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TWENTYMAN: Senior Bowl participants to watch

The Senior Bowl practices get under way in Mobile, Alabama later today as the NFL's 32 teams have assembled here to watch some of college football's best senior talent begin their journey to the NFL Draft.

We'll get to see three days of padded practice with the eyes of NFL decision makers watching every move. Practice gets intense, and the competition is real.

So, who should Lions fans be on the lookout for this week?

All of the practices are televised by the NFL Network. Three particular positions of need for the Lions heading into the offseason are at running back, pass rusher and defensive tackle.

Here's a look at the Senior Bowl participants at those three positions of need:


Kalen Ballage, Arizona State, 6-3, 230: A physical specimen who is going to impress a lot of people at the Combine in February with his size and speed. He rushed for 669 yards (4.3 average) and six touchdowns in 2017.

Rashaad Penny, San Diego State, 5-11, 220: Speedy back with over 2,000 rushing yards (2,248) and 23 touchdowns last season. Also a terrific kickoff return man with a 30.2 career average and seven touchdowns.

Jaylen Samuels, NC State, 5-11, 228: He played five different positions on offense during his time at NC State, making him extremely versatile. Last season, he caught 76 passes for 597 yards and four touchdowns, and also rushed 76 times for 404 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had 19 receiving touchdowns and 28 rushing touchdowns during his college career.

Ito Smith, Southern Mississippi, 5-9, 195: The Mobile native rushed 248 times for 1,413 yards (5.7 average) and 13 touchdowns. He also ranked third on the team in receptions with 40 catches for 396 yards and two scores.

Akrum Wadley, Iowa, 5-11, 191: Recorded his second straight 1,000-yard season in 2017 with 1,109 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 28 balls for another 353 yards and three scores.

Darrel Williams, LSU, 6-1, 229: Williams was a top high school prospect who was overshadowed a bit at LSU by Leonard Fournette and then Derrius Guice. Williams has terrific size and athleticsm, which he showed off last season averaging 5.7 yards per carry for a total of 820 yards and nine touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for another 331 yards.


Marcus Davenport, UTSA, 6-7, 255: Physically, he's going to impress some NFL personnel. Coming from a small school, this will be a big week for him. He recorded 55 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks with three forced fumbles in 2017.  

View photos of Detroit Lions sacks from the 2017 season.

Kylie Fitts, Utah, 6-4, 260: Struggled with injuries as a junior and senior playing in only nine games over the last two years. When he played in all 12 games for Utah in 2015, Fitts had 40 tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and defended a whopping 10 passes.

Da'Shawn Hand, Alabama, 6-4, 288: Missed three games due to injury last season and had 27 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. He recorded one tackle and defended a pass in the National Championship game earlier this month.

Jalyn Holmes, Ohio State, 6-5, 270: A team captain and rotational end for the Buckeyes, Holmes made 30 tackles this past season with a couple sacks and a forced fumble.

Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State, 6-4, 265: Played in as many games as any in Buckeye history (55), and finished his career with 36.5 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma, 6-1, 240: The PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 was 205 pounds when he first got to Oklahoma. He bulked up and recorded 17.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks in 2017, giving him 29.0 tackles for loss and 17.0 sacks over the past two seasons.

Chad Thomas, Miami, 6-6, 275: An athletic edge rusher with an ideal NFL frame, Thomas recorded 41 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2017 for the Canes.

Kemoko Turay, Rutgers, 6-5, 252: The athletic edge rusher recorded 60 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks for Rutgers in 2017.


Andrew Brown, Virginia, 6-4, 285:A two-year starter for the Cavaliers, Brown recorded 46 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss this past season.

Poona Ford, Texas, 6-0, 305: Appeared in 46 games with 30 starts for the Longhorns. Named Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year after finishing with 34 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and a blocked field goal.

Greg Gilmore, LSU, 6-4, 308: Very productive in the middle of the LSU defensive front. Gilmore recorded 53 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks this season.

B.J. Hill, NC State, 6-4, 315: Big, physical, stout defender in the middle, who played in 48 career games. This past season he recorded 55 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Justin Jones, NC State, 6-2, 312: Jones was part of a pretty fierce Wolfpack defensive line this season. He recorded 30 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2017. His 8.5 tackles for loss were second on the team.

Christian LaCouture, LSU, 6-5, 292: LaCouture played defensive end at LSU, but has the size to move inside to play defensive tackle, which is where the Senior Bowl lists him as playing this week. He recorded 66 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks in 2017.

Harrison Phillips, Stanford, 6-4, 295: A three-time state wrestling champion coming out of high school in Nebraska, Phillips is a mauler in the middle. In 14 games, he recorded an amazing 92 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2017.

Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State, 6-5, 300: Small-school prospect who will get to compete with the big boys this week. One of the best small-school defensive lineman in the country, Shepherd finished the year with 38 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks.

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