MOBILE, Ala. – Of the six quarterbacks at last year's Senior Bowl, five of them started games in the NFL in 2012 and they combined to throw for 9,420 yards and 50 touchdowns.
With that as a backdrop, there's plenty at stake for this year's Senior Bowl passers.
"I just want to show that I can be a franchise quarterback," one of the North team's quarterbacks, North Carolina State's Mike Glennon, said this week. "I can be someone that teams can win with. I can be the guy that teams feel that they can compete with anybody and win every game with. That's my goal."
That's a lofty goal, but that's exactly what Russell Wilson, one of last year's Senior Bowl quarterbacks, did for the Seahawks this season by leading the team to the playoffs and tying Peyton Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes.
There are no Lucks or RGIII's here this week. In many ways, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder when examining the North's Glennon, Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) and Zac Dysert (Miami-Ohio) and the South's Landry Jones (Oklahoma), E.J. Manuel (Florida State) and Tyler Wilson (Arkansas). Media draft rankings might not show the slightest resemblance to the order the quarterbacks go off the board in late April.
"It's going to depend on what system a team runs and how that guy will fit that system," said Todd Downing, the quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions, the club leading the South squad this week. "I think all of these guys can fit into any team that drafted them but, certainly, there's some differences. E.J.'s a little more athletic. Landry's very comfortable in the shotgun and has pocket presence. Tyler has an extensive history running a pro-style offense. I think the leadership abilities of all three guys have really shown up this week. I think that's something that teams are going to notice right away when they talk to them."
The 2012 campaign didn't go as well as Landry Jones had hoped. Is he ready for the NFL?
West Virginia's Geno Smith (skipped) and USC's Matt Barkley (injured) are arguably the top quarterbacks in the class but are not in Mobile this week. That was never a consideration for Wilson, a two-year starter at Arkansas who finished his career with 7,765 passing yards and 52 touchdown passes.
"There was a little bit of that conversation but, no, this is fun," Wilson said. "There's a reason why I'm here. I want to compete and play with these guys and showcase my ability."
It was a tough season for Wilson, with coach Bobby Petrino's firing in April sending the program reeling. Wilson went from 24 touchdowns, six interceptions and first-team all-SEC accolades in 2011 to 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and no all-conference honors in 2012.
"I've always looked at (adversity) positively because if everything would be perfect, then life wouldn't be nearly as fun if you do succeed," Wilson said. "You have to battle through some of that and learn. Especially here at the next level, it's going to be tough the whole way through. You've got to get used to that and understand how to persevere through some tough times."
In 2010, Jones replaced Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick of that year's NFL draft, at Oklahoma and wound up winning the Sammy Baugh Award as the nation's top quarterback. In 50 career starts, he left Oklahoma as the Big 12's career leader with 16,646 passing yards. That's quite a resume, but 52 career interceptions point to struggles in game management, and the Sooners averaged just 15 points in losses this season to Kansas State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M.
That makes this the biggest week of his football career.
"So far, for sure," Jones said. "I'm so close to my goal right now of playing in the NFL. This is just a huge opportunity for me to let people see who I am as a quarterback and who I am as a person."
2013 SENIOR BOWL
Check out Scout.com's complete coverage from Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala.
Manuel almost signed on to play for Chip Kelly at Oregon before choosing Florida State. He's big, fast and has a rocket arm. In two seasons as a full-time starter, Manuel threw for 6,058 yards, 41 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The Seminoles, in general, and Manuel, in particular failed to meet their lofty expectations. Florida State was ranked third in the AP poll in Week 6 -- its highest spot since 2003 -- and led 16-0 at halftime before losing 17-16 to Glennon's Wolfpack. Later, Manuel threw three interceptions in a 37-26 home loss to Florida.
With the NFL trending toward athletic quarterbacks and teams no longer being hesitant to throw a rookie into the lineup, Manuel thinks he has the right stuff to play immediately.
"To be able to come from college and move right in to the NFL and have an effective rookie year, that says a lot about yourself," he said. "Hopefully, I can be in the same mold. I'll be ready to go in and learn and work hard."
At 6-foot-6 1/2, Glennon is the biggest quarterback in the class and throws a beautiful deep ball. Less than a decade ago, that would have made him the NFL prototype. Now, that's no longer true.
The versatile E.J. Manuel thinks he's a good fit for the NFL right now.
"The first thing I need to work on is continuing to develop my athletic ability to become more mobile and be able to escape better because the guys at the next level are so fast," he said.
In two years as the starter, he threw for 7,085 yards, 62 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. However, he went from 62.5 percent and 12 interceptions in 2011 to 58.5 percent and 17 interceptions in 2012. Of the picks, 15 came in the six losses and two came in the seven wins.
"I think my whole college career has prepared me for this week," Glennon said. "This week is very important but equally, if not more important, is the tons of film and the last five years of my life."
A native of West Chester, Pa., Nassib follows Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub as quarterbacks to come from the Philadelphia area. His family had season tickets for the Eagles.
Nassib threw for 8,768 yards, 67 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in his three seasons as the Orange's starter. He closed his career with a bang by throwing for 3,749 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
As with all the quarterbacks, the challenge has been to learn an offense and a new cast of teammates in less than a week so he can perform at a high enough level to impresses the scouts and coaches. That's no small feat.
"It's a little challenging but a lot of it is stuff guys have run in college already," Nassib said. "You're trying to build a relationship from scratch and you're trying to put it together with duct tape and super glue."
Dysert, the Miami (OH) program's first three-year captain, topped Ben Roethlisberger's school record with 12,016 career passing yards. He threw for 3,483 yards with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a senior. Carving up MAC defenses, however, is a far cry from carving up a defense filled with big-school seniors and, eventually, NFL veterans.
"In my time in college," he said, "I haven't really been challenged as much as I would like to have been. This is what I'm looking forward to, being challenged. I love being challenged. Once you arrive, I guess you could say, it's just an awesome feeling. There's no better feeling in the world."
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