- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

MOBILE, ALA. (AP) - Greg McElroy once again feels like a three-star recruit itching to prove doubters wrong.

The former Alabama quarterback wasn’t particularly highly rated by recruiting services out of high school, but wound up helping lead the Crimson Tide to a national title and 24 wins over the last two seasons. Now, he’s among the second tier of draft prospects from Auburn and Alabama _ who have split the past two national championships _ preparing for Saturday’s Senior Bowl and trying to boost their stock.

“A lot of people have criticized me for being a product of the system and just being surrounded by great talent,” McElroy said. “This is an opportunity for me to go out there on an even playing field and just show people that I can play at this level, I can make all the throws. I have a lot of confidence in my game right now.

“I had a great time at Alabama, but a lot of people question my abilities and I’m going to try to prove people wrong this week and throughout the course of the process.”

He’s not alone.

Auburn and Alabama will likely have a combined five first-round picks in the April draft but all are juniors who are leaving school early. Those include Heisman Trophy winners Cam Newton of Auburn and Mark Ingram of Alabama, along with coveted defensive linemen Nick Fairley (Auburn) and Marcell Dareus (Alabama) and Tide wide receiver Julio Jones.

Then there’s the Senior Bowl group, accomplished college players but not regarded as such seemingly can’t-miss prospects.

Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes has heard the talk that he’s a good college player, but not necessarily an NFL guy.

“That’s what they say,” Bynes said. “I’m out here to show NFL coaches that I can play at the next level. I’m not too worried about what people are saying. They could say you’re a first-rounder and you end up not being drafted. It doesn’t really matter. These coaches out here make the final decision.”

And getting a Senior Bowl invite gives each player a shot at improving their stock either on the practice field or during numerous interviews with NFL teams. McElroy had seven meetings scheduled for Monday night alone.

Playing for a national championship team _ Auburn last season and Alabama the year before _ can’t hurt.

The Senior Bowl group includes Auburn left tackle Lee Ziemba, projected as high as the second round, and his Alabama counterpart James Carpenter, along with Tigers safety Zac Etheridge and Tide tight end Preston Dial.

Ziemba and Carpenter have lined up at right and left guard, respectively, at times in practice, though it’s not clear what spot they’ll play in the NFL.

Ziemba joked that the only other time he had played guard was “in Pop Warner” league.

“I’ve got to show that I’m versatile and that I can take coaching and that I’m a hard worker,” said Ziemba, a four-year starter at left tackle. “That’s the things they can’t really see at game film.

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