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Three under-the-radar players to look for during Senior Bowl week

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A defensive back, wide receiver, and running back to keep an eye on in Mobile.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Southern Methodist Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

The arrival of the Senior Bowl signifies that the draft is just right around the corner. With a new staff in place, the draft process this spring is crucial for the development of this team — especially when factoring in the expected contracts that quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper will receive from Jerry and Stephen Jones.

Because of this, Will McClay and company will be tasked with finding hidden gems or players flying a little bit under-the-radar between now and late April. The Senior Bowl in Mobile is a great place to start, as players not only go through the practices and games, but also can get to know scouts and executives in attendance.

Quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts are the cause for the most hype surrounding the week in south Alabama, but Jim Nagy and his staff did a great job of compiling a roster filled with talented athletes. We give you three names that are not receiving much hype to keep tabs on throughout the week.

Brian Cole, DB, Mississippi State

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Mississippi State sent three defensive players to the first-round of the NFL Draft: Jeffery Simmons of the Tennessee Titans, Montez Sweat of the Washington Redskins, and Johnathan Abram of the Las Vegas Raiders. The trio were responsible for leading the nation’s top-total defense, and the latter two were invited to the Senior Bowl. Brian Cole is the lone Bulldog defender in this year’s event, and he offers some intriguing talent that could catch a team’s eye.

The former UnderArmour All-American signed with the Michigan Wolverines out of high school, but later transferred to the junior college level before eventually landing with Mississippi State. Cole played in just the first four games in 2018, missing the majority of the season with an upper-body injury.

In 2019, Cole had an up-and-down season for a team that struggled in the second season of Joe Moorhead’s tenure. Still, Cole offers a versatile skill-set that was attractive enough for Nagy and company to invite him to the marquee event.

Cole has positional versatility that gives him the ability to play multiple positions in the secondary, especially at safety and at nickel. The former four-star recruit was able to show what he could do before he suffered his season-ending injury in 2018. Cole sat out the team’s bowl game, but is looking forward to impressing scouts with his upside down in Mobile.

James Proche, WR, SMU

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

SMU Mustangs wideout James Proche did not have the recruiting profile of Brian Cole, for instance, but Proche put together an impressive career in Dallas. The Desoto, Texas, native starred for Sonny Dykes’ Mustangs in 2019 as SMU reached the top-25 poll for the first time in, what felt like, forever.

Proche was the go-to man for SMU this past season, and defenses struggled to contain the DFW native: 111 catches, 1,225 yards, 15 touchdowns in 2019, following a season in which he grabbed 99 balls for 1,199 yards and 12 grabs in 2018.

Proche has been lost in a deep wide receivers class headlined by the likes of Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Henry Ruggs, but he offers big-play ability as well. The SMU product averaged over 13 yards per reception during his career for the Mustangs while totaling a combined 39 scores in his career.

If you’re wanting to keep tabs on a sleeper that could produce, Proche could fit the bill.

Lamical Perine, RB, Florida

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Florida vs Virginia Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 running back was expected to be even more loaded than it already is, but the decisions from Travis Etiene, Najee Harris, Chubba Hubbard, and Kylin Hill caused it to lose some of its luster; still, there is talent to be found at the position throughout this year’s draft.

One player that maybe has not received as much attention as others in this draft class is Lamichael Perine from the Florida Gators. Perine, who is related to former Oklahoma Sooners and current Miami Dolphins back Samaje Perine, put together a nice career and final season in Gainesville.

The Alabama native rushed the ball 132 times for 676 yards (5.1 avg) and six scores in 2019, following a season in which he carried the rock 134 times for 826 (6.2 avg) and seven scores in 2018. Perine found the end zone eight times on the ground the prior season, as well.

One of the biggest reasons many are high on Perine is his ability to be a factor in passing game. In his career for the Gators, Perine totaled 674 yards and eight touchdowns — including five this past season — on 72 catches, including 40 in 2019.

Perine has also shown the ability to be physical in the blocking game, as he does not shy away from contact.

Perine is a three-down back that can impact the game in a multiple of ways. With a potentially bigger role on the next level, the Florida product could make a team very happy later on in the draft.