Mobile, Ala. – Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III heard about the return of Jerry Sullivan on Sunday, but was still ecstatic when the news was announced out of Mobile on Monday.
"I talked to our receivers today, and we're all excited that he's coming back," Shorts said. "It will be great to have some stability. For me, another change in that position would have been three different position coaches in three years."
Shorts made only two receptions in his rookie season of 2011, spending most of his playing time as a return specialist. In 2012, Shorts finished with 55 receptions for a team-high 979 yards and seven touchdowns.
With Sullivan as a motivating force, Shorts had an impressive run of success in his second season.
"He demanded it from me," Shorts said. "He made me work for it in practice, and he demanded the same things we did in practice in the game. Like it or not, he was always 100 percent real with you every single day. He'd let you know if you had a good day or a bad day."
The connection between Shorts and Sullivan on and off the field is clear.
"He's a special guy," Shorts said. "He's a legend in the game."
Sullivan, along with other Jaguars coaches and scouts, is in Mobile this week for Senior Bowl practices. Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager Dave Caldwell are expected to arrive today.
After Monday's South team practice at Fairhope High School, Sullivan spoke about the success of the receiving duo of Shorts and Justin Blackmon and the bright future for each.
"Cecil was a rookie this year when you look at it from a perspective of playing time," Sullivan said. "I was really thankful for the opportunity to coach him. He plays really hard and he practices hard. He became a guy that could change a game for you.
"He'll get better as he goes with more playing time."
For Justin Blackmon, a breakout performance in the Week 11 game at Houston, when he made seven receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown, solidified a strong rookie season.
"I think about halfway through the year Justin kind of got comfortable in his own shoes," Sullivan said. "He became comfortable in the meeting room, became comfortable with himself and his role and I think he took a step forward."
After a somewhat slow start, Blackmon finished the year strong with a team-high 64 catches for 865 yards and five touchdowns.
Now that the receiving pair has seen a season of success together, Sullivan is cautious yet confident that the duo will see continued improvement.
"There's a lot that goes into it. It's a symphony and every position has to do its own thing, but those guys should get better as we go," Sullivan said.
Defensive ends stand out at early practices
One of the most talked about positions at the 2013 Senior Bowl is defensive end, where numerous players could be high selections in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.
Brigham Young defensive end Ezekial Ansah was born and raised in Accra, Ghana, and first picked up football in 2010 when he was a track athlete for the Cougars. Team assistants originally had to teach Ansah how to put on his football pads.
Listed at 6-6, 270 by BYU (he did not weigh in on Monday morning in Mobile), Ansah recognizes, speaking with a thick Ghanaian accent, that his quick rise in the sport is something that does not often happen.
"It's really humbling," Ansah said." "I know there are a lot of people that have played all their lives and wanting to be in my shoes. I'm just here to represent my school and do the best that I can."
The only Louisiana State representative in Mobile is defensive end Lavar Edwards. Listed at 6-5, 258 by LSU (Edwards did not weigh in Monday morning in Mobile), Edwards is trying to step out of the shadow of the Tigers' junior defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery.
"I'm trying to make the best of my opportunity here and focus on me and perfecting my craft," Edwards said. "Those two guys were great players and made a lot of plays. Every day you try to work with those guys and try to get better every way you can so when your time comes you can make those plays."
Having NFL coaching staffs running practices and surrounding the practice field makes the dream of playing in the NFL seem that much closer to being a reality.
"This is what I've dreamed of doing for 22 years, so now that I have that chance I'm going to make the best of it," Edwards said. "Being around the best guys in the country and all the NFL coaches, it makes you feel like you reached that goal that you're a professional now."
Senior Bowl buzz**
- Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban attended Monday's South team practice at Fairhope High School. Saban entered in grand style, riding around the track surrounding the field in a white SUV before exiting and visiting with a swarm of local media. Alabama has five players on the South roster including offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, linebacker Nico Johnson, safety Robert Lester, long snapper Carson Tinker and tight end Michael Williams.
- Former Louisiana State defensive back Tyrann Mathieu attended Monday's South practice, watching from the sideline while signing autographs and conducting interviews with media. Though ineligible for the game, Mathieu is expected to interview with teams throughout the week. Highs and lows from the Monday morning weigh-in at the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center: Heaviest: Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins at 359 pounds; Lightest: Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb at 164 pounds.