Conversation starts with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
By MICHAEL CASAGRANDE
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
MOBILE, Ala. -- Sitting a few rows up in the Ladd-Peebles Stadium bleachers Tuesday was one of the hottest prospects in the 2011 NFL draft.
A day earlier, another big name walked the sidelines at the South team’s practice.
Neither was invited to the Senior Bowl. Neither was eligible.
LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Alabama’s Julio Jones were the unofficial representatives of the junior class at the week’s festivities. It’s a group of early entrants 56 strong -- a record for non-seniors entering the draft. The talent isn’t lost in the numbers and includes the past two Heisman Trophy winners.
Sitting in the seats just down the way from Peterson was former NFL coach Jerry Glanville. The coach turned television commentator had plenty to say about the biggest names in the NFL draft who won’t suit up Saturday in the Senior Bowl.
The biggest name not spotted in Mobile this week belongs to last season’s Heisman winner, Cam Newton of Auburn, who is projected to go in the first round.
“I liked (Newton) except I didn’t like him in the (BCS) championship game,” said Glanville, a head coach with the Oilers and Falcons from 1985-93. “I really liked him and then in the championship game, he missed two passes you have to hit on. He missed on a corner route and he missed on a seam route and a flat rout.”
Playing below expectations, especially in a championship game and even in victory, Glanville said can affect draft decisions.
“I don’t think that game helped him,” he said.
Peterson knows all about trying to corral Newton who ran for 217 yards in a season-defining win over LSU on Oct. 23. Among that rushing total was the 49-yard touchdown run replayed countless times that ended with Newton carrying Peterson into the end zone.
“He’s great,” Peterson said. “He definitely deserves every bit of it. He did everything he could do to help his team win a national championship. He did everything the right way to win the Heisman.”
Another former stiff-armed trophy winner who left school early was Alabama’s Mark Ingram. Glanville didn’t see as many Crimson Tide games this past fall as he would have hoped after seeing plenty of Ingram during his breakout season in 2009.
“He’s probably another guy who I liked a year ago better,” Glanville said. “But I saw him do it a couple of years ago The year he won the Heisman Trophy, he deserved it. He was that good.”
Archie Manning, a former NFL quarterback and father of Eli and Peyton Manning likes the potential Ingram showed to perform at the next level.
“I met Mark this year and I said I think you’re going to be good in the NFL. I think you’re going to be with the Giants,” a smile Manning said of the team his son Eli plays for and where Ingram’s father Mark Ingram Sr., played in the late 1980s and early 90s.
One question likely waiting the younger Ingram during the pre-draft build up concerns the minor knee injury suffered less than a week before opening the 2010 season. The exact nature of the damage was not made public though coach Nick Saban did say he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery that kept him out of the first two games.
Though he said it was back to full strength by the end of the season, Glanville said knee trouble is a red flag that NFL teams take seriously.
Minor surgery means it’s not on you,” Glanville said. “Any surgery on you ? as a pro prospect ? is major.”
Alabama, Auburn players leaving early
DE, Marcell Dareus
RB, Mark Ingram
WR, Julio Jones
WR, Darvin Adams
QB, Cam Newton
DT, Nick Fairley