A week’s worth of practices, meetings, interviews, publicity events and exams finally culminated in the 2016 Senior Bowl on Saturday in Mobile, Ala. It matters very little which team won the game – the South beat the North, 27-16 – and more so which players did the most during the festival that was their first postseason NFL draft preparations.
That said, here are a few of the Southeastern Conferences standouts … we’ll call them “Climbers” (those who stood out in a positive light, and “Stumblers” (guys who didn’t do much to impress).
Deion Jones, LB – LSU
One of the more active defensive players on the field all week was former LSU star, Deion Jones, who showed incredible alertness and speed to the ball carrier and opened eyes to decent coverage skills and even showed speed in backpedaling drills.
Jones stood a few running backs up at the line of scrimmage in practice sessions, finished the actual game second on the South with six tackles, showed off an unstoppable motor all week and was called a ‘tweener by many (“looks like safety, plays like linebacker”).
Senior Bowl: LSU LB Deion Jones (6-1, 219) moves like a DB during drills. Quick feet + transition speed. Dime/Nickel LB at next level?
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) January 26, 2016
Jonathan Jones, DB – Auburn
Jonathan Jones smiles just about every time he hears the question, and he expects it every time he begins an interview. He knows he’s just a tick taller than 5-foot-8-and-a-half, and he is done apologizing for it.
“Film can speak louder than anything I can say,” Jones told SEC Country on Wednesday after practice. Jones shut down just about every receiver he faced in one-on-one situations, and had a brilliant session where he got the best of Georgia wideout Malcolm Mitchell (who had a great week himself) on multiple occasions.
There might have been only one defensive back that impressed as much as Jones did this past week.
Jalen Mills, DB – LSU
Add Jalen Mills next to Jonathan Jones as the two most impressive defensive backs at the 2016 Senior Bowl. In man coverage – where he absolutely shined – Mills seems to have a sixth sense, and can break to the ball quicker than receivers who know the play. He’s also shows tough-man tendencies which will help him at the next level.
Mills credited former LSU and current NFL star receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry for helping him perfect his craft.
“I went against those two guys my first two years in college,” said Mills after he weighed in on Tuesday. “Going against those guys they really make you have to use perfect technique, and knowing where those guys are at all times (is tough).”
Jarran Reed, DL – Alabama
The first bit of knowledge needed when talking about Jarran Reed: Don’t write him off after watching speed and agility drills. For some reason the former Alabama run-clogger doesn’t absolutely impress in that arena. But when Reed steps into the action on the field, there are few better.
Just about every running back asked at the Senior Bowl named Reed as the defensive lineman they least liked tangling with at the line of scrimmage. And even if a ball carrier gets through the line, Reed can turn and pursue like no other. He never lets up, and showed that Saturday when he turned and tracked down North quarterback Jeff Driskel after he poked through the line in the fourth quarter.
— Charles Davis (@CFD22) January 30, 2016
Reed solidified his first-round draft stock, and then some this past week.
Jake Coker, QB – Alabama
Next to the phrase “missed opportunity” in any text should be a photo of Jake Coker, who seems to have made a living out of being just a bit behind his competition at the worst possible time.
His time behind Jameis Winston at Florida State forced a transfer to Alabama, where he was expected to win the starting job under center in 2014. He didn’t; he failed to step ahead of Blake Sims and held a clipboard for a season. Coker started slow in 2015, but eventually emerged and led the Crimson Tide to a national title.
But in the Senior Bowl, where Coker had every opportunity to show his NFL arm and frame were more than just a appealing shell, he didn’t step up.
John Theus, OL – Georgia
The positives surrounding former UGA lineman John Theus are numerous. He has the size and frame, and ultimately the intelligence, to play in the NFL and thrive. But the negative marks against him this past week may have offered NFL teams a reason not to highly covet the four-year starter.
Theus, while offering some great work in Mobile, was too often blown past in pass-rushing drills, or man-handled. One NFC scout told SEC Country that Theus’ pad level wasn’t great and he had trouble maintaining smooth enough motions to direct pass-rushers away.
Theus will make it into the NFL, but he may be pushed over the right tackle, which is a less desirable locale for a lineman who did so much in the SEC for so long.
More from the 2016 Senior Bowl:
- 4 SEC players with the most to lose at Senior Bowl
- 4 SEC players with the most to prove at Senior Bowl
- Alabama LB Reggie Ragland on RB Kenyan Drake: ‘He made me look funny out there’
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Reggie Ragland on his move to OLB
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Reggie Ragland confident he ‘can play it all’ in NFL
- Alabama coaches forced Kenyan Drake to dress up, fool Auburn in Iron Bowl
- Missouri teammates on Maty Mauk video: ‘He’s got some things to fix that are bigger than football’
- LSU DB Jalen Mills: QB’s avoided throwing my way ‘most of the time’
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Alabama RB Kenyan Drake shows explosiveness, also shows glaring weakness in first practice
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Alabama LB Reggie Ragland blows by competition in first practice
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Alabama CB Cyrus Jones welcomes playing ‘press’ coverage at the NFL level
- UGA WR Malcolm Mitchell done with ‘What if’ on to watch what ‘I can do’ next
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Arkansas RB Jonathan Williams lost his senior season, gained ‘intelligence’
- Alabama QB Jake Coker enjoying Senior Bowl in hometown: ‘Sometimes I wonder why people want my autograph’
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott starts over, shies away from Tim Tebow comparisons
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Missouri LB Kentrell Brothers using Super Bowl star as NFL model
- Jarran Reed on Alabama’s 2016 defense: ‘I really don’t think they’re going to miss a beat’
- 2016 Senior Bowl: LSU’s Deion Jones wants another shot at Alabama — kind of like Coach Les Miles
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Florida’s Morrison says SEC speed has no peer among other conferences
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Pair of injured SEC players to miss rest of week
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Kenyan Drake already showing vast improvement on Day 2
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Arkansas QB Brandon Allen explains why he has advantage over competition
- Kenyan Drake says he will “embarrass” would-be tacklers who don’t give their all
- 2016 Senior Bowl: TE Jerell Adams stole the show at Thursday’s practice session
- Maty Mauk dismissal: Missouri teammates say Barry Odom ‘made the right decision’
- UGA LB Jake Ganus on wearing his UAB helmet: ‘I’ve got two fan bases behind me’
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Former Florida QB outduels SEC stars at Thursday practice
- Missouri players reflect on ‘power’ and 2015 protest: ‘We wanted to use our platform to save a life’
- 2016 Senior Bowl: ‘No love lost’ between Clemson, Alabama players on South team
- VIDEO: Which SEC players did the best during 2016 Senior Bowl practices?
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Former Florida QB outduels SEC stars at Thursday practice
- VIDEO: How Reggie Ragland looked in his Senior Bowl move to OLB
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Allen, Coker, Drake lead the SEC’s ‘5 Bold Predictions’ for Saturday’s game
- 2016 Senior Bowl: Would QB Carson Wentz be a high-end draft prospect … if he had played in the SEC?
- 3 SEC stars who must overcome shaky practice sessions during 2016 Senior Bowl
- Dak Prescott shines, tosses TD in 2016 Senior Bowl
- Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott named Senior Bowl MOP