Every year, the Reese’s Senior Bowl kicks off the NFL Draft process as the most prestigious college football all-star game. It has taken place in Mobile, Alabama for the past 74 years and has played host to scouts from all 32 NFL teams and well over 1,000 media members.
For reference, in the 2023 NFL Draft, 100 picks (40%) were Senior Bowl participants. If there is a player who wants to improve his draft stock, the Senior Bowl is the go-to method.
The 2024 edition of the game is set to kick off February 3rd at 2:30 P.M. EST on NFL Network with televised practices throughout the week.
This year, the coaches for the Senior Bowl will be Jeff Ulbrich and Terrell Williams. Ulbrich currently serves as the Defensive Coordinator for the New York Jets while Williams was the defensive line coach as well as associate head coach.
This will be the second year where the Senior Bowl will be using a “Coach Up” format. That is to say, coordinators and assistant coaches selected are placed into elevated or new roles compared to their usual jobs. Non-playoff and Wild Card round participant teams were able to nominate coaches for the honor.
Last year, only two players from the MAC participated: Karl Brooks (Bowling Green, sixth-round pick, Green Bay Packers) and Thomas Incoom (Eastern Michigan, undrafted, Denver Broncos). This year, another two defensive players from the MAC will be participating in the festivities.
Let’s take a look at the two participants.
Quinyon Mitchell, Cornerback, Toledo
The star of the Toledo defense, Quinyon Mitchell has garnered serious national attention after his 2022 breakout campaign. With a good Senior Bowl and potential Combine performance, he has the opportunity to become the highest-drafted Rocket since 1993.
Mitchel was a three-star recruit in the 2020 recruiting class out of Florida and was able to make an immediate impact. As a true freshman, Mitchell appeared in all six games for the Rockets and tallied seven tackles.
In his sophomore year, Mitchell started all 13 games for the Rockets. He was a solid piece of a top-30 defense in the nation, amassing 34 tackles, eight pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a recovered fumble. He even added eight tackles for loss and a sack against Notre Dame.
Mitchell broke out in a massive way in 2022. The talented junior became the first player since 2000 to record four interceptions and two pick-sixes in a single game against Northern Illinois. He broke the Toledo single-season record with 19 which was also second-best in the country. In total, he recorded 41 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and five interceptions on the year. For his efforts, he earned first-team all-MAC and a smattering of second-team and third-team All-American honors from the various outlets.
Heading into the 2023 season, Mitchell was considered a borderline top-50 player. All he did was add another 41 tackles, two tackles for loss, 18 pass breakups, and an interception. In the win over Bowling Green, Mitchell broke the Toledo record for career pass breakups.
He earned first-team All-MAC honors yet again and was named a first-team All-American by The Athletic and a second-team All-American by the AFCA, Associated Press and Sporting News). He was the first Toledo player to receive All-American honors from all five major All-America teams in a career (Walter Camp honored him in 2022).
The only game Mitchell missed in his entire career was the 2023 Arizona Bowl, opting out to remain healthy for the NFL Draft process.
Prior to the festivities, Mitchell is considered a late-first-round prospect, often being mocked to a few playoff teams.
Marshawn Kneeland, EDGE, Western Michigan
The other MAC player who will make their way to Mobiler is EDGE rusher Marshawn Kneeland. A member of the Broncos program for five years, he’s been a regular member of the rotation and starting lineup over the last three years.
As a freshman in 2019, Kneeland only got on the field for a single snap in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl. During the COVID season in 2020, he appeared in five of the team’s six games and made three starts. In that limited time, Kneeland accounted for 23 tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, and forced a fumble.
In 2021, Kneeland started all 13 games for Western Michigan. In total, he amassed 32 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. As a pass rusher, Kneeland added 23 pressures and 19 quarterback hurries. 2022 was his breakout season as a pass rusher; in addition to his 37 tackles, Kneeland racked up 10 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and three pass breakups.
Kneeland repeated those efforts in 2023, earning second-team all-MAC honors with 57 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Kneeland shot up draft boards with his efforts this year. Heading into the Senior Bowl, he is projected as a fringe top-100 player, landing him in and around the fourth round.