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Passing Game's in the Senior Bowl spotlight


They've reached midweek down in Mobile, Ala., and that means a number of coaches and scouts will soon return to their NFL teams. Jets head coach Eric Mangini was once again caught by cameras this morning, watching the North team go through a 90-minute workout at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

The 59th annual Under Armour Senior Bowl will be played Saturday and most personnel will be long gone by kickoff. Both the North and the South squads practice once today and once Thursday before a Friday walkthrough. So the time is ticking for some of the players to leave final impressions — on the field and during sitdown interviews with teams.

Texas WR Limas Sweed, a 6'4", 215-pounder, could have easily decided to stay home this week. The big target, who had 12 receiving TDs as a junior, played in only six games his senior campaign because of a left wrist injury. He recently had surgery and just had his cast removed.

"Doctors told me not to come out here, but I felt like I had to compete, and anybody who knows me knows I'm a competitor," Sweed said. "Instead of sitting at home chillin', I'm out here getting better."

Sweed's a first-round talent and that kind of toughness isn't going to hurt his stock.

In the collegiate coaching ranks, nobody's stock is higher than Southern Cal's Pete Carroll, the former Jets head coach who has nine players participating in this all-star event. He took a break from the Southeast recruiting trail and stopped by the NFL Network booth to discuss QB John David Booty.

"This is a really accurate thrower. He's just a naturally accurate kid," Carroll said. "The ball is going to go where he wants to all day long. He is going to be very consistent. There are no throws he can't make."

Booty was also limited this past season, missing three games after breaking his finger in an October loss to Stanford. Carroll also commented on CB Terrell Thomas, a Trojan with strong character traits.

"He does have the length that you're looking for. He's played a lot of football. He's played a lot at the line of scrimmage — he's a good bump-and-run guy," the coach said. "I think everybody's going to find that he's also a really good competitor. He studies, he loves the game, it's important to him, so he's a real good product for the NFL."

While Carroll remains committed to the college game, Hawaii QB Colt Brennan is beginning his pro transition. Brennan, whose 131 passing TDs set an NCAA record, worked out of spread formation under former Rainbows coach June Jones.

"In the shotgun, I could just gather myself and fire it," he said. "Now it's all timing, it's sitting on your back foot and being able to fire."

New 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz has worked closely with Brennan, encouraging the youngster to slow down his drops from center. Brennan surprised scouts earlier this week at his weigh-in. The 6'3" prospect, who was listed at 201 pounds on the University of Hawaii Website, dropped some weight after coming down with a stomach virus.

"I was just as surprised when they came across 185," he said. "I was wondering if maybe I stepped on the scale wrong — I don't think I'm 185."

Despite facing a lower level of competition than many in Mobile, Joe Flacco has a number of raw tools. But the 6'6", 232-pound Delaware product, who took the spot of Matt Ryan, reportedly had a slow start to the week.

"I came from a I-AA school so I couldn't be more excited to be down here playing with all these great guys," Flacco said. "I'm excited to get practice started and see what everybody has."

According to a number of draft gurus, Michigan's Chad Henne has been the most impressive passer in Alabama. The four-year starter capped off his college career against Florida in the Capital One Bowl, torching the defending national champs for 373 yards and three TDs in a 41-35 victory.

Another Big Ten standout from Linebacker U had a good idea of what to expect coming in. Penn State LB Dan Connor had a couple of conversations with former teammate Paul Posluszny and the Buffalo Bills rookie gave his friend sound advice.

"I called him and he told me to be ready to work," said Connor, who set a school record with 419 career tackles. "It's a lot of long days with interviews with different teams and meetings and practices. It's a long week, but it's so worth it in the long run. You get to be around guys you've seen on television so much and meet the NFL coaches."

Connor, a sure-fire first-rounder, will suit up for the North on Saturday. Ali Highsmith, an All-SEC first-team LB at LSU, is fresh off a national championship and is practicing with the South squad. Highsmith's 101 tackles tied for the Tigers' lead in '07 and he also added three sacks.

"I feel like this week is a job interview for me and you have to show what you can do for a team and what you bring to the table," Highsmith said.

The draft is still three months away, so the table isn't set yet. But NFL folks are getting an early view of what's available.

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