Lane Johnson and Landry Jones each spent the week leading up to Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., making strong impressions on NFL scouts.
Both former Oklahoma standouts had something to prove; Johnson, whose strong senior season might've elevated him into first-round status, remains relatively inexperienced at his offensive tackle position.
And for Jones, questions regarding consistency and his lack of experience in more traditional, under-center offenses won't go away anytime soon — especially after he struggled in Saturday's game.
The Senior Bowl represents just one stop for the two former Sooners on the long road between now and Thursday, April 25, when the 2013 NFL Draft kicks off.
But the week was important, as each were able to showcase their talent with different teammates and in an unfamiliar environment.
Johnson began skyrocketing in mock drafts about midway through last season, continuing his unique path from junior-college quarterback to potential first-round NFL offensive tackle.
The 6-foot-7, 303-pounder started off as a quarterback at Kilgore College, but switched to tight end, which is where he began his Oklahoma career. He changed to defensive end, then started 12 games at offensive tackle his junior year.
Early in fall camp before his senior season, Johnson wasn't even expected to start, but he overtook Tyrus Thompson and continued his meteoric rise throughout the season.
NFL.com draft analyst Bucky Brooks wrote this week that, “Johnson has demonstrated impressive footwork, balance and body control while snuffing out pass rushers in drills. In one-on-one drills, Johnson's capacity to anchor and redirect rushers has earned him high marks from scouts closely monitoring his game.”
Two other NFL.com analysts — Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis — currently project Johnson as a top-20 pick; Jeremiah has the former Sooner going at No. 16 to the St. Louis Rams, and Davis puts Johnson at No. 20 to the Bears.
Johnson was named the Senior Bowl's Most Outstanding Lineman, and showcased his speed by chasing down a cornerback after an interception Saturday.
Jones spent the week impressing scouts until Saturday, when he was just 3 of 9 for 16 yards in the Senior Bowl game.
In an NFL Network interview Thursday, Jones said he called game officials a few weeks early to request a copy of the playbook.
Oklahoma's offense featured a high-tempo, no-huddle spread attack in 2012, leaving Jones with little huddle management opportunities, or chances to take snaps from under center, during his senior season.
“I wanted to show myself well here,” Jones said in the Thursday interview. “I wanted to be able to come back here and compete at the highest level.
“I didn't know what the playbook was gonna be like. ... I've played no huddle. I didn't want to be in the huddle, sputtering around and not know what I was doing. ... I felt like I did fine. There were only a couple instances where I had to ask for the play again.”
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock asked Jones pointedly about his sometimes inconsistent play last season, specifically mentioning a fantastic showing in a late-season win at West Virginia, and poor play in the Sooners' Sept. 22 loss to Kansas State at home.
“Early in the season I was pressing quite a bit,” Jones responded. “Trying to make all the throws and play as perfect as I could instead of just cutting it loose and playing ball, going through my reads and not forcing balls down the field.
“I think that was the one thing that Kansas State taught me, that my career's really not in my hands. God has a team for me out there that's gonna pick me up.”