Gators in the Senior Bowl

The North defensive front manhandled the South offensive line collecting eight sacks, while providing little time for quarterbacks Chris Leak, Jordan Palmer (UTEP), and Kevin Kolb (Houston) to accomplish much of anything. Furthermore, a South running game featuring Kenny Irons (Auburn), Lorenzo Booker (FSU), and Kenneth Darby (Alabama) combined to run for just 13 yards in the 27-0 blowout.

Of course, the game means little compared to the week of drills under the watchful eyes of National Football League coaches, scouts, staff, and an ever present media.

Leak completed five of nine passes for 23 yards. He had three rushes for minus 19 yards. Again, the week is what matters most.

“The Senior Bowl is so important for guys like Chris Leak,” he said. “He can move up a round if he is impressive. He performed well throughout the week.”

Leak started at quarterback for the South. He was sacked after Amobi Okoye badly beat Auburn’s Tim Duckworth, who was just whipped on the play. He was sacked and fumbled in the second quarter when Jay Moore (Nebraska) blew around the blind side and nailed Leak. Auburn’s Kenny Irons missed the block on Moore.

Leak fumbled once again in the second half when Moore slapped the wet ball away as he pushed Joe Staley (Central) backwards to the former Florida signal caller. Moore amassed three sacks on the day.

“It’s about improving as a player,” Leak said. “It was a pleasure working around a coaching staff that has trained some great quarterbacks. I had the opportunity to come here and learn from some great coaches and be around some great players. I’ve got to go back and train and get ready for the combine.”

“It was a really good experience,” linebacker Earl Everett said in the locker room. “The week was fun. I really had a good time. All week long during individual drills we did a lot of bag drills and worked on our pad levels and staying low. At the next level, they’re really big on technique. You can be a good athlete, but on that field they stress technique, technique, technique.”

“It was a different experience, especially being coached by Coach (Mike) Singletary,” Everett said with a wide smile. “He is very intense. Very intense. All that I’m going to say is that he laid it on us. He got on us all week long.”

While Everett was answering my question about Singletary his locker room neighbor, fellow linebacker Buster Davis (Florida State) added a few thoughts to the discussion.

“He’s crazy,” Davis said of Singletary. “All I heard, C’mon Florida State, stay low. C’mon Florida State. He was on us all week.”

Everett was credited with no tackles, but broke up Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith’s second pass of the game. Davis was the second leading tackler in the South squad with five stops.

Ray McDonald (6-3 276) started at left defensive end for the South squad. He spent the first quarter working against Marshall Yanda (Iowa). His biggest mistake was when he jumped offsides on fourth play of game. Quentin Moses (Georgia) replaced McDonald after the penalty. McDonald continually demonstrated a blend of moves which secured two quarterback pressures on Smith. He worked against James Marten (Boston College) in the second quarter.

“The week went pretty good, except for today,” McDonald said. “It was a good week of practice. It’s a lot different from college. I mean, you’re learning in from coaches in the professional atmosphere and surrounded by different players.”

“Everything now is about doing your job and getting the job done,” he added. “It’s a different level. We go over film everyday and they point out your mistakes and you have to show them the next day that you can improve and won’t make that mistake. They expect those corrections to be made.”

Wide receiver Dallas Baker (6-3 205) hauled in a 14 yard sideline pass from Leak on the second South offensive play from scrimmage. Baker added a five yard reception later in a game where conditions were hardly ideal for the passing game, especially with a horrendous offensive line.

* Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith’s first quarter statistics somewhat mirrored those from those he put up in the BCS National Championship Game. 4-15 for 45 yards.