The Senior Bowl may be on its way to including juniors, and it is about time. Certain juniors can be added without changing the purpose of this game, and that is something new Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage understands.
Savage took over on June 1, and as the Press-Register's Mike Herndon reported, he "brought up the idea [allowing juniors in the Senior Bowl] with NFL representatives last month and was told the league would consider it."
Savage is not just talking about any and all juniors. Herndon shared this quote from Savage on the topic:
We're not interested in taking third-year juniors. We want to reward the players who have done well on the field and checked all the boxes off the field.
To help identify these kinds of juniors, Herndon reports that Savage proposes that in order to be eligible the juniors would have to have declared early for the NFL draft, be graduated by December, have been in the football program for four years and have the blessing of his coach.
Essentially, these guys would already be seniors, but something like a redshirt year left them as a junior in terms of eligibility.
It is not surprising that Savage is wasting no time trying to make this switch. He is an Alabama radio analyst and last year, the Crimson Tide had a player in Dont'a Hightower that would have fit all of these criteria.
Herndon offered up this quote from Savage on Hightower: "Nick Saban pleaded to get him in the Senior Bowl." Now Savage is trying to rectify the situation from the inside.
Should this change be made?
This is an easy fix. It does not change the spirit or purpose of the game, and players like Hightower deserve to be able to participate in the event. They have proven their commitment to their school and have already graduated. They should have access to this event to showcase their skills and get a jump start on their career.
The only part of the proposal that needs to be tweaked is the criteria of having a coaches blessing. It is hard to imagine a coach not giving a player his blessing if they have met the other three, but they shouldn't be in a position to make that call at that point. Just leave that part off.
Overall, this change makes too much sense not to happen. Of course I've been saying that about a college football playoff for over a decade, so stay tuned.