Petty, Mannion Among Senior Bowl Passers Looking to Make Impression, Move up Rankings


MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — The NFL draft's quarterback pecking order beyond Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota might not have gotten much clearer at the Senior Bowl.

Baylor's Bryce Petty and Oregon State's Sean Mannion were among those trying to make headway leading up to Saturday's game for top senior NFL prospects. It's unclear if they were successful.

"There's kind of that (question), Could someone distinguish himself as the third guy?" said Charles Davis, an NFL Network analyst. "I don't know if anyone really did that this week."

Winston and Mariota, the past two Heisman Trophy winners, are projected as early first-round picks. Then there's the other guys, including those hoping to use the Senior Bowl as a first step toward climbing the draft boards.

Petty is trying to follow Baylor predecessor Robert Griffin III into the NFL and make the transition from Baylor's uptempo, high-scoring offense. He has been working with quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. on making the adjustment since Jan. 6 as well as during spring break the last few years, going under center each time.

Petty makes it clear he's motivated by the doubters, citing a report predicting he wouldn't be anything more than a career backup.

"That's more motivation for myself," Petty said. "For me, I have pretty high expectations for myself, more so than what anybody else can say about me. I try not to pay too much attention to that kind of thing, but that's reality. My job is to prove that I belong and that I am relevant. Hopefully at the end of this week, it'll be Petty and the other guys. That's what I'm trying to do here."

There's no questioning his college credentials. Petty finished his college career with a 550-yard passing performance in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State and set an NCAA record with interceptions on just 1.18 percent of his career passes. He's also hoping Griffin's struggles in adapting to the NFL won't be held against him.

North coach Ken Whisenhunt of the Tennessee Titans said Petty has proven his commitment to mastering the pro-style offense. That includes getting used to taking snaps under center and making five- and seven-step drops.

Like Petty, the other quarterbacks all put up big numbers in college, from Mannion to former Mariota backup Bryan Bennett of Southeastern Louisiana, East Carolina's Shane Carden, Alabama's Blake Sims and Colorado State's Garrett Grayson.

Mannion set 18 Oregon State passing records and his 13,600 career yards puts him eighth on the NCAA charts. He views the Senior Bowl as a weeklong competition with five more senior NFL hopefuls.

"The goal I set for myself is to come in here and be the best guy," Mannion said. "It's something that every day, every meeting, every practice, every rep, I want to be the best one. In terms of where people are drafted, that kind of thing, that's still a ways down the road. But right now I just want to be the best guy here at the Senior Bowl."

Sims led Alabama to a Southeastern Conference title in his lone season as a starter after switching back from running back, setting the Tide's single-season passing record.

He said he gave no thought to trying another position, feeling he "showed the world" he could play quarterback last season.

Bennett was a late addition. He flew in from San Diego, California, overnight Tuesday to join the South team after Auburn's Nick Marshall opted to play cornerback instead.

Bennett transferred after backing up Mariota in 2012, then ran for 31 touchdowns and passed for 5,522 yards over the past two seasons.

"Obviously I wanted to win the spot" at Oregon, said Bennett, who ran into his former coach Chip Kelly before his first practice. "I'm a competitor. Nobody who's competing wants to lose a competition. My thought was really what can I do to find myself on the field now."

His thought now is trying to find himself on an NFL field.

Titans coaches lead the North team on Day 4 of the 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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