All the 49ers fans who watched the Senior Bowl today had to have been happy with how it ended. Down by six, Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge led the South all the way to the two yard line. On fourth down, and with four seconds left, Mike Martz made a gutsy call -- an end around to Florida receiver Andre Caldwell, who barely made it over the goal line for a touchdown and a dramatic South win. (It reminded be of the end of the first Cardinals game this past year). Martz said afterward that he saw the North safeties pinching up along the line of scrimmage and thought the end around would get it past them. “It seemed like the right call,” Martz said.
Until that point, the play calling was pretty conservative. The game was played in the rain with unfamiliar quarterbacks, and the Senior Bowl rules limit what kind of formations teams can use. In fact, for most of the game the South squad looked like the 49ers of 2007 – lots of runs by Tulane’s Matt Forte, Georgia Tech’s Tashard Choice and Arkansas’ Peyton Hillis. Forte, who had a nice catch and run to set up the final touchdown, was named the game’s MVP. I thought the award should have gone to Tennessee State cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had an interception and a couple of pass break ups and otherwise made himself a lot of money. Other guys who stood out were USC’s Sedrick Ellis (he had a safety), Notre Dame’s Trevor Laws, Choice and Cal receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who caught a long touchdown pass in the first quarter from Michigan’s Chad Henne.
* The North played USC’s Keith Rivers at both middle linebacker and strong-side linebacker. Rivers is big and fast and the team that drafts him can be creative in where he is used. A recent mock draft had the 49ers taking Rivers at pick No. 29. I doubt he will last that long.
* Laws looked exactly like he did all week. He’s a thick, strong guy who never stops moving. He’s a more powerful – and slightly taller – version of former 49er Anthony Adams. If the 49ers drafted him, it seems he could play all three positions on the line.
* Two other guys who played Saturday like they had practiced Mon.-Thurs. (I left after Thurs.’s practice) were Hawkins and Rodgers-Cromartie. Hawkins had to adjust to the underthrown pass by Henne, showing the nice body control he’s exhibited all week. Rodgers-Cromartie, meanwhile, made several leaping interceptions during the week in which he used his long-limbed body to go up high to snag the ball.
* One guy who did not show up was Maryland defensive lineman Dre Moore. Scouts loved what Moore did on one-on-one drills all week but were concerned that he would vanish during team drills. That seemed to be the case today. Of the South defensive linemen, Texas A&M’s Red Bryant seemed the most active.
* The officials robbed Oklahoma State receiver Adarius Bowman of a touchdown that likely would have propelled the North to a win. However, he didn’t help his cause by initially bobbling the throw, a bullet from Joe Flacco. Bowman’s hands were questionable all week. Fellow receivers Limas Sweed (wrist) and Early Doucet (hamstring) did not play. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin also did not play because of a hamstring injury.
* What’s the deal with the Under Armour commercial featuring Vernon Davis? If you were watching the game today you must have seen the ad, oh, 700 times. It shows Davis rolling a truck tire down an alley with a big chain slung over his shoulder. Soon he comes to a small box that is glowing red. It looks to me like it contains plutonium or something you’d want to avoid. But when the commercial cuts back, Davis has the box in his hand and is about to open it! If Davis is out next season with a mystery illness, we’ll know why. Don’t open the box, Vernon!
There are still three long months before the NFL draft, and yet the mock drafts are already starting to appear en masse. Thank goodness for Niners fan David Fucillo. David has created a database with every mock draft he can find. So who do the experts see the 49ers taking with pick No. 29? Find out here.
-- Matt Barrows