The rain fell on Mobile today. And there were wind gusts and temperatures in the 40s as both Senior Bowl teams held their final official practices before Saturday's game. The North and the South will have walkthroughs Friday as each team shuffles its deck due to injuries.
Owen Schmitt, the West Virginia FB best known for his hard hits and mohawk, injured his knee Wednesday and is not expected to play this weekend for the North. Just a day earlier, UNLV LB Beau Bell also went down with a knee problem and he won't suit up, either.
The Southern squad has been forced to deal with a few receiving issues. Texas WR Limas Sweed, who was trying to make an early comeback from a wrist injury against his doctors' advice, had a setback and was removed from Mike Nolan's roster. LSU's Early Doucet — a likely first-round selection in April with Sweed — reaggravated a hamstring and sat out Wednesday's workout. While Doucet still might be able to play, Sweed's roster spot was filled by Appalachian State WR Dexter Jackson.
Also making news this week was new Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland. His team owns the first overall selection in April's draft and Ireland says he's ready to talk about the top slot.
"We're going to do everything in our power to make the right choices, whether it be to take the pick or move down," Ireland said. "We'll listen to all offers."
While a number of juniors obviously didn't take part in practices and a handful of high-profile seniors decided to stay home, Southern Cal DT Sedrick Ellis cemented his status as a high pick with an impressive showing.
"The best player at the Senior Bowl this year is Sedrick Ellis from USC," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. "I said all year that he's a top-10 pick. I said he's as good as Glenn Dorsey from LSU. He had a dominant week in practice and he's helped his stock, and he's going to fit really nicely."
Mayock sees Ellis as a DT in a 4-3 front and as an end or even a nose in a 3-4. Ellis (6'1", 297) and Dorsey (6'2", 292) have all kinds of ability.
"Sedrick is unique," said Trojans head coach Pete Carroll. "It's hard to find guys who can play in the middle like that. He can play over the guard as a 3-technique and he's really well-equipped to be a nose tackle and he can rush the passer. He's been coached like these guys coach, so it will be an easy transition for him to the NFL."
Another inside player who flashed in front of league personnel was Notre Dame DT Trevor Laws. The 6'0", 300-pounder beat blocks and consistently attacked the backfield.
"He is not one of those 'measurable' guys that leaps off the page at you, but if you turn on the tape and watch him work at practice, he keeps showing up," said NFL Network analyst Charles Davis.
"He's explosive, he's quick and I like his hand placement also," Mayock added of Laws. "He's been coached very well at Notre Dame with his hands."
Some draft pundits believe Kansas underclassman Aqib Talib will be the first DB off the board. But seniors Mike Jenkins (South Florida), Leodis McKelvin (Troy) and Tracy Porter (Indiana) had a chance to showcase their skill sets the past few days.
On an ESPN.com chat, Porter compared himself to Dallas Cowboys CB Terence Newman.
"He is dynamic, like myself," he said. "And there have been people around here (Mobile) who have compared me to him and that is a great compliment!"
Porter (5'11", 185) finished his collegiate career as Indiana's second all-time INT leader and he's also an accomplished kick returner.
"He is a young man who has a chance to make a name for himself," Davis said.
Even though QB Matt Ryan skipped the Senior Bowl, a couple of Boston College Eagles were on hand to test their skills against some of the nation's best. CB DeJuan Tribble, who's only 5'9" and is not a burner, had a tough going in a lot of one-on-one coverage matchups.
But size isn't a problem for OL Gosder Cherilus. The BC tackle had the longest arms (35 inches) and biggest hands (11½ inches) of the entire group.
"He came in here this week with an attitude and I think it's paid off for him," Mayock said of Cherilus. "The consensus is he'll be a big-time tackle in the NFL."
And then there's the story of LSU corner Chevis Jackson. He's a Mobile native who's thought about the Senior Bowl since he was a young child.
"Every kid who grows up in Mobile grows up dreaming about playing in the Senior Bowl. I came to this game as a little kid every year," said the St. Paul High alum. "I used to jump the fence to get into the game and tried to get autographs. Now I'm here."
The next jump for Jackson and all these players is to gain an NFL league pass.