Small schoolers measuring up and other Senior Bowl weigh-in observations

Aug 30, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Mexico State Aggies linebacker Terrill Hanks (2) celebrates after recovering a fumble in the first half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Rang

MOBILE – The 2019 Senior Bowl has officially begun with hundreds of NFL personnel, media and others watching the prospects from this year’s North and South squads parade across the stage in their underwear in the annual weigh-in.

Most players arrived Sunday or Monday and had their hand, arm and wingspans measured then to speed up the process.

Tuesday’s weigh-in was all about the heights (down to an eighth of an inch) and weights, which are announced to the crowd as the player walks across the stage shirtless, shoeless and wearing compression shorts or tights. The process has been compared to a live steer auction or models walking on the runway by some and there certainly are similarities.

Judging a prospect by his cover is not the most dependable way of evaluation but it is a start. The most important element of the week – the practices – begin later today.

Until then, here are 10 things you need to know about this morning’s weigh-ins.

10. Nagy and his staff did a great job of collecting talent
As far as first impressions go, let’s start with a collective take on the overall talent at this year’s Senior Bowl. At least based on how they look “on the hoof,” director Jim Nagy and his six person crew (scouts Zac Bocian, Jim Jauch, Ryan Kessenich, Seth Turner and assistants Dante Fargnoli and Jack Gilmore) did a fine job of picking out legitimate prospects this year. Having covered this game since 2001, I can tell you that typically there are a handful of players each year who look like they don’t belong. That was not the case this year with some of the so-called small school sleeper prospects among the most impressive looking athletes. According to Nagy, he and his scouts saw in person 105 of the 114 players invited to this year’s game, a testament to the staff’s commitment to finding the best prospects for this week.

9. Mr. Universe played at New Mexico State?
Every year there are a few players whose awesome physiques suggest that if their football career does not pan out, a future in bodybuilding could be on the horizon. This year that player was New Mexico State outside linebacker Terrill Hanks, who was absolutely chiseled at 6-2, 234 pounds. Hanks (pictured) is surprisingly fluid on tape given his muscular frame, which includes broad shoulders, a v-shaped upper body and definition that only comes with a lot of time spent in the weight room.

8. Quarterbacks measure up better than expected
It isn’t often that quarterbacks measure bigger than expected but that was the case with West Virginia’s Will Grier, who came in at 6-2 (1/2”) and 218 pounds after being officially being listed by the Mountaineers at 6-2, 214, with plenty of reports that he was smaller than this. Washington State’s Gardner Minshew II came in an eighth of an inch under 6-1 but at a rock-solid 224 pounds and notably had the largest hands of this year’s quarterbacks (10 ¼”). As expected, the most physically imposing passers were Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson (who at 6-7, 249 pounds looks more like a tight end) and Duke’s Daniel Jones (6-5 and a ½, 220 pounds), my pick to be the first offensive player drafted from this year’s game.

7. Alabama’s Isaiah Buggs gets squished
Leading the Crimson Tide with 9.5 sacks in 2019, Buggs is a proven commodity but doubts that he’ll be able to duplicate that production in the NFL were strengthened Tuesday when it was learned that he has disproportionately short arms (30 7/8”) for his 6-2 (and 5/8), 295 pound frame. No other lineman in this year’s game – offensive or defensive – came in shorter. Another player who I like on tape but did not measure in as well as expected was Utah safety Marquise Blair, whose slim limbs were the more noticeable when he measured in at just 180 pounds stretched over his 6-1 (and a 1/2”) frame. Blair also has just eight inch hands – smallest among this year’s defensive prospects.

6. Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram was flagged in his physical, won’t compete
Nagy announced that several players initially invited to game are not here because of injuries, including Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and Stanford running back Bryce Love, among others. Two players who were in Mobile this morning but won’t practice are Abram and Baylor’s Jalen Hurd. Both players wanted to still participate in the weigh-in process and interviews. Interestingly, Abram was flagged during the Senior Bowl’s physical, according to Nagy, which is something to keep in mind for the Combine and its even-more stringent medical evaluators.

5. Speaking of Jalen Hurd… where does he fit?
Formerly a running back at Tennessee before emerging as a star pass-catcher for Baylor this season, Hurd was viewed by scouts as one of the more intriguing and versatile weapons on offense in this year’s game but also one without a clear fit in the NFL. He weighed in at 6-4 (and ¾”) and 227 pounds Tuesday, an unusual frame for a former running back.

4. PAC-12’s top tackles could be best in Mobile too
As a member of the Board of Directors for the PAC-12’s Morris Trophy – given annually to the conference’s top offensive and defensive linemen – I pay more attention than most to the big guys out west. Washington’s Kaleb McGary was expected to be one of the more imposing players this week and he proved that out, measuring in at a shade under 6-7, 321 pounds. This weight is distributed so well over his frame that he looks like a tight end. He certainly sounded heavy walking across the stage, something I did not notice with other 300+ pounders. His counterpart from Washington State, Andrew Dillard, also boosted his cause Tuesday morning, measuring in a shade under 6-5 and 310 pounds with slighter longer arms (34”) than McGary (33 5/8”). Both will be drafted on Day Two, if not sooner.

3. Long-armed pass rushers steal the show
As expected, projected top 50 talents like Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat (6-6, 252 with 35 5/8” arms), Wyoming’s Carl Granderson (6-4 and 1/2”, 246 with 34 ½” arms), Boston College’s Zach Allen (6-4 and 3/8”, 280 pounds with 34 ½” arms) and Iowa’s Anthony Nelson (6-6 and 7/8”, 272 with 34 and ¾” arms) all looked the part of top draft picks. Sweat and Granderson have trim, well-defined builds to go with their long arms. The beefier Allen and Nelson lack definition but have country strong frames that match up with their physical playing styles.

2. From big to small and everything in between
Senior Bowl prospects come in every size and shape. The lightest player competing this week is Clemson’s super slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, who looks like a pizza delivery boy at just 5-10 (and 3/8”), 175 pounds in comparison to some of the behemoths here, including Stetson tight end Donald Parham, who towers over others at nearly a half inch over 6-8 and 243 pounds. The heaviest player here is Jacksonville State offensive lineman B.J. Autry, who offers terrific arm length (35 ¼”) but too much belly at 6-3 (and a ¼”) and 351 pounds.

1. “He’d look good in an SEC or ACC uniform…”
Perhaps the best thing about all-star games is that scouts get a true apples to apples comparison, evaluating prospects rather that the team logos on the sides of their helmets. Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard (6-5, 322 with 34 and ¾” arms) and Elon’s Oli Udoh (6-5 and ¾”, 327 with 36” arms) offered two of the better-looking frames among this year’s offensive linemen. Similarly, D-II defensive end John Cominsky (6-5, 286 with 33 1/8” arms) from Charleston, Western Illinois square-framed Khalen Saunders (6-0 and 5/8, 322) and UMass wideout Andy Isabella (5-8 and 7/8, 186 pounds) looked like they’d spent plenty of time in their program’s respective weight-rooms, appearing ready to shed the small school labels.