Quarterbacks ready for NFL audition
MOBILE, Ala. - Quarterbacks at all-star games have tough assignments. The six Senior Bowl signal-callers will be playing off Cliffs Notes of a new offense, throwing to unfamiliar receivers and taking snaps from a new center in today's NFL showcase. And they'll all do it from under center, not the shotgun for those more accustomed to the spread in college. All the while, dozens of scouts, coaches and NFL execs will be studying their every move. Not that anyone is complaining, considering the potential rewards. "It's a job interview, so you've got to be ready to go when it's time to go," Syracuse's Ryan Nassib said.That could mean a lot of money for those who deftly manage the tasks. The game might be the most relaxing part of the weeklong job fair. West Virginia's Geno Smith, widely considered the top quarterback, skipped the game. That left Nassib, North Carolina State's Mike Glennon and Zac Dysert of Miami, Ohio, as the North quarterbacks and Florida State's EJ Manuel, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson on the South. All piled up big numbers, then had to start over on Monday. "We're used to the first day of practice, just about every ball on the ground, fumbled exchanges, all those things," said the Detroit Lions' Jim Schwartz, coach of the South team. "But from the time all three of those quarterbacks stepped into the huddle on the first day, they had good command and weren't botching snaps and they were making accurate throws. "People underestimate how difficult that is when you come into an environment like this." The six quarterbacks bring plenty of experience to the task. They've logged an average of 10,000-plus career passing yards and 71 touchdowns, led by Jones, a four-year starter who passed for 16,646 yards and 123 touchdowns for the Sooners. The quarterbacks get a chance to display their arms, brains and leadership. "I look around, and there's some really talented quarterbacks here, guys that I've been hearing about all year long and watching on TV," said Nassib, whose team beat West Virginia and Smith in the Pinstripe Bowl said. "It's a very competitive class." Glennon is a strong-armed 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who is projected as a potential top-10 pick by some. They all share similar goals for the week. "I just want to prove that I belong in the NFL and that I can win games in the NFL," he said. "I know it's hard to prove that in one week, but they have a good eye for it." At least one Senior Bowl quarterback has been chosen in the first round of the past three drafts, including Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden (22nd, Cleveland Browns) last year. Christian Ponder and Jake Locker both made the cut two years ago, and Tim Tebow was a first-rounder in 2010. Meanwhile, Florida State's 6-foot-4, 237-pound Manuel impressed Schwartz. "The thing that pops out is his size," said Schwartz, who also praised his accuracy. "(Ben) Roethlisberger's a big quarterback but I think he's got nothing on Manuel. He's got super long arms. He looks like a tight end out there. He's just a really, really big man."