Senior Bowl 2016: Previewing The Five Tide Players In This Year’s Game
Saturday will be the last time that Jake Coker, Kenyan Drake, Reggie Ragland, Jarran Reed, and Cyrus Jones strap on a Crimson helmet. The Senior Bowl serves as excellent opportunity for these former Tide players to impress scouts from various NFL organizations.
Alabama and Ohio State are the only two teams that have five representatives in this year's game, which is played annually at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. This will be the most Crimson Tide players in the game since 2013.
“It’s always special to have the Alabama players in our game, especially after they’ve won a national championship,” said Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage. “The five players in this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl reflect a team-first attitude and represent major contributions to the offense, defense and special teams.”
The former Tide players will be playing for the South team, who will be coached by Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff for the third consecutive year.
This game is important for all players but none more so than Coker. The Mobile native grew up dreaming of playing in the game, and he is certainly hoping to improve his draft stock. The 6'5", 232-pound quarterback will split snaps with North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, and Arkansas' Brandon Allen.
Coker is gaining traction among NFL suitors because of his ability to overcome obstacles this season en route to winning the national championship. He will be given a chance to show off his toughness and arm strength this week. However, scouts will likely be paying extra attention to his decision making and accuracy.
Another offensive player looking to improve his draft stock is Kenyan Drake. Drake is listed as a running back, which means that he will share time with Arkansas' Jonathan Williams, TCU's Aaron Green, and Texas Tech's DeAndre Washington. Drake could also see time at slot receiver and possibly kick returner.
Drake suffered a season-ending leg injury during the 2014 season and bounced back nicely by being one of Alabama's most versatile athletes in 2015. His numbers were not eye-popping, but he did finish the season with 1,189 all-purpose yards. Drake's work ethic and versatility are two things that will make him an excellent utility player at the next level.
Cornerback Cyrus Jones is also looking for a boost in the draft. Jones should get "bonus points" for playing under Nick Saban, who is known for his ability to produce NFL defensive backs. It also helps that Jones' positional coach this year was Mel Tucker, who has six years experience as an NFL defensive coordinator.
Jones will likely field punts for the South Team. He led the country in punt returns for touchdowns with four. However, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepherd, Southeastern Louisiana State's Harlan Miller, and Southeast Missouri State's Paul McRoberts all returned punts for their teams this season.
Reggie Ragland and Jarran Reed round out the group of Alabama players playing in this year's Senior Bowl. It may be fair to say that neither player has anything to gain from playing in the Senior Bowl, however, their performances could lead to them getting drafted slightly higher than previously expected.
Ragland is the only linebacker on the South team that is projected to go in the first according to Mel Kiper's mock draft. Reed joins Ragland as being the only player in his positional group to be projected to go in the first round according to the same mock draft.
The 67th Reese's Senior Bowl will be televised on the NFL Network and will take place this Saturday, January 30th at 1:30 p.m. CT. It will be played in Mobile, Alabama's Ladd-Peebles Stadium.