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2015 NFL DRAFT

Under Savage's guidance, Senior Bowl to consider allowing juniors

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
On May 1st Phil Savage was introduced as the newest Executive Director of the Senior Bowl. He officially took over the position on June 1st.

He's wasted little time showing that college football's preeminent senior all-star game is under new direction since taking over for Steve Hale, who headed up the game for the past 19 years.

For one, Savage has penned reviews of the first, second, third and fourth rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft, highlighting participants from this past year's game who he thought were the top performers. His reviews, each of which are linked to from the official Senior Bowl website, highlight players, who, among other things, enjoyed a "Senior Bowl bump" based on an impressive effort throughout the week in the Mobile, Alabama-based all-star game.

Before taking the position with the Senior Bowl, Savage had worked in the NFL since 1991, including serving as general manager of the Cleveland Browns from 2005-07. He's using those connections to the league to foster another idea built around improving the Senior Bowl. Savage wants some junior players to be eligible for the game.

According to an article from Mike Herndon of the Press-Register and al.com, Savage has already spoken to league officials about the possibility of allowing certain underclassmen into the game. In large part because he doesn't want to potentially damage the relationship between college football, the Senior Bowl and the NFL. Savage outlines four specific requirements that juniors must fulfill in order to be eligible: players must declare early for the draft, be graduated by December (the Senior Bowl is played in late January), have spent four seasons with the program and have the blessing of their collegiate head coach.

"With redshirts and medical redshirts, that kind of blurs the line of who's a senior and who's not," Savage said. "They're not a junior or a senior - they're graduated.

"We're not interested in taking third-year juniors," he added. "We want to reward the players who have done well on the field and checked all the boxes off the field."

Neither Hale nor Herndon provide the statistics as to how many of the record 65 underclassmen allowed into the NFL draft early a year ago would have been eligible to participate in the Senior Bowl based on these requirements.

They did, however, mention two highly regarded prospects who would have been allowed to play should the Senior Bowl and NFL agree to these rules in the future.

"We've got to at least put the conversation out there," said Savage. "Would Robert Griffin III have come to the Senior Bowl? I think he would have at least considered it. "Can you imagine the boost the Senior Bowl would have gotten with [Dont'a] Hightower and RGIII in the game?"

Since the Senior Bowl's inception in 1950, underclassmen have not been allowed to participate.

It sounds like Savage is going to do his best to at least explore the possibility of changing that...
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