MOBILE — The 2020 Senior Bowl Week is off to a strong start, with former University of Alabama star quarterback Jalen Hurts already taking center stage.
Hurts, of course, played for the Oklahoma Sooners this past season as a graduate transfer from Alabama. He finished as the runner-up in the 2019 Heisman Trophy voting.
He is now set to be taken in April’s NFL Draft, and the Senior Bowl is a chance to increase his draft stock, just as it is for the other 117 players filling out the South and North teams.
Players arrived in Mobile on Sunday, descending on the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel, the Senior Bowl’s de facto headquarters for the week. Players were immediately able to schedule individual informal meetings with interested NFL clubs, leading up to an official orientation meeting for the players Sunday night.
Monday was much of the same until the introductory press conference at 5:30 p.m., except for physical evaluations occurring throughout the day to ensure players are healthy enough to participate in the week and game.
At that press conference, Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy talked about the importance of the game, emphasized how special it is having Hurts play in it and really got into the weeds in breaking down scouting reports on several players involved.
Nagy called Monday morning “Christmas morning” for the Senior Bowl staff with all of the players finally being in town.
He explained 93 players that participated in the 2019 Senior Bowl were taken in last year’s NFL Draft, which comprised 37% of the entire draft class. This included 10 players taken in the first round.
“Hence ‘The Draft Starts in Mobile,'” Nagy remarked. “We’re really pushing that, because I really feel like it does.”
Nagy took a bevy of questions, including one member of the media asking why Hurts was invited considering he “still has a lot to prove.”
“Because he deserved it, for one,” Nagy responded. “Jalen’s come a long, long way. He really has.”
He then admitted that two years ago, Nagy publicly projected that if Hurts ever made it to the Senior Bowl, it would be as a position player and not a quarterback.
“And he’s blown that out [of the water],” Nagy said. “He’s come so far. I think that those guys in Tuscaloosa did a great job, and you saw it kind of in the small sample size a year ago for Alabama when he came off the bench against Georgia. And really that move to Oklahoma this year really opened me up to a full season, and it made it pretty easy.”
“He’s so beloved — it was an easy one for us,” he continued. “If this game was anywhere else, I don’t know. But down here, he’s such a beloved guy, you know in his ‘home state,’ playing another game in Alabama, getting back here to our community. So we’re excited, I’m excited for game day. Because I think our fan base should come out, the Tide fan base a little bit maybe, should come out and support Jalen. It’s like our opportunity to appreciate him, show him our appreciation. He’s done so much for this state.”
Nagy, answering a follow-up question, advised that NFL scouts will probably most want to see out of Hurts this week “accuracy” and “consistency.”
“He had some really good games early in the year, and he’s seeing the field a lot better than he ever has. I think that comes with experience … his eyes are quicker. So probably just the accuracy thing this week,” he added.
Nagy was followed by Hurts at the microphone. Read about Hurts’ remarks here.
Hurts then gave up the microphone to South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who concluded the press conference.
The first formal interviews with NFL clubs began later Monday evening. The formal interviews schedule throughout the week is sorted by position, and quarterbacks, running backs, offensive lineman and specialists kicked things off Monday evening.
Additionally, physiological testing began Monday night, starting with tight ends, wide receivers and defensive linemen.
Finally, defensive backs and linebackers took part in informal club interviews.
Tuesday’s Senior Bowl Week schedule starts out with player weigh-ins at 7:00 a.m. After that, Media Day interviews occur around lunch time, followed by the first team practices of the week in the afternoon; practices are open to the public at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Tuesday night will again feature formal club interviews, psychological testing and informal club interviews.
You can view a list of public events for the week here.
The Senior Bowl game will be played on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CST in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Tickets are available here.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn