The 2016 edition of the Reese's Senior Bowl has come and gone, and the game provided some memorable moments. Most of these all-star contests start of slow with the defenses being further along than the offenses. This game was no exception, as both teams were trading punts early in the contest. Early in the week North Dakota State's Carson Wentz had all the pro scouts drooling with his impressive size and play. The other hot stock this week was Ohio State's Braxton Miller, who has transitioned nicely from QB to WR. Virginia Tech's own Dadi Nicolas had some good practices early in the week, and was hoping to combine that with a strong in game performance. Dadi saw the field for the first time in the North's second possession of the ball game. Wentz was unloading early, and Nicolas didn't have a real opportunity to apply pressure.
The first quarter was evaporating quickly when Jake Coker and the South team started putting together a solid drive. Aaron Greene from T.C.U. broke a long T.D. run from 25 yards out to put the South up 7-0 with 4:00 left in the first quarter. Nicolas got some great heat on Wentz on the next series forcing an errant pass from the potential first round selection. Nicolas showed the speed off the edge that has heads turning down here in Mobile. Fellow A.C.C. alum Ross Martin from Duke hit a 48 yard field goal on the ensuing drive, and the South had a 10-0 lead at the end of one quarter. The biggest specimen I've ever seen in person, Shawn Oakman (Baylor)sacked Carson Wentz and forced the game's first turnover. Oakman turned heads from day one with just his sheer size and build.
With 4:41 Nicolas had an almost sure sack, but Stanford's Kevin Hogan managed to escape his paws, and Shawn Oakman cleaned it up for the loss. The North finally got on the board with a Ka'imi Fairbairm 36 yard field goal making it 10-3 South with 2:56 left in the half. Mississippi State product Dak Prescott put together a nice drive just before halftime. He eventually found Paul McRoberts from Southeast Missouri to make it 17-3 South, with 0:22 left in the half. The second half started just as slow as the first. Brandon Allen from Arkansas got in at QB for his fist action of the ballgame, and methodically drove the South down the field. Allen and company couldn't cash a TD,but Duke kicker Ross Martin booted a 40 yard FG to make it 20-3 South, with 9:26 left in the third.
Cody Kessler from U.S.C. came into the game for the North, and showed some surprising speed in running for a clutch first down. Kessler had the North team on the move for the first time since early in the first quarter. On a 2nd and 6, Dadi again brought outstanding pressure forcing an errant Kessler throw. The North managed to convert on a 3rd and 4 to keep the drive alive. Kesler eventually snuck it in from the one for the North's first touchdown of the game. It was 20-10 South with less than 2 minutes left in the third.
The South waited no time to respond with Glenn Gronkowski (Rob Gronkowski's brother) having 3 big catches on the drive. The South was unable to punch it in, and settled for another Ross Martin field goal attempt. This attempt was blocked by K.J. Dillon, and returned by Wisconsin's Joe Schobert over 70 yards down to the South five yard line. N.C. State alum Jacoby Brissett got into the game, and promptly led the South down the field. Kenyan Drake,from the national champion Crimson Tide, found the end zone to make it 27-10 South.
On the next series Dadi Nicolas got his first tackle of the ball game. He also had a TFL and another tackle on the next drive. Nicolas had a strong week, and will continue his path to the draft in Indianapolis at the combine. Nicolas passes the eyeball test, and showed the ability to get off blocks. The question for the G.M.'s will be, "Is he a true DE, an OLB, or a 3rd down specialty player?" We will find out more as we get closer to the draft.