Senior Bowl game notebook

Posted Jan. 29, 2011 @ 9:16 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

MOBILE, Ala. — With the 62nd rendition of college football's top all-star game in the books, here's what we saw during and heard after the South's 24-10 victory in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl: 

South 

• TCU QB Andy Dalton (back) and Alabama QB Greg McElroy (right hand) departed with injuries in the second half. Dalton was sacked by Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal early in the third quarter and didn't play another snap, but he said the injury was "nothing serious. Said Dalton: "I just got hit right in the back; knocked the breath right out of me, and my back tightened up."

According to the NFL Network, McElroy hit his hand on a helmet. He was not wearing a wrap on the hand after the game, but the Mobile Press-Register reported Saturday night that his father, Greg Sr., said his son had suffered a broken bone in his hand close to his thumb. It is expected McElroy won't be able to throw for about two weeks, the Press-Register reported.

• Texas A&M OLB Von Miller looked the part of the most highly regarded defender in the 2011 NFL draft in Senior Bowl practices, and that carried over to game day, too, as he earned Defensive Player of the Game honors. An outstanding pass rusher, Miller also made a pair of impressive tackles of mobile Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick early in the third quarter, including a shoestring take-down in space. In the first quarter, Miller strung out a reverse to Boise State WR Titus Young, causing a two-yard loss. The 6-2, 237-pound Miller fits best in a 3-4 scheme and could make a team employing that defense very, very happy.

• Kentucky RB Derrick Locke showed good quickness and was the most impressive of the South's running backs on Saturday. He also benefited from good blocking up front.

• Texas DE Sam Acho ran right by Colorado OLT Nate Solder, perhaps the most highly regarded prospect at his position here, and took down Washington QB Jake Locker in the first quarter.

South observations from associate editor Kevin Fishbain

• As good of a game as Miami (Fla.) WR Leonard Hankerson had, he did have one drop and bobbled the 49-yard reception to start the game.

• The player who impressed me the most? Miami (Fla.) ILB Colin McCarthy. He showed a great burst of speed for a linebacker and each of his three tackles, including one for loss, came in the open field with him flying from out of nowhere to make the hit.

• Georgia OG Clint Boling had a nice game, delivering a punishing block pulling from right guard on Noel Devine's screen play in the second quarter. He was beaten by Notre Dame DL Ian Williams for a sack in the third quarter.

• I talked to Florida State QB Christian Ponder a couple times this week and again Saturday night as he signed a plethora of autographs. NFL teams are going to like his demeanor, that's for sure. He came to Mobile with something to prove after a disappointing senior season marred by injury, and he certainly did so as the best quarterback in the Senior Bowl.

North

• Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan's pass-rush ability is his greatest asset, and late in the second quarter, his pressure short-circuited a South drive. First, he easily fought off a running back's block to sack TCU QB Andy Dalton. "Well, I saw the back was coming to chip me, so I knew I initially wanted to make a move off of him, and I was able to do that and get to the quarterback," Kerrigan said of the sack.  On the next play, he ran around Arkansas OT DeMarcus Love, who grabbed him, drawing a holding penalty.  

• Washington QB Jake Locker didn't start the game well, missing wide-open Wisconsin TE Lance Kendrick on a seam route on his first pass, and his last throw was also off target, as he threw too high for Boise State WR Titus Young. Locker has the arm to make far more difficult throws, but he can't miss easy one like that too often on the next level. Locker did play somewhat better in the second half, though he fumbled when hit by Mississippi State DL Pernell McPhee on a scramble

• Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick's arm strength has jumped out all week, and that attribute was again apparent Saturday. "His ball actually, when he throws it, it's sneaky fast, so it's one of those you really have to focus on," said Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher, who was on the receiving end of all four of Kaepernick's completions for 53 yards on nine attempts. 

While he threw the ball well, Kaepernick was intercepted once when a pass that was slightly high bounced off his receiver's hands. Kaepernick threw off the wrong foot but still delivered the ball with plenty of pace, highlighting his strong arm.

One other note on Kaepernick: while he has above-average mobility, the South defense was able to keep him contained when he scrambled. That said, his ability to buy time rolling out of the pocket will be an asset on the next level.

• Boston College OL Anthony Castonzo, a potential first-round pick, started at left guard and played every position but center during the game.

• Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi showed good mobility in and out of the pocket. He made two nice throws on roll-outs. Stanzi played better as the game progressed.

• Indiana OT James Brewer suffered a sprained ankle, but he was wearing tape on the injury and was walking under his own power after the game, and he indicated the injury was not serious. 

North observations from associate editor Kevin Fishbain

• North Carolina CB Kendric Burney did get beat on Miami (Fla.) WR Leonard Hankerson's out route for a touchdown, but he continued to show he has great ball skills with a pass breakup, and he could have had two interceptions covering Hankerson, the best wideout here.

• Miller and Locker were the two highest-profile players all week, and they played very different games on Saturday. Miller was outstanding, showing his fantastic speed to make a couple open-field tackles in the run game. Locker, the North's starting quarterback, struggled early, and most of his yards came on the North's final drive with the game out of hand. He also had two fumbles. If he's going to scramble in the NFL, he needs to have a better understanding of the speed on the other side of the ball and needs to improve his protection of the rock.

• Castonzo got beat on two plays in a row when he was moved to left tackle in the second quarter. On one play, he missed a block on a run. On the next play, Arizona LB Brooks Reed beat him for a sack.

• Oklahoma's Jeremy Beal, one of the many fringe guys in terms of if they will be a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end, showed his speed off the edge when he sacked Dalton, forcing a punt. Granted, Beal might have been offside, but he still showed a burst of speed that coaches cannot ignore. Same goes for Texas DE Sam Acho.

• Kerrigan told me before he came to Mobile that he preferred to play with his hand on the ground. He continued all week to say that he prefers defensive end, but is open to learning linebacker and will play wherever. Well, at defensive end all night he was the best defensive player on the field not named Von Miller. I don't think its a given that he will be drafted by a 3-4 team. Some 4-3 team is going to love his speed off the edge and his relentless effort going after the quarterback.