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2015 NFL DRAFT

Senior Bowl introduces first ever "Watch List"

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Under the guidance of new Executive Director Phil Savage, the Senior Bowl released Thursday a list of 312 senior and top NFL prospects that they'll be watching this season.

The list, which can be viewed in its entirety here, lists prospects from 114 different programs all across the country, ranging from the defending BCS champion Alabama to lower-level programs like William & Mary (FCS) and Azusa-Pacific (D-II).

As one might expect, the talented (and local) Crimson Tide is prominently featured, tying with Georgia and Nebraska to have the most players listed with nine. Arkansas, LSU and Ohio State are next with eight and Florida State has seven players listed.

Surprisingly, UCLA (six) has more players listed than USC (four), Virginia (three) beat out Virginia Tech (two) and Louisiana Tech (four) matched the totals from traditional powers like Miami, Notre Dame, Texas and Wisconsin, respectively. For those worried about how Penn State seniors might fare considering that they'll not be eligible to participate in a bowl game this season, rest assured that Savage and his staff haven't forgotten about the 19 NFL-drafted prospects the Nittany Lions have produced over the past five years. Six current Penn State players made the watch list.

The SEC leads conferences in the number of players highlighted with 71. The Big Ten is next with 46 players listed.

The top names, were, of course among those listed. USC's Matt Barkley is on there, as is Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, and Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te'o.

The Senior Bowl, which prides itself on showcasing prospects from all levels of college football, listed 29 players from the FCS and lower ranks -- one less than from the Big 12 and nearly twice as many as was listed from the Big East (16), a BCS automatic qualifying conference.

Among the more prominent of the lower level prospects is Elon's Aaron Mellette (WR), Eastern Washington's Nicholas Edwards (WR), Glenville State's Mark Jackson (OL), and Mars Hill quarterback Jon Richt.

There are sure to be players disappointed by the fact that their names were not on the list. Perhaps as a way to deal with whatever fallout may occur with the releasing the of the list, the Senior Bowl announced via its official Twitter account, that not making the initial list does not necessarily mean that a player can't get added later.

Since taking over as head of the Senior Bowl, Savage, a Mobile, Alabama native who served as general manager of the Cleveland Browns from 2005-08 and also worked as an executive with the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles, has tinkered with some of the game's biggest traditions. Releasing the watch list is an interesting idea to create buzz long before the game, itself, will be played. Savage penned reviews of the 2012 NFL draft, highlighting prospects taken in each round that he felt were particularly good fits with their new clubs or had stood out during Senior Bowl week. He also floated the idea of the Senior Bowl opening its doors to certain underclassmen.

The Senior Bowl, regarded as the preeminent all-star game for senior prospects with NFL potential, will take place on January 26, 2013 in Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. For more on the Senior Bowl, check out their website at SeniorBowl.com.

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