|NFL scouts know that Shea McClellin (background) can get after the quarterback. (US Presswire)|
MOBILE, Ala. -- With the winningest quarterback in NCAA history generating most of the limelight at Boise State, attention has been tough to come by for pass rusher Shea McClellin.
It isn't only Kellen Moore stealing McClellin's thunder. Broncos running back Doug Martin, defensive lineman Billy Winn, and even offensive tackle Nate Potter have gained more national exposure this season than McClellin, even though he posted 50 tackles, including 12½ tackles for loss and led the No. 8 team in the country with 7½ sacks in 2011.
Perhaps the person least concerned about McClellin's hype is the man himself.
"You know, I don't really think so," he said when asked if he felt he was overshadowed. "We have a lot of great guys and we all kind of get the same amount of [attention]. I mean, some of the other guys have been given a lot of coverage but they deserve it. They're good players."
While the Boise State pass rusher might not be worried about his relative lack of publicity, another group attending the Senior Bowl this week certainly is -- NFL scouts.
"Don't write too much about the guy," one high-ranking scout said following practice Wednesday. "We've been on him all year long and don't want others jumping on him now."
Sorry, but it is unfathomable that McClellin's play this week was unnoticed by the rest of the league.
Listed by the Broncos at 6-3, 255 pounds, McClellin was moved around a great deal but saw the majority of his snaps at defensive end, where he's currently rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a fourth-round value. McClellin accepted the invitation to the Senior Bowl, anticipating he would remain at the position but perhaps see some time at linebacker. Instead, he has worked almost exclusively at linebacker, taking virtually every snap Wednesday on the weak side and proving his versatility and draft grade are perhaps significantly underrated.
"I didn't think I'd be playing pure linebacker here. ... I thought I was going to be doing a little bit of both," McClellin said. "But, it is kind of my choice, too, doing a lot of work at linebacker. I have a lot of film at defensive end and outside linebacker. They put me at weakside and I thought it would be a good idea just to show my skills in that area."
Show his skills he has, impressing Minnesota's linebackers coach, a man who knows a little something about playing the position.
"Let me just say this, if [McClellin] wants to play D-line, he can play D-line," Mike Singletary said. "If he wants to play linebacker, he can play linebacker. He is the kind of guy that can fit either way.
"He's a guy that right now is about 255 pounds. He can pick up and go to 275 and go back to D-line or he can stay where he's at. He's got a lot of good stuff ahead of him because he's also a worker. You find a guy like him with his versatility and intangibles -- he's also a smart kid -- and he's going to be just fine at the next level."
Singletary's opinion that McClellin could change his weight so dramatically might sound presumptuous. However, McClellin could be overheard telling two San Diego Chargers scouts, including scouting director John Spanos, that he dropped from 258 pounds only a few days ago to the 248 he weighed in at Monday.
That type of weight fluctuation might sound unhealthy to some. To scouts, it is indicative of an athlete capable of lining up at linebacker in either the 3-4 or 4-3, as well as simply reverting back to his customary defensive end position in a four-man front.
The ability to add and drop weight is one thing, however. It was McClellin's improvement throughout practice that might have had the Chargers (and every other team in the league) buzzing as they left practice Wednesday.
McClellin showed off his potential at his new position early on, demonstrating surprisingly quick feet and balance during bag drills. More important, he made some of the more impressive plays of the day during scrimmages.
Proving much more comfortable than expected considering his lack of experience at the position, McClellin showed good diagnosis skills, quickly attacking gaps in the running game. He took on blocks aggressively, using his long, strong arms to quickly disengage as well as the flexibility and awareness to keep his feet free from the mass of humanity surrounding him near the line of scrimmage. Though not allowed to take ball carriers to the ground during practice, McClellin closed quickly and wrapped up securely before releasing them to finish their runs.
As impressive as McClellin was defending the run, it was his surprising agility and awareness in coverage that caught some by surprise.
Midway through practice Wednesday, McClellin peeled toward the sideline to cover Ohio State running back Daniel "Boom" Herron. Herron slowed and appeared to be expecting the ball from Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, who gave a shoulder fake to further entice McClellin to jump the underneath route.
Instead, Herron accelerated upfield in a well-executed wheel route, forcing McClellin to turn quickly to his left and pursue. The pass by Cousins was slightly overthrown but it didn't matter. McClellin, with a 6-inch and 36-pound weight advantage over Herron, was in perfect position to defend the throw.
"[McClellin] is doing a great job this week," Herron said. "Obviously he can move pretty well for a big guy and was right there on that play. He's playing well. I hope to get another shot against him tomorrow, though."
Assuming the Vikings coaching staff in charge of the North team doesn't try to hide McClellin by putting the versatile senior back up front at defensive end, Herron just might get his wish.