2023 Senior Bowl takeaways: Jake Haener named MVP, Michael Wilson, Anthony Johnson shine

MOBILE, Ala. -- That's it, the 2023 Senior Bowl is a wrap; three days of practice here at Hancock Whitney Stadium at the University of South Alabama culminated in 74th annual game. On Saturday, the National team rolled to a 27-10 win over the American squad but these get-togethers are less about the final score and more about how the players -- who came from all across the country and included names from Power 5 FBS programs, FCS schools and even Division II.

This week in Mobile marks an end the the unofficial first leg of the pre-draft process. Next up: the NFL combine in just a few week's time, followed by pro days and, ultimately, the NFL Draft. For now, let's take one last look back at the week that was. Fresno State's Jake Haener earned game MVP honors, and it's hard to argue with that; he was the best passer on Saturday, going 12 of 19 for 139 yards big touchdown throw (more on that momentarily) and no turnovers. Below are five other players who punctuated a great week of practice with a strong showing in Saturday's game.

Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford

Wilson's name should familiar by now because not only have we been talking him up for the last month or so, but he consistently stood out above everyone else during the three days of Senior Bowl practices. On Saturday, he finished with 4 catches for 76 yards, and a 4th quarter 44-yard touchdown grab, high-pointing the ball over LSU's Jay Ward (who, admittedly, slipped) and Florida State's Jammie Robinson.

This is all over Wilson's Stanford tape ... when he's healthy; he missed the last part of the '22 season because of injury. But we'll repeat what we wrote earlier in the week. NFL teams viewed Wilson as a Day 3 target before he came to Mobile, and now there will be serious conversations about if he can move his way into Day 2.

Ethan Hull, RB, Northwestern

We didn't write about Hull during the week, but not because he didn't put in solid efforts each day. In fact, he was as steady as any player here, and that steady-as-she-goes approach was on display again on Saturday. Hull had 74 rushing yards on 10 carries and added another 11 yards on two receptions. He set the tone on the very first carry of the game:

Hull does everything well, and while he's not the fastest, or the most explosive back in this draft, his versatility will be an asset at the next level.

Anthony Johnson, CB, Virginia

Johnson was one of our favorite players to watch in the fall. He's big, moves well for his size, and consistently battles for the ball at the catch point. There will be questions about his speed in the coming weeks, and perhaps that may affect where he's ultimately drafted, but his playmaking ability was on full display Saturday when he pick-sixed a throw from Malik Cunningham.

Johnson, who wore No. 41 during the week, donned No. 15 on Saturday to honor the memory of his teammate, Devin Chandler.

Lonnie Phelps, EDGE, Kansas

Phelps lined up over the offensive tackle for much of the 2022 season but he's probably better described as "showing up wherever the ball is." That was his practice week, and it carried over to the game, where he was as active as any player on the field, causing problems in the backfield time and again. He almost sacked quarterback Clayton Tune for a safety on the American team's second drive, forced a fumble on the first drive of the 3rd quarter ...

... And flushed quarterback Tyson Bagent from the pocket, forced him to make an off-platform throw and he was intercepted, all but ending the game.

Payne Durham, TE, Purdue

We talked Thursday about the progress Durham made during the week, and the sure hands that showed up this season for the Boilermakers were here in Mobile too. He had just two catches for 24 yards on the stat sheet, but one was this close to being a touchdown -- instead, it was just a good back-shoulder catch on a good throw from quarterback Malik Cunningham.

Durham also made a touch catch in traffic -- and then there was the catch that didn't show up in the box score; he hauled in a pass from Cunningham to successfully complete the two-point try after the National team scored it's second touchdown.

What is next? 

The NFL Scouting Combine runs from Feb. 28-March 6 in Indianapolis, Indiana. When that concludes, Pro Days begin in earnest and teams can conduct top-30 visits at respective team headquarters. Teams will continue communicating with players and gathering information. On-site evaluations usually include interviewing support staff at each college to gauge how the players act inside the building. Injury examinations will be conducted at the Combine. The 2023 NFL Draft will be held April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Tyson Bagent of Shephard University lead a nice scoring drive for the American Team. Bagent set numerous records for Division II. Bagent's dad is one of the greatest arm wrestlers of all time.


No scoring yet here in the second half. Just about 5 minutes to go in the third quarter.


North Dakota State's Cody Mauch played left tackle for the Bison this season but was asked to play interior offensive line this week in Mobile. He has now played left guard and center today. Teams will appreciate his ability to play multiple positions, including offensive tackle, in a pinch.

We have reached the half.

February 4, 2023, 8:55 PM

Michigan State WR Jayden Reed has opened a lot of eyes this week with his ability to create leverage and separation this week. He is also showing his value returning punts as well. 

February 4, 2023, 8:51 PM

It is a low-scoring affair (6-3 National Team lead) in Mobile as we approach the end of the first half. Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham is now in the game. He is more of a run-first player relative to the other quarterbacks that we have seen to this point in the game. 

February 4, 2023, 8:35 PM

Beyond the work on the field, prospects have had an opportunity to meet with each of the 32 teams in attendance this week. It is an important part of the process as teams gather information about work ethic, team work, off-field demeanor and more. 

What is next? The NFL Scouting Combine runs from Feb. 28-March 6. When that concludes, Pro Days begin in earnest. Teams will continue communicating with players and gathering information. On-site evaluations usually include interviewing support staff at each college to gauge how the players act inside the building. Injury examinations will be conducted at the Combine. 

February 4, 2023, 8:32 PM

A couple of big runs for Kentucky's Chris Rodriguez, who is honoring his mother today with some help from LSU.

February 4, 2023, 8:22 PM

Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy (American team) and Las Vegas Raiders Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham (National team) are serving as the head coaches for today's game. 

American Team

Offensive Coordinator:     Atlanta Falcons Quarterbacks Coach Charles London

Defensive Coordinator:    New England Patriots Defensive Line Coach DeMarcus Covington

National Team

Offensive Coordinator:    New Orleans Saints QB Coach/Pass Game Coordinator Ronald Curry

Defensive Coordinator:    Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Backs Coach Grady Brown

February 4, 2023, 8:16 PM

This past April, the Reese's Senior Bowl produced a record-tying 106 total picks for the second straight year, representing 40 percent of the entire NFL draft, including 45 of the top 100 players selected.  

February 4, 2023, 8:07 PM

Let's talk about transfers since the portal has become native dialect for college football fans.

Oklahoma RB Eric Gray (from Tennessee)
Kansas State CB Julius Brents (from Iowa)
Florida State DB Jammie Robinson (from South Carolina)
Virginia CB Anthony Johnson (from Louisville)
Auburn DL Eku Leota (from Northwestern)
Alabama OT Tyler Steen (from Vanderbilt)
Florida OG O'Cyrus Torrence (from Louisiana)
Oklahoma OT Wanya Morris (from Tennessee)
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker (from Virginia Tech)
Kentucky CB Keidron Smith (from Ole Miss)
USC CB Mekhi Blackmon (from Colorado)
Illinois RB Chase Brown (from Western Michigan)
Arizona State DL Nesta Jade Silvera (from Miami)
Central Michigan DL Thomas Incoom (from Valdosta State)
Kansas LB Lonnie Phelps Jr. (from Miami (Ohio))
Washington State LB Daiyan Henley (from Nevada)
Oregon EDGE DJ Johnson (from Miami)
Cincinnati LB Ivan Pace Jr. (from Miami (Ohio))
Michigan C Olu Oluwatimi (from Virginia)
Fresno State QB Jake Haener (from Washington)

There are probably others but those are the ones off the top of my head. 

February 4, 2023, 8:06 PM

Houston's Clayton Tune receives the second series at quarterback for the American team. As we take a look at the CBSSports.com prospect rankings, Tennessee's Hendon Hooker is the highest rated (No. 71 overall) at the Reese's Senior Bowl. BYU's Jaren Hall (No. 164 overall), Houston's Clayton Tune (No. 194 overall), TCU's Max Duggan (No. 194 overall) and Fresno State's Jake Haener (No. 212 overall) all have draftable grades.

February 4, 2023, 7:55 PM

Starting National Team offensive line:

LT: North Carolina's Asim Richards
LG: North Dakota State's Cody Mauch
C: Michigan's Olu Oluwatimi
RG: Chattanooga's McClendon Curtis
RT: BYU's Blake Freeland

Drive ends with a converted field goal. They scored a touchdown on a pass from Fresno State's Jake Haener to Michigan State wide receiver Jayden Reed, but a very questionable pick call ahead Charlotte wide receiver Grant DuBose brought it back. 

February 4, 2023, 7:52 PM

Some players to note for each team

National team: 

  • Georgia Tech EDGE Keion White - White is a 6-foot-4, 290 defensive lineman that has played up and down the line to maximize his athletic skillset. He could run a sub 4.7 seconds 40-yard dash in Indianapolis.
  • Bowling Green DL Karl Brooks - Brooks is 6-foot-3, 305 pounds and the Falcons lined him up as an edge rusher on most snaps. He will not be playing that role in the NFL but that says a lot about their belief in his skill set. 
  • Army EDGE Andre Carter II - Carter is going to be one of the longest players in this class, but he is lean. How will his body transform when he is not in active duty training, but instead, in a professional system tasked with adding mass?
  • Ohio State OT Dawand Jones - The longest athlete in Reese's Senior Bowl history stands at 6-foot-8, 350 pounds. His wingspan was over 89 inches. 
February 4, 2023, 7:46 PM

Some players to note for each team

American Team:

  • Sacramento State LB Marte Mapu - Mapu is probably closer in size to a linebacker but he plays like a heat-seeking missile. He is likely a sub package player eaerly in his career
  • Oregon State TE Luke Musgrave - Musgrave missed almost all of this season with an injury after competing in the shadows behind Teagan Quitoriano a year ago. He has a well-balanced skill set. 
  • Houston WR Nathaniel "Tank" Dell - Dell is incredibly fast and has been using that speed to leverage defensive backs off the line of scrimmage. 
February 4, 2023, 7:30 PM

Early this week I took a look at the top prospects and sleepers to watch at the Reese's Senior Bowl. Here is the list of quarterbacks participating:

  • Tyson Bagent (Shepherd)
  • Malik Cunningham (Louisville)
  • Max Duggan (TCU)
  • Jake Haener (Fresno State)
  • Jaren Hall (BYU)
  • Clayton Tune (Houston)

Tennessee's Hendon Hooker is also there, but not participating due to injury.

February 4, 2023, 7:06 PM

CBSSports' Chris Trapasso took a look at the prospects with the most to gain and lose at the Reese's Senior Bowl with a spotlight on TCU quarterback Max Duggan.

"Duggan had a remarkable season at TCU; we all know that. He launched on-target long balls all season and was arguably the toughest quarterback in college football in the open field or even in the pocket. Took plenty of hits and continued to get up. He won't necessarily be able to show off his trademark ruggedness at the Senior Bowl, and at 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds, the TCU icon doesn't have the body typically thought to handle that type of beating in the NFL."

February 4, 2023, 7:03 PM

CBSSports' Emory Hunt offered his list of small school standouts at the Reese's Senior Bowl. One name to know is Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu:

"I wrote about Mapu last week during his impressive NFLPA Collegiate Bowl performance, which earned him the opportunity here in Mobile this week. His performance at the Senior Bowl just put the scouting community on notice that his NFLPA Collegiate Bowl performance wasn't an aberration. Mapu was outstanding in coverage, showing the ability to match up in man and excel in zone. Some teams view him as a safety, while some view him as a nickel linebacker. Either way, Mapu is someone I want on my defense."

February 4, 2023, 6:30 PM

Good afternoon and welcome to CBSSports.com's coverage of the Reese's Senior Bowl! The game will kick off at 2:30 p.m. ET from Mobile, Alabama. Both teams have been practicing all week in front of NFL talent evaluators, attempting to make a positive impression ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, which will be held April 27-29. 

February 4, 2023, 6:22 PM