Quarterbacks Max Duggan and Tyson Bagent have turned the page on terrific seasons that ended badly with national championships in sight.
TCU's Duggan and Shepherd's Bagent are trying to improve their NFL draft stock in a weeklong audition ending in Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. They are among a group of quarterbacks all trying to work their way into Day 2 of the April draft even if none are first-round prospects.
It's a new beginning for two players who had disappointing finishes to their college careers. TCU and Duggan, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy race, were blown out 65-7 by Georgia in the national championship game.
Bagent won Division II's version of the Heisman, the Harlon Hill Trophy, in 2021. But Shepherd lost 44-13 to Colorado School of Mines in the semifinals to end his final season. Both will play on the American team, along with Houston quarterback Clayton Tune.
The National team is led by quarterbacks Malik Cunningham (Louisville), Jake Haener (Fresno State) and Jaren Hall, a BYU quarterback who is perhaps the top QB prospect playing in the game. Tennessee's Hendon Hooker was on hand observing practices and meeting with teams but is recovering from a torn ACL.
Last year, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett (Steelers) went on from the Senior Bowl to become the only quarterback taken in the opening round.
Duggan started 43 games in his TCU career. That experience and his impact on the TCU program led Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy to compare him to Brock Purdy (Iowa State, final pick of draft by the San Francisco 49ers) and Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati, third-round pick by Atlanta Falcons).
"I know when I got into scouting, we used to value experience a ton at quarterback," said Nagy, a former NFL scout. "And guys that lifted programs. That's why I loved Desmond Ridder so much last year because Desmond really lifted that entire Cincinnati program. Max has played a ton of football so anyone that's going back and doing a Purdy study, they're going to look at Max and see he started 40-whatever career games, that can certainly help him."
Nagy said Duggan jumped from a seventh-round pick or free agent after the 2021 season to the fourth- or fifth-round range this spring.
Bagent, meanwhile, is finally getting his shot to prove he can play against FBS competition. He set the NCAA's all-division record with 159 career touchdown passes while finishing with 17,034 yards.
"I knew that because I played at a small school, in order to check a lot of the boxes that a lot of the scouts had for me, being able to come here and play against top talent and show that I'm right where I'm supposed to be is huge in this process for me," Bagent said.
He has drawn more interest from NFL teams probably than he did from college programs coming out of high school, when his only other offers were from Robert Morris and the University of Albany. Bagent entered the transfer portal last January and visited West Virginia and Maryland before opting to stay put at the D-II West Virginia school.
Those two are part of what Nagy called "the most tightly packed group" of quarterbacks during his tenure at the Senior Bowl.
Hall likes that "hyper competitive" environment.
"Competition is what we all thrive on," the BYU quarterback said. "Off the field, it's whatever, we chop it up and we're buddies, we get to know each other. And then we step across the lines and it's just full go."
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