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2020 Senior Bowl: Winners and losers from this year’s game

The premier collegiate all-star game is in the books.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Senior Bowl has officially wrapped up, and an entertaining week of practices concluded with the North team picking up a 34-17 win over the South team.

As always, the game served as a platform for top prospects to solidify their status atop draft boards, and for small-school players to boost their profile against better competition. There were many prospects who impressed on Saturday, but here are a few players who stood out, for better or worse.

Winners: Josh Uche and Bradlee Anae

A big reason for the North’s victory was their dominance on defense—they tallied 7 sacks over the course of the game. Several players did well in their front-seven, but two of their best players were Michigan’s Josh Uche and Utah’s Bradlee Anae.

Uche was a standout in practices throughout the week, and he capitalized on that momentum with a half sack on Saturday, though the stat sheet doesn’t tell the entire story with him. He was a nuance in the South’s backfield throughout the game, using his explosiveness off the snap and athleticism in space to pressure the opposing quarterbacks numerous times.

Anae, who had 27.5 sacks in the past three seasons, was an absolute force off the edge, constantly penetrating the backfield to the tune of three sacks. He showed off an impressive array of pass-rushing techniques, and the quickness and force of his hands allowed him to knock the South’s offensive tackles off balance on a consistent basis.

Both edge rushers have put together overall impressive weeks, which should help boost their draft stock in the long run. They proved to be nightmares for the South’s offensive tackles. Speaking of which...

Losers: South offensive tackles

The South arguably had the better group of quarterbacks with Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts both on their roster. However, outside of Herbert, their quarterback play struggled, and part of that is due to the performance of their offensive tackles.

Oregon’s Calvin Throckmorton, South Carolina’s Alex Taylor and Texas Tech’s Terence Steele all struggled mightily to contain the likes of Uche, Anae and Syracuse’s Alton Robinson, who also had two sacks on the day. Throckmorton was beat at left tackle constantly, while both Taylor and Steele didn’t have the technique or speed to combat the opposition, respectively.

Throckmorton was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, having been added to the North roster for his performance in the Shrine Bowl. He didn’t play at left tackle at Oregon, as he has experience starting at literally every offensive line position except left tackle, and that learning curve was apparent. Taylor is a raw developmental prospect with whom a learning curve should be expected—and his lack of polish was exposed this week—but his 6-foot-9 frame and athletic ability will likely still see him drafted. Steele actually had a good week of practice, but he was unable to capitalize with his in-game performance.

Regardless of where the three prospects stood heading into this game, they all arguably came out worse than they were going into it.

Winners: Running backs

Though this class of Senior Bowl running backs wasn’t particularly heralded in the draft process, they did a great job of making a name for themselves.

UCLA’s Joshua Kelley led the game with 105 yards on 15 carries. He displayed impressive athleticism in the open field, as well as solid ball-carrier vision and the aggressiveness to hit the hole hard in between the tackles. Antonio Gibson from Memphis has experience at running back and wide receiver, but the versatile playmaker impressed in the backfield, showing off good straight-line speed and solid strength in his frame. He led the South team with 68 yards on 11 carries.

Florida standout and Mobile, Alabama native Lamical Perine had 42 yards on 7 carries, as well as a 16-yard receiving touchdown. He looked physical fighting through contact and showcased an intriguing skill set as a powerful, short-distance runner. Darius Anderson from TCU finished with 130 all-purpose yards and a receiving touchdown, while JaMycal Hasty from Baylor scored a rushing touchdown and looked impressive as an elusive playmaker. Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin showed some value as a pass-catcher with three receptions, too.

Despite a lack of hype heading into this game, the running backs put forth an altogether great outing in Mobile this year. Many of them should see draft looks on Day 3.

Loser: Most quarterbacks

This year’s Senior Bowl saw some quality quarterback play, but a handful of players failed to live up to the hype.

Arguably the biggest disappointment was Jalen Hurts from Oklahoma, who finished 6-for-13 for 58 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Although part of his underwhelming performance can be attributed to poor offensive line play, his pocket presence was poor and his accuracy in general could have been better. His touchdown pass to Tennessee’s Jauan Jennings was placed incredibly well, but his anticipation and placement was overall inconsistent.

Two of the late-round prospects, Michigan’s Shea Patterson and Colorado’s Steven Montez, failed to prove themselves as much more than late picks, if that. Patterson had a great touchdown throw on a wheel route to TCU running back Darius Anderson, but his accuracy outside of that throw was spotty, and he also threw a horrible interception that went directly to Georgia Southern’s Kindle Vildor. Montez’s positive traits involved his arm strength and his frame, but his negative traits were amplified on Saturday. He showed little pocket presence, and his accuracy was all over the place.

Though the other quarterbacks put together solid to great performances, those three passers failed to impress in the matchup.

Winner: Kyle Dugger

The Senior Bowl is a great platform for small-school prospects to boost their profile, and Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger did exactly that,

The Division II star made a handful of plays as a tackler, including shutting down a flat route by Trautman to prevent a touchdown and a tackle near the line of scrimmage to prevent a short-yardage first down. Dugger showcased impressive athleticism for a 6-foot-2, 220-pound safety, good processing abilities and wasn’t afraid of physical situations.

The Combine will serve as a chance for Dugger, who was seen as a fringe Day 2-3 prospect by many heading into the game. With strong outings in practice and a noteworthy performance in the game, he could establish himself as a potential early-round pick.

Losers: Tight ends

This isn’t necessarily meant to be a dig at this year’s tight end class, as some of them played pretty well and executed what they were asked to do. The problem is, neither team asked their tight ends to do much of anything.

Of the 36 completed passes thrown by both teams on Saturday, only five of them went to tight ends. Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins caught two passes for 19 yards, Dayton’s Adam Trautman had two catches for 10 yards, while LSU’s Stephen Sullivan had one catch for 6 yards, though he did make an impressive end zone grab that ultimately was ruled incomplete. Other standouts like Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic and Jared Pinkney from Vanderbilt did not catch a single pass.

Admittedly, Senior Bowl practices mean more than the actual game for evaluation purposes, and the likes of Hopkins, Trautman and Bryant all did well to boost their stock. However, it was still disappointing to see a very talented group of tight ends mostly go to waste in Saturday’s action.

Winner: Anthony Gordon

The three highly-touted quarterback prospects at this year’s Senior Bowl were Herbert, Hurts and Love. While Herbert put together a great outing that ultimately earned him the MVP honors, it was a different quarterback who did the most to help their draft stock.

Washington State’s Anthony Gordon had an admirable performance, going 8-for-12 with 69 yards and two touchdowns, throwing no picks in the process. He delivered numerous accurate throws, anticipated his receivers well and made some pretty good decisions. For a quarterback not particularly known for his arm strength, he also displayed the ability to throw off-platform and still deliver passes with good velocity.

The FBS regular-season leader in passing yards, Gordon has been seen as an intriguing developmental quarterback with high-quality backup potential. His performance at this year’s Senior Bowl should boost his stock to early Day 3.