MOBILE, Ala. At the Senior Bowl last year, the Carolina Panthers had an eye on former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson as a potential, late-round pick and backup to Cam Newton. Wilson went to Seattle in the third round, won the starting job and led the Seahawks to the playoffs.
With No. 2 quarterback Derek Anderson a free agent and hinting that he might return to Cleveland with former Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, the Panthers could be in the market for a backup.
Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, built like Newton at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, said this week he believes he could run the Panthers’ offense, including the zone-read.
“I see a lot of myself in Cam, as far as being able to run and throw the ball,” Manuel said. “I think it would be a good fit.”
But like Wilson, Manuel is drawing attention from teams looking for a starter. He met Monday night with new Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly and a team of Eagles coaches and scouts.
Manuel, projected to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick, said he has yet to sit down with the Panthers.
Duke represented: It’s been more than 20 years since a Duke receiver was drafted into the NFL, but Conner Vernon is hoping to end the drought.
Vernon, the ACC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, is the first Duke player to play in the Senior Bowl since defensive lineman Chris Combs in 2000. Offensive tackle Drew Strojny, a seventh-round pick of the Giants in 2004, was the last Duke player drafted.
Clarkston Hines, Buffalo’s ninth-round pick in 1990, was the last Blue Devils receiver to be selected.
Duke ended an 18-year bowl drought last season when it lost to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
With coach David Cutcliffe leading Duke’s resurgence, Vernon is confident there will be more Blue Devils bound for Mobile.
“Duke is getting more national exposure. We had a lot more this year,” said Vernon, who is from Key Biscayne, Fla. “And he’s bringing in better players.
“I think there’s a few guys on that team right now who have a chance to come here.”
Vernon closed his college career with 10 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in the Belk Bowl, which Cincinnati won 48-34 after a Duke fumble in the final two minutes and a long touchdown pass by the Bearcats.
“I finished strong, but unfortunately we didn’t get the win,” Vernon said. “It ended on a wild play at the end.”