Senior Bowl 2014 Game Review: Dee Ford, South excel against the North

Dee Ford was definitely not handing out hugs at the Senior Bowl. - Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The Senior Bowl featured some of the top seniors in the country and none shined brighter than Auburn defensive end Dee Ford.

The Senior Bowl is one of the many stops along the way to the Toys"R"Us of professional football, known as the 2014 NFL Draft. The Mobile, Alabama showcase offers scouts and coaches a week of practice, interviews and an all-star game. While the practice opened media eyes, the game itself offered a look at the best seniors in the country on the field against each other.

For the likes of Auburn's Dee Ford, Virginia's Morgan Moses and Louisiana Tech's IK (yes, both letters are capitalized) Enemkpali, the game served as a spotlight for their tremendous talent. However, for Miami's Stephen Morris, Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, the contest proved to be anything but fruitful.

The Good

  • Dee Ford (OLB/DE, Auburn): Ford was probably the biggest winner of the entire week. He took advantage of the opportunity with tremendous practices and finished the week off with one of the best defensive performances in the Senior Bowl's recent memory. He collected the game's MVP award after absolutely dominating Ohio State offensive tackle Jack Mewhort in the first half. He accumulated a batted pass on Stephen Morris and used his speed to get two sacks on Logan Thomas, one of which was Mewhort in the middle of the two men. He also forced a hold on the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, Notre Dame's Zack Martin. He may only be 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds, but I am not sure how you could be an scout and not consider this guy on Day 2, as he will likely be there (more on that later).
  • Morgan Moses (OT, Virginia): Moses was the main blindside blocker with David Fales at quarterback. Fales led a touchdown drive with great protection. The quarterback from San Jose State has a habit of holding onto the ball a bit too long and not forcing a play. He was lucky have Moses, who kept his blindside clean for a majority of the drive, including a great stance on the actual touchdown pass. Fales moved to his right and held the ball for several seconds looking for someone to get open. His protection was stellar, as he found Alabama's Kevin Norwood for a score. The blocking of Moses led to several "who was the left tackle on that play?" tweets.
  • Crockett Gillmore (TE, Colorado State): A very late entry in the game (literally the night before), Crockett made his presence known from the jump. He started off his great day with a 17-yard touchdowns catch from Eastern Illinois' quarterback Jimmy Garapollo. He finished with five catches for 61 receiving yards and touchdown, after some solid catches off of passes from Garapollo and Fales.
  • Curuan Reid (DL, Princeton): This guy is an Andy Reid "fastball." He had back-to-back sacks with an inside speed rush. He beat two different offensive linemen for the sacks.
  • James White (RB, Wisconsin): With no exaggeration needed, White was probably the most impressive player in the game for the North squad. The two-way back was active the entire game as both a receiver and a runner. Despite dropping a six-yard absolute bullet by Morris due to sun being in his eyes, White was pretty much the only play-maker on the team. He showed good speed, hands and shiftiness, as he collected 62 yards on the ground and 15 receiving yards off of five poorly-thrown passes (again, more on that later). He also had an awesome stiff arm as he ran for outside for a one-yard touchdown.
  • Kevin Norwood (WR, Alabama): Norwood seemed to be the go-to target early for Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr. He caught to early screen passes but they were played well by the defense. He had trouble trusting a flea flicker pass from Carr in the first quarter, but it was a great throw by the quarterback, but the wide receiver failed to make the catch. He got open on a short route and was able to catch a pass for touchdown by Fales. Norwood seems to be built for the slot and has a similar game to Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas (though Norwood is a bit taller).
  • IK Enemkpail (DE, Louisiana Tech): He was also a late entrant in the game and did well with wrecking havoc on the North's quarterbacks. He had a very nice tackle for loss on a screen pass that he sniffed out very well. He finished with four tackles.
  • Telvin Smith (LB, Florida State): If you want to talk about an active linebacker, this is your guy. He was all over the place on Saturday. He had a few solid breakups, a tackle for loss that forced a 3-and-out and had five total tackles on the day. At nearly 6-foot-3 and just 218 pounds, Smith looks more like a giant safety than he does a linebacker. While he could easily add 8-10 pounds and be a WILL in a 4-3 defense, he could perhaps draw interest from a team that desires larger defensive backs like the Seahawks or the Eagles.
  • Christian Kirksey (ILB, Iowa): A favorite of mine, Kirksey failed to disappoint on Saturday. A rangy inside linebacker with size, he played the run as well as he does on tape. He also showed the ability to cover as well.
  • Jimmie Ward (S, Northern Illinois): A small but tough safety, Ward made a big impression on me with his physicality. At one point, he decleated Gillmore, who is listed at 6-foot-6. Just over 5-foot-10, Ward went low and flipped the giant tight end, which made him drop the ball. Ward also played well in coverage throughout the game. The question for teams will be whether or not they trust him at safety to cover the Jimmy Grahams and Cameron Jordans of the NFL. He could easily be a top nickelback in the league if a team wanted to go that route.
  • Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State): He was competent but cautious in the game. As the top passer in the game, it was almost as if he didn't want to overexert himself on passes. He stuck to mostly quick and short passes on Saturday, which he did frequently in college. However, he did have a few mid-range passes that went for decent gains. He finished 7-of-12 for 45 yards and a touchdown.
  • Will Sutton (NT, Arizona State): The big man from Tempe gained a ton of weight over the last year, but should incredible quickness on Saturday. He abused Michigan guard Mike Schofield for a three-yard on run play by the South. A bit short, Sutton gets by on his quickness and technique. He could be a possible Day 2 nose tackle option for the Eagles.
  • Christian Jones (LB, Florida State): Much like his teammate Telvin Smith, Jones was everywhere on Saturday. He played the run very well and a few stops. He finished with six tackles.
  • Chris Borland (ILB, Wisconsin): An impressive short guy, Borland's tape and play in the Senior Bowl are identical. While guys that focus on size will ignore him, Borland is a complete linebacker, who can blitz, cover and play the run. He finished with eight tackles and a forced fumble on Saturday.
  • Kyle Van Noy (ILB, BYU): This long and lean prospect showed off his blitzing ability on Saturday. He had a sack after blowing through Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson. It was a very good sample of Van Noy's speed and strength.
  • Stanley Jean Baptiste (CB, Nebraska): SJB was probably the most impressive player in coverage on Saturday. He had a pass breakup and nearly picked off a pass from Carr, despite playing against his strength in off-man coverage. He is a pure press corner, so it was nice to see him perform well in an unfamiliar situation.
  • Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt): It took him a while, but Matthews caught on at the end of the game. He had a nice 33-yard reception from Fales late in the the game. He finished with two catches for 38 yards.
  • David Fales (QB, San Jose State): He showed accuracy and intelligence on Saturday. He also showed off an ability to throw balls down the field, which was his biggest red flag entering the game. While he did throw an interception, that was his only incomplete pass. Despite throwing the least amount of passes on the South squad, Fales finished 6-of-7 for a game high 104 passing yards and a touchdown.

The Bad

  • Stephen Morris (QB, Miami): Yikes! Morris went from possibly being a Day 3 talent to potentially undraftable. His tape is in his senior year is pretty awful and it was confirmed on Saturday. He was inaccurate and missed on several passes. He also had a terrible game-sealing interception that was nowhere near a wide receiver and went into the hands of a diving Keith McGill of Utah. He finished 10-of-18 for just 89 yards and two interceptions.
  • Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech): The struggles for the North squad's quarterbacks was seemingly unreal. Thomas was not able to get off a pass of more than nine yards on Saturday and took five sacks, despite being a mobile quarterback. He finished 4-of-5 for 17 yards, with three of those completions going for just eight yards.
  • Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson): He may have been the worst of the three quarterbacks on the South. He had two batted balls and was everywhere but accurate on his throws. Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith batted one of Boyd's passes to start the game, and he is only 6-foot 1. He stuck to mostly short passes when he did actually complete them and just did not seem to find any confidence. He finished 7-of-16 for 31 yards and an interception. He added eight yards on two scrambles as well.
  • Jack Mewhort (OT, Ohio State): This guy just drew the unlucky draw when he was faced with blocking Ford. He had a massive hold on Ford and still allowed a sack to him. He seemed to struggle all game long, much like the rest of the North line.

The Notes

  • The use of Jeremiah Attaochu and Marcus Smith in this game was unfair to the audience at home but likely will help them come draft time. While both were largely anonymous in the game, showing teams that they could play in space at 4-3 outside linebacker was clearly a positive. Both are very solid pass rushers and can put their hands down, they are more likely to be rush linebackers in 3-4 defenses in the NFL. Coverage ability will be the key to their overall appeal on draft weekend.
  • I previously mentioned that Ford will likely be available in the second round. The reason for this is his clear lack of prowess when it comes to run defense. Teams would run to his side on purpose at Auburn. He weighs just 243 pounds, but their is no reason a small school running back like Toledo's David Fluellen should be able to literally fling him off like he did on Saturday. Fluellen is a briuser and is a tough runner but he heaved Ford off like he was a cheap poncho.
  • The large defensive backs like Nevin Lawson, Pierre Nesir and Keith McGill all had interceptions on Saturday, but really did not stick out otherwise. Their interceptions were off of really bad passes and fans should not get carried away with those statistics. Lawson, a cornerback from Utah State, held throughout the game and his pick was extremely questionable as he draped the wide receiver on the play. Nesir, a huge cornerback from Lindenburg, made an interception off a double pass that was launched by wide receiver Kevin Norwood. McGill had the previously mentioned pick off of Morris that seemingly was thrown nowhere near anyone.
  • Seantrell Henderson is an odd athlete. He is an unusual athlete, as he is very quick for his size but also has limited balance. On tape, he falls over several times and misses quite a few block before falling on his face or blocking air. He was terrible as a pass blocker, like most of the North's offensive line, on Saturday. He did a bit better for the run though.
  • North Dakota State's Billy Turner was pretty much up-and-down all game. He was very good on the opening drive of the game for the South and owned Missouri defensive end Michael Sam on quite a few plays. He has work to do, but the talent is there.
  • The senior running backs as a whole were not all that impressive on Saturday. It is a very good thing the Eagles are not in need of one.
  • Garopollo was pretty inconsistent on Saturday and did not look as sharp as he was in the Shrine Game. He somewhat left his receivers out-to-dry and looked uncomfortable at times. He still is a likely Day 2 pick.

This is just the start of the offseason for BGN. We will have in-depth coverage of the Combine, free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft over the next several months. Our coverage will include draft prospect and free agent profiles, draft scenarios, mock drafts and more. The fun season is on!

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