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Senior Bowl important opportunity for Irish trio

Dec 31, 2009, 2:00 PM EDT

The news that safety Kyle McCarthy, center Eric Olsen, and right tackle Sam Young were invited to the Senior Bowl isn’t especially news worthy.

McCarthy’s 101 tackles this season to go along with five interceptions put him near the top of the statistical heap for safeties in college football. Olsen’s inclusion as a Sporting News third-team All-American, along with his versatility along the offensive line make him an intriguing professional prospect. And while Sam Young didn’t compete for an Outland Trophy like many thought he would when he first stepped foot on campus, he did start 50 football games for the Irish, the only lineman at Notre Dame to ever start every game of his career.

While the trio of Irish seniors were expected to get the invite, they’ll have a lot to prove when they show up in Mobile, a veritable cattle call for the best senior college football players and NFL draft prospects.

For McCarthy, it’ll be proving that he has the elite athleticism needed to play safety at the NFL level. The past two seasons proved that McCarthy was capable of making steady tackles as a down-in-the-box safety, but the Irish’s deficiencies this season stopping the pass in Cover 2 bring legitimate questions as to whether the fifth year senior from Youngstown, Ohio can survive in the NFL as a defensive back. For Kyle to have a good Senior Bowl, he’ll need to impress the hundreds of scouts, coaches, and general managers during practice against an elite set of wide receivers and tight ends.

Olsen will likely improve his stock by showing the physicality and nasty streak that endeared him to countless Irish fans. At a reported 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Olsen has good size for a center, but his value will come if he can prove his versatility along the interior offensive line playing both left and right guard positions as well. Olsen is only 21-years-old, and being forced to play as a true freshman robbed him of a much needed year of development, so NFL scouts may be able to project the player Olsen can become with a year or two of seasoning as a backup in the league.

Sam Young has the chance to change his draft grade probably as much as any lineman attending the senior bowl. Young’s incredible size and length are huge assets, but this will be the first time NFL scouts and coaches will have a chance to see first-hand whether or not Young has the athleticism to be a starting offensive tackle in the NFL. Young spent 10 games at left tackle during his sophomore season, and if he’s able to survive on the blind side, he’ll likely see his stock rise to a first day pick.

  1. bill - Jan 2, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    Keith,
    Prior to getting to my point I must say I offer this comment with the utmost humility. I do not believe myself capable of truly evaluating ANY athlete as I do not have the experience, knowledge, etc., necessary to do so. And I also believe 99% of the fans who offer such feedback are in the same category. On top of everything else, we see so little of any specific play in any game. How do we know if the receiver was supposed to Z in or Z out, or if the RB was supposed to pick up the blitzing middle linebacker, for example. Having said that, it seemed to me that Kyle McCarthy, while obviously a talented DB, too often was trying to make tackles near the line of scrimmage while a pass was being completed down the middle or to an area he previously vacated. The Southern Cal game was the penultimate. How many times did we see their receiver(s) wide open with no opposition challenging him. Again, I have no idea if, or how many times, it was due to McCarthy approaching the line too quickly but the play-action pass appeared to be a weapon in several teams’ arsenals, especially when they needed a big play at a key time of the game. Any thoughts?

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