N.C. State QB Mike Glennon
MOBILE, Ala. — Bengals fans know Phil Savage from his AFC North days as one of the key personnel people for Baltimore's first Super Bowl team and then later as the Browns general manger that actually almost put Cleveland in the playoffs with 10 victories in 2007.
Now he's come home to run a very efficient Senior Bowl as its executive director and in a Sunday news conference he offered a map to some of the buried treasure that is going to be on display Saturday (4 p.m.-NFL Network) in the first major event of the draft season.
"If a player's stock drops here," Savage said, "it's probably because they didn't belong here to begin with."
North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon (No. 8 for the North) leads Savage's list, followed by Utah State cornerback Will Davis (No. 17 for the North), Rice tight end Vance McDonald (No. 88 for the South) and everybody's Siamese surprises that are no longer surprises in BYU defensive end Ezekial Ansah (No. 47 for the South) and SMU defensive end Margus Hunt (No. 96 for the North).
Savage has also noticed some small-school stars that are here, he says, for sheer talent and not spicy storylines. He thinks B.W. Webb of William and Mary (No. 22 for the South) can play slot corner and Cornell guard JC Tretter (No. 74 for the South) is going to impress with a dizzying brand of versatility that began with his high school career as a quarterback. Enough NFL teams called Savage on Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams (No. 66 for the North) that he signed him up.
"Webb is fast and has cover ability and he can return," Savage said of the 5-10, 180-pounder. "JC Tretter is a great story. A high school quarterback turned tight end and then played left tackle for two years. He'll play guard (this week) and snap the ball some. He's got excellent feet. He's a very good athlete. If he can hold up strength-wise … ."
That may be why Savage put Ithaca, N.Y., in the South, where the 6-4, 300-pound Tretter bangs heads every day in practice with 358-pound defensive tackle John Jenkins of Georgia.
"There's a little concern and if he just gets overwhelmed, but in terms of football movement I'd put him up against anybody in this game," Savage said.
Ansah, from Ghana, and Hunt, from Estonia, are guys that picked up the game in the last four years and their massive upside has them possibly ticketed for the first round.
"(Hunt) may not be the player for 32 teams," Savage said. "But I think there's going to be one team out there that says, 'Wait a minute, we can work with a guy that's 6-6, 280-plus and runs (the 40-yard dash) in 4.65.' They'll figure out something to do with him."
That doesn't figure to make him a Bengal. Except for David Pollack making the move from college defensive end to NFL SAM linebacker in 2005's first round, the Bengals recently detest taking projections with high picks.
Utah State's Davis, 6-0, 186, surfaced on Savage's radar screen in the middle of the season. An analyst for the University of Alabama radio network, Savage took the bye week for a trip to Utah to see three games in three days and that was at about the time Davis came back from missing a handful of games.
"Within four weeks it was, 'Hey there's a corner in Logan.' When I saw him in the first 10 to 15 minutes I said, 'This guy is a Senior Bowl player.' "
Savage also likes that when he saw Davis he had no interceptions and when he wrote on the Senior Bowl Web site Davis needed to make some, he ended his season with five in his last six games.
As for the 6-4, 260-pound McDonald, Savage caught him early against UCLA in a game he took a back seat to other prospects but Savage came out of there thinking he may have been the best one in the game.
"He'll get a chance to do pro-style things here and I think that will really help him," Savage said.
QB WATCH: The Bengals figure to be in the market for a young quarterback with backup Bruce Gradkowski headed to free agency, but they aren't looking to push Andy Dalton out of a job so they probably won't use their early picks on one. But they also want someone competent back there, a guy that can develop into a factor if called upon, which may make the mid rounds rather interesting.
Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese won't see Glennon work with the North until Tuesday because he plans to check out the South squad when practices open Monday on two different fields. That's where he'll see Florida State's E.J. Manuel and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson work with Oklahoma's Landry Jones. When he sees the North, it's going to be Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and Miami University's Zac Dysert.
The 6-5, 232-pound Glennon has been getting a lot of play in the last month and a big reason is Savage. Along with Syracuse tackle Justin Pugh and Alabama tackle-guard D.J. Fluker, the Senior Bowl's first-ever three-year players, Savage brought in Glennon for Sunday's news conference.
This is supposed to be the draft with no first-round-quick-fix QBs. One Bengals insider has observed that while last year's draft had quarterbacks that could change a franchise, this one has some that could simply be a starter.
But Savage thinks Glennon has some admirable traits, one of which is he played for the same coaches and West Coast style that spawned Matt Ryan at Boston College. The link is Dana Bible, a Cincinnati product (St. Xavier High School) who coached the Bengals quarterbacks under both Sam Wyche and Dave Shula in the early '90s. Savage saw a recent quote from Bible ("I really feel like, and I know most people don't believe this, but Mike Glennon is farther along after two years of starting than Matt Ryan") and that made him pause.
"That's not to say that Mike Glennon is going to be the third pick in the draft," Savage said. "But in terms of development, if he could stay on the same track, he's at least projecting upward as a player. He's got a big arm, he's accurate. He's pretty tough in terms of taking a sack and then coming back and making a throw. And he's more athletic inside the pocket than most people give him credit. He's not a runner, but he's nimble enough to slide in the pocket and deliver the football. The other thing that he can do is not only spray the ball to all parts of the field but he's got the touch to drop it off to the back. People will be impressed with that this week."
Glennon is at least pretty good on his feet in front of the media. Asked about the read option he said, "It's definitely not my forte. But I think there'll always be a place for dropback quarterbacks in NFL."
Glennon, who got his Master's this past year after graduating the year before, knows the knock. Savage says there are going to be personnel people that think he's too tall for the position and Glennon says he's looking to show his "escapability," and that he's a good enough athlete.
Glennon says he also learned more about how to handle himself off the field rather than quarterbacking from Russell Wilson before Wilson transferred from N.C. State to Wisconsin and then NFL superstardom.
"I'm sure you guys have heard how he's an extremely hard worker and a great guy and it's all true," Glennon said. "He gave 100 percent whether it was in the meeting room, weight room … the fact he was focused in for that time period … that's one thing I Iearned is how to stay focused for that period of time. When you're at work, you're at work."
Glennon has heard how another N.C. State quarterback, Philip Rivers, used a big Senior Bowl to become the fourth pick in the 2004 draft and get traded for Elli Manning. Rivers victimized the first of three North teams coached by Marvin Lewis and his Bengals staff. Tough luck. Now they put the N.C. State QB on the North.
It looks like Glennon isn't going No. 4, but he'll probably be long gone by the time the Bengals start thinking about a quarterback.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Savage has done a great job giving the Senior Bowl some more buzz. As a youth growing up in Mobile, he attended practices where there were no fences and remembers mingling on the field with the players after the workouts. Nowadays, he jokes that could be illegal. So he's added autograph tents for fans after each practice.
He's also amping up the community service. For the first time in the 63 years of the game, Senior Bowl players will go into the Mobile schools. After one of the practices they'll dive into buses, vans and cars and head to 15 elementary schools while a special needs class is going to attend "a recess" with some of the players on the field following the workout.
» Savage is also making it easier for each NFL team to interview players. It has been a madhouse because there isn't the space here for the structure that is present next month in Indianapolis for the 15-minute interviews and other mass meetings that take place during the NFL Scouting Combine.
He took it personally. Last year while working for the Eagles, Savage waited for three hours in the lobby of the players' hotel, the Renaissance Riverview Plaza, and got only two players.
He says if there's one thing he could change …
Now on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights in four banquet rooms, there are going to be eight teams in each room and those 36 players will spend 40 to 45 minutes in there before they rotate as a group.
"It's speed dating to a degree. If match.com sees any of this, we're always looking for sponsors," he said.
And it allows Savage to make the sell to the agents that their clients are definitely going to be assured face time with teams if they come to the game.
» Savage is working with the agents. So much they even called him while he was calling the national championship game two weeks ago. Tennessee offensive lineman Dallas Thomas has played both guard and tackle, but Savage passed the word to the South coached by Detroit's Jim Schwartz that Thomas's agent would like him to get more snaps at tackle this week to show the scouts he can play what is seen as the more valuable position.