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2022 Senior Bowl Preview

Take a look at the 8 MWC players participating this week.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 college football season is over, but post-season bowls will be occurring over the next few weeks. Mountain West alums are taking part in the Tropical Bowl, the Hula Bowl, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl the East-West Shrine Game, and the Senior Bowl. This post will focus on the Senior Bowl.

These events are used primarily as camps with a game at the end. Invited players get officially measured and weighed upon checking in. Then, there are a few days of practice with NFL coaches. The practice time for players is really at the heart of these events.

This is due to the time players and coaches can spend together honing their craft collaboratively. It gives the players a chance to be looked at by coaches who know the NFL game. What better way to understand where and how to improve than to hear it from the source. Receiving this feedback can give the players an edge as they head into their training for the NFL Combine or their respective Pro-day.

Finally, and somewhat related, this gives players a chance to stand out. If a player was overshadowed on his team by other talented individuals, wasn’t featured in his offense, or in the case of those in this article, playing in a Group of 5 conference, they have the opportunity to open the eyes of the coaches with their play and jump onto the radar before draft time. While the combine and pro-days are also good opportunities for this, the more chances of coaches seeing one play and compete, the better position they put themselves in.

This year, there are eight players from the Mountain West is participating in the Senior Bowl. Below we will provide a brief description of each player and illustrate what kind of showing they need to improve their draft stock.

A note about the Senior Bowl this year:

Senior Bowl Schedule:

Practices on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will all be televised live. These will all be aired by NFL Network. However, on Wednesday and Thursday, those practices will also be aired by ESPN on ESPNU.

Tuesday, February 1

  • 11:30 am – 1:30 pm (NATIONAL)
  • 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm (AMERICAN)

Wednesday, February 2

  • 11:30 am – 1:30 pm (NATIONAL)
  • 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm (AMERICAN)

Thursday, February 3

  • 11:30 am – 1:30 pm (NATIONAL)
  • 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm (AMERICAN)

Saturday, February 5

  • Senior Bowl Game: 1:30pm CT
  • Mobile, Alabama. University of South Alabama, Hancock Whitney Stadium
  • NFL Network

The Players:

WR Khalil Shakir (Boise State)

Provided by Zach

Shakir is one of the most intriguing draft prospects that Boise State has had in quite some time. He doesn’t have the size and length of most elite wide receivers. But his hands were on display this season and he has proven that he can make any catch. A good showing at the Senior Bowl should put him in the late-second, early third-round range.

TE Trey McBride (Colorado State)

Provided by Lute

Trey McBride, if he stays healthy, has a chance to be the one of the best NFL players to ever come out of Colorado State. He’s that special. Some draft analysts, such as Todd McShay, have McBride going as early as the first round, but it’s more than likely he’ll be an early to mid second round pick. At 6’4” 260 pounds, McBride is a fantastic in line blocker. He uses every ounce of his size to be someone that projects really well at the next level blocking in the run game. He uses that same physical athleticism to be a force in the passing game as well. McBride doesn’t necessarily get elite separation in the secondary, but he gets enough to be an above average pass catcher in the NFL using his sticky hands that seem to catch everything he touches. The one knock on McBride may be his lack of production in the red zone in college, but that was more a byproduct of coaching and play design than anything else.

TE Cole Turner (Nevada)

Provided by Matt

Turner, at 6-foot-6, moved from receiver to tight end prior to the 2020 season and flourished within the Wolf Pack’s air raid offense. Turner oftentimes operated out of the slot and was one of Nevada’s top third-down targets. He dealt with nearly a half-dozen drops in the Wolf Pack’s opening game this season against Cal, but that was unusual of Turner. He has excellent hands with a phenomonal catch radius. He was Strong’s favorite target in the red-zone — totaling a team-high 16 combined touchdowns in the red-zone over the last two seasons — oftentimes as primary touchdown recepient around the goal-line when Nevada opted to throw the ball. The weakest part of his game is his blocking, but he should eventually become a competant blocker at the next level with added strength and experience. His hands, fluid body control and nimbleness, for his size, could make him a dangerous receiving threat within the right scheme in the NFL.

WR Romeo Doubs (Nevada)

Provided by Matt

Doubs, with good size and length, was one of the top deep-ball threats in the Mountain West over the last two years. The 6-foot-2 receiver is very athletic and can destroy defenses over the top with his top-end speed, positioning, hands, catch radius, body control and ability to work in space after the catch. His physical traits allow him to be a threat in special teams, too, where he was one of the top punt returners in the Mountain West. He continually expanded his route tree with more reps, but will still need to add and perfect his route running with more complex schemes at the next level. Drops occassionally plagued him, but overall, Doubs is a sure fire talent with the ability to hurt defenses north-to-south more than east-to-west — though he’s capable of doing both.

QB Carson Strong (Nevada)

Provided by Matt

Last, but certainly not least, let’s discuss the Wolf Pack’s most highly-touted draft prospect: Carson Strong. Strong, if his knee holds up, could be one of the best quarterbacks in this draft. His knee is a rather big if, however. He had eight biodegradable nails put in his knee in high school — forcing him to miss his senior season — plus underwent an arthroscopic knee surgery in Feb. of 2021 with a 6-to-12 month recovery timetable, yet he still played the entire 2021 season behind an offensive line that provided subpar pass protection. While he’s gotten the knee checked out since, the “is his knee okay?” discourse is — and will continue — surrounding him over the next several months. And it’s a fair question; we’ve seen players’ draft stock sink due to injury risk — whether those same concerns actually maintain in the pros or not. OK, enough knee talk. Assuming he’s healthy, Strong possesses outstanding arm talent with a high acumen. Strong, the reigning back-to-back Mountain West offensive player of the year, limited the mistakes with Nevada — throwing just 19 career interceptions to 74 touchdown passes in 31 career starts. He took what the defense gave him — whether it meant launching 60-yard dimes to over the top (to Doubs), firing missles to intermediate areas or checking it down to the tailback when nothing’s open downfield. Strong possesses an incredibly strong (pun intended) arm and is very accurate with good ball placement. The only thing that limits Strong is his mobility — centering back to how healthy his knee is. At times, he was timid in the pocket, and understandably so being a below-average pass protection. But that’s not going to fly at the next level on a consistent basis. Strong possesses all the arm tools needed to be a quarterback at the next level and could be a Day 1 pick, but it’ll all be dependent on how that knee is.

TE Daniel Bellinger (SDSU)

Provided by Tyler

The 6’6 Vegas native had a solid year with the Aztecs, finishing with 357 total yards and 2 touchdowns. Bellinger averaged 11.5 yards per catch and was utilized in important games in many ways. He made a few big plays, including his biggest moment when he caught a 73-yard pass from QB Jordon Brookshire that set up a touchdown run against Arizona in week 1. Bellinger has amassed more than 200 yards in his last 3 seasons, 357 being his best year by far. He also caught 31 total passes on the year, with at least one reception in every game. Bellinger was a successful asset to the Aztec offense this year and that is why he is in the Senior Bowl. In the game, he will need to showcase his blocking abilities for the run game as well as effective route running.

DE Cameron Thomas (SDSU)

Provided by Tyler

Senior defensive end Cameron Thomas has been selected to the 2022 Senior Bowl. His season totals resulted in 30 solo tackles, on top of 41 assisted tackles for a total of 71. Thomas finished with the 3rd most sacks in the Mountain West with 11.5, which is tied for 8th in the nation. SDSU led the conference in sacks with 41 on the year, and was ranked number one as a whole in the Mountain West with the rush defense ranked in the top 5 in the nation. Thomas also finished with a forced fumble and was ranked 4th in the Mountain West in tackles for a loss with 20.5, losing 77 yards in total. Thomas had 3 tackles in the Frisco Bowl game against UTSA, capping off one of the best seasons in SDSU football history. In the Senior Bowl, he will have to showcase his edge-rushing power and QB reading talents to prove he can be effective against the run and the pass.

LB Chad Muma (Wyoming)

Provided by Willie

For the Wyoming Cowboys, there was practically only one constant that they could count on in each game this season, and that was the performance of Linebacker Chad Muma. The 6’ 3” 242 lb. Redshirt Junior out of Lone Tree, Colorado led the Cowboys and the Mountain West this season in solo tackles (82) and total tackles (142) and was also nominated for this year’s Butkus Award, an award given to the nation’s top linebacker. Muma has an ideal build for a linebacker and checks a lot of boxes in key areas for NFL teams looking for a lead backer. He’s fast, plays with a ton of instinct, and rarely misses tackles. If there was one word to describe his level of play, I’d use the word versatile. Why? Because Muma possesses immaculate ability in a lot of different areas, making it nearly impossible to describe him with a word that’s so one-dimensional. He’s very smart, disciplined, and reads opposing offenses extremely well. He rarely gets beat to an area and is a very strong tackler. His natural ability leads me to believe that he can adjust well to any sort of scheme or gameplan thrown his way and though we mostly saw the linebacker in man coverage this season, he displayed prominent ability when in zone coverage as well. The characteristics that stand out the most are his natural instinct and his vision. Those two things come naturally to Muma and are nearly unteachable aspects to his game that will, pending a good performance in the Senior Bowl, set him apart come draft time.

Draft projection: late first to early second round.

Note: The weaknesses or questions describing each player below aren’t necessarily the views of the contributors or site, but rather what could be questions or concerns NFL scouts or talent-elevators or the media have about them, which are still worth discussing as they can have ramifications.