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Senior Bowl director Savage open to expanding player eligibility

The Reese's Senior Bowl is for seniors. It is right there in the name, and in only three instances over the last two years has a player with college eligibility remaining been allowed to participate. But Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage would be open to amending those rules and said Thursday he would look into expanding the talent pool.

"We will see if maybe there is a way to exempt more players and get them in here," said Savage, the former Cleveland Browns general manager.

Savage relayed the thoughts of Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard, one of four fourth-year juniors who was allowed to enter the draft because he already has his degree, who felt he has a leg up from being at the Senior Bowl this year.

There are a number of players who blur the line between senior and underclassman. Take Stanford offensive lineman David Yankey, for example, technically a senior but with a fifth season of eligibility available because of a previous injury. Should Yankey have been allowed to come to Mobile, Ala. and participate this week?

Presumably those are the kinds of circumstances Savage is referring to. Anything else, talk to the powers that be, Savage said.

Asked if juniors or redshirt sophomores might be able to play in the Senior Bowl, Savage said, "I think that is a question for the higher-ups at the league level and then the American Football Coaches Association, NCAA football. But there is no question there has got to be discussion as to where this is all going."

Savage and Alabama head coach Nick Saban expressed concerns earlier this week over the record 98 underclassmen that entered the 2014 NFL Draft early, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

Savage indicated that the introduction of a cost-of-attendance stipend could encourage players on the fringes to remain in school as those are the players hurt by coming out early, not the likes of projected top picks Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney.

"There are enough people in the leadership positions that are smart enough to figure out what is best for all of football," Savage said.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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