For a week every year during late January, the Reese’s Senior Bowl descends upon Mobile, AL and transforms the historic gulf community into America’s ad hoc football mecca. This year, West Virginia stands as the most well-represented college program in Mobile with five players on the Senior Bowl roster. With that said, it’s worth looking back at how some of the Mountaineers’ biggest standouts fared against some of the most talented players in the nation.
Will Grier: To the surprise of no one, there was a ton of buzz surrounding the WVU gunslinger during the first full day of bowl practice. Grier’s been a somewhat divisive figure since electing to sit out of West Virginia’s Camping World Bowl appearance against Syracuse last month. For those of you still questioning his integrity regarding that decision, I’ll leave you with this and this His risk-mitigating aside, there was also some controversy around Grier supposedly skipping his planned media session yesterday morning which Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy was more than happy to dispel:
Seeing some reports of West Virginia QB Will Grier leaving @seniorbowl media day. That is false. I personally saw Will doing plenty of interviews at the convention center and he’s handled all his responsibilities since arriving in Mobile.
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) January 22, 2019
On a largely positive note, however, Oakland’s Jon Gruden seems to be buying what Grier is trying to sell. On-field, Grier’s day was largely up and down. While enhanced metrics revealed that his arm is, in fact, SUPER strong he mishandled one snap which hit the turf and missed on a couple throws. Granted, errors abounded at the quarterback position and it was a fairly lackluster day for the position group as a whole. However, with Grier continuing to battle questionable optics from his bowl game absence and prove that his skillset is worthy of a high draft pick, the Charlotte native needs a return to form in the coming days resembling the guy who finished fourth in Heisman voting this past season.
David Sills V: Grier’s favorite target and touchdown robot, Sills wasted no time in proving to the assembled masses that he is one of America’s elite receivers. The Delaware native had several outstanding plays during 1-on-1’s against well-regarded cornerbacks such as Lonnie Johnson and Rock Ya-Sin, displaying his sure hands and exceptional release off the line.
— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) January 22, 2019
Even on broken plays, Sills displayed great variation and execution in his route running, whether it was on deep routes like fades or underneath routes that required adjusting to the ball. Given Sills’ well-publicized quarterback pedigree, as well as his reputation for scoring touchdowns seemingly at will, there’s a high ceiling for him to ascend in Mobile and earn considerable points that will only help him come draft week. After one day in the books, it’s fair to say that Sills has already impressed and figures to continue doing just that as the week pushes on.
Gary Jennings, Jr: A late and welcome addition to the Senior Bowl, Jennings was every bit as good as Sills these past two seasons at West Virginia and he’s already well on his way to proving why. While the Virginia native didn’t measure out as well as position peer Sills (6’1″to Sills’ 6’3″+), there’s no question that he comes equipped with a set of legit afterburners:
Three fastest players so far in south practice:
Gary Jennings (WR)- 21.5 mph
Tyre Brady (WR) -19.8mph
Mark Fields (DB) – 19.7mph
Next two are TEs … pic.twitter.com/ZcgnxtiCMa
— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 22, 2019
So that’s very fast, for those of you who might be on the fence. Not only did Jennings’ speed impress, but he hauled in more than one tough grab yesterday with this one being the possible standout:
— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) January 22, 2019
Sills might have more of the acclaim heading into the Senior Bowl, but Jennings has a considerable upside and this week in Mobile provides him a massive platform to showcase his NFL chops. Touting back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in Morgantown and a knack for being Mr. Reliable, Gary Jennings could very well emerge as a surprise star in Mobile by week’s end.
Trevon Wesco: Without question, Wesco was a fan favorite from 2018 who burst into the fold seemingly out of nowhere. As a 270 pound boulder of a tight end, the West Virginia native does not trade in finesse. Blunt-force power is more his game and is clearly a brand of football that is attracting more than a couple fans including NFL draft czar Matt Miller:
I have a draft crush on Trevon Wesco. He’s catching the ball so well. Tough as hell too.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2019
Miller wasn’t the only one feeling the love, either:
So we lost Honcho. But can I interest you in a 6’3, 270lb utility ‘fullback’ who can block like nobody’s business out of West Virginia in Trevon Wesco?
(#88 in the middle of the field CATCHING the ball) pic.twitter.com/LaxG4BqiFP
— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) January 22, 2019
Of the five ambassadors to Mountaineer football present in Mobile, Wesco is probably the most impressive from just an “eye test” perspective. As the NFL continually morphs into a more spread-heavy league, having a tight end with that blend of size and ball skills is something even the most conservative pro franchise would spend a draft pick on. Bet on Wesco to make a name for himself before week’s end.
David Long, Jr: Last and far from least, West Virginia’s top DAWG and midfield dynamo was up to his usual tricks in his first day of action. West Virginia fans shouldn’t be surprised by this:
David Long Jr. getting downhill in a hurry! 💨 pic.twitter.com/7u3raijr2f
— West Virginia Football (@WVUfootball) January 22, 2019
Nor should they be even a little surprised by this:
WVU LB David Long makes himself known when he hits.
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) January 22, 2019
Long’s uphill battle in the eyes of scouts will continue through this week and all the way up to the draft based solely around the one thing he can’t control: his size. Having measured in at just a shade over 5’11” yesterday and a stout 230 pounds, Long isn’t the rangy, sprawling linebacker prototype that the league seems to currently favor. However, as a wiser man than me once said, “tape doesn’t lie”. Long’s certainly speaks volumes of truth, anyway. Between his natural football instincts and world-class ability to infiltrate run lanes and beat larger opponents, Long has all the tools to make every NFL-er on hand a believer. Consider day one a huge win.
Continue following along @DubVnation all week to stay up-to-date on all the goings-on in Mobile.