Mississippi defensive tackle Josiah Coatney was a pretty popular prospect moving around the lobby of the Renaissance hotel, the epi-center for all things Senior Bowl.
Several teams, including the Miami Dolphins, had informal interviews with the massive defensive tackle from Chapel Hill High in Douglasville.
“It’s going great so far, enjoying the experience of meeting all of the new players coming in, talking with players and talking with the scouts,” Coatney said. “It’s great to be here.”
Coatney will play on the South team in the college all-star game, which is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
“It’s a blessing,” Coatney said. “It’s been a long journey. It’s one where I’ve definitely had to endure definitely. I just have to thank God for all of the opportunities that he gave me. Going to Ole Miss. Going to junior college has allowed me the chance to play football at a high level.”
The state of Georgia will be well-represented at the 71st annual Senior Bowl. A total of 14 players either from the state or who played at state schools checked in Sunday. The players were assigned to rosters and met Monday with the coaching staffs from the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions.
“The Bengals selected six players from our game last year, and we know how much coach (Zac) Taylor values the competitive environment created in Mobile,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said. “Lions coach Matt Patricia and I worked together years ago in New England, so I know he will do a great job preparing the players for the next level.”
Players also were available to scouts from all 32 NFL teams to start the informal interview process. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and several team scouts were on hand.
Georgia and Georgia Southern will be represented in the game along with players from Georgia who went on to play out of state, including Memphis running back/wide receiver Antonio Gibson (Eagle’s Landing), Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden (Paulding County) and Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney (Norcross).
The Senior Bowl is considered the top college all-star game because the players are coached by two NFL staffs.
Last year, the Senior Bowl produced 93 total draft picks, including 40 in the first three rounds and 10 first-round selections.
That roster included offensive linemen Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, who were selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Falcons.
“You get a chance to spend a full week with the players and really learn what they’re about,” Taylor said. “We will be looking for leadership, character and talent. To get a chance to coach them up close and in person is a great opportunity for our staff."
The Lions hold the third pick in the draft.
“Most of us got our start in coaching at the collegiate level and we look forward to a great week in Mobile,” Patricia said. “This event provides great access that is helpful in our pre-draft evaluations.”
Here’s a list of the players with Georgia connections:
• Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern, North Clayton High — A two-time all Sun Belt conference selection.
• Essang Bassey, CB, Wake Forest, Columbus — He was a first-team all-state Class 5-A pick by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Georgia Sports Writers Association after high school. He was second-team All-ACC as a junior.
• Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida, Sprayberry — He helped the Gators reach the Outback, Peach and Orange Bowl over the past three seasons. He considered leaving for the NFL, but returned for his redshirt senior season, which was marred by a high-ankle sprain.
• Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne, Whitewater — Intriguing big-hitter who was won the Cliff Harris award as the nation’s top small college defensive player. He was named a Division II All-American.
• Josiah Coatney, DT, Mississippi, Chapel Hill — “Just be physical,” Coatney said when asked what he hopes to show the scouts this week. “Just show them that I can affect the game from the line of scrimmage. I’m somebody who will give it my all. Football is not just a job for me, it’s more than that.” Coatney started playing youth football for the Douglasville TigerCubs, Mount Carmel and Yeager Middle School before Chapel Hill. “I definitely had my experiences in Douglasville,” Coatney said. “That’s definitely where I come from. I was raised most of my life there.”
• D.J. Wonnum, DE, South Carolina, Stephenson — Had 29.5 career tackles for losses to finished ranked ninth on the school’s all-time list. He was a two-time captain in 2017 and 2019. He appeared in 43 games and made 30 starts.
• Jonathan Greenard, DE/LB, Florida/Louisville, Hiram — He was slowed last season by an ankle injury, but elected to come back and play against Virginia in the Orange Bowl.
• Blake Ferguson, LS, LSU, Buford – Was preceded at LSU by his brother Reid Ferguson, who currently long snaps for the Buffalo Bills.
• Rodrigo Blankenship, PK, Georgia, Sprayberry — He was the 2019 Lou Groza Award winner as the nation’s top placekicker. He was an All-SEC first-team selection by the Associated Press and coaches.
• Tyler Bass, PK, Georgia Southern — He made a school-record 20 of 28 field goals last season and made all 36 of his extra-point attempts. He led the team with 96 points scored. He also kicks off and had 55 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs.
• Tremayne Anchrum, OL, Clemson, McEachern — He was a right tackle for the Tigers. He’s 6-foot-2 and 315 and could be a better fit at guard in the NFL. Anchrum became the starter at right tackle in 2018 and has played in more than 53 games, including 35 starts entering the Bowl season.
• Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis, Eagle’s Landing — Was listed as a wide receiver for the Tigers, but will get a shot a running back at the Senior Bowl. He caught 38 passes and averaged 11.2 yards per carry on 33 rushing carries last season.
• Harrison, Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic, John Milledge Academy — He won the John Mackey award, which goes to the nation’s top tight end. He was named first-team All-Conference USA football and all-academic. He led the nation’s tight ends with 65 catches for 1,004 yards. He also had seven touchdowns.
• Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt, Norcross — He started 11 games and had 20 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns last season.
• Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty, Paulding County — At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Gandy-Golden was highly productive in 2017 and 2019 at Liberty. He caught 150 passes for 2,433 yards and 20 touchdowns. He missed 2018 after a car crash and wrist injury.
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