Posted: 9:40 a.m.
MOBILE, Ala. - It remains to be seen if Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji has played himself into the NFL Draft's top 10. But he has already made an NFL coaching staff adjust.
After the South's 35-18 victory over his North in the Under Armour Senior Bowl, Raji thought he did OK on a night Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio's staff went after him.
"Usually in a game they don't try to down block or pull around until you make a couple of plays," Raji said. "They did it right out of the gate. I got some respect from the Jacksonville staff. They had a good scheme today."
He said the Bengals coaches countered by telling him to loosen up and "play more on the guard since the guard was coming around, and try to reach him. They widened up my alignment a little bit and I made a couple of plays."
Maybe they'll be working with him a lot more. At 6-1, 334 pounds, he had a huge week here during practice and he may now have to be considered in the mix at the Bengals No. 6 spot in the first round along with two other guys that were on the field Saturday night and have already been projected in the top 10 by the gurus: Mississippi left tackle Michael Oher and USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.
And some that weren't here.
But Raji was here and there were some comparisons to Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton. He's low to the ground and tough to move, but he can also knife inside on pass rush. While Bengals fans daydream about how that would help ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom, Raji lived the dream.
"I think I had a pretty good week; that's what they say," said Raji when asked if he's now a top 10 guy. "I don't know. The draft is a crazy day."
But he was able to show the scouts the things he's been showing in the Newton highlands on the BC campus, where he helped the Eagles defense lead the ACC in run defense this past season.
"I think I proved I'm a big guy with a motor," Raji said. "(The scouts) ask 'How long can you last?' I think I proved this week that I can play for a long time."
So did the North centers. But California's Alex Mack said it was tough getting into a flow in a rotation that put him at center on one series, at left guard the next, and then on the sidelines before going back to center on the fourth series to start it all over.
"Typical all-star game, but it was good. You've got to be fair with all these guys," Mack said. "It was strange. We're all so used to playing every snap that it got a little frustrating to go back to the sidelines. I felt like I had a good game. The hard stuff was practice. I was surprised how easy the game was."
It's the first time Mack, the top center on most draft boards coming into the week, played left guard in a game. The man rated right behind him, Oregon's Max Unger, also played next to him at some guard and drew praise from Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander for wiping out a defender on a screen.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis gathered his players around him in the locker room after the game and referenced next month's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"Now the next thing is Indy," Lewis said.
Mack, who won the academic Heisman Trophy, has figured out what is going to go on after a game three other top center prospects lined up for the South three months before the draft.
"I don't care who you talk to about that position or any other position," Mack said. "It's going to mix up every day. We're all good players."