MOBILE, Ala. – Tuesday morning was cold and damp at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, but the scouting buzz at the 2008 Under Armour Senior Bowl was fiery hot, especially when it came to Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.
NFL Network pundits Paul Burmeister, Mike Mayock and Charles Davis, who are broadcasting coverage during practices, couldn't stop talking about Ellis' performance in the second day of workouts.
Ellis gave the North offensive line fits, exploding off the snap, keeping his pads low and going hard to the whistle.
Many scouts had concerns about Ellis' size because he weighed in at 257 and is short by NFL standards, but he has proven to be un-blockable by offensive linemen on the North team.
Ellis showcased his best moves when overpowering centers Mike Pollak (Arizona State) and John Sullivan (Notre Dame) on one-on-ones. After Ellis dominated individual drills, one scout commented that he could be the best football player in Mobile at any position.
Arguably the most talented position group in Mobile this year may be the North linebackers, featuring USC's Keith Rivers, Penn State's Dan Connor, Virginia Tech's Xavier Adibi, Michigan's Shawn Crable, Colorado's Jordon Dizon and UNLV's Beau Bell. UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis has been considered a tweener who can move to linebacker.
All that competition lit a fire under the players during positional drills Tuesday. Rivers and Connor showed their ability to change directions quickly and dance around blockers during pass rush drills. There had been question marks about Rivers' ability to rush the passer, which he seemed to negate.
Adibi appeared to be the quickest linebacker, avoiding practically every block that came his way. Crable came up with some of the hardest hits of the day, but he did overrun one play during 11-on-11 work that drew some puzzled looks from some scouts.
Bell, unfortunately, went down with a knee injury late in the practice. He was able to walk off the field on his own, but he could be sidelined the rest of the week.
Early returns suggest that the North quarterbacks, Michigan's Chad Henne, USC's John David Booty and Delaware's Joe Flacco, hold a slight edge over their South counterparts. Despite struggling with accuracy issues early in the day, all three showcased strong arms and poised pocket presence.
Flacco (6-5, 230), who took the place of Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, impressed by connecting on long-range throws and showing good mobility on the run. He even carried the ball almost 20 yards upfield before being 'touched' down because tackling was not allowed in practice.
The South quarterbacks, on the other hand, struggled with their accuracy, especially Hawaii's Colt Brennan. Brennan connected on several throws up the middle, but had trouble finding receivers down the sidelines.
It was a shame because the South receivers were running good routes and getting open more often than not.
Texas wideout Limas Sweed found his second gear during man-to-man coverage drills, separating from his defender and showing excellent body control.
Meanwhile, LSU's Early Doucet also stood out as a top receiver on the South roster, consistently separating from man coverage and dominating in one-on-one and seven-on-seven sessions. Doucet, however, appeared to have injured himself in practice and his return is questionable.
"I was disappointed today that he went down in practice because he was another guy that caught my eye," South head coach Mike Nolan said. "He's got a good thickness about him. He's about six feet, maybe a littler bit better than that, but he's thick and he runs pretty good routes."
Gator wide receiver Andre Caldwell showed agility and strong hands during pass-catching drills. A deep rotation of receivers prevented him from posting huge numbers at Florida, so he has a lot of draft stock riding on this week of practices.
Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin, who leads the North team, said coaching these all-star seniors gave his Raiders staff a scouting advantage before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last year.
"You can't get this information from the stands," Kiffin said. "It's not just being on the field, it's being in meetings with the guys. You learn about how they prepare and how well they learn - how well they transition from the classroom to the field. Otherwise, you are just going to get a 15-minute interview at the Combine."
Noteworthy: More information has been revealed about the absence of several top seniors. Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm has been nursing a minor ankle injury and gave officials ample warning he would miss the event. Senior Bowl officials are said to have delayed Brohm's announcement so other top prospects would not follow suit.
Notre Dame tight end John Carlson, a Minnesota native, apparently contracted a bacterial infection while training in Southern California and is working on regaining strength after losing almost 15 pounds.
Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves is recovering from toe injuries that he suffered last season.