MOBILE, ALA. — Hobart offensive tackle Ali Marpet has heard all of the doubting questions and drawn plenty of double-takes, the anticipated scrutiny that goes along with being a Division III lineman playing in the Senior Bowl.
Traditionally, the rosters from this all-star game are dominated by standouts from the largest Division I programs.
That's made Marpet even more determined to prove he belongs through his blocking on the field, which has drawn solid marks from NFL scouts through the first couple of days of practice.
"It's hard not to be grateful going against top Division I talent coming from a Division III school," Marpet said. "This is an awesome experience. It's been a challenge, but I think each day gets better. Going forward, I think I can be even better.
"Absolutely, football is football. It doesn't matter what division you play at. I think Division III guys have the ability. We just need a chance to show what we can do."
The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Division III All-American was a Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the Liberty League last season, not allowing a sack.
Marpet has played both guard and tackle positions in practice this week. He's never played center before, but has been working on learning.
Marpet has a connection to the Ravens' scouting department through senior personnel assistant George Kokinis, a Hobart graduate and former Cleveland Browns general manager who played football and baseball in college. Kokinis met with Marpet previously at Hobart.
"It was good meeting him," Marpet said. "Even though Hobart is small, they've got alumni everywhere."
Miami TE shines
University of Miami tight end Clive Walford excelled in passing drills Wednesday, catching a long touchdown pass and creating separation consistently from defensive backs.
He is regarded as a contender to be the first player at his position selected from what is regarded as a weak tight end draft class.
Walford, 6 feet 4 and 263 pounds, finished practice Wednesday with two touchdown catches and grabbed several passes in traffic. He also blocked well at the point of attack.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock called Walford the most explosive tight end in the draft.
Walford is expected to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range at the NFL scouting combine in February.
Walford, who was a three-year starter for the Hurricanes, caught 44 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He finished with 14 career touchdown catches and averaged 14.5 yards per reception.
The Ravens could potentially use a tight end since Owen Daniels is a pending unrestricted free agent and the medical status of tight end Dennis Pitta remains undetermined. After meeting with specialists, no decision has been reached about Pitta's future as he continues to rehabilitate from surgery after dislocating his right hip in September for the second time in the past year, according to a source.
Meanwhile, Walford appears to be boosting his draft stock so far this week for the South squad.
"That seven-on-seven session, he did a nice job," Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "When your number is called, you got to answer, especially in a situation like this. He's really competing well."
LSU offensive tackle La'el Collins is expected to be drafted in the first five picks this spring.
Collins showed why when he crushed Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera on a screen pass.
Collins also stonewalled Mississippi State defensive lineman Preston Smith and Missouri defensive end Markus Golden during one-one-one drills.
It's getting to the point where defensive players appear reluctant to cross Collins' path.
UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis (hamstring), Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (hamstring), Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman (abdominal strain) and Texas Christian offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje (hip flexor) didn't practice Wednesday. Perryman is the only player from that group who's still expected to attempt to play Saturday in the Senior Bowl. … The Senior Bowl added Mississippi State offensive tackle Blaine Clausell and linebacker Terrance Plummer. … The Ravens have met with record-setting East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy, Utah cornerback Eric Rowe and Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs. … Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin was able to cover running backs with ease during passing drills as he tries to prove to NFL teams that he can do more than just rush the passer and stop the run. … Quarterback Bryce Petty has struggled mightily with his accuracy and footwork this week following a prolific college career at Baylor.