Brian Cushing Rey Maualuga and Clay Matthews from USC

By Ed Thompson,Chris Steuber
Posted Jan 21, 2009’s Ed Thompson and Chris Steuber are in Mobile, Alabama to bring you the latest news, notes and quotes from the Senior Bowl. Thompson and Steuber pick six of the top story lines below in their daily notebook.

# It’s obvious when you watch the South team practice, the talent on the field is overwhelming, especially the linebacker trio (Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Clay Matthews) from USC. All three players stood out at practice on Tuesday afternoon and received plenty of praise from the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff and from scouts in attendance.Cushing is a physical linebacker who uses his strength and technique to his advantage. During positional drills, Cushing used a strong rip move to get through the opposition and showed good footwork as he made his way into the backfield. The fluidity that Maualuga possesses came across during the afternoon session. He has great awareness on the field and is always in position to make a play. One scout in attendance said, “[Maualuga] the real deal on the field, but he makes everything look so easy that it doesn’t even look like he’s playing hard.” Matthews, on the other hand, is all about hard work and has played himself into second round consideration with his impressive play during the season and the work ethic he’s put forth in Mobile. Not only has Matthews been impressive as a linebacker, but he was the first player down the field on special teams drills.

Cushing and Maualuga are destined to be first round picks, but don’t rule out Matthews being a late first round selection. An AFC scout said, “If I had to pick one of them, I’d go with Matthews. His motor is off the charts and his versatility is unique. He brings it on every play; I can’t say that about the other two.”
# Cornerback Leodis McKelvin played in the Senior Bowl last year and was subsequently picked in the first-round of the draft by the Buffalo Bills. This year, safety Sherrod Martin is the lone player out of Troy University. And he hopes to raise his stock through a strong showing during Senior Bowl week.”I hope to show scouts that I’m a playmaker and a guy they want to have on their team,” he said. “I want to put my best foot forward and represent myself well. Hopefully they’ll see that I’m a player that they will want on their team for what I do both on and off the team, who knows how to carry himself and who can get the job done.

Martin, who is a close friend of McKelvin’s, said that he’s received good advice from the Bills’ cornerback regarding the draft process that he’ll be experiencing over the next few months.

“He pretty much filled me in on everything that I need to know,” he said.
# Penn State wide receiver Derrick Williams is already feeling more comfortable as the week progresses in Mobile, noticing a big difference between Tuesday’s practice compared to Monday’s session.”Yesterday we were shaking some of the rust off that people had, and I think people felt a lot better, I know I did, personally,” he said. “We had a lot of wind out there and it was a little cold, but being from Happy Valley, being from State College, you’re used to it.”

Williams is rooming with former Big Ten rival wide receiver Brian Robiskie, who is also one of the top-ranked wide receivers in this year’s draft. But despite their years of playing in big games against each other, the Nittany Lions wide receiver said that the two of them are getting along well.

Williams said that on the field he hopes that pro scouts will not only see him as a versatile player, but as a great receiver. And as a person, he said that there’s one important message that he wants to get across to pro teams.

“I’m driven by greatness,” he said.
# Blessed with great athleticism and elusiveness, West Virginia quarterback Pat White has been stereotyped as an athlete, who’s likely to be a wide receiver or running back at the next level, not a quarterback. But don’t tell White that, because he’s making the most of his opportunity at the Senior Bowl to convince scouts that his talents translate to being a QB in the NFL. “In my mind, I’m a quarterback,” he said. “And until somebody tells me that I’m not, I’m going to do everything I can to succeed.” On Tuesday, White started off on a down note when Ole Miss LB Ashlee Palmer picked him off during seven-on-seven drills. Even though he struggled, White threw the ball with confidence and displayed a strong arm. When the South team ran 11-on-11 drills, White was at his best. He sold play action effectively and delivered the ball on time to his receivers. White has been a media darling this week and has handled every situation with class.
# During his Tuesday night press conference with the media, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio talked about the players on the South Team squad that the Jaguars coaching staff is working with this week. In particular, Del Rio was asked about the three USC linebackers–Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga–since the Jaguars head coach is a former Trojans linebacker.”They got a whole lot better looking since I was there,” he said with a broad smile. “It’s a good group, they’re really talented. You can see why they played such great defense. It’s clear that they’ve been well-coached, that all three have worked hard at conditioning. They’ve been in the weight room, and you can see it.

“All three of them are unique in their own ways, and I think they’re good football players.”
# The Carolina Panthers appear to be looking for their quarterback of the future this week at the Senior Bowl. The team scheduled meetings with Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and with West Virginia’s Pat White. The team also has a trio of talented running backs on their radar. Liberty’s Rashad Jennings, Virginia’s Cedric Peerman and Oregon’s Jeremiah Johnson were all scheduled to meet with team officials.