MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Jalen Hurts and Shea Patterson started for two Power 5 programs, Justin Herbert passed for 10,000-plus yards for another and Jordan Love became a highly rated prospect without playing for one.
The Senior Bowl quarterbacks followed different paths to potential NFL careers, but they started this week on a more even playing field ahead of Saturday’s game. All had to get familiar with new receivers and new, albeit vanilla, offenses.
They had three practices and the game to separate themselves before the combine and private team visits.
“I’m just taking the opportunity to prove myself any way I can out here, competing with the best athletes in the country,” said Michigan’s Patterson, who started his career at Mississippi. “I’m loving it.”
Patterson, Love and Washington State’s Anthony Gordon will be quarterbacks for the North. Herbert, who could be the highest pick from the Senior Bowl rosters, leads the South along with Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Colorado’s Steven Montez.
“All three guys have come out and they’ve competed well,” said North coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions. “Certainly it’s most difficult on the quarterback. I think that’s a guy that’s got to learn all the verbiage, all the vernacular, know what everybody’s doing on offense and then try to get everybody lined up and ready to go.
“I think these guys have handled it really well.”
Hurts was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in his lone season with the Sooners after starting two years for Alabama, a few hours away.
None were more prolific passers in their careers than Herbert, who passed for 10,541 yards and 95 touchdowns in his career. Utah State’s Love is also regarded as a potential first-round pick. He threw 20 touchdown passes last season but was intercepted 17 times, something he’s going to have to clean up for the NFL.
“Poor decisions by me trying to force the ball down the field too much and trying to do too much in certain situations,” Love said. “Every interception for me, that’s a learning moment. Obviously I had 17 learning moments last season.”
Gordon, who ranked second nationally with 5,579 passing yards and 48 touchdowns, is the third straight Washington State quarterback in the game. Gardner Minshew just started 12 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a rookie and Luke Falk played two years ago.
Hurts remains a popular figure in the state where he went 26-2 as Alabama’s starter with a pair of playoff berths. That was especially evident on one elevator ride.
“I get on the elevator and one of the workers at the hotel we’re staying at, she let me have it in terms of just screaming, ‘Jalen Hurts is really on my elevator,’” he said. “That’s special to me. I know it won’t be like that forever, but I’m just soaking it up.”
Patricia is leading the North and Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor and his staff are coaching the South. The Bengals have the No. 1 pick, with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow being the odds-on favorite. The Lions pick third and seem likely to go with an underclassman who also isn’t participating in the Senior Bowl.
The coaching gig still gives them a chance to get more one on one situations with potential later picks in practice, meetings and game situations.
SMALL COLLEGE GUYS
The game features some players from small schools savoring their chance to prove they can compete with the more well-known prospects.
That includes tight end/fullback Charlie Taumoepeau of FCS Portland State, offensive lineman Ben Bartch of Division III Saint John’s in Minnesota and Alex Taylor, a 6-foot-8, 308-pounder from South Carolina State.
Last season, Alabama State offensive lineman Tytus Howard was a first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks.
“I’m just trying to play and show that I belong,” Taumoepeau said.
Washington State’s Gordon was offered his No. 18 for the Senior Bowl. Instead, he requested jersey No. 3, a number worn by former Cougars quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who took his own life on Jan. 16, 2018.
“The Hilinskis, God bless them, they allowed me to wear it and I’m honored to wear it,” Gordon said. Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said early this week that the family would attend the game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.