South Carolina Football: Gamecocks Named Senior Bowl Players of the Week

2023 Senior Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
2023 Senior Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /
South Carolina Football
2023 Senior Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl was held on Saturday, February 4th. For those unfamiliar with the Senior Bowl, select seniors (and some already-graduated juniors) are invited to Mobile, Alabama to participate in an all-star game and a week of practice in front of NFL scouts. South Carolina football players Zacch Pickens and Darius Rush fully participated in the Senior Bowl game and practices, and Jovaughn Gwyn was a late addition to the festivities, as well. After Saturday’s game, some prospects will elect to spend a few days doing interviews, participating in more measurements, and taking part in athletic testing.

The Senior Bowl has a history of being a helpful boon to several players’ NFL Draft stocks. Practices against fellow NFL hopefuls and physical testing allow NFL front offices to get a more thorough opinion on potential draft picks. In the past, Gamecock standouts such as Deebo Samuel, Javon Kinlaw, and Kingsley (JJ) Enagbare all performed well at the Senior Bowl and saw their draft status improve after positive experiences in Mobile.

2023 saw more of the same as both Rush and Pickens were voted by their peers as the players of the week for their position groups. The American Team voted Rush the secondary player of the week before Saturday’s Senior Bowl game and voted Pickens the defensive lineman of the week. Both players were recorded as having very good practice reps, and Rush, in particular, tested very well physically. Gwyn made it to Mobile just in time for the final practice before the game but blocked well in limited action.

Rush went into Senior Bowl practice with most draft projections having him going undrafted or being selected in the sixth or seventh round. During Senior Bowl measurements, Rush was measured as one of the longest true corners in Mobile, as his wingspan was almost 80 inches (6’8″) on his 6’2″ frame. Based on analytic tracking data from practice, Rush is now expected to run a faster 40-yard dash time on Tuesday than originally projected. The Columbia native’s draft stock is rising, and it would be somewhat surprising if Rush is not selected during April’s NFL Draft.

For Pickens, his pre-Senior Bowl draft projections were all over the place. Some publications projected him to be picked as high as the second round, while others had him coming off the board as late as the sixth. His athletic testing numbers are not going to “wow” scouts as being freakish, but his profile shows solid athleticism for a defensive tackle. His strong showing in practice and his above-average tools (both size and movement ability) could see his draft stock solidify somewhere on day-2 (second and third rounds).

Jovaughn Gwyn, prior to being invited to the Senior Bowl, was not expected to be drafted. In fact, only some NFL roster projections even included Gwyn on their lists of likely undrafted free agents. Even as a smaller offensive lineman, Gwyn performed better than expected in one-on-one pass protection/pass rush drills during his one Senior Bowl practice, and NFL scouts took notice. Gwyn hopes to translate his Senior Bowl momentum into a late selection and has almost guaranteed a spot on some team’s roster as an undrafted free agent if he does not hear his name called during the draft.

The NFL Draft will be held from April 27th-April 29th. Rush, Pickens, and Gwyn will join likely first-round pick Cam Smith and fellow Gamecocks Dylan Wonnum, Josh Vann, Devonni Reed, Christian Beal-Smith, Jalen Brooks, Brad Johnson, Sherrod Greene, Nate Adkins, Eric Douglas, and MJ Webb in hoping to have their NFL dreams realized.