The Senior Bowl was a relatively one-sided affair in Mobile, Alabama over the weekend, with the National Team, coached by the New York Jets, handily defeating the American Team, led by the Detroit Lions, by a final margin of 20-10 in unseasonably cold and dreary conditions.
Senior Bowl MVP went to National Team defensive tackle Parnell Winfrey, formerly of Oklahoma, who collected two sacks and three tackles-for-loss in five stops as a starter.
The game was the climax of a week-long showcase for all five of the scheduled Mid-American Conference prospects, who picked up plenty of practice intrigue and mock draft recognition in the days leading up to the game on Saturday.
As with most Senior Bowls, the rules are a bit different from normal football.
Offensive formations must be balanced, with no motions or shifts, while defenses must show Cover 1, Cover 2 and Cover 3 and cannot pull stunts or blitz plays. There were also two minute warnings at each quarter, with the opposing team possessing the ball in the next quarter, and two mandatory timeouts to be used by each team in each quarter.
With all that in mind, we focus on the four MAC players who did play on Saturday and how they looked. (Luke Goedeke, who was originally set to be featured on the National team alongside teammate Bernhard Raimann, was the first prospect to withdraw from the Senior Bowl, sustaining a hamstring injury early on Tuesday practices.)
Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
- Second-team participation; one false-start penalty
Raimann being the second-string left tackle was a bit of surprise if you had only tuned in on Wednesday and Saturday, as he started the week as the National side’s OT1 on the left side. Instead, it was fast-riser Trevor Penning of University of Northern Iowa who started the game. (Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele was the starter on the right side.)
Raimann entered the game in the second quarter, and showed off his strength fairly early, squashing his assignment several times in a row on run plays. The first pass rep, less so, as he was left in the dust by Sam Williams, who managed to force a pressure on Desmond Ridder. Raimann made up for it on the next play, with another excellent run block rep.
This was more or less the pattern for Raimann, who flashed brilliant awareness in the run game, with several strong pushes, and was more up-and-down in pass reps. This is probably not too much a surprise given he’s only played offensive line for 18 games, but when put together with his struggles in one-on-one plays, it’s something a few teams could be concerned by.
That said, he played well in team drills, and availed himself admirably in the game, which is more of a team setting, so there’s certainly still something there.
Dominique Robinson, EDGE, Miami
- Second-team participation, special teams participation
- No recorded stats
Robinson’s name has been picking up a lot of steam as an intriguing late-round project at the edge position, winning a lot of one-on-ones throughout the week, and showed his raw athletic potential several times early on to put himself on the map.
Robinson’s burst length will certainly intrigue teams, and he utilized both of those qualities to get some pressure on his matchups.
Robinson didn’t record a stat, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. On his first snap, he got around not one, but two blockers without being touched and ran unabated at the quarterback, who was forced to throw it away. After getting met at the line one-on-one in his second attempt, he came back on third down to split two blockers with a straight bull rush to collapse the pocket, which helped to force a Sam Howell fumble— which Robinson nearly recovered.
Robinson nearly got a sack once again in the fourth quarter, getting away from the left tackle and changing the angle of pursuit to get into the airspace of Bailey Zappe to force a throwaway. He did suffer some defeats in pass rush, but showed great instinct for the ball, getting the hands up several times to try and deflect the ball.
The pressures and wins off the block he did manage to pick up were great film for scouts, and we’ll see where he ends up after a productive week in Mobile, but on a day where the American Team offensive line was being cooked for eight sacks, recording no stats could be a concern.
Sterling Weatherford, SAF/LB, Miami
- Second-team participation, special teams starter
- 2 tackles (1 solo, 1 assist)
Weatherford had a great day from the linebacker/box safety spot for the National side, picking up two tackles in what was primarily a passing coverage assignment.
Weatherford called the plays and adjustments as the “green dot” linebacker whenever his unit was in, and showed excellent run gap discipline when necessary. Weatherford was asked to cover primarily running backs and tight ends in the middle of the field and performed admirably, running stride-for-stride with several players, notably UCLA TE Greg Dulich in the second half.
Weatherford had two plays of note early on. The first was on a Malik Willis scramble on a broken play, where Weatherford managed to snag Willis as he passed by after a teammate failed to secure the arm tackle, forcing Willis to fall down for a minimal gain on what could have been a long run down the middle of the field. The second play saw Weatherford in essentially a spy position on third down, keeping eyes on the backfield while also covering the halfback out of the play action draw play, eventually allowing his teammate to collect a sack.
He also showed great special teams prowess, holding up blocks and maintaining gaps correctly. This checks out, as he projects to be an immediate ST contributor wherever he goes.
Tycen Anderson, SAF, Toledo
- Second-string participation, special teams starter
- 3 tackles (2 solo)
Anderson was the only MAC member on the American side, and primarily saw action on special teams. He collected three tackles on the day, including two solo stops, with a fourth total stop called back due to an offensive penalty.
While not having a lot of initial speed, Anderson had excellent closing speed. This was on display on the called-back tackle, where he was positioned in a zone cushion to the right of the offensive formation. Wisconsin TE Jake Ferguson enters the zone, dekes Anderson out of it, and sets up for the pass from Nevada QB Carson Strong. Anderson is able to collect himself, right his angle of pursuit and force Ferguson out of bounds on the same yard-line as the deke move for a gain of five yards instead of a first down.
Anderson played on the special teams unit a lot for the American Team (which is likely how he gets on an NFL roster,) and has great potential as a run support safety, but if he can clean up on the passing aspect, he could be a rotational contributor for someone down the line.