East Carolina Shane Carden showed NFL scouts Tuesday what most of the eastern part of the state has known for years.
Carden was sharp in his delivery and on target with his receivers in the North practice Tuesday leading up to Saturday’s Senior Bowl. Sharing the field with standout Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Carden stood above both players in the first practice of the week.
“I’m just here to show what kind of guy I am,” Carden said before practice. “The work ethic I have and accountability I have. I also want to show I can do it from under center. I’ve studied it quite a bit so I’m ready to go today.”
A three-year starter for the Pirates, Carden threw 63 touchdowns to 20 interceptions in his final two collegiate years . He led the renaissance of the Pirates’ program by winning 10 games in 2013, marking the first time since 1991 the Pirates hit the milestone.
“It was awesome. I know it’s just the start for this program,” Carden said. “It’s always awesome to start something great and I know coach Ruff will have them going in the right direction going forward.”
He also had the comfort of throwing to his favorite collegiate target. Justin Hardy, the FBS’ all-time leading receiver, is also on the North squad, and his route running was smooth and he had good rhythm with Carden from the start.
“I wonder how much they’ll let us on the same field at the same time,” Carden said. “I think he can be at the top of the league. He has everything you need – his route-running ability, his ability to catch the ball, his brain, his understanding of the game.”
Abdullah’s start-and-go speed is something that can only be witnessed, and it’s something many would-be tacklers witnessed as he rushed for 1,611 yards in his senior season.
“I can’t compare my game to anyone,” said Abdullah, who checked in at 5-foot-8 and 198 pounds at Tuesday’s weigh-in. “I’m not at that elite status yet. I have a long way to go. I watch pretty much every back. I can’t narrow it down to any one. I like (San Francisco running back) Frank Gore a lot. I watch (Philadelphia running back) LeSean McCoy a lot.”
“(McCoy) is dynamic. He starts one way and he may take it the opposite way. I like to do that as well sometimes but he’s obviously more dynamic than I am in that.”
Abdullah did just that in one-on-one drills. Going against a defensive back, Abdullah caught a 5-yard , faked inside and spun outside as he sprinted down the sideline.
But all signs point to Mariota skipping the Senior Bowl despite his eligibility as an early graduate.
“When you’ve had the season he’s had and a lot of demands on him, yeah, we understand that,” said Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, who would coach Mariota on the North team. “But it would be great if he were to make it.
“I didn’t talk to Marcus himself but we (his family and I) tried to talk about what we were going to do. He’s been real busy since the season’s been over.”
Mariota is considered one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft along with Florida State’s Jameis Winston. With his position among the best solidified, there would be little to gain for Mariota to play at the Senior Bowl on a short week after his season extended into mid-January.
• Panthers scouts were out in full force with the rest of NFL team scouts Tuesday. They, along with general manager Dave Gettleman, conducted interviews with players late into Tuesday night, and will do so again Wednesday. The Panthers coaching staff, with the exception of senior offensive assistant John Ramsdell, did not make the trip.
• Utah outside linebacker/defensive end Nate Orchard had his way with the North’s offensive line. He made an early case to be the top pass rusher in Mobile.
• The tight ends leave much to be desired here, especially the ones on the North team.
• Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has decided to enter the NFL draft as a cornerback. It’s the position he played at Georgia before he was dismissed from the program. Marshall is a solid athlete who will be drafted, and corner gives him the best opportunity. He wore a jersey with no name or number on the back at Tuesday’s practice.
• Alabama quarterback Blake Sims was the best quarterback for the South. He consistently made good throws rolling out, though his deep ball needs work. Sims should try to get out in space more and show he has a dual-threat ability, which was harnessed at Alabama.