From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
The 61st annual Senior Bowl is set to take place this weekend at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.
The Senior Bowl is an elite All-Star game that allows college athletes to showcase their talent for the next level. In the 2009 NFL Draft, 86 total players, including 11 first round selections participated in this event.
Leading the charge for the North this year will be Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, while Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins will direct the South.
The South leads the series with the North, 29-25-3, and has won the past two games, including a 35-18 decision last season. The game was divided into AFC and NFC sides for a three-year stretch, with the AFC winning two of those bouts.
The North has a variety of weapons to work with at quarterback, as Dan LeFevour, Sean Canfield and Tony Pike will all log time under center. LeFevaour is the most versatile of the group, as he totaled 15 touchdowns on the ground and 28 more through the air this past season. Canfield meanwhile, converted 67.9 percent of his pass attempts for Oregon State, and Pike led Cincinnati to its second straight Big East crown. The 6-6 Pike is arguably the most NFL ready of the group and he threw for 29 touchdowns despite missing time due to injury this season.
Pike will have a familiar face to work with, as star wideout Mardy Gilyard joins the cast for the North. The 6-1 Gilyard proved to be one of the most dynamic players in the nation, topping 1,000 yards receiving, while returning two kicks and a punt for touchdowns. Danario Alexander of Missouri was unstoppable down the stretch and finished an incredible 2009 campaign with 113 receptions for 1,178 yards and 14 scores. Tight end Dorin Dickerson figures to be a red-zone target after leading Pittsburgh with 10 receiving touchdowns.
In the backfield, LeGarrette Blount gets another chance to showcase his talent after missing most of the 2009 season due to suspension. Oklahoma's Chris Brown will also get carries, as he paced the Sooners with 749 yards this season.
All-American tackle Trent Williams (6-5, 318 pounds) of Oklahoma and guard Mike Iupati (6-6, 325 pounds) of Idaho will help pave the way for the North's ground attack.
Heading the defensive line for the North will be Michigan's Brandon Graham. A 6-2 end, Graham led the nation in tackles for a loss this season, notching 26 on the year, and the Second-Team All-American also finished with 10.5 sacks for the Wolverines in 2009.
In the middle, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is a tackling machine and the Butkus Award finalist led Missouri with 111 stops during his senior campaign. He also had 4.5 sacks and one interception.
In the secondary, Syd'Quan Thompson is considered one of the top corners in the upcoming NFL draft and the California Golden Bear is a two-time First-Team All-Pac 10 selection.
Highlighting the offense for the South is none other than Tim Tebow, one of the greatest college players of all-time. A former Heisman Trophy winner, Tebow led Florida to two national titles and is one of the most decorated players to participate in the Senior Bowl. While Tebow has nothing left to prove at the collegiate level, he still needs to show he can compete at the next level, as he has many doubters. Zac Robinson, who paced Oklahoma State's prolific offense, and Jarrett Brown of West Virginia will get their fare share of snaps as well.
The addition of Riley Cooper should only help Tebow flourish in front of countless NFL scouts. The 6-3 Cooper was Tebow's favorite target, reeling in 51 catches for 961 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Shay Hodge of Ole Miss will also join the South after racking up 1,115 yards and eight scores through the air.
Another Rebel will also be heavily watched in this game, as the elusive Dexter McCluster heads the ground attack. The dangerous McCluster led Ole Miss with 1,169 rushing yards, while ranking second with 44 catches and 520 receiving yards. Anthony Dixon is a nice change of pace, as he is a more powerful runner, pushing his way to 1,391 yards and 12 touchdowns for Mississippi State in 2009. Ben Tate is yet another talent out of the SEC and he paced Auburn with 1,362 yards behind a 5.2 yard per carry average.
Along the line, guard Mike Johnson (6-5, 306 pounds) helped Alabama to a national title this season and he will now be asked to open holes for a talented backfield this weekend.
On defense, Terrence Cody of Alabama is a mammoth tackle at 6-4, 370 pounds and he will be in charge of stuffing the run. With Cody garnering much of the attention, that should allow for end George Selvie to come off the edge. Selvie, the only two-time All-American in South Florida history, finished his career with 29 sacks and 69.5 TFLs.
Highlighting the linebacker corps is South Carolina's Eric Norwood. A First- Team All-American, Norwood led the Gamecocks in TFLs (11.5), sacks (seven) and interceptions (two), to go with 81 tackles. Roddrick Muckelroy helped Texas reach the nation title game by leading the team with 102 tackles and he joins Norwood in the middle.
In the secondary, safety Taylor Mays was a four-year starter at USC and he led the Trojans with 96 stops this season. The former All-American finished a terrific career with 276 stops and five picks and figures to make a big impact at the next level.