Appropriately, we’ll begin this day with a quick look at the weekend’s pair of all-star games. It’s appropriate because today represents the deadline for underclassmen to petition for NFL Draft eligibility; the list of players looking to make an early sprint into the NFL — as listed on NFL.com — includes USC wideout Dwayne Jarrett, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Florida safety Reggie Nelson and another Gator, defensive end Jarvis Moss.
Most of the league is now looking ahead to the draft and offseason — 28 of its 32 teams, to be exact.
Dividing its squads into teams dubbed “Kai” and “Aina,” this game produced a finish worthy of the NFL playoff games that preceded it Sunday, with Tennessee’s Brad Smith making an athletic grab for the game-winning two-point conversion with 44 seconds left to help power the “Aina” team to a 18-10 win.
Smith was ruled academically ineligible for the Vols’ Outback Bowl loss to Penn State. The game-winning two-point conversion might have been the biggest catch he’s recorded in the college ranks; curiously, his place in UT history might have been defined by the fact that he was a part of the first instant-replay review in Vols history, which overturned a reception during a 2005 game.
Other notes:The biggest Rocky Mountain name in the contest was Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky, who endured an up-and-down afternoon, tossing the last-minute interception that clinched his side’s defeat but also completing seven of 12 passes for 67 yards with a touchdown … The MVP for the victorious Aina side was Clemson quarterback Will Proctor; he completed nine of 15 passes for 107 yards. The vanquished Kai team was led by linebacker Chad Nkang from Elon College, who notched nine tackles.
INTA-JUICE NORTH-SOUTH CLASSIC
Aside from the Senior Bowl, Hula Bowl and East-West Shrine Game, it seems as though the roster of all-star games changes annually. In this young game, the North team beat the South, 28-17, in a duel that witnessed a pair of notable passing performances.
Quarterback Luke Getsy: The Akron product accounted for a pair of touchdowns — one on the ground and another in the air — while throwing for 90 yards.
Quarterback Jeff Smith: The alumnus of NAIA Georgetown (Ky.) College stands a rangy 6-foot-6, and entered this game on the heels of an NAIA All-America selection. He threw for 82 yards and a touchdown.
The Las Vegas All-American Classic was initially scheduled to be played on Monday; it was recently cancelled. Next on the all-star docket … the East-West Shrine Game in San Antonio this coming Saturday at 4 p.m. MST (ESPN). A day later, we land in Mobile for a week covering the Senior Bowl.