The 2020 Senior Bowl was the culmination of a week which marks the start of a process that culminates in the NFL Draft roughly three months from now. It’s the first chance since the completion of the 2019 college football season for talent evaluators to have a look at this group of prospects looking to embark upon an NFL career. During the three practices and the game itself, quite a few upped their draft stock while others still have work to do between now and the draft.
In this article, the focus is on the standouts from Saturday’s 34-17 victory for the North team. We will select two players from each team on both sides of the ball. Without further ado, let’s see who made their presence felt in Mobile.
Offensive/Defensive Standouts for Each Team at the 2020 Senior Bowl
North – Offense
Joshua Kelley – Running Back – UCLA
This was a toss-up between Kelley and TCU running back Darius Anderson. The latter showcased his pass-catching skills in the first half went he went to the house on a 75-yard touchdown catch. But television replays showed he actually stepped out of the bounds prior to crossing the goal-line. Good thing for him that the Senior Bowl wasn’t reviewing plays.
Kelley didn’t find the end zone during the game. But he certainly put the North team in favorable positions to score. What stood out was how speedy he was once he got out into the open field, which enabled him to rush for 105 yards on 15 carries at an impressive seven yards per attempt. If you can kick it into an extra gear in the second and third level of the defense, you’re going to catch the eye of many an NFL scout. And Kelley did that on Saturday.
Joshua Kelley with a great run to start his day! #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/E0u1ZiUbRf
— Jake Schyvinck (@JakeNFLDraft) January 25, 2020
Anthony Gordon – Quarterback – Washington State
As mentioned above, Anderson definitely warranted consideration here, especially with the big play he made. But Gordon made a compelling case for inclusion when he stepped onto the field in the second half. The successor to current Jacksonville Jaguars signal-caller Gardner Minshew at Washington State, Gordon completed two-thirds of his 12 passes and two of them resulted in touchdowns.
One of the things that stands out about Gordon is the ease with which he can make touch throws. His toss to Liberty wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden was a perfect example. He made a similar pass to Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool in the back of the end zone that was ruled incomplete as Claypool clearly didn’t get both feet down. But Claypool eventually found paydirt on a wide-open catch for a score as he took advantage of a mix-up in the secondary. Gordon clearly isn’t a top name in this year’s quarterback class. But he impressed in Mobile and can continue to rise up draft boards by acing the Combine next month.
Wasn’t in bounds but this off platform throw in the Senior Bowl from Anthony Gordon had me jump out of my chair. pic.twitter.com/fzd5krr7de
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) January 25, 2020
North – Defense
Bradlee Anae – Edge Rusher – Utah
If there’s a prospect who wowed scouts the most during practices and on Saturday, it was Anae. The Utah edge defender came into Senior Bowl week having established himself as one of the top players at his positions in the country. He earned consensus All-American honors after finishing the 2019 season with 14 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. And it’s not like he burst onto the scene either. Anae had tallied a combined 26 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss prior to his senior year with the Utes.
That dominance was on display all week in Mobile, perhaps most prominently on gameday. Anae was in the quarterback’s face constantly and was virtually unblockable by opposing tackles. What really jumps out when watching him is how easy it is for him to win at the point of attack with his tremendously active hands. Make no mistake about it. Anae’s draft stock skyrocketed as a result of his performance this week. And he has to be on the radar of teams in need of an impact player who can help generate more consistent pressure on the edge.
Bradlee Anae takes down Jalen Hurts? pic.twitter.com/5zMJoyVlOL
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 25, 2020
Malik Harrison – Inside Linebacker – Ohio State
You could’ve gone with either Harrison or his Michigan rival Josh Uche here. Uche’s stats would’ve received a bump had he not broke out a two-hand touch sack of Justin Herbert right after he broke off a big run. Though he wasn’t as impactful as Anae, he still regularly harassed the quarterback when he was on the field. What puts Harrison over the hump here is the hugely athletic play the Buckeye inside linebacker made in the second quarter.
Just one play after the South started a drive after an interception, Harrison snagged one of his own. After quarterback Jalen Hurts got hit as he threw by who else other than Anae, the ball popped way up into the air. It was then that Harrison played centerfield and dove backward to come up with the ball as his back hit the ground. More than ever, the MIKE linebacker position requires a healthy mix of athleticism and ball skills. On this particular play, Harrison demonstrated such a skill set.
The North get the ball right back thanks to Malik Harrison (@OhioStateFB)!
?: @seniorbowl on NFL Network pic.twitter.com/q8Ge7w2cMi
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 25, 2020
South – Offense
Justin Herbert – Quarterback – Oregon
No player at this year’s Senior Bowl was under as much scrutiny as Herbert. It comes with the territory of being the most prominent quarterback prospect in Mobile. Suffice it to say that he came through with flying colors, especially on Saturday. He only played the first quarter, but that was all he needed to put scouts and general managers on notice as to his potential at the next level.
Watching Senior Bowl stuff on TV and Oregon QB Justin Herbert is REALLY showing off his eye-popping physical skills with that big arm and his athleticism right now.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 23, 2020
Herbert’s lone 15 minutes of action saw him complete 75 percent of his passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. And as the quarterback position in the NFL evolves into one that requires players to make plays with their feet, Herbert showed his capabilities. He broke off a 19-yard run on second and one during the opening drive of the game that culminated in his touchdown toss. During his time on the field, Herbert demonstrated arm strength, accuracy, pocket awareness, athleticism, and an ability to make a wide array of throws. If he can leverage this momentum into another standout performance at the Combine, there’s no doubt he’ll have his name called on day one in Vegas.
Lamical Perine – Running Back – Florida
And now it’s time to turn to the player who caught that opening-drive touchdown pass from Herbert. Perine, whose cousin Samaje was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 draft by the Washington Redskins and now plays for the Miami Dolphins, proved that he’s capable of catching passes out of the backfield during his senior season at Florida. That’s a given when looking at his final stats: 40 catches, 262 yards, and five touchdowns. The catch and touchdown totals were actually third-best on a 2019 Gators team that closed out the season with an Orange Bowl win.
Just a few weeks later in Mobile, he put that element of his skill set on display when he caught Herbert’s lone touchdown toss of the game. And since he caught the ball near the line of scrimmage, it required much more in order for him to reach the end zone. So, in that respect, he showcased great vision and dogged, relentless determination on his 16-yard scamper for a score that opened up the scoring. Continuing to hone his pass-catching skill can only serve to improve his ceiling.
Putting on a show in his hometown! @LP_deucedeuce ?#GatorMade ? pic.twitter.com/tpXxiKk7ma
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) January 25, 2020
South – Defense
Kindle Vildor – Cornerback – Georgia Southern
It wasn’t exactly the best day for the South defense as the final scoreline indicated. But the unit did have its moments, the most eye-catching of which was arguably Vildor’s interception of Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson in the second quarter. Patterson’s pass massively sailed over it’s intended target, Texas A&M wide receiver Quartney Davis. But Vildor was at the right place at the right time and plucked the ball out of the air like a seasoned pass-catcher.
Georgia Southern’s Kindle Vildor intercepts the Shea Patterson deep ball!
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 25, 2020
Vildor experienced a bit of a down year for Georgia Southern in 2019 as he missed a few games due to injury. It resulted in him managing just two interceptions after he tallied a combined seven during the previous two seasons. But on Saturday, he proved his quality as a defensive playmaker by punishing an errant throw. He’ll undoubtedly have some more opportunities to make an impression on talent evaluators over the next few months.
Brian Cole – Safety – Mississippi State
By the middle of the fourth quarter, the 2020 Senior Bowl was well and truly decided with the North up 31-10. But that doesn’t mean that’s time to stop playing hard if you’re on the wrong end of that score. After all, we’re talking about players with a chance to find their way onto an NFL roster. And the coaches, scouts, and front office executives are looking at how you respond to adversity. Enter Cole.
I’ve decided that Brian Cole is more athletic than I am. pic.twitter.com/NSQwOTfJSV
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) January 25, 2020
The Mississippi State safety was the beneficiary of a fumble forced by Tulsa cornerback Reggie Robinson who stripped Baylor running back JaMycal Hasty at the North 43-yard line. Cole picked it up and broke a few tackles en route to a 22-yard return that set up the South for its final touchdown of the game. These are the type of big plays that endear you to coaching staffs as it shows that you’re never willing to give up, regardless of what the scoreboard says.