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Senior Bowl notebook: Race for No. 3


MOBILE, Ala. – Bryce Petty knows his task.

He also knows his opportunity, and the Baylor University quarterback said the latter is his focus this week at the 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl.

The knock on Petty is he is a so-called system quarterback who will struggle in the NFL. But Petty, who flourished in Baylor's system the past two seasons, said he is more than that – and that the Senior Bowl practices this week and the game Saturday are chances to show it.

"From what I understand, Baylor's offense isn't too high on the leaderboard in terms of transitioning to the NFL," Petty said early this week. "So for me, this is an opportunity to prove I belong, that I'm relevant, that I can make that transition and do it well and be successful at it."

While Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon are widely considered the top two quarterback prospects in the draft – and perhaps the only quarterbacks likely to be selected in the first round – the No. 3 quarterback is less clear.

Some have rated UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley there, while others project Petty there. Others, such as Rotoworld Draft Analyst Josh Norris, believe Alabama quarterback Blake Sims could emerge as the No. 3 prospect.

"There's been a lot of debate in NFL circles about who is the third quarterback," Senior Bowl Executive Director and former Cleveland Browns General Manager Phil Savage said this week. "I think it's a forgone conclusion to some extent that Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are the Top 2, but the race is on to be No. 3.

"I've had a number of scouts tell me someone is going to emerge as the third-best quarterback in this draft. Everyone's anxious to find out who that is."

Sims, who started one season for Alabama, will work with the South team and the Jaguars' coaching staff this week.

Petty, who will work with the Tennessee coaches with the North team, threw for 8,055 yards and 61 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in two seasons starting for Baylor's up-tempo offense. But the spread nature of the offense doesn't always prepare a quarterback for NFL-style offenses.

Petty said he realizes he must prove to NFL coaches and scouts he can drop back, read defenses, play under center and go through his progressions while taking five- and seven-step drops.

"It is a knock, but that (playing in the spread) is what I was taught to do,' he said. "I tried to do it to the best of my ability. That's exactly what I want to do in the NFL. Whatever system I'm in, I want to do it to the best of my ability."

Petty said while Baylor's offense isn't known for requiring a quarterback to drop back and read coverages, doing so "isn't a different language for me."

"I'm still speaking English," he said. "It just might be in cursive instead of print."

Also around the Senior Bowl this week:

*One of the top prospects in this week's game is Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings, a player Savage called one of the "real risers in this game this week." Many analysts agree, saying the 6-feet-5, 305-pound senior could be a late first- or second-round selection. "He's got a big upside," Savage said. Clemmings moved from defensive end to tackle as a junior, and said he doubts he would be as highly-regarded had he remained at his former position. "I don't know where I would be, honestly," he said, "but I don't think I'd be here." Clemmings is one of the two top offensive tackles in Mobile this week, with the other being Louisiana State tackle La'el Collins, who is widely considered a first-round selection and who could potentially play left tackle. …

*As often is the case, several high-profile players dropped out of the game as Senior Bowl Week approached. That list included four players from Florida State: tight end Nick O'Leary (hamstring), wide receiver Rashad Greene (knee), offensive lineman Cam Erving (elbow) and guard Josue Matias. UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks (hamstring) and West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White also dropped out of the game, with some analysts considering White and Greene the two top players at the position in the game. White is projected as a first-round selection by some analysts and many project Greene in the second round. …

*Three juniors are playing in the game this week because of a Senior Bowl/NFL rule allowing juniors who have graduated to compete. Those players: Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates, Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes and Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith. …

*The NFL approved a rule allowing teams to employ a nickel defensive package in the Senior Bowl, which will allow teams to play a fifth defensive back in passing situations. Savage said teams also will be allowed to play Cover-Two defense, with the game also featuring two-minute warnings at the end of the first and third quarter. The two-minute warnings will allow offenses to be in two-minute situations twice more than before. "It allows the quarterbacks another chance to manage the clock and go down and score points," Savage said. …

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