ATHENS — Georgia football made headlines when a record seven Bulldogs were selected for the Senior Bowl, and the former Bulldogs have stayed in the news all week in Mobile, Aa.
The Senior Bowl game at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday (TV: NFL Network) is the final chance for Georgia players to make a lasting impression in the Port City.
It has been a huge week already for UGA cornerback DJ Daniel, whose 2020 season went off track when he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason. All-American Eric Stokes and recently projected first-round pick Tyson Campbell stayed ahead of Daniel on the UGA depth chart at the cornerback position this season.
But Daniel, who measured in at 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, showed NFL teams this week what he could do once healthy.
— Chris Mallee (@mallee_chris_24) January 28, 2021
Daniel played sparingly in eight games, making just nine tackles and one pass break-up in the limited opportunities he was afforded after a sterling 2019 season that saw him record eight PBUs with 42 tackles as the starter.
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, however, recognized Daniel’s talents from the 2019 season and provided him the opportunity to show the NFL what he was all about this week.
“We really liked DJ’s junior tape, he was really an easy guy to like over the summer,” said Nagy, a former NFL scout.
“He’s really good at the line of scrimmage. He’s patient, he’s physical, and he’s good with his hands. I never thought he got on track this year, talking to the staff.”
This play stood out. LSU changes the play at the LOS to a rub route on the outside. Daniel recognizes this and signals that it’s crosser to the slot CB.
He jams #6 HARD to reroute the slot WR just enough to mess up Burrow’s timing and allow the rush to get home. pic.twitter.com/9BTGALldFF
— The Crocker Report🕵🏾 (@CrockerReport) August 10, 2020
Daniel got on track this week along with former tight end Tre’ McKitty, both being named the MVPs on their respective positions.
Nagy projected success for McKitty last week, noting how much better NFL teams than college teams when it comes to utilizing the tight end position.
Defensive back Mark Webb also flashed play-making skills that have led some to project him as a safety in the NFL.
“Mark is a really intriguing athlete,” Nagy said. “I really think his home at the next level is going to be at safety. He’s a big, long body, and he can get people down in space. I know he’s going to be a heck of a special teams player.”
Defensive lineman Malik Herring was, by all counts, having a very strong week before suffering a torn ACL in practice. Herring’s injury is a setback, but the stock he gained with his performance was certainly notable.
“He’s a dependable player, a combative guy (on the field),” Nagy said. “He’s hard to move whether he’s on the edge or on the inside. He can take on a couple of blocks, he can get on the edge and collapse it, and he’s a versatile guy you can move around.”
NFL scouts couldn’t help but be impressed with offensive lineman Ben Cleveland during weigh-ins, but a tweaked ankle limited him in practice this week and prevented him from showing off his powerful blocking skills.
Monty Rice, meanwhile, continued to be sidelined by the foot injury that led him to sit out the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. But Rice still made gains by showing up at the Senior Bowl to meet with NFL coaches and team reps.
Rice’s decision to attend the Senior Bowl despite having an injury that would sideline him made it puzzling why fellow former Georgia captain Richard LeCounte wouldn’t do the same.
LeCounte, injured in the Halloween Night dirt bike accident on Macon Highway, was a surprise scratch from the game late last week.
Merely being on-site for the annual all-star game gave players a leg up on the competition in the upcoming NFL draft, as all 32 teams represented by GMs, coaches or personnel directors.
Meetings took place every night, plexiglass separating the players from NFL personnel as they met to talk football and get to know one another much better.
Nagy, who worked with New England, Green Bay and most recently Seattle, explained how the decision-makers on franchises like to meet in person with players they are selecting and investing literally millions of dollars into.
That put a premium on the Senior Bowl this year with the NFL combine being canceled, and strict Covid-19 protocol expected to severely limit the travel to respective program’s Pro Days and the number of players brought in for interviews.
The week of practice leading up to Saturday is considered more important than the game itself, as the NFL GMs and coaches were intently how prospects perform against one another in drill work and handle NFL coaching.
The Carolina Panthers’ staff is coaching the SEC-heavy “American” team, while the Miami Dolphins’ staff oversaw the “National” team all week.
The Georgia players will play for the American team in today’s game.