By James Marshall
The 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl was a must-watch from wire to wire, as college graduates across the nation looked to put on a show this afternoon. Former Tar Heel running back Michael Carter alongside fellow ACC receiver Dez Fitzpatrick helped light up the stat sheet en route to a 27-24 Team National victory. Carter contributed 75 yards and a touchdown, rattling off a 27-yard rush where he showcased his elusiveness and a physical 13-yard touchdown rush featuring the infamous Bush push. Fitzpatrick added 90 receiving yards, making plays nearly wire to wire. Fitzpatrick’s memorable plays included a beautiful open space move to freeze the defender, a beautiful toe tap with outstretched arms and a forgettable drop at the end of the game.
A lot of big names were sidelined today, but that did not stop players from stepping up. With Mac Jones unavailable, Kellen Mond improved his draft stock this afternoon, boasting 173 yards through the air, two touchdowns and an MVP award. Mond had an impressive series of plays that included a pair of Shi Smith receptions, two beautiful throws to Amari Rodgers resulting in six and two points respectively, a Josh Palmer touchdown and an extremely well floated ball that fell off the fingertips of Noah Gray.
Josh Palmer was another top performer from the SEC. He capped an impressive week by continuing to show off his route running ability on his two receptions and near touchdown that was broken up by Benjamin St. Juste. Palmer’s catches came from a curl route ran to perfection as well as a slant that resulted in touchdowns. On Palmer’s memorable go route, he was able to create separation, but was unable to haul it in as Kellen Mond left it just short. Another memorable route was a corner where he created separation again but was never targeted. Overall, Palmer had a phenomenal week and will look to ride it into the NFL Draft.
Elsewhere in the SEC, Feleipe Franks got off to an extremely slow start, never showing flashes, missing open receivers, and struggling to string together quality plays. Franks picked it up in the second half, however, finishing as Team National’s leading passer with 122 yards and a score. Shi Smith was another solid wide receiver, catching three passes for solid gains. Smith was a go-to target for Kellen Mond, who benefited from Smith’s YAC. SEC backfield duo Kylin Hill and Larry Rountree were never able to get much going, only combining for 22 yards on 10 attempts. Rountree had a solid day receiving with 12- and 7-yard receptions. Although he wasn’t able to showcase his ability as a runner today, he proved all week that he can be a versatile back and get involved in the passing game.
Missouri Tigers Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie had relatively quiet games, perhaps signaling they’re ready to move on to the next level. Bledsoe had one tackle which was the only recorded stat between the two. Talking to Mizzou fans, Gillespie said, “I appreciate everything that you guys have done with my last four years and wish me the best of luck as I proceed in this career.” Look for both Gillespie and Bledsoe to have their names called earlier on day 3.
Outside of the SEC, Cam Sample and Riley Cole had huge games on the defensive side of the ball. Sample had seven total tackles and a sack on Ian Book that propelled him to defensive player of the game. Sample had a terrific week and bolstered his draft stock in Mobile. The hometown hero Riley Cole put on a show for the home crowd. Cole had six tackles, a nice pass breakup and a sack, including a textbook tackle on the physical Rhamondre Stevenson. Cole’s performance helped amp the crowd, and fans in Mobile will look for his name to be called late on day 3.
Edited by Emma Moloney