Senior Bowl notebook: Van Jefferson, Jabari Zuniga impress

NFL Draft

The Florida Gators should be proud. On Tuesday, a pair of former Gainesville stars in Van Jefferson and Jabari Zuniga dominated at the Senior Bowl.

MOBILE — Van Jefferson hasn’t had an easy road to the Senior Bowl. His road to the draft, however,  is off to a fine start.

In the first practice of Senior Bowl week, Jefferson was impossible not to notice during individual drills. He routinely beat corners with a combination of agility, balance and route-running, showcasing a more complete package than maybe what was expected of him.

While most projections see Jefferson as a late-second, early third day pick come April, his performance on Tuesday piqued interest from those in attendance. Of course, it’s one practice on a cold, windy Alabama day, but it’s the kind of start the former Florida Gator standout was hoping for.

Jefferson began his collegiate career at Ole Miss in 2015. After redshirting, he played two seasons for the Rebels before transferring to the SEC East, latching on with the Florida Gators. Over his four campaigns, Jefferson’s best year came as a fifth-year senior, catching 49 passes for 657 yards and six touchdowns.

Jefferson’s stats aren’t exactly eye-popping. A couple more days like Tuesday, though, and people will be turning his tape back on.

Staying with the Gators, my personal favorite to watch was along the defensive line in Jabari Zuniga. Originally, my attention on that group was geared towards South Carolina star Javon Kinlaw — who was terrific in his own right. Yet it was Zuniga who continually flashed, showing a strong punch and absurd agility on a variety of drills.

Zuniga totaled 18.5 sacks over four years at Florida, but the fifth-year senior was limited last year to five games with an ankle injury. Now healthy, it’s obvious why teams could see him as a Day 2 pick. Standing 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds, Zuniga will fit a ton of systems, being able to stand up on the edge or put his hand in the dirt.

Provided he remains healthy, look for Zuniga to put on a show at the NFL Scouting Combine in March.

Lewis is a name to watch

Terrell Lewis could be special. He just needs to stay on the field.

The Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker has been ravaged by injuries, only playing 14 games during his career at Tuscaloosa. However, he shined in those contests, racking up seven sacks. The past season was his healthiest, playing in 10 tilts with six sacks.

Lewis certainly looks the part of an edge rusher, and teams will love his versatility. Under Nick Saban, Lewis played defensive end, 3-tech and linebacker. He’s also an ideal size much as Zuniga is, and has serious length at 34 1/8 inches.

If Lewis’ medicals don’t scare teams, don’t be surprised if he’s getting first-round buzz.

Bryant worth monitoring throughout process

With offenses evolving in the NFL, tight ends are being asked to work as both receivers and tackles. Harrison Bryant is hoping to prove he fits both bills.

The Florida Atlantic star was mentioned specifically by Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert when asked who he’s excited to play with this week, and it’s evident why. Harrison caught 65 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns for the Owls this season, putting him on the radar of scouts and personnel men.

Bryant knows this week provides a great opportunity to showcase himself and his myriad skills, when asked his goal before leaving Mobile.

“Prove I’m a complete tight end and willing blocker, and I’ll do what I can for the team.”

The guess here? He’ll have plenty of interested parties before the week is out.

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