Senior Bowl: QBs underwhelm, Whisenhunt reaches out to Mariota

North squad quarterbacks Bryce Petty of Baylor (14), Sean Mannion of Oregon State (4) and Shane Carden of East Carolina (5) had rough days on Tuesday, the first on-field session at the Senior Bowl.

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MOBILE, Ala. — Before the sun set on the first session at the Senior Bowl, the hot topic coming out of Titans practice wasn’t a top prospect on the North team’s squad. Tennessee head coach Ken Whisenhunt had his mind, at least partially so, on a prospect not in Mobile.

Whisenhunt offered Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota a second invitation to attend the week-long practice sessions. He even said it would be OK for the Heisman Trophy winner to skip practice and just come play in the game on Saturday.

Mariota turned down his official invitation to the Senior Bowl. But Whisenhunt is still holding out hope.

The Senior Bowl committee did its best to load Whisenhunt’s North team with quarterbacks. Bryce Petty from Baylor, Sean Mannion of Oregon State and East Carolina’s Shane Carden all worked out on Tuesday for Whisenhunt. But the Titans have a huge decision to make, and would love the extra time with Mariota.

"With the way the draft goes, just having extra information on these guys outside of what you can normally get at the combine or in workouts, it’s invaluable for us," said Whisenhunt. "You like to see them compete, you like to see what they’re doing on the field. That’s one of the exciting things about it."

The Titans need extra information on Mariota because they own the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Mariota may be available at No. 2, and the Titans — if they decide Zach Mettenberger is not their guy moving forward — need to know if he could be their quarterback of the future.

Quarterbacks won’t be looking at really complex defenses here in Mobile. Whisenhunt said it’s important though to test them to see how they handle information overload.

The trio of North team quarterbacks did not impress on Tuesday. It was an extremely underwhelming day as none in the group could really get into a rhythm.

Manion went through extremes. He started well and looked precise and comfortable. As passing drills advanced, Manion got off-kilter. He was nowhere near his targets and had trouble with velocity. One scout called him undraftable based on the workout alone.


Petty had trouble with accuracy as well. But his troubles weren’t as dreadful as Manion’s. Petty did have some good throws on Tuesday, including completion to Ohio State’s Devin Smith for a touchdown and a perfectly thrown pass to Kent State tight end Casey Pierce that Pierce dropped.

Carden was the best of the three North quarterbacks on the first day of practice. He was on target for the most part, but split time in most 1-on-1 drills with Manion as Petty had the other side of the field to himself.

It’s quite possible to chalk up the ineffectiveness of the quarterbacks on Day 1 to jitters, or even unfamiliar environs. That’s why the rest of the sessions this week are so important. For the Titans, the best thing that could happen on Wednesday or Thursday is for Mariota to reconsider and show up to work.

If the Titans are taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft, it won’t be anyone here in Mobile … yet.