January 24, 2008

North receivers struggle with rain, cold

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MOBILE, Ala. Virginia Tech wide receiver Eddie Royal participated in Thursday's practice for the North team, but he later was declared questionable for Saturday's game because of a rib injury. USC tight end Fred Davis also is questionable with a knee injury that kept him out of Thursday's practice.

Other players who didn't practice Thursday included Michigan safety Jamar Adams (heel), Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable (back), LSU wide receiver Early Doucet (hamstring) and East Carolina running back Chris Johnson (shoulder).

FACING THE HEAT

In the days leading up to the game, players have lengthy interviews with interested NFL teams. These interviews often get personal, as the teams want to know all the skeletons each potential employee may have in his closet.

These chats may have come at an inopportune time for USF linebacker Ben Moffitt. After he filed for divorce earlier this month, his wife said she had written many of his school papers and had taken two online courses for him. Moffitt hasn't commented publicly on the matter since.

"They ask, and I'm just 100 percent honest with them," Moffitt said. "I have nothing to hide, and I level with them. I hope they appreciate that."

RAIN WREAKS HAVOC

Rain, cold temperatures and wind swept over the North practice Thursday morning, and the wide receivers struggled trying to catch the slippery footballs. There are tricks of the trade, though, that the receivers use to try to stave off most problems.

Royal and New Mexico's Marcus Smith said they make fists to keep the rain from soaking their gloves. Oklahoma State's Adarius Bowman tried to protect his hands and keep them warm by shoving them in the sides of his pants.

"It's easy to play the game when it's sunny and there's no wind," Smith said. "When it's raining, you have to keep your gloves dry, really concentrate on catching the ball and catch the front half.

"It's a part of the game. That's why we play outside. We never know what it's going to be like on any given Sunday or Saturday. We have to prepare for everything. I'm glad it rained because it might rain on Saturday (for the game) and we had to get something in. We can't go out there cold turkey."

Kansas State receiver Jordy Nelson said some gloves actually get stickier when it rains, but the weather still was troublesome for Bowman.

"My fingertips are frozen," Bowman said. "I wish I knew it was raining. I would have grabbed a hand warmer. You have to be prepared for all conditions. They're not going to cancel a game because of the weather. You have to step up and get ready to play."

The inclement weather didn't bother some people. Royal said it was just like another day in Blacksburg, Va. Purdue wide receiver Dorien Bryant said it was Big Ten weather at its finest.

Oregon State offensive lineman Roy Schuening didn't seem bothered, either. "This is nothing," he said. "It rains all the time in Oregon. It was like being at home."

MAKING A POINT

Indiana's Tracy Porter is at the Senior Bowl to prove he is one of the nation's best cornerbacks. Against some of the best wide receivers in the nation, Porter has lived up to his expectations.

"I did what I was supposed to do," Porter said. "I did what I did to get here and then transferred that into this week, came out here and had fun."

Porter finished with 83 tackles and a team-high six interceptions for the Hoosiers this season. He said not worrying what the scouts think and just going out and performing is what he wanted to do.

Sometimes, Porter said, when players worry about every detail and concern themselves with the NFL onlookers, they tighten up and do worse than if they went out and played their game. Despite the offense's advantage, Porter said he did his best work in the one-on-one drills.

"If you have a kid coming out here trying to do everything perfect, maybe that corner might tighten up his hips or mess up in coverage," Porter said. "You just come out and relax and do what you did to get you here, and the coaches notice that and you're stock will go up from there.

"To do well in the one-on-ones will stand out because typically the one-on-ones are an offensive drill. You don't have a pass rush on the quarterback. The quarterback has unlimited time in the pocket. It's our job to just go out there and cover the guys the best we can. If you do a good job on the receivers, you'll really stand out."

PUNISHING HIMSELF

California's Lavelle Hawkins has performed as well as just about any receiver all week long, but he isn't about to rest on his laurels.

When the sure-handed Hawkins made a rare drop during Thursday morning's practices, he didn't use the rainy conditions as an excuse. He instead started doing push-ups without any prompting from coaches.

"That's my own thing," Hawkins said. "I don't like to drop passes. If I drop a pass, I do like 10 push-ups."

His plan worked. The next pass he was thrown, Hawkins caught it cleanly in the right corner of the end zone.



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