MOBILE, Ala. - Chip Kelly watched intently from behind the end zone as his former college quarterback fired passes in his direction. Earlier, before practice, the Eagles coach met with the dual-threat prospect, a player he recruited to Oregon.
Could they be reunited in the NFL?
It's possible, but the ex-Oregon quarterback wasn't Marcus Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winner whom some Eagles fans are clamoring for despite the long odds Kelly faces if he wants to draft him.
The Eagles have a much better chance of landing Bryan Bennett, who lost a competition with Mariota in 2012 before he transferred out of Oregon. The Southeastern Louisiana quarterback will likely be selected in the latter rounds of the draft, if at all, but a late invitation to the Senior Bowl could improve his stock.
Kelly could be intrigued enough to take a flyer on Bennett as a developmental prospect if he decides, as many expect, to retain Nick Foles as his starting quarterback for next season. Despite the wishful thinking, the Eagles would likely have to forfeit several high draft picks to move up from the 20th pick and grab Mariota.
There has been speculation that the junior lowered his value with a shaky performance in the national championship game, but a number of scouts in Mobile dismissed the idea.
"I don't really care too much about the game," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "No different from Jameis Winston's game. It's one of a bunch. The fact that Ohio State beat the crap out of [Oregon] physically - you can't kill the quarterback for that."
Winston and Mariota have their flaws, but they are far and away the top two quarterbacks in this year's class. After that there is a significant drop-off to UCLA's Brett Hundley and some of the Senior Bowl quarterbacks.
"I think this is a tough quarterback class," Mayock said. "I really do."
Bryce Petty of Baylor is probably the fourth-rated prospect after Winston, Mariota, and Hundley. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound quarterback has to display to many teams that he can perform out of a spread, up-tempo offense, but he would seem to have a skill set that would cater to Kelly's system.
"There's definitely some similarities there," Petty said Wednesday. "He came from Oregon. It's fun to see that an up-tempo offense like that translates to the NFL because there's been so many knocks on it."
Kelly's offense isn't quite what he ran at Oregon. Some of that has to do with catering the scheme to Foles and against pro defenses. But Petty, who struggled on Tuesday and rebounded the next day, will still have to prove he can make the necessary intermediate throws and hit receivers in tight windows.
"I think that part will come," Petty said. "It's just about working with receivers."
Sean Mannion played in a more traditional NFL offense at Oregon State. He's got an NFL body (6-5, 229). He's got a good enough arm to make throws from the pocket. But he regressed during his senior season (15 touchdowns to eight interceptions after tossing 37 touchdowns against 15 picks as a junior) and is considered a mid-to-late- round project.
"I thought Mannion really struggled this year, and part of it is his offensive line," Mayock said. "His pass protection was poor. I think the toughest thing about him is the lack of escapability. He can't get away from anything. He's got a good arm, not a great arm."
Mayock agreed with a comparison to Foles but noted that Foles was more accurate and a better athlete coming out of Arizona.
"I don't think it's any secret that I'm not the fastest guy in the world," Mannion said. "So I think in a certain sense that's a weakness. But I do think . . . pocket awareness - to me, that's a different sort of quickness. Being quick and short in small spaces is something I can do well."
Colorado State's Garrett Grayson appeared to have the most arm strength during Tuesday's sessions. He's built like Petty (6-2, 230). There is some question as to whether his college success was a by-product of coach Jim McElwain's system.
East Carolina's Shane Carden has an awkward delivery and struggled with accuracy on both days. Alabama's Blake Sims doesn't have an NFL skill set, and neither did Auburn's Nick Marshall, who moved to cornerback after the first day.
Marshall's switch opened a spot for the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Bennett, who had a solid first practice considering the short notice. He has a strong arm but a low release point. He's probably the most versatile of the quarterbacks. He threw for 5,522 yards and 39 touchdowns and rushed for 1,795 yards and 31 touchdowns at Southeastern Louisiana.
He won his only start at Oregon when he filled in for the injured Darron Thomas as a freshman. But he came up short in a training camp battle with Mariota the next year and transferred after his sophomore season.
"Obviously, I wanted to win the spot," said Bennett, who played in a similar spread offense at Southeastern Louisiana. "I'm a competitor. Nobody who's competing wants to lose a competition. My thought was really, 'What can I do to find myself on the field?' "
The guy who beat him out declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl. But Bennett will get another opportunity to stack himself up against Mariota. Oregon is allowing him to throw at its pro day in March.