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Senior Bowl quarterbacks struggling with NFL transition

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MOBILE, Ala. -- The transition from college football quarterback into NFL starter is one fraught with difficulties for all but a handful of rookies, such as Andrew Luck or Matt Ryan. This week's signal-callers at the Senior Bowl have all displayed growing pains in making the move up a level, and each will no doubt return to their respective training facilities with a bevy of things to work on after the holes in their games were exposed for scouts during practice the past few days.

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On Tuesday, the issues seemed to be centered on footwork and something as mundane as handing the ball off the right way -- a particularly tough task for some QBs not used to starting plays under center. On Wednesday, we had an onslaught of snap issues and less-than-crisp passing down the field. On Thursday, we saw a number of late throws that wound up as turnovers. Inclement weather forecasts leading up to kickoff on Saturday surely won't make things easier as game time rolls around, either.

In a draft with two clear-cut players at the top of the board (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota), the week spent in southern Alabama offered a chance for six players to put their name in the hat to be the third quarterback taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. So far, none have stood out, but each is hopeful their time spent in meeting rooms and on the field is doing enough to keep them in the conversation.

"I think it's motivation for me. I'm sure it's motivation for all of us here, but especially me," Baylor's Bryce Petty said, in a nod to the doubters. "I feel like I'm the best one out here."

Complicating things is the fact that most of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl are transitioning from taking the majority of their snaps in the shotgun to getting the ball from under center. Alabama's Blake Sims and Oregon State's Sean Mannion did not, but neither thought it gave them that much of an advantage considering every signal-caller had to learn and perform in a completely new system on the fly.

"Playing at Oregon State in a pro-style offense, we had a lot of similarities in terms of concepts in the passing game with what we're doing this week," Mannion said. "The details and the precision required, that the Titans are asking us to do, is just a whole other level, though. But there are certainly a lot of similarities I've noticed between systems."

"It isn't anything new, anything crazy -- it's just different. It's going to take a second to get acquainted with everything," Petty added. "The system we ran (at Baylor) was based really on anticipation and knowing where you're going to go. This is based on pre-snap reads to know where you're going to go and then you through your progressions from there. There are things I need to get better at but nothing I can't do."


» Petty says he is top quarterback in draft


None of the quarterbacks so far have successfully risen to the top this week and been consistently outstanding. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah thinks former Mariota backup Bryan Bennett has shown flashes, while ex-Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson is intrguing at the position. All the signal-callers had a bad day or two, however, and it might take a good performance in Saturday's game when the bullets are flying to keep some of their stock level before the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days start.

In the end, somebody will have to emerge behind Mariota and Winston, but NFL scouts seem to think that person might not be in Mobile this week after seeing six players play fairly mediocre.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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