Senior Bowl 2016: 10 SEC candidates for next year's game


The 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl is over, which means, of course, that it is time to look ahead to the 2016 version of the game.

Here is a league-by-league look at seniors-to-be who very well could be in Mobile, Ala., next year for the Senior Bowl. We limited it to 10 players per league for each of the Power Fiver conferences and listed 10 players total for the non-Power Five leagues.

Here's a look at 10 players from the SEC (listed in alphabetical order).

LSU OL Vadal Alexander

The buzz: Alexander decided to come back to Baton Rouge for one more season and figures to man the left guard position for the third year in a row. He's got some experience at tackle, however, and could get a look there again if last year's right tackle, Jerald Hawkins, is moved to the left side to replace 2015 Senior Bowler La'el Collins. Still, Alexander projects best as a guard at the pro level and will more than likely make every credible preseason All-SEC team if playing that position. There aren't many offensive linemen that get more push off the line of scrimmage than Alexander and the Senior Bowl would be a perfect setting to put that raw power on display in front of NFL coaches and scouts.

Missouri LB Kentrell Brothers

The buzz: The Tigers' leading tackler last year with 122 stops, Brothers (6-1, 240) projects as an inside linebacker at the next level. In Missouri's defensive scheme, linemen are frequently stunting and playing for penetration rather than gap control. As a result, Brothers doesn't always get much help in front of him when it comes to keeping offensive linemen out of his path. Brothers doesn't have the skill to be a high first-round pick, but the Senior Bowl could be just what he needs to establish himself as one of the better draft options at the "Mike" linebacker position for 2016.

Auburn CB Jonathan Jones

The buzz: Jones bounced back from an injury-marred sophomore year in a big way last season, leading the Tigers in interceptions (six) and pass breakups (11) at cornerback. He is undersized at 5-10, 180 pounds, but has outstanding instincts and plays the ball in the air with great awareness. He'll be back as a senior in 2015 as Auburn's leader in the secondary, and a year under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will be to Jones' benefit. Another strong season will put him in the NFL conversation, but the questions about his size will no doubt linger, making a Senior Bowl bid perhaps exactly what Jones will need.

Tennessee LB Curt Maggitt

The buzz: Maggitt couldn't have rebounded any more impressively from a knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2013 season. The fourth-year junior led UT in sacks with 11 and had 15 tackles for loss among 48 stops, showing an ability to rush off the edge that the Volunteers are hopeful he can duplicate as a fifth-year senior this fall. At 6-3, 250 pounds, he's too small to play defensive end in the NFL. But unlike a lot of 6-3, 250-pound pass rushers in the college game, Maggitt has experience in pass coverage and playing other linebacker spots. Scouts at the Senior Bowl would quickly recognize a level of versatility in Maggitt that could help his draft stock immensely.

Florida LB Antonio Morrison

The buzz: The Gators' middle linebacker had a resurgent season in 2014 after a disappointing sophomore campaign in 2013. At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, he led UF in tackles with 101 and made six tackles for loss. Florida had the 13th-ranked run defense in the nation at 116.2 yards per game, and Morrison was a big reason why. The next step for Morrison is making more plays on his own -- of his 101 stops, only 30 were solos with 71 assists. Nevertheless, he figures to anchor new coach Jim McElwain's first defense at UF, and another impressive year should make him as likely as anyone on the UF roster to make the Senior Bowl.

College stars show off their skills in preparation for the 2015 Senior Bowl in Mobile.

MSU QB Dak Prescott

The buzz: The Bulldogs' best quarterback prospect in many years was in the Heisman Trophy conversation for much of his junior season. As a dual-threat quarterback in a spread-option offense, he is as dangerous on the ground as he is from the pocket. He threw for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns last year, including a career-high 453 yards in an Orange Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. As a rusher, Prescott (6-2, 235 pounds) has the strength to push the pile for first downs in short-yardage situations, but is athletic enough to be dangerous in the open field, as well. Because he doesn't operate from a pro-style system, Prescott could be an ideal candidate for the Senior Bowl, where he would have a chance to show NFL coaches and scouts his ability to adapt to the differences in the pro game.

Alabama LB Reggie Ragland

The buzz: The Crimson Tide's weakside linebacker gave some consideration to an early jump to the NFL. He has proven himself as a stout run-stopper, but told College Football 24/7 prior to the Sugar Bowl that pass coverage remains an area that he can work on. He finished second only to one of the nation's top defenders, safety Landon Collins, in tackles for the Crimson Tide at 95, with 10.5 of those for losses. Alabama's top seniors don't often turn down an invitation from the Senior Bowl, so unless Ragland is projected extremely high for the 2016 draft and doesn't appear to need the game to boost his stock, consider him as strong a candidate for the 2016 game as anyone.

Alabama DL Jarran Reed

The buzz: Like Ragland, Reed made a last-minute decision to stay in college for one more year despite an opportunity to be drafted fairly early in the NFL draft. Reed has been at Alabama for just one season after transferring from junior college. As such, he was an unknown entering the 2015 season. That won't be the case this fall, as his dominant play against the run figures to place him squarely in the mix for preseason All-SEC recognition. He made 55 stops with 6.5 tackles for loss and showed a good sense for deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage (five breakups). Reed recorded just one sack on the season and his ability to get to the quarterback will be the primary question about his pro potential. But he won't need a pile of sacks to get a Senior Bowl invitation -- his talent as a run-stopper alone will make him one of the college game's elite seniors.

Auburn WR D'haquille Williams

The buzz: The Tigers' most reliable receiver last year decided to come back for another, to the surprise of many fans who expected he and fellow receiver Sammie Coates to exit for the NFL together. Williams led AU with 45 catches and proved to have the stickiest pair of hands on the team. At 6-2, 216 pounds, he knows how to use his big frame in traffic to make tougher catches over the middle and deep downfield. With Coates off to the NFL, Williams will be primed to be Auburn's runaway leader at the receiver position next year and, barring injury, he should have more than enough production to merit a Senior Bowl invitation.

Arkansas RB Jonathan Williams

The buzz: There might not be a better running back in the SEC next season than Williams, who will vie for that distinction with Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette. That's strong company, but Williams outrushed all but Chubb on the year. In what should be another 1,000-yard season for the more reliable of Arkansas' two star rushers, a Senior Bowl bid could easily find its way to Williams. That said, if Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema doesn't throw a bit more to Williams next season (just 11 catches in 2014), the biggest question scouts might have about Williams entering the Senior Bowl is already foreseeable.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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