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5 former Mid-American Conference players to participate in 2022 Senior Bowl

The Jets and Lions will get a look at several former #MACtion stars in Mobile this week, with five players looking to impress the NFL scouts.

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NCAA Football: Senior Bowl John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is set to kick off once again from Hancock Whitley Stadium in Mobile, Alabama this upcoming week, as the nation’s best draft-eligible seniors will look to ply their craft under two active NFL coaching staffs and make a great impression on the assembled scouts.

This year will see a good handful of changes to what is considered the premier collegiate all-star game on the circuit, with second-year head coaches Robert Saleh (New York Jets) and Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions) taking more of an advisory role to allow their assistant coaches chances to get experience at higher positions for future resume-building. Each team will also be assigned two minority coach fellowship guest coaches from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, with Virginia State head coach Reggie Barlow, Morgan State head coach Tyrone Wheatley, South Carolina State defensive coordinator/LB coach Jonathan Saxon, and Jackson State offensive coordinator/TE coach T.C. Taylor eligible to participate in team meetings, film sessions and practices.

This edition of the Senior Bowl will see the Jets coaching the National Team, which has four former MAC players as prospects, while the Lions will coach the American Team, which rosters one former MAC player. The staffs will do a “team swap” practice on Friday, ensuring coaches are able to have a look at all the players available at the Senior Bowl.

Here are brief profiles on all five participants:

National Team: Jets

  • Bernhard Raimann, OG/OT, Central Michigan

Austrian import Bernhard Raimann is one of the most intriguing prospects at the Senior Bowl, as the tight end-turned-offensive tackle is being mocked by some prognosticators to go as early as the first round of the draft.

Initially a tight end in his first two seasons, Raimann converted to tackle in the 2020 COVID season and immediately won the job, never giving it back until opting out of the Sun Bowl in December 2021. During the 2021 season, he was listed as one of The Athletic’s “College Football Freaks” and has steadily risen from a late Day 3 project to perhaps an immediate safe bet contributor in Day 1 or 2.

At six-foot-seven, 305 lbs., Raimann exhibits prototypical size for the position, and was a first-team all-MAC selection in 2021, showing great potential as an all-around lineman. Raimann’s game is in explosive athleticism and flexibility, as he is able to use his speed to make quick reads and meet defenders at the point of attack. Raimann was a particular punisher in the run game, using his leverage to take advantage of defensive mistakes.

Raimann still has a lot to learn at the NFL level, mostly with using his hands and having more consistent footwork, an understandable worry with just 18 starts at the tackle position, but under the right coaching staff, he could become an immediate contributor from Day 1.

  • Luke Goedeke, OG/OT, Central Michigan

Raimann isn’t the only CMU lineman prospect who’s gotten attention from pro scouts, as Luke Goedeke, who played at the opposite tackle spot, has played well enough to get into the draft conversation himself, earning first-team all-MAC honors in 2021.

A former tight end transfer from Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Goedeke relies on his defensive lineman background from high school to match up against his assignments, using excellent hand grip and lower body strength to keep up traps and move opposition out of the play. He’s still raw at the position, with only 24 starts while seeing no action in 2018 (conversion) and 2020 (knee injury.) He also has length concerns which makes a move to the inside likely as a pro. But optimistic projections look at the athleticism and film and say he’s still worth a look in Day 2 as a high motor pass protector with good starter potential.

  • Dominique Robinson, EDGE, Miami

A former high school quarterback who converted to receiver when he first stepped foot in Oxford, Robinson found a home on the defensive side of the ball in 2020, settling in as an edge rusher.

At six-foot-four, 256 lbs., Robinson was a natural fit at the position after putting on weight, finishing his defensive career with 29 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, six sacks, four QB hits and a pass defensed in 15 games. Robinson showed great potential at the position with his length and speed especially translating. It says a lot that he’s at the Senior Bowl despite a lack of games at the position; his sheer athleticism gives him a great ceiling at the professional level if he lands in the right situation.

Robinson could be a Day 3 prospect or a priority free agent.

  • Sterling Weatherford, DB/LB, Miami

Sterling Weatherford will be lining up at linebacker for the Senior Bowl after seeing time at safety and various hybrid positions at Miami, a move which is intriguing as it was likely requested by various NFL teams when assembling the roster.

Weatherford was one of the MAC’s strongest— and surest— tacklers, finishing his career with 209 tackles, including 131 solo stops in 41 games. Weatherford also collected 10.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks, four interceptions, 23 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries as a key part of Miami’s defensive and special teams efforts. He finished 2021 as a second-team all-MAC defensive back.

Weatherford possess great speed and discipline for a tweener, with a knack for reading offensive formations. A true thumper in every sense of the word, Weatherford is especially adept at filling run gaps and getting into the backfield while also possessing the speed to go back in coverage when necessary. He could be somewhat limited, in the end, by a lack of true sideline-to-sideline range at the pro level, but he should be a more specialized player at the NFL level, so it won’t be a major concern.

Weatherford projects as a Day 2 prospect, perhaps as high as the third or fourth round, with immediate potential in a special teams role.

American Team: Lions

  • Tycen Anderson, SAF, Toledo

The only MAC member on the American roster, Tycen Anderson has been a steady presence in the Rocket defensive backfield since 2017, having played every game available since his true freshman campaign.

The hometown hero finished his five years of service with 234 tackles (134 solo), nine tackles-for-loss, two sacks, two interceptions, 20 passes defensed and a forced fumble, with a first-team all-MAC selection at defensive back for a crucial 2021 season despite playing only seven regular season games. Anderson also has a second-team all-MAC selection in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, showing his growth as a prospect at the box safety position.

Anderson has played a lot of zone in Toledo, so he will need to show some man-on-man ability in Mobile this week, but he is an adequate and decent tackler who shows pro-level speed and awareness with room for coaching. He does not have as high of a ceiling as Sterling Weatherford, say, but he could be a steady pro down the line in the right situation.

Anderson projects to be a Day 3 pick at present, and could improve his spot with a good showing.

The Reese’s Senior Bowl kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 5, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time (1:30 p.m. local) and will air on NFL Network.