 1996 and elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores wears a face mask in the second half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. The Dolphins defeated the Raiders 26-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins, Panthers staffs named for Senior Bowl

Coaches for the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers will work the 72nd rendition of the Senior Bowl later this month.

The contest will be held Jan. 30 at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala.

The Senior Bowl typically selects two teams picking high in the draft whose coaching staffs remain intact. The Dolphins own the Nos. 3 (via the Houston Texans) and 18 overall picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, while the Panthers have the No. 8 selection.

“The entire Miami Dolphins organization is excited to take part in this year’s Senior Bowl,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said in a statement. “In this unique run up the draft, the Senior Bowl will be a great opportunity for our coaches and personnel department to interact with these players for a full week. We look forward to with working these prospects as part of this premier event with a tradition of featuring top tier talent.”

Panthers coach Matt Rhule said he is also looking forward to the opportunity.

“We’re thrilled to coach at the Senior Bowl,” Rhule said. “Every year, Jim Nagy (Senior Bowl executive director) and his staff put together the best showcase of college talent in the nation, and we’re really excited to lead and get to know a team of this year’s top draft prospects.”

Last year’s Senior Bowl featured Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, Panthers defensive back Jeremy Chinn and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool, among others.

Top alumni from the game in recent years included first-round quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (2018), Josh Allen (2018) and Daniel Jones (2019).

–Field Level Media