The Senior Bowl is the most prestigious of the postseason college football all-star showcase games.
But as important as the game itself can be for the draft hopes of players that may have been overlooked to this point in their careers, the week of practice preceding it can potentially be even more impactful.
That was the case last week for defensive linemen Jason Strowbridge of North Carolina and Larrell Murchison of NC State.
Both players improved their stock with impressive performances that caught the eyes of the many NFL coaches and scouts that were attendance, as well as the media covering the event in Mobile, Alabama.
“I’m not sure anyone helped his draft stock more than Strowbridge,” wrote Carmen Vitali of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ official site, Buccaneers.com. “A pretty unknown prospect coming into Mobile, Strowbridge looked like a man among boys. His one-on-ones were a joy to watch. His hands were good and his speed was even better. … He consistently won all week against good talent.”
Strowbridge’s quickness as an edge rusher was something of a revelation since he spent most of his college career with the Tar Heels playing inside. But he has dropped from 285 pounds down to 270 and it has made a noticeable difference.
He finished the 2019 season with 45 tackles (6.5 for losses), three sacks, four quarterback hurries, three fumble recoveries and two blocked kicks.
“My whole thing is showing teams that I’m flexible,” said Strowbridge, who was credited with 2.5 tackles in Saturday’s game while helping his North team to a 34-17 victory. “I can play wherever and whenever it’s needed. I definitely want to get more comfortable on the outside.
“At the next level, 270 is not exactly the ideal size for (playing defensive tackle), so I’ll definitely move outside.”
Like Strowbridge, Murchison also has the ability to move inside and out — something he did often last season with the Wolfpack’s move primarily to a three-man front.
Murchison was among the ACC leaders with seven sacks last season, 3.5 of which came in a game at Florida State on Sept. 28. He finished the year with 48 tackles (12 for losses), five quarterback hurries and two fumble recoveries.
Described as “a disruptive interior force” by John Shipley of SI Jaguar Report, the 6-foot-3, 291-pound tackle made a favorable impression — especially with what is rapidly becoming his signature spin move.
He was credited with one tackle and a pass breakup for the North in Saturday’s game.
According to Owen Riese, writing for the Green Bay Packers website Acme Packing Co., Murchison was “nearly unblockable during 1 on 1s,” adding that “he was consistently lightning quick off of the football not allowing the offensive lineman a chance to block him.”
Two of the offensive linemen Murchison didn’t have to go up against were his North teammates Charlie Heck of UNC and Wake Forest’s Justin Herron.
The duo helped open the holes for their team’s back to rush for 200 yards in the game, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. The North also passed for 226 yards while rolling up a five-minute advantage in time of possession.
Like Strowbridge, Herron impressed the scouts with his versatility, working at multiple positions during the week of practice.
“His anchoring ability was only matched by his hand placement,” wrote John Sheeran of the Cincinnati Bengals site CincyJungle.com. “He also was always quick out of his stance in the zone blocking drills. Herron was primarily a tackle at Wake Forest, but saw work at both guard spots and more than held his own.”
Wake Forest cornerback Essang Bassey was the only other player with state ties in the game, making two tackles while helping the North limit the South to just 163 yards through the air.
While the Senior Bowl got most of the attention Saturday, it wasn’t the only college all-star game being played.
In Honolulu, the Hula Bowl made its return after a 12-year absence.
Among those playing in the game were Duke punter Austin Parker and Campbell defensive tackle Terrence Harper.
Statistics for the Hula Bowl are unavailable. But according to a spokesman for the Camels, the 6-foot-9, 315-pound Harper recovered a fumble in the game.
Harper recorded 40 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a pass breakup in helping Campbell to a 6-5 record in its second season as a member of the Big South Conference in 2019.