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January 20, 2009
Senior Bowl: Oher, Ayers shine for South

Today was the first time I saw the South Squad practice. Two different scouts told me that Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher might be the most talented player in Mobile this week. Oher didn't disappoint today, mostly manhandling his opponents on what was otherwise a rough outing for the South offensive line. Anyone who's read Michael Lewis' fascinating book, "The Blind Side," knows all about Oher's travails in the classroom. NFL teams still are wondering how quickly he can pick up the pro game.

ayers.jpg oher.jpg

Tennessee defensive lineman Robert Ayers had an excellent practice. Defensive players usually are the ones getting pancaked, but Ayers put Tulane offensive lineman Troy Kropog on his back during one-on-one drills. He later came back and did the same to Auburn's Tyrone Green. The 6-3, 273 pound Ayers certainly would be a good fit as a 4-3 defensive end. The question is whether he's fluid enough to be a 3-4 rush linebacker. NFL Draft Scout currently has Ayers rated as the seventh best defensive end in the draft. Ole Miss's Peria Jerry also whipped past his man and flung him to the ground. Draft Scout has Jerry, 290 pounds, as the second-best DT in the draft behind B.J. Raji.

Some of you have asked about West Virginia's Pat White. He's been used solely as a quarterback at this point. None of the Senior Bowl's quarterbacks have looked all that good, with the best probably being the North's Graham Harrell and Rhett Bomar. One player who's been asked to play two positions is Cincinnati tight end Connor Barwin. The 6-3, 253-pound Barwin took three snaps at defensive end today.

Troy safety Sherrod Martin had a tough practice. Martin looked slow and was beaten badly on a double move by Ole Miss receiver Mike Wallace. The most eye-catching receiver on the South squad today was Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi, who measured in at 6-1, 210 pounds yesterday. You know how the 49ers love big receivers ...

NC State running back Andre Brown also looked good. There's no live tackling during these practices, but Brown's tough, straight-ahead style was evident. Draft Scout has the 224-pound Brown as the ninth-best RB in the draft.

-- Matt 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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