Here are five SEC-related bold predictions in advance of Saturday’s Senior Bowl, without knowing how the reps will be divided up among the South squad’s four quarterbacks — Brandon Allen (Arkansas), Jacoby Brissett (North Carolina State), Jake Coker (Alabama) and Dak Prescott (Mississippi State).
For what it’s worth, the last eight Senior Bowls have yielded a cumulative average of 39.2 points; and Saturday’s weather in Mobile (partly sunny, 68 degrees) should be conducive for sizable gains and good scoring.
1. Jake Coker’s lone touchdown pass will be a back-shoulder toss near the end zone
Coker had an up-and-down week of Senior Bowl practices during the 11-on-11 live scrimmaging, but he was exceptional with the one-on-one drills — pitting receivers against cornerbacks.
In fact, Coker might have been the most impressive (read: accurate) passer on the ‘back-shoulder’ fade, finding comfort when throwing to shifty wideouts like Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma), K.J. Maye (Minnesota) or big targets like UGA’s Malcolm Mitchell.
By the way, Mitchell (career stats: 174 catches, 2,350 yards, 16 TDs) certainly looks the part of a potential NFL stalwart — currently flying under the radar. And he might very well end up with Coker’s presumed touchdown pass on Saturday.
2. South Carolina tight end Jerell Adams will produce at least one-handed catch against the North
Yes, Adams tallied only 66 catches and seven touchdowns in a four-year span with the Gamecocks, but his size (6-foot-6, 231 pounds) and uncommon grace (for someone so large) suggests at least one highlight-reel play at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
3. Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland won’t collect a sack, but he’ll lead the South in tackles
Ragland has garnered the most media attention among the South players this week, citing three reasons:
a) He’s fresh off a national championship with the Crimson Tide.
b) He could be a top-20 pick in the upcoming draft.
c) Ragland cross-trained as an outside linebacker for Senior Bowl practices, as a means of bolstering his already lofty draft stock.
Of course, it’s not easy to morph into an outside linebacker/rush end in a single week. That mindset of continually attacking the quarterback takes time to develop. Nevertheless, Ragland will enjoy a solid Saturday of tackles.
4. Arkansas’ Brandon Allen will lead all quarterbacks in passing yards
For the 2015 campaign, was there a hotter SEC quarterback down the stretch?
After a so-so September/October of 15 touchdown passes, Allen (3,440 yards passing in 2015) closed his collegiate career with a flurry, posting two games of six or more touchdown passes against Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
And let’s not forget Allen’s most famous pass of the season, when Hogs tight end Hunter Henry caught a desperation throw on 4th and 25 against Ole Miss and subsequently threw a blind lateral across the field — hoping an Arkansas player would recover the ball and run for the last-ditch first down in the fourth quarter.
(Tailback Alex Collins recovered the lateral and absurdly ran for the first down, preserving Arkansas’ game-tying scoring drive. The Hogs would prevail in overtime, a defeat which would eventually curtail Ole Miss’ dreams of capturing the SEC West title.)
Allen broke the 400-yard mark three times in his senior season. Just don’t expect that figure in Saturday’s game.
5. Crimson Tide tailback Kenyan Drake will score a touchdown from 15 or more yards
Drake gets my vote for being the most explosive talent of this year’s Senior Bowl crop. Unfortunately, he’s also the most enigmatic asset to chronicle, given his difficulties in pass protection and bouts with dropped passes during practice.
But the above negatives are only surface concerns. Drake may have been a backup to the stars at Alabama (most notably Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry) … but he’s a legitimate physical talent for the NFL.
On Tuesday, after catching a short pass during 11-on-11 live scrimmaging, Drake (29 receptions in 2015, 22 career TDs) sprinted nearly 40 yards down the left sideline before getting hit for the first time.
Come Saturday, Drake’s lethal combination of speed, agility and quickness will once again have few peers among the lot of Senior Bowl defenders.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.