Take an in-depth look at Andrew Mason's evaluations of the potential draft prospects from the 2017 Senior Bowl who caught his eye through Day 3. (Photos by Andrew Mason)
MOBILE, Ala. --In Boulder, the rise was indeed real, and Sefo Liufau's presence at the Senior Bowl is tangible evidence of it.
Liufau is the first Buffaloes quarterback ever selected for the Senior Bowl. But that has less meaning to him that simply representing the program and standing as evidence of the Buffaloes' return to prominence.
What does that mean to him?
"Everything," he said. "I think that for the most part, myself and the seniors left the program in a better state than when we came in as freshmen. Just to be able to wear the helmet one more time means a lot to me."
In that gold helmet, he hopes to distinguish himself from a pack of quarterbacks looking to gain some traction and provide depth to a class that is more lightly regarded than last year's quarterback crop.
The first step for Liufau and the other five quarterbacks here is working under center.
"It's more work going from under center, just having to get back quickly so that the defensive line can't get to you," Liufau said. "Other than that, it's very similar. The reads are the same; everything's the same. It's not the biggest change in the world."
Helping his transition is the fact that he worked under center in high school.
"It isn't the NFL by any means, but I have some kind of knowledge of how things go," he said.
But this week, he's also focused on fundamentals. He said that the Chicago Bears' coaches -- who are running the North team -- focused on Liufau getting a good base with his legs and keeping his shoulders level to help him avoid rocking as he throws, which will give him more consistent accuracy.
Liufau also noted play-action fakes as a point of emphasis.
"[The coaches focused on] getting the ball and sticking it out there for the defense to see, so that they can bite on some fakes so we can set up after that and throw it downfield," Liufau said.
This has also been a point of emphasis from his work with former CFL and Washington State quarterback Alex Brink, who serves as a private quarterback coach. Brink, who also had a brief practice-squad stint with the Houston Texans in 2008, is working with Liufau in Portland, Ore., to refine his game in advance of the draft.
He needed this week's work. The East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl last week weren't options, Liufau said, because he wanted to attend the ceremony at which he would accept the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year award in person.
"That's really big for my culture and my family," Liufau said. "I was banking on the possibility that [the Senior Bowl] would happen, and when it did happen, I felt really blessed and honored to have this opportunity."
It also gives him a chance to end his college days on a brighter note than the two games in which he played in December -- the Buffs' 41-10 Pac-12 championship loss to Washington and their 38-8 Alamo Bowl defeat to Oklahoma State.
In the championship game, Liufau tried to keep going despite a leg injury that led to three interceptions in 13 attempts -- which was completely unlike him, given that he had just three interceptions in his previous 11 games, covering 285 attempts.
"I told them, 'I can give you 100 percent of my 80 percent.' I didn't have everything there, and I told them; I was being honest that I didn't have 100 percent in the tank," Liufau recalled. "I said, 'It's up to you guys.'
"Obviously, I really crapped the bed in the second half with my three turnovers."
But that performance was a product of injuries. Today, Liufau is healthy. And for now, the best way he can show the reality of CU's "rise" is with a good showing this week and in Saturday's game, and earning a shot in the NFL. If he succeeds this week, he'll get a chance at the highest level -- and if he succeeds there, other quarterbacks will see his example and follow his path to Boulder.
... Florida ILB Alex Anzalone continued to be the best of this year's Senior Bowlers at his position against the run. One example came during a team-period repetition Tuesday, when Florida State fullback Freddie Stevenson surged forward to engage with Anzalone, only to see the linebacker throw his former college rival aside to halt N.C. State running back Matt Dayes after a modest gain. At one point Tuesday, Anzalone made three consecutive plays against the run; his instincts jump off the page.
... Western Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Moton looks like he could be someone's starting right tackle from Day 1. He does a good job getting himself set in pass protection at the snap, and is largely impervious to -- and immobile against -- a bull rush. But Moton also has good footwork, which allows him to remain quick enough to guide an edge rusher outside and behind the quarterback.
... Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lampwas unable to build off his strong day one, as he sat out Wednesday's work because of a high ankle sprain, according to his agent, Erik Burkhardt. It had been hoped that the versatile Lamp could see work at center Wednesday in addition to his repetitions at tackle and guard.
... A defensive end at Temple, Hasson Reddickhas shown promise in making the transition to inside linebacker. Befitting his background, Reddick looks comfortable rushing, and did well in one-on-one pass-rush/protection drills against running backs and tight ends. He struggled to keep pace in coverage, which is understandable given his lack of experience there.
... Reddick has outplayed Division II inside linebacker Connor Harris, the NCAA's all-time leader in tackles. Harris gets lost in the flow of the play and has been unable to attack the run as he did at Lindenwood University in Missouri.
... Youngstown State outside linebacker Derek Riversmaximizes his 250-pound frame, and displays a lot of power. He successfully mounted pressure on Pitt QB Nate Peterman by bulling his way through Bucknell left tackle Julien Davenport, bull-rushing the 310-pounder back toward the spot despite a 60-pound disadvantage.
... Miami (Fla.) safety Rayshawn Jenkins does an excellent job reading the run, and doesn't fall victim to overpursuing and sucked in by the flow of the line on counter plays; he keeps his eyes on the ballcarrier instead, allowing him to surge forward and fill holes to prevent runs from reaching the second level.