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January 21, 2008
Senior Bowl: Weighty matters on Day 1

The Senior Bowl kicked off this morning with what only can be described as a massive underwear fashion show. With dudes. The Senior Bowl calls it the National Scouting Weigh-in, and it’s attended by every coach, assistant, scout and media member in town – about 500 people overall. They are all packed into the ballroom of the Mobile convention center and they watch as every Senior Bowl invitee – more than 100 players in all -- walks up on stage in his skivvies to be weighed and measured, and then struts off through the middle of the crowd like a male model.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why these measurements – height, weight, hand size and arm length – can’t be done in private with the results then relayed to the teams. It seems rather voyeuristic. I guess an evaluator gets a better impression about a player’s body type and overall fitness than he can via the numbers. For example, after seeing USC quarterback John David Booty without his shirt on, I felt a lot better about my own body.

For the record, the heaviest player was Nebraska offensive lineman Carl Nicks, who tipped the scales at 343 pounds. The least-imposing was Oregon State kicker Alexis Serna at 168 pounds, which was one pound lighter than Purdue receiver Dorien Bryant. When Virginia Tech linebacker Xavier Adibi’s arm length – 37 and 7/8 inches – was announced, the crowd let forth a collective gasp. Someone with 33-inch arms is considered to have a long reach. Adibi was later re-measured at a more reasonable, but still impressive, 34 inches. Two guys who stood out to me were Georgia Tech linebacker Philip Wheeler, who, at 6-2 245 pounds, seems to have the necessary bulk to play Ted linebacker in the 49ers’ system. He is one of the guys being coached by Mike Singletary this week. The other was Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable, who at 6-5 1/8 and 241 pounds has a similar body to 2005 draft pick Manny Lawson.

****
Today was the only day this week that the North and South squads practiced at the same time. The North squad, which is being coached by the Raiders, practiced at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile. The South, coached by the 49ers, was at Fairhope Stadium, a high school campus about a 35-minute drive across Mobile Bay.

I started out watching the North, where Boston College’s 6-6, 315 offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus really looked good in one-on-one drills. Then I drove to the South practice where another tackle, Vanderbilt’s 6-6, 320-pound Chris Williams also was manhandling his opponents. It might be a good year for tackles.

Earlier in the day, I learned that Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm had dropped out of the Senior Bowl and was replaced by Tennessee’s Eric Ainge. Brohm would have been on the South roster and was believed to be the top quarterback in Mobile. With Brohm absent, Hawaii’s Colt Brennan led off team drills for the South, followed by Kentucky’s Andre Woodson and Ainge. Auburn's Quentin Groves, a possible 3-4 outside linebacker, also dropped out. And Tavares Gooden, a solidly built linebacker from Miami, won't practice this week because of a hip injury.

I know a lot of you are gaga about Delaware QB Joe Flacco. I talked to Flacco today and could have used a stepladder – dude is over 6-6. Naturally, he said his ability to see the field is his top attribute. Flacco said he was about to get on a plane to Houston for the East-West Shrine Game earlier this month when he learned that Boston College’s Matt Ryan had pulled out of the Senior Bowl. Officials tapped Flacco to replace Ryan, and Flacco said he’s eager to prove his worth among his big-school competition in Mobile. I’ll try to keep track of Flacco – especially is accuracy and arm strength – this week.

****
I spoke to Mike Nolan after the South practice ended. He said it was too early to evaluate this year’s group but he did say he thought the South was strong at defensive back. As far as what the 49ers were after in the draft, Nolan didn’t use the “best player available” line as predicted. Instead, he said the 49ers would draft “100 percent on need. And we need the best players we can get.” Gotta give him credit for creativity.

As expected, Mike Martz is coaching the quarterbacks while Ted Tollner has the running backs. Nolan said he didn’t expect to fill those spots until after he returns from Mobile. I’m scheduled to talk to Martz tomorrow. I also spoke with Mike Singletary. He says he still hasn’t gotten any calls about becoming a head coach and it appears he’ll be on the 49ers’ staff for the 2008 season. Of course, that’s what we said last year about Norv Turner.

Look for more Senior Bowl tidbits in the notebook that will run in tomorrow's paper.
-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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