Four former Ohio State players have putting their skills on display for NFL scouts and coaches for the past three days.
Jonathon Cooper, Justin Hilliard, Baron Browning and Tuf Borland – all key members of Ohio State's 2020 defense – are among the members of the National Team at this week's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where they've been trying to impress NFL decision-makers with their performance on the practice field.
While the actual Senior Bowl game is still to come on Saturday (2:30 p.m., NFL Network), the week of practices in Mobile, Alabama – which NFL evaluators typically pay more attention to than the game itself – is now complete. Practices were held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at South Alabama's Hancock-Whitney Stadium, with the Miami Dolphins' coaching staff leading the National Team through all three sessions.
Although I didn't make the trip to Mobile for this year's game, with in-person media access limited due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Senior Bowl's media relations team generously provided video highlights and coaches' film from each practice, and I combed through that footage to compile some of the best clips of each Buckeye who participated in practices this week.
Cooper drew perhaps the most praise among the Buckeyes for his showing during this week's practices, as he impressed onlookers with his performance in pass-rushing drills.
“You watch him go one-on-one vs. these offensive tackles, he's a stud,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said during ESPNU's Senior Bowl broadcast on Wednesday.
Cooper spent time lining up at both defensive end and defensive tackle this week and impressed specifically with his ability to rush with power, as he often drove his opponents backward off the line of scrimmage while also successfully utilizing a variety of pass-rushing moves to get past blockers.
Hilliard also had an impressive week in Mobile, building off his excellent play down the stretch of his final season as a Buckeye. The six-year Ohio State linebacker put his athleticism on full display as he blew by many of his opponents in pass-rushing drills while also demonstrating his ability to make plays in coverage, including an interception on a pass intended for Michigan fullback Ben Mason.
Among the highlights from Ohio State linebacker Justin Hilliard's Senior Bowl practice film this week: An interception on a pass intended for Michigan fullback Ben Mason. pic.twitter.com/dBZT6EiEfL— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) January 29, 2021
More highlights of Hilliard, which include another near-interception against Mason and some of his most impressive pass-rushing reps from the week:
Browning put his versatility on display over the course of the week of practices, spending time lining up both as an off-ball inside linebacker and as an edge-rushing outside linebacker. Like Hilliard, one of his best highlights came against the rival fullback from up north, as he ran right through a block attempt by Mason during a running play in Thursday's practice.
Is that Baron Browning wearing #55 off the edge for National squad?!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 28, 2021
Smashed the fullback here! Wooo pic.twitter.com/A4nV7rr3io
Rushing off the edge was where Browning shined the most in Senior Bowl practices, and you can see a few more examples of that in the highlights below.
Borland wasn't great in one-on-one pass coverage drills, which exploited the same athletic limitations that often kept him off the field on third downs at Ohio State. He was better in both team drills and one-on-one pass-rushing drills, though, where he demonstrated his physicality and ability to make plays around the line of scrimmage.
Former Ohio State running back Trey Sermon has also spent the week in Mobile as a member of the National Team, but did not practice and will not play in Saturday's game due to the dislocated SC joint he suffered on the first play of the national championship game loss to Alabama. Sermon did participate in an interview with NFL Network, however, which he concluded by replicating the now-famous smirk from Ohio State's Sugar Bowl win over Clemson.