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2023 Senior Bowl Preview

Take a look at the 2 Mountain West players participating this week.

Fresno State Bulldogs defeated the Washington State Cougars 29-6 to win the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

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.

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 January 31st

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

Wednesday February 1st

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

Thursday February 2nd

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

Saturday, February 4

  • Senior Bowl Game: 12:30pm MT
  • Mobile, Alabama. University of South Alabama, Hancock Whitney Stadium
  • NFL Network

The Players:

DB JL Skinner (Boise State)

The leader in the secondary for Boise State, Skinner could have easily left last year to pursue his aspirations of playing in the NFL. However, he elected to come back for one final run as a Bronco. Thankfully, this risk didn’t cost him as he avoided suffering any major injuries throughout the 2022 campaign. Skinner continued to improve in reading the quarterback’s eyes and was able to have a career high interception total with four. His heroics at the end of the Wyoming game displayed the type of playmaker he is beyond being the hard hitter. Skinner has been on countless preseason watch lists and has been ranked as one of the best safeties in this draft class. When he takes the field at the Senior Bowl, he needs to show the rest of the country that he has the physical frame and explosiveness to be an impact player in the secondary. That, and avoid any targeting penalties just for good measure.

QB Jake Haener (Fresno State)

The true embodiment of a Mountain West QB, Haener put his everything on the line over the last three years in Fresno. His 2022 season started with the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year award in the MWC, and he was mentioned as a deep Heisman dark horse candidate. Through halftime of the USC game, he was living up to that reputation until a significant lower leg injury seemingly derailed everything. Fresno State slumped to a 1-4 record without Haener, but once he returned against San Diego State, they never looked back. They would win 8 straight games after his return, including a conference championship and LA Bowl win. While he might not have the prototypical NFL measurables when it comes to height and weight, the league has proven that it will take a chance on a smaller player in recent years. His ability to truly create magic, even without an elite line in front of him, and his true warrior spirit on the field should entice a team to take a chance on him. I don’t see him going before Day 3, but a strong performance in the Senior Bowl could boost him up to an early Day 3 selection.