After a week full of activities and practices in Mobile, Alabama, 100 college all-stars will lace up the cleats and put on the college pads for the last time on Saturday. The Senior Bowl culminates with a game that the nation will get to see on the NFL Network on Saturday afternoon. Throughout the week, I’ve given you my observations from Alabama, so let me give you some players to watch on Saturday; perhaps one, or more, of these players will wear the Texans colors in 2017 and beyond.
At quarterback, Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs and Pitt’s Nathan Peterman had strong weeks, but keep an eye on intriguing Antonio Pipkin from Tiffin University. He’s got a funky little release but the ball gets out of his hands hot and typically on the mark.
BYU running back Jamaal Williams was the best back in Mobile, although San Diego State record-holder Donnel Pumphrey is the quickest thing on two feet.
Speaking of quick, North Carolina slot receiver/returner Ryan Switzer is about to become a player on the next level. He’s one of about ten receivers to watch, including Texas A&M’s Josh Reynolds, East Carolina’s Zay Jones, Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp and Clemson’s Artavis Scott.
The tight end group is outstanding and it’s a group led by O.J. Howard, the third team All-American from Alabama. He could walk into the Patriots or Falcons huddle next week and make plays for either team. He’s a future star for certain. He’s not alone, though, but if you’re looking for a sleeper, watch Toledo’s Mike Roberts, former teammate of Texans center Greg Mancz. He has nearly 12” hands and is 270 pounds...and yes, plays tight end.
On the offensive line, Troy tackle Antonio Garcia is light (293 pounds) but he’s one nasty dude. Western Kentucky star Forrest Lamp probably won’t play due to an ankle sprain, so keep an eye on Bucknell’s Julie’n Davenport, a tackle with 36” arms and an 87” wingspan.
The defensive line isn’t as talented as last year’s unit, but guys like Charlotte’s Larry Ogunjobi and USC defensive tackle Steve Tu’ikolovatu get it done in different ways. Auburn’s Montravius Adams had a strong 2016 season but thrives most when the lights are the brightest. On the edge, Temple chess piece Haason Reddick and Wisconsin edge rusher Vince Biegel are two guys on my radar screen.
There are some big names at linebacker, including the leader of Clemson’s national championship crew Ben Boulware, but if you want to impress your pals, float the name Alex Anzalone from Florida. According my friends close to the Florida program, Anzalone was the team’s best linebacker this season before he broke his arm midseason at Arkansas.
Justin Evans from Texas A&M has been one of my favorites in this class for a long while. He’ll flat out knock dudes out as he did to his teammate Josh Reynolds earlier in the week.The player to watch, though, is U Conn’s Obi Melifonwu. At 6-4, 219 pounds, he’s a freak of nature at free safety with range and hitting ability.
At cornerback, LSU’s Tre’Davious White will miss the game because of an ankle and that’s a shame. But, Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and San Diego State star Damontae Kazee will show it off one final time.
That’s just a few of the names you’ll hear and players you’ll see. Enjoy it and just imagine what these players will look like in a Texans uniform like C.J. Fiedorowicz, Jay Prosch and others who played in this game in years past.
Check out some of the best shots from Thursday's Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Alabama. Images courtesy of AP.