MOBILE, Ala. — The six Georgia football players competing at the Senior Bowl will have plenty of familiar competition this week — and plenty of fun trash talk, as well.
The Senior Bowl motto is “The Draft Starts in Mobile,” and that might be true, but SEC bragging rights last forever.
Alabama defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis playfully fired the first public shot at national champion Georgia at a Tuesday morning press conference at the Mobile Convention Center.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for those [Georgia] guys, we came up short,” Mathis said, asked about seeing so many Bulldogs’ players at the annual all-star game, which takes place at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“But we’ll remind y’all, we still run the SEC, just letting that be known.”
The Bulldogs’ have national championship bragging rights for the first time since 1980, besting the Crimson Tide 33-18 in the CFP Championship Game on Jan. 10.
Alabama, however, is the two-time defending SEC champs and has won three of the last four league titles after beating Georgia 41-24 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium last December.
The situation was reversed in 2017, when the Bulldogs beat Auburn to win the SEC Championship Game. The Tide, however, received an at-large bid into the CFP and beat Georgia 26-23 in the national title matchup.
Coach Kirby Smart has faced Nick Saban five times as the Bulldogs head coach since 2017, so the teams have grown familiar with one another.
“We’ve been around each other and are actually getting to know those [Georgia] guys more,” Mathis said. “I’m also ready to learn from them, like Devonte Wyatt, learning what his game, and just going and competing.”
Players in position groups will compete against one another in practices as well as going against players on the opposite side of the football.
It makes for some intriguing matchups.
At some point, Wyatt figures to line up across from former UGA teammate and former Tennessee Vol Cade Mays.
There’s also a good chance former Georgia player and outgoing Florida State ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jermaine Johnson will go up against UGA’s Jamaree Salyer and/or Justin Shaffer.
The Bulldogs had a record 10 players invited to participate in the Senior Bowl activities, which serve as a hands-on audition in front of NFL head coaches, general managers and scouting staffs.
Two of the players declined their invitation in advance (Jordan Davis, Zamir White), one is out due to injury (Quay Walker), and James Cook was a very recent healthy scratch.
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NFL staffs from the Detroit Lions and New York Jets will coach the teams and run them through practice drills and thud-style scrimmages with other coaches and personnel managers observing.
The practices are open to fans and media at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the University of South Alabama campus.
Teams like to see how players adjust to NFL-style practices, schemes and coaching, as well as all of the meetings with coaching staffs that take place off the practice field.
There were 35 players from the 2021 Senior Bowl selected in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, including six first-round selections.
Underclassmen are not eligible for the Senior Bowl unless they have graduated.
Here’s a look at the SEC players (current and former) on the offensive and defensive lines on the American Team, which should make for some very hot and contested matchups:
• Luke Fortner (Kentucky)
• Ed Ingram (LSU)
• Darian Kinnard (Kentucky)
• Cade Mays (Tennessee/UGA)
• Jamaree Salyer (Georgia)
• Justin Shaffer (Georgia)
• Zachary Carter (Florida)
• Micheal Clemons (Texas A&M)
• Kingsley Enagbare (South Carolina)
• Neil Farrell Jr. (LSU)
• Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State/UGA)
• Phidarian Mathis (Alabama)
• Josh Paschal (Kentucky)
• John Ridgeway III (Arkansas)
• Devonte Wyatt (Georgia)