Naylor: Football's brass focused on the Senior Bowl

Dave Naylor
1/26/2012 11:25:25 AM
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To understand what a typical day at the Senior Bowl looks like, think of it as the Wild West of the world of professional football.

Whether at the stadium or the hotel lobby, scouts, agents, advisors and gurus surround players, pitching advice and asking questions. This is a meat market in the truest sense of the word, unbridled capitalism for everyone involved in the business of professional football, from the players who hope to cash multi-million dollar cheques to the scouts who hope to gain that bit of insight to help their teams make the right choice when the NFL Draft rolls around in April.

The fact is that many of the very best NCAA players these days leave school after three years and aren't here.

But the Senior Bowl packs its share of first-rate talent, such as Cincinnati quarterback And Dalton who was here a year ago showing off his skills before a stadium full of men holding charts and taking notes.

The NFL is a big, big business and this - along with the other college all-star games of lower pedigree - is where the process of building a team begins in earnest.

The scouting game is played a little differently for the attending CFL scouts and coaches who understand that every player here is focused on making it in the NFL. But of course, not everyone here this week will play in the NFL and among those who do there will be plenty whose time in that league is fleeting.

And that is something that CFL teams are well aware of as they study the players here this week, keying on those ones whose football skills are impeccable but might not live up to the physical ideals of what an NFL player should look like.

That, essentially, is what CFL scouting is all about.

And among the 100 or so players here this week are a pair of intriguing quarterback prospects who very much fit that description and who were under the watchful eyes of the CFL teams this who own their rights.

Boise State's Kellen Moore has won more games than any other quarterback in college football history, led the nation this past year in completion percentage and has the best interception percentage in college football history. His sense of timing and rhythm is fantastic and though he lacks a big arm, his ability to make the right throw at the right time was what made Boise State a national power the past several seasons.

But at just under six feet and with no overwhelming physical attributes, he's likely to draw as many skeptics as believers in the NFL, and projects in that league as a backup. Sports Illustrated last fall said he had the ideal physique for a quarterback "if that quarterback competed in an adult flag football league."

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who own his CFL rights via their negotiation list, are among the believers.

"His mechanics are as sound as anyone here," said Hamilton's director of player personnel, Joe Womack. "He's got great footwork and balance but the most important thing is the football mechanics. The nock is his arm strength but he has great anticipation because the ball his coming out of his hands as the receiver is breaking."

Womack and Ticats director of scouting Danny McManus were on the field after Wednesday's final practice, introducing themselves and gently planting the seed that Moore might one day want to come to Canada.

"I just said 'we've been interested in you for a long time, don't forget about us.'" said Womack.

Similarly, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson doesn't have the stature associated with an NFL quarterback, measuring at 5-foot-10 and five-eighths. He throws the ball crisply and fluidly and moves around the pocket with the poise of a pro, something he demonstrated while leading the Badgers t to the Rose Bowl this season after transferring from North Carolina State.

The Alouettes see him as a possible heir to Anthony Calvillo and in fact Wilson was recruited to N.C. State University by Marc Trestman when Trestman was with the Wolfpack and Wilson was a 17-year-old high schooler.

"He has all the intangibles," said Trestman. "He's a world class leader. Just talk to the people at Wisconsin about how in a couple of weeks he transcended that locker room. And he can overcome his size because he's a prolific passer with mobility. He's got an inventory of passes and can make all the throws. He's highly intelligent and can slow the game down."

Trestman says he hopes Wilson makes it in the NFL but it's hard to think of another quarterback at his height whose succeeded in that league recently (Even New Orleans Drew Brees, at six feet, stands nearly an inch-and-a-half taller.)

Both Moore and Wilson are superb quarterbacks who've proven themselves against the best talent there is in college football. But will likely be in NFL camps this summer but whether either or both of them will even get a true shot to play is a very open question.

There futures are a mystery, as is whether either of them will ever decide to pursue professional football north of the border if the NFL doesn't pan out.

After this week for Moore, Wilson, the Tiger-Cats and the Alouettes, the waiting game begins.

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