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January 19, 2009
Senior Bowl: Trench warfare with Mack, Raji

NFL scouts say it's important not to make snap judgments on the first day of Senior Bowl practices. But, hey, I'm not a scout. Here are some observations from the opening day in Mobile, Ala. The North and South squads practiced at the same time in different locations. I decided to stick with the North, which has three quarterbacks: Rhett Bomar out of Sam Houston State, Nathan Brown from Central Arkansas and Graham Harrell from Texas Tech. It was very windy in the afternoon and all three struggled with their deep pass. Bomar, it seemed, had the best arm out of the three.

mack.jpg bj.jpg

Everyone is talking about Boston College's B.J. Raji, and for good reason. Raji measured 6 ½ feet today and weighed 334 pounds. He's built like an oak stump, but he has excellent quickness for a guy that size. He typically had his way with offensive linemen today. The only guy who was able to handle Raji was Cal center Alex Mack, who was easily the best offensive linemen on the North squad and who was considerably better than Oregon's Max Unger, whom many publications have rated higher than Mack. Mack got the better of Raji during team drills, at one point standing him up and driving him backward.

Another B.C. defensive tackle, Ron Brace, also looked good. In fact, the North squad seems to have a lot of decent defensive linemen. Illinois' Will Davis showed good quickness and was getting a lot of praise from his position coach. Northern Illinois' Larry English looked good off the edge. English was used solely as a defensive end. Another sack master, Virginia's Clint Sintim, played linebacker throughout.

At receiver, Penn State's Derrick Williams seemed to be the most athletic. Williams made two excellent sideline catches on deep passes that the wind knocked out of the air. Overall, it was hard to assess the wideout play today as the quarterbacks were less than stellar in the wind.

The Bengals' coaching staff has Cal linebacker Zack Follett playing "Mike" linebacker, a position he hasn't played since college. At 231 pounds, Follett seems a little light for Mike. The new position also has him going against college teammate Mack, something he never did at Berkeley. Said Follett: "I was blessed. I always stayed on the outside and never had to face Mack. That was good news for me."

-- 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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