2014 Senior Bowl
Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV: NFL Network
J.J. Wilcox broke ground in 2013 when he became only the second Georgia Southern football player in history to be invited to the Senior Bowl, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. The Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the third round, making Wilcox the highest-selected player ever from GSU.
Needless to say, when Jerick McKinnon and Lavelle Westbrooks were invited to the 2014 Senior Bowl, they called him for advice.
The best piece of advice from Wilcox was to, “attack every day.”
McKinnon, who was invited to the showcase of college football’s best seniors as a running back, has done just that through two days of practice. Despite new formations and an avalanche of new plays — getting behind a lead blocker in the I-formation for example — it’s all come naturally to McKinnon, who started at GSU as a quarterback, slotback, fullback, wide receiver and cornerback during his four years as an Eagle and became the third leading career rusher in school history behind only Adrian Peterson — the program’s first Senior Bowl participant — and Jermaine Austin.
“Some people say it’s different, but I feel comfortable in the I (formation),” McKinnon said over the phone on Tuesday. “It’s similar to (fullback Dominique) Swope when we would put him on the edge to block in the lead option.”
McKinnon and Westbrooks are roommates in Mobile, Ala., for the week of Senior Bowl practice — they were also roommates throughout their time at GSU — and they’ve never seen an evaluation process like the Senior Bowl. Somebody’s always watching.
“There’s scouts, coaches, media, the NFL Network, general managers, everybody,” McKinnon said.
McKinnon spends most of his time on the field with Jacksonville Jaguars running backs coach Terry Richardson. Gus Bradley and the Jaguars staff are coaching the South team, while Mike Smith and the Atlanta Falcons staff are heading up the North team.
Playing on the South team, the roster is made up of mostly FBS players — the majority of the lineup comes from the SEC — but that’s nothing new for McKinnon, either. After all, McKinnon rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia in 2012 and 125 yards and the game-winning touchdown against Florida in 2013.
“(Some people) would probably call them higher-caliber athletes because of the schools they went to, but I’m competing, showing my versatility and what I can bring to the table as an athlete, and hopefully somebody will like me enough to give me a call on Draft day,” McKinnon said.
In the Florida game, McKinnon was playing on a sprained ankle that was a factor throughout the second half of the 2013 season. He says he hasn’t fully recovered, but that hasn’t stopped him from showing off what he can do.
“It hasn’t hindered me too much,” McKinnon said. “I’m still not 100 percent, but I’m running pretty fast, pretty quick. I’m getting some good feedback on how I’m moving.”
The Senior Bowl takes place on Saturday in Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game will be televised at 4 p.m., on NFL Network.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.