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Left tackle, inside runner emerge at Senior Bowl

Posted Jan 22, 2013

Pads go on and prospects respond with spirited practices

MOBILE—Based on Eric Fisher’s performance in the North squad’s practice on Tuesday morning, Central Michigan has become the place to find left tackles.

Central Michigan alum and 49ers star tackle Joe Staley is in the Super Bowl, and Fisher turned in a Staley-like display in pass-blocking drills at the Senior Bowl. Fisher stoned and then abused Texas pass rusher Alex Okafor, in a two-bout victory for Fisher. Okafor then went on to whip Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner, further enhancing Fisher’s wins.

Draft guru Tony Pauline considers Fisher a pass-blocking technician who’s better at his craft coming into the draft than Staley was at the same point in time. Pauline projects Fisher to be a top 25 pick and an easy selection for a passing team in need of a blindside blocker.

Fisher is one of several North players that helped themselves on the first day of full-pads practices. Others who practiced well include N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon, a 6-5, 232-pound pocket passer who showed off his arm strength.

Glennon threw darts to a crop of North wide receivers that lacks high-round prospects. Glennon’s best pass of the day was a deep throw that dropped softly into Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton’s arms as he crossed the goal line. The ball was in the air for 50-plus yards.

In an age of running quarterbacks, Glennon is a throwback. He played in the same system at N.C. State that produced Matt Ryan at Boston College, and Glennon has been compared to Ryan.

“It’s definitely not my forte,” Glennon said of the running style of quarterback. “I think there will always be a place for drop-back quarterbacks. I wanted to play in a pro-style offense. We ran a West Coast offense that’ll really help my development at the next level.”

Glennon’s day was punctuated by one mistake: He threw into double coverage on a deep ball. It’s symbolic of the rap against him, that he doesn’t always make sound decisions. What Glennon proved on Tuesday is that he has the tools most pro teams seek in a quarterback.

A North team that appears to lack offensive weapons is not lacking for defensive linemen. UCLA’s Datone Jones, 6-4, 275, got the measure of Fisher on one rush, making him miss with a quick first step, and displayed a lot of natural power Pauline believes could make Jones a prospect to play end in a 3-4.

“Scouts love him. He has great measurables,” Pauline said of Jones, whose upside exceeds his production in college. The Senior Bowl is the perfect stage for players such as Jones to blossom.

Tuesday’s South practice was a showcase for Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor, 5-11, 215, an ultra-productive college runner who could leave Mobile considerably higher regarded than when he arrived.

Taylor (pictured) caught everything thrown his direction on Tuesday, and showed a talent for eluding linebackers in short-passing drills. He consistently made receptions and ran away from the man covering him.

It was in 11-on-11 drills late in practice that Taylor really asserted himself. He popped through several holes and found open ground by juking defensive backs that clearly would not have tackled him had the drill been live to the ground.

“I’m able to catch the ball and run north and south,” Taylor said in describing his talent as a between-the-tackles runner and safety-valve receiver.

At Stanford, Taylor was a workhorse back, so he offers the potential to be a featured runner. His talents seem to fit the pro game perfectly.

Another South player who’s helping himself is Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel, a player with a reputation for having all the tools but under-achieving with them. The same was said of Kirk Cousins last year, but he rode a strong Senior Bowl week to being drafted by the Redskins, where he played well in reserve of RG3.

Manuel threw tight, sharp spirals on intermediate routes that tested his arm strength and accuracy on Tuesday. He looks the part of a pro quarterback and could move into the second round of the draft with a strong Senior Bowl.

“We’re all out here trying to raise our draft stock,” Manuel said.

Massive Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins came to Mobile as a first-rounder and he’ll leave as a first-rounder, but he might be making a move on the top 15 picks. Jenkins turned in another dominant performance, flashing the quickness to shoot the gap and into the backfield, and the power to collapse the pocket. He was too much for one man to block on Tuesday.

Teammate Cornelius Washington, 6-4, 268, made the thump of the day in pass-rush drills. He had a dynamic sophomore season at Georgia but his play leveled over the next two years. Pauline believes Washington is a tweener who will appeal to a team that has a distinct pass-rush role in mind for him.

Practice for each squad continues on Wednesday.

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