Bearcats trio out to impress at Senior Bowl

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So much of the attention the first few days of the Senior Bowl has been focused on Tim Tebow and Terrence Cody*. But there are others - a few of them you might actually know - who are doing their best to make a mental mark on the scouts and coaches assembled in Alabama for the annual all-star game/meat market.


*Especially if he's going to walk around for photos like this.


If you happen to catch the game Saturday at 4 p.m. on the NFL Network, here's who you'll want to be watching.


Tony Pike: There are, as you probably know by now, a few knocks on Pike as he begins his offseason of prepping for the NFL Combine, working out for whichever teams decide to bring him to their complexes before the Draft and participating in UC's Pro Day. He's got good height for a QB, but he's thin (he weighed in at 212 pounds this week) and he seems to be a bit brittle. That will be a concern and why, instead of becoming a late first- or early second-round pick (as some had him before he was injured in this year's South Florida game), he might drop to the middle rounds. Also, you have to wonder if he is a (dreaded) system quarterback


But he's got an NFL-ready arm, and he seems like a smart, well-reasoned, calm individual - on the field and off it. That certainly counts for something.


During his first day of practice, he performed well, and, according to the Sporting News, he "definitely looked like an NFL quarterback ... and really could help himself if able to play at this level all week."


But ESPN's Todd McShay isn't sure about Pike. Before the Sugar Bowl in a teleconference call with national reporters, McShay didn't seem so impressed with Pike, and earlier this week, he reiterated that opinion by writing:


Tony Pike is accurate and tall enough to develop into an NFL backup and possibly a starter down the line. However, his ability to read NFL coverage is a concern and there are questions about his overall work ethic, so he may never reach that potential.

His ability to take advantage of and learn from the Detroit Lions coaching staff throughout the week will either amplify or dampen these concerns. In addition, Pike must prove he can make the transition from the spread attack of his college coach Brian Kelly to a pro-style system.

Not sure I agree with the work ethic thing, but OK, I'll buy most of that.


Mardy Gilyard: I'll be really interested to see where Gilyard goes in the draft. He's got first-round talent, but a late-rounds body. He weighed in at a light 179 pounds, and at 6-1 (though I'm pretty sure he's shorter than that), that's not going to help impress the scouts who think those measures are so important.


We both know, though, that Gilyard is an NFL talent. He's not the fastest receiver in the country, but he's got great hands, quick moves and he knows how to use his body to his advantage. Plus, he's one of the best kick returners in the nation.


According to the Sporting News, he had a strong first day, showing "good quickness and agility in his routes, getting out of cuts quickly and flashing the ability to make tough catches." But not everybody was quite as impressed. Like Dallas Morning News scribe Gerry Fraley, who wrote that Gilyard had stiff hands after dropping three passes during Tuesday's practice. And like Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.


Check out this passage from strong Butch Hobson in his story from Tuesday:


MOBILE, Ala. - Call it Mardy Gilyard's first professional chewing out after Monday afternoon's first Senior Bowl practice for the North.


In a not so intimate huddle Lions wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson lit into his group for their inability to keep up with the speed of the game and since Gilyard is considered by many to be the best of the lot at this all-star game despite the 113 catches of Missouri's 6-4, 220-pound Danario Alexander and the 4.38-second 40-yard dash time of Clemson's 5-8 Jacoby Ford, Jefferson seemed to be staring at him much of the time during the tirade.


"I think he has potential, but it seems like the game is a little too fast for him," Jefferson said later. "Maybe I'm too hard on him, but in this day and age there is no time to get these kids ready. They have to be ready now. Today was a bit overwhelming for him.


Moments later Jefferson walked over to Gilyard kneeling on one knee and patted him on the shoulder and Gilyard told him, "I'm going to look you up tonight," after Jefferson challenged them to spend extra time with him to learn the plays.


Gilyard then fired on himself in a passionate diatribe for coming out so passively.


"When I ran my first comeback and it got picked, I was saying, 'What's going on? What am I doing?'" Gilyard fumed at himself. "I'm being coached hard and with intensity. I need that and it's something that I love. I got frustrated. Then once I relaxed I got a little bit better toward the end. I need to take what I did at the end and transfer it to the beginning and just keep moving."


If I had to guess, though, I think Gilyard goes before Pike in the Draft.


Mike Windt: You ever notice him on the field for Bearcats? Probably not, and that's probably a good thing. A long-snapper is there not to be noticed, but to be solid on every single snap. And Windt has been exactly that during his UC career.


Honestly, I didn't expect to find much news on Windt, but along came this little passage on

Some things are universal. At NFL practices, the specialists hang in packs (packs of three to be precise) and that's no different at the Senior Bowl, even if the trio just met within the past 48 hours. Specialists are also typically the first ones to arrive at practice and usually display some sort of "abnormal behavior" in the process.


This morning, the few people at Ladd-Peebles Stadium 60 minutes prior to the North's start-time were treated to a sprinting Mike Windt (LS - Cincinnati) singing the U.C. fight song. Odd behavior among specialists seems to be world-wide.


On a side note, don't think that coaches and scouts simply watch practice and leave to review the tape. These NFL talent evaluators join media members on the field for post-practice interviews of their own with the college prospects. Even though the Chiefs seem set at both kicker and punter, that didn't stop special teams coach Steve Hoffman from gathering all three North specialists for a post-practice chat.

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