Seahawks get to focus on the top of Senior Bowl talent pool

When the Seattle Seahawks watch the top college seniors compete in the annual Senior Bowl this Saturday, for the first time in several years the coaching staff will have a chance to focus on the cream of the crop.

The Seahawks haven’t drafted in the top 10 since picking receiver Koren Robinson with the ninth overall choice in the 2001 draft, so Seattle team president and general manager Tim Ruskell said the team’s scouting department is looking forward to an opportunity to evaluate the top athletes.

“It really invigorates the scouts,” Ruskell said. “So many times they like to scout the top players because they are the ones making all the plays and are on ESPN. We usually say, ‘Let’s forget about those guys,’ and give them a list of guys we wanted them to concentrate on.

“But it invigorates the personnel staff and makes us work harder to know everything because the stakes are higher and the dollars are higher.”

However, Ruston Webster, vice president of player personnel, and the rest of his staff will be searching for diamonds in the rough too, along with new head coach Jim Mora and his recently formed coaching staff. The group will spend the week in Mobile, Ala., evaluating players in anticipation of April’s NFL draft.

About 100 players will participate in the event, practicing through Thursday and then playing at 4 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised by the NFL Network.

The Seahawks, with the No. 4 pick overall, actually had a chance to coach one of the teams but declined. The opportunity to coach either the North or the South squad is generally extended to the top two teams in the draft – an invitation that is handed down the draft until two teams accept.

However, many of the teams that will draft high were either going through coaching searches or significant staffing changes, so Cincinnati (No. 6 overall pick) and Jacksonville (No. 8) will coach the North and South teams, respectively.

The Seahawks have several needs heading into the draft, including adding depth at receiver, offensive line, defensive line, defensive back and quarterback.

Top prospects expected to compete at the Senior Bowl this weekend include Mississippi offensive tackle Michael Oher, USC linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, Missouri safety William Moore and Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji.

Extra points

Mora has yet to complete his staff and is still searching for a coach to fill his vacant defensive secondary position. … Former Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander will be inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame on Saturday, along with Washington Redskins defensive end Jason Taylor.