Dec 20, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Ezekiel Ansah (47) high fives fans after the Cougars beat the San Diego State Aztecs 23-6 at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Senior Bowl: Ziggy Ansah Shines; E.J. Manuel Leads Three Scoring Drives


BYU defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah went from an aspiring basketball player to a top tier NFL Draft prospect in a few short years. In Saturday’s Senior Bowl, the Ghana native dominated. He blew past tacklers to force a fumble, bat down a pass, and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers in general.

Most draft analysis services estimated Ansah as a first round pick before the week’s Senior Bowl activities, but his eye-opening performance on Saturday could propel him near the top of a very deep defensive end heap. General managers drafting in the top 10 picks or so and considering Florida State’s Bjoern Werner and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore could take a long look at Ansah.

Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor impressed scouts during the week’s workouts and came alive late in the game for a few big breaks. Taylor and fellow Pac-12 representative Jonathan Franklin each played well after halftime, leading their respective teams in rushing yards with 52 and 41. Franklin scored the North team’s first touchdown, capping a drive that included a nice run from him that Kent State offensive guard Brian Winters set up with terrific downfield blocking.

Chatter about this quarterback class has been resoundingly negative. Overall, the Senior Bowl did little to dispel that, but Florida State product E.J. Manuel played a great game. Manuel has qualities that make him an intriguing NFL prospect — even if he’s not accurately comparable to Colin Kaepernick. He engineered all three of the South’s scoring drives, scoring two touchdowns of his own in the first half. One came on a goal line rush, the other a beautifully thrown pass out of the pocket to Alabama tight end Michael Williams.

Williams is a terrific blocker, but got the opportunity to show off his route running ability when he badly beat USC defensive back T.J. McDonald on the 20-yard scoring strike.

Manuel threw an interception, albeit on a tipped ball that Utah State cornerback Will Davis made a nice play to secure. Davis was among the nation’s greediest defensive players in 2012, intercepting five passes including the first pick of Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron.

Davis was one of three players with interceptions, joining Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo and Missouri’s Zavier Gooden. Oregon State safety Jordan Poyer nearly made one in the first half.

The aforementioned Cameron was not in attendance at the Senior Bowl, but Louisiana Tech teammate Quinton Patton had an impressive showing. The one-time Detmer Award contender should propel up draft projections in the coming weeks.

Manuel’s ACC counterpart Mike Glennon was generating some first round buzz in recent weeks, but struggled mightily in his initial few series. He settled in during the second half to complete four of six attempts, including a precisely placed ball off a roll-out that gives his highlight reel a demonstration of the raw ability coaches have to work with should they draft the NC State product.

Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones consistently struggled. Miami University quarterback Zac Dysert played with some nerves his first few possessions, but led a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter on a connection with Oregon running back Kenjon Barner.

Among the targets Dysert connected with during his impressive final drive was Michigan’s Denard Robinson. The former Wolverine quarterback played well at wide receiver, despite reports his practices at the new position were underwhelming.

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  • Ty Kampen

    Ansah was awesome. He keeps getting described as “Raw”, but he didn’t seem all that raw to me. He showed good awareness and instincts. He ran down Denard Robinson and also ran across the field to make a tackle on a runner. He had 3-4 QB pressures, 1 sack, 1 forced bumble, 1 pass defense and a bunch of tackles. Huge upside with that dude.

    • Kyle Kensing

      Yeah, the “raw” label seems a bit ill-applied considering how polished he’s looked the last few months. If he’s raw, then the upside there is mind-blowing.