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For the first time in nearly 40 years, the NFL scouting combine will not take place, becoming yet another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. The cancellation of the combine emphasized the importance of this year’s Senior Bowl, but it had a different feel than past iterations.
Typically, Senior Bowl week consists of concerts, parades, open practices, and a packed stadium for the actual game. Not to mention, hundreds of coaches and scouts descend on Mobile, Ala., to scrutinize every draft-eligible player who earned a spot in the game. That wasn’t the case in 2021, as even the format and stadium were different than that to which most have grown accustomed.
Instead of the traditional North vs. South, the National team, coached by the Dolphins’ Brian Flores, was pitted against the Panthers’ Matt Rhule and the American side. And for the first time, the game was played at Hancock Whitney Stadium, the brand new home of South Alabama.
Mond Earns MVP Honors
Despite being on the losing end, Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond captured the MVP award, tossing a pair of touchdown passes in the third quarter to help erase a 13-0 halftime deficit. Mond converted one two-point play with a run and another with a pass, following touchdowns of 15 yards to Clemson's Amari Rodgers and 14 yards to Tennessee's Josh Palmer.
The 21-year old decided to bypass the extra year of eligibility afforded to all players due to the pandemic and enter the upcoming NFL Draft. His performance Saturday may have justified his decision and only elevated his stock.
Other Notable Performances
North Carolina running back Michael Carter, who shared the backfield spotlight with Javonte Williams in Chapel Hill this season, led all runners with 60 yards on eight carries. All other running backs in the game combined for just 26 yards on 45 totes.
Demetric Felton was a running back for UCLA, but his Senior Bowl coaching staff had him lined up both in the backfield and at wide receiver. Felton excelled in the transition, catching two passes for 28 yards, including a touchdown from Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
Rodgers did his best to insert himself into the second tier of draft-eligible receivers, catching four passes for 23 yards and a score.
Arkansas’s Feleipe Franks threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Mississippi tight end Kenny Yeboah early in the fourth quarter to help seal the National team’s 27- 24 victory. The graduate transfer from Florida set up the score with a 29-yard completion to Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick had six catches for 90 yards in the showcase and earned offensive player of the game honors.
Mac Jones and Najee Harris didn’t have to travel far for the Senior Bowl festivities, but neither member of the Crimson Tide’s national championship team played on Saturday. Harris hurt his ankle in the title game and decided to withdraw after practicing Tuesday and Wednesday. Jones tweaked his ankle in practice on Thursday, and despite dressing and going through the pregame walkthrough, opted to sit it out.
Both players are projected late-first or early-second round selections.