Football

Despite size, Duke’s Crowder stands out at Senior Bowl showcase

With two practices down, Duke’s Jamison Crowder may already have the catch of the week at the Senior Bowl.

Crowder ran a deep comeback route in the North’s practice Wednesday morning as East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden rolled to his right. Carden’s pass was a bit high, but Crowder stuck out his left hand and corralled the ball.

The only problem was, it wouldn’t have counted.

“Actually, I didn’t get my feet in bounds,” Crowder admitted with a smile. “I wanted to take a chance, I stuck my hand out there and I made the grab.”

For two straight days, Crowder has impressed with his speed as well as his hands. And he’s quickly putting to bed concerns about his size.

Crowder checked in Tuesday at 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds with 8 3/8-inch hands. Those totals are on the low end for a college football player, much less an NFL player. But hearing about his lack of size is nothing new to Crowder.

“It’s been like that ever since I was little. When I came in, I never won anybody over by the eye test,” Crowder said. “I had to come in and compete and play hard and that’s the way I proved myself. It’s been that way pretty much all my life.

“Everyone knows I’m not the biggest so my speed and quickness are my greatest advantages. I’m trying to put it on display out there.”

Crowder started at Monroe High School before blossoming at Duke. He finished as the ACC’s career leader in receptions with 283 and is third all-time in receiving yards with 3,641.

Crowder will get drafted in May, and he’ll play inside at slot for an NFL team. But he’ll have to do more than that to justify his roster spot.

With his size and speed, Crowder would have to show versatility on special teams. He could be a gunner for a team or a punt returner.

At Duke, Crowder returned punts all four years while taking back four for touchdowns in his final two seasons. His 12.7 yards per return in 2014 was the ACC’s best, and his 13.4 yards per return for his career ranks second in the conference since 2000.

“I know that the more you show is an easy way to get on the field,” Crowder said.

Sims’ game: It’s poetic that the best quarterback in the all-star event in Alabama was the University of Alabama quarterback.

Blake Sims put on a show Wednesday as he elevated himself as the No. 1 quarterback at the Senior Bowl. His passes were on point and his spirals were tighter than any other quarterback’s this week.

Sims, last year’s starter for the Crimson Tide, has also been working on getting outside of the pocket and making plays. He needs to show NFL scouts he’s able to be a dual-threat quarterback if he wants to get drafted in a mid round.

During 11-on-11 drills, Sims took the shotgun snap and rolled to his right to hit a diving Dezmin Lewis for a first down.

“I enjoy it a lot,” Sims said of getting out of the pocket. “I want to be in the pocket as much as I can too. Right now every time I get my reps I’m letting it all out.”

Observations

• ECU receiver Justin Hardy took a step back Wednesday. He had a handful of drops, including one on a 5-yard slant, but one nice deep catch.



• You could get a better look at the offensive line with their first day in pads. Florida tackle Trent Brown flashed on Wednesday. At 6-foot-8 and 376 pounds, Brown could “bear hunt with a switch” as one scout said on the sideline.



• Tackle Donovan Smith also looked good as he pancaked Stanford’s Anderson Henry on a rush.



• At outside linebacker, Utah’s Nate Orchard continued to be the best pass rusher for the North while Arkansas’ Trey Flowers stated his case for the South team.



• Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett caught everything thrown his way Wednesday. He and Crowder are two of the risers this week.



• All three North quarterbacks – ECU’s Shane Carden, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion – had a better day Wednesday. Mannion and Petty improved the most.



• Duke guard Laken Tomlinson got to the second level of the defense well but didn’t hold his block once he got there.



• The Jaguars’ defensive coaches have fun during practice. After a forced fumble or big play by the defense, they mob the defensive players by yelling and tapping them on the helmet in a huddle.



• LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins was again solid at left tackle but in one drill on the right side he was vaporized by Louisville pass rusher Lorenzo Mauldin.



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