After a few days of practice down in the southern paradise that is Mobile, Alabama, the Senior Bowl will take place today on the NFL Network. Kickoff in Mobile is slated for 3 PM Central time, with a half-hour preview show on the NFL Network starting at 2:30.
Like we did with the East-West Shrine Game, yours truly is going to give you one player on each side of the ball for each team that I'll be taking a personal interest in for today's game. I'm not going to include the quarterbacks because. . .well, we've been discussing them for most of the week, and we know the Vikings are probably interested in taking a look at anybody that's going to be taking a snap this afternoon for either side.
North Offense - Brandon Fusco, center, Slippery Rock
We know that the Vikings are looking for help along the offensive line, and since there isn't a dominant, "cornerstone" tackle in this year's draft, let's take a look at the interior line, where the Vikings should be focusing their efforts, in my opinion. Fusco, who measures in at about 6'4" and a shade over 300 pounds, was the recipient of this year's Gene Upshaw Award, given to the best offensive lineman in Division II football. He also won the Rimington Award as Division II's best center. While he's a bit undersized. . .which has been the knock against Minnesota's current center, John Sullivan. . .Fusco has had a pretty good week of practice, from all accounts, and looks like he may be able to be had in the mid rounds of the draft. It will be interesting to see how he handles the jump up in the level of competition from Division II to some of the premiere athletes in the FBS.
North Defense - Quinton Carter, safety, Oklahoma
There really isn't a dominant safety prospect in this year's draft class, so the competition is on to see who can improve their stock the most at the position and, essentially, make themselves the most money. Carter, a 6'1", 210-pound safety from Oklahoma, was a 2010 AP All-American at the safety spot, and at the moment is projected as the top free safety in this year's class, although he only currently carries a second-round grade. He collected 96 tackles for the Sooners last year to go along with four interceptions. We all know how atrocious the safety play for the Vikings was in 2010, and Carter looks to be the kind of player that could step into the breach and immediately start for Minnesota this coming season.
South Offense - D.J. Williams, tight end, Arkansas
The 2010 Mackey Award winner as the nation's best tight end, Williams is one of the type of players that I discussed last week when mentioning USC's Cameron Jordan in the East-West Shrine Game. He's not the traditional tight end, but he's one of those sorts of players that can create mismatches for opposing defenses to worry about. He was a very versatile part of the Razorback offense in 2010, lining up at end and in the slot, as well as fulfilling an H-back role and providing a good safety valve for his star quarterback, Ryan Mallett. Tight end might not be at the top of the Vikings' list of needs, but a team can never have too much versatility, and that's what Williams brings to the table.
South Defense - Ahmad Black, safety, Florida
Did I mention how terrible Minnesota's safety play was for most of last season? Yeah, that's why I'm focusing on a safety on each roster, because something needs to be done. In what could generously be termed as a down year for the Gators, Black was a tremendous bright spot for the team, leading them in tackles, solo tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries. Surprisingly physical for someone that's listed as being right around the same size as our own Antoine Winfield (5'9" and about 185 pounds "soaking wet," as the saying goes). In fact, many people feel that Black's size may necessitate a move to cornerback when he gets to the next level. Whether it's as a corner or a safety, he would give the Vikings' secondary the serious injection of talent that it's in need of.
Got any specific players that you're going to be watching during today's game? Go ahead and discuss them below.