Votes Of Confidence Abound At Senior Bowl

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MOBILE, Ala. - LSU long snapper Blake Ferguson flashed a smile as wide as Louisiana during Tuesday's Senior Bowl media day.

The Bengals coaches, leading Ferguson's South team into Saturday's all-star game (2:30 p.m.-NFL Network), have been all over Ferguson, right? What is LSU quarterback Joe Burrow really like, right? How does Superman put on his cape and if he was a plant what plant would he be and all that psychological scouting combine 101 jazz, right?

"I actually haven't got a single question about Joe," Ferguson said. "I think it's probably a lock at this point. They know what they're getting in Joe Burrow."

Burrow isn't here this week, but that hasn't stopped the rising tide of conventional wisdom (national and in the 513) from washing over the Bengals and the NFL here on the Gulf Shore saying he's that lock to be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Some of his teammates are here and they'll gladly make his case, from his lethal post-practice stare when it didn't go well to a competitive streak as long as the national champion Tigers' winning streak that upended his first LSU conditioning test.

"I'm sure who ever picks him is going to have a franchise quarterback for years to come," said Burrow's center, Lloyd Cushenberry III. "Probably the smartest guy I've ever been around. He makes any call you need. Makes every throw you want. He knows ball. He's a coach's son. So he knows ball."

"He just loves to win. I feel like he's just a different guy," said LSU tight end Stephen Sullivan. "When he has a bad day at practice, he just goes into the locker room and just sits and stares. I haven't seen many people do that before. I don't know what it does for him, but it brings the good out of him, I guess. When he gets on the big stage he shows up for sure."

More Ferguson: "He's one of those guys who doesn't have to speak up a lot, but when he does people listen."

Ferguson is one of those guys there at the creation. June of 2018. Forget the Auburn game his junior year as the beginning of the Burrow legend. Try June of 2018.

Barely after Burrow had wriggled out of the University of Cincinnati's grasp and ended up in Baton Rouge, he lit up the LSU conditioning test. As Ferguson explained, the Tigers split it up three ways. Skill. Mid skill. Big skill. Mid skill consists of tight ends, linebackers, running backs, quarterbacks and specialists.

"He blew us all away," Ferguson said of the running. "All 26 reps. He wouldn't lose.

"That was the day I met him … His first day as part of the LSU football team and he smoked every player in that conditioning test. He made it look so easy. It was the result of his competitive nature. He didn't want to lose a single rep. He didn't want to lose at anything."

The LSU guys aren't the only ones talking Burrow down here this week. There was this one. A story from his Ohio State backup days, before he transferred from Columbus and how he was the "live quarterback," on special days the Buckeyes wanted to unveil one of the nation's most dangerous defenses. So here was Burrow, getting continually pounded behind a backup line, saying nothing, never complaining, always getting back up, always taking the next snap without ever asking, "Why me?"

That wouldn't surprise his Bayou Bombers. Certainly not after what Cushenberry experienced on the first three series of the national title game. Three punts against a Clemson defense that hadn't lost in nearly two years. But Joe Cool and the relentless Tigers' offense were one in the same.

"It's the same mentality we had the whole season. Never got rattled," Cushenberry said. "We were backed up. We knew once we got field position we'd be OK. That's the reflection of how our team approached everything."

It apparently is how Burrow approaches everything. Ferguson shook his head over this one moment leading up to the Peach Bowl.

"He's playing ping pong in the lounge and he lost one game," said Ferguson of an upset fashioned by the Tigers punter. "Joe literally stayed in there the rest of the night playing ping pong because he was angry he lost one game. But that's who he is. He's a competitor. Obviously he's very smart, he's very gifted at what he does physically. But I knew from the very beginning that he was going to be successful. It was just a matter of when."

Burrow and teammate cornerback Kristian Fulton decided not to attend this week and when you run through their schedule just completed, you can't blame them. Certainly Ferguson, Cushenberry and Sullivan don't.

"I was just figuring out the other day this is Week 24 for me," Ferguson said, preparing to play in an NFL-like 16th game on Saturday. "Training camp. Straight into the season. Fifteen weeks. Plus two bye weeks, plus the two weeks leading to the Peach Bowl and the two weeks leading up (to the national championship game).

"We have guys that everyone knows what they've done and they've had incredible seasons like Joe or Kristian. Some of those guys don't need to show any more. They've done enough already. But for me, I want to show as much as I can because there's a lot of competition at this position and there's only a certain number of spots."

Cushenberry figures he had to play a 16th game because it's the first one the scouts know for sure he's coming out. As a red-shirt junior with his degree, he could have returned to Baton Rouge and since the call could only be made after the Jan. 13 title game, there was only one way to make sure he got the word out that he was in the draft.

No. 9 doesn't have that problem.

"Everybody knows Joe," Cushenberry said.

Especially conventional wisdom.

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