GREAT BLUE NORTH DRAFT REPORT
NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THE NFL DRAFT
SENIOR BOWL PRACTICE REPORTS
by Pigskin Paul Guillemette, editor of Paul's Pigskin Place and GBN Special Scout with contributions from Colin Lindsay, GBN Editor and Publisher
Wednesday afternoon South practice
Wednesday morning North practice
This is the day for the players to lay it all out there. There will be no more hitting this week until the game, and when the players look up in the stands Thursday morning they are going to think the week is over and someone forgot to let them go home. Most of these guys have had 3 days to warm up for today. I hope they all understand how important their work today is to their future.
I’m looking out on the practice field and thinking that perhaps RAIDERS GM REGGIE McKENZIE has made his old boss, TED THOMPSON, an RADIERS staff member for the day. TED isn’t on the sideline of the field he’s actually out on the playing surface. He’s obviously zeroing in on some prospects. I just wish I could tell you who.
We got a P.A. announcement about the players that have been brought in to replace the walking and lame wounded. And I was thinking I was back in St. Pete at the SHRINE GAME. It has been a tough week for injuries. Luckily most of them were not serious, but guys have been leaving town daily. Here are the names that you should remember me talking about last week, who have been added since Monday:
TERRON ARMSTEAD/OT/ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF
TRAVIS JOHNSON/O/SAN JOSE STATE
JOSH BOYD/DT/MISSISSIPPI STATE
Even though I thought the QB group was lacking for this year’s SHRINE Classic the overall talent was significant. And don’t forget DUKE WILLIAMS/S/NEVADA was practicing for the SHRINERS until he was added to this roster late last week, snatching him from the overloaded DB corps for that game.
As usual I couldn’t keep myself away from watching the big uglies and started my day watching the DL group work out.
Somewhat to my surprise one of the better DT here has indeed been KAWAAN SHORT/DT/PURDUE. I say surprisingly because I watched some unflattering tape of SHORT this past season. He seemed to take way too much time off in between his good plays. And at the weigh-in Monday I made a note that he had one of the worst bodies in the group. He had a lot of extra baggage hanging above his shorts and looked like anything but a guy who made frequent trips to the Purdue weight facilities. But despite his appearance he has been impressive this week by bullying some of the OL group and showing better quickness off the snap that his girth would indicate. Part of his success is due to the fact that he stays reasonably low out of his stance on the snap and doesn’t pop straight up as a blocking target. He has also gotten some OL out of the way with hand usage, thought I wish he would use his hands more and do less spinning to get free. That’s not usually highly effective inside.
While I was in that area I watch DATONE JONES/DE during DL drills and then in pass-pro. This guy is one of the best-proportioned DL in Mobile. He’s very light on his feet for a 280 pounder. He has quick feet and might be the fastest DL in a 40-yard dash. But even in drills he’s a flash player. After a couple of really solid plays he’ll tae a couple of downs off. For instance, in action drills he would hold the blocker to him and dance around if he saw the play was going to the other side of the field. He didn’t always try to break loose and pursue. I think he picks his spots and that is going to cost him. He has great strong hands and sometimes uses them to control the blockers. But he also has a history of throwing punches on and off the field. Some pro team is going to have to find ways to keep him interested 100% of the time not 50%.
DESMOND TRUFANT may the 3rd and best TRUFANT brother to play in the pros. And brother MARCUS was a 1st Rounder, back in the day. DESMOND has better size and more athleticism than MARCUS or ISAIAH. It was no problem this morning for him to play man-to-man coverage all the way down the field with an average speed guy like ALEC LEMON. He ha also shown a feisty streak this week. He’s confident and self-assured, which is essential for playing CB in the NFL. With all the skill position underclassmen available I don’t think he can sneak into Round One, but he certainly has looked like a Second Rounder to me these past 3 days.
RYAN NASSIB was another object of my attention this morning. And most of what I saw was good. He is an excellent ball handler. His hand-off fakes have got to be hard for LB and DB to be sure of at game speed. He also seems to see the field well and if he has time in the pocket he can read through receiver progressions. But he does seem to panic a bit quickly if he really sees/feels the pressure in the pocket. He’s able to take off and escape effectively at times, but I like the fact that he would rather dump it off underneath than run the ball himself. I was a little disappointed in his accuracy on longer throws, say 15+ yards. Several of those throws were high and long. I don’t really think he’s First Round material, but if BRANDON WEEDEN could be last year then who knows with NASSIB.
I try not to read too much of other people’s stuff while I am down here. I do not want to be influenced by what some other folks might think of a player that I have not written about yet. But I did see some tweets on Tuesday that DAVID QUESSENBERRY was caring out a niche for himself at OG. One of the tweets said he was one of the best OL here, based on his play. Based on my watching today I must disagree. I think he’s a future NFL OL, and maybe even a starter with time. But he got really turned around more than a couple of times today by the heavier/stronger DTs inside. He’s long and athletic, and uses his arms and hands to great advantage at times. But he’s going to have add a few pounds to his 6’5/294 body. He may really be a better fit back out at OT all things being equal. With 10 more pounds he could be very handy in a passing attack scheme that uses zone-blocking schemes with their OL. He’s a good moldable OL and has adjusted well this week inside, but clearly not as special to my eyes as some other watchers down here.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but once again I was impressed by the work of JEFF LOCKE/P/UCLA today. During some live action out on the playing field I caught he and SHARP kicking off in the end zone from sideline to sideline. LOCKE has just as strong of a leg as SHARP. So after 3 days I can see LOCKE being some NFL teams Punter (left footed no less), Kick-Off specialist, holder and presenting a running threat on some FG & P fakes, based on how he ran on the fake FG yesterday. That’s good value for any team in the middle to late rounds.
It was also a better day for Wisconsin RT Ricky Wagner who was very choppy getting out of his backpeddle through the first couple of days and as a result often got knocked off balance and had no chance reacting to quick outside pass rushes. Wagner, though, was a little smoother today, got better arm extension and was generally more aggressive, although he still had issues with those quick edge rushers. Illinois OG Hugh Thornton has also shown nice improvement as the week has progressed as he appears to have caught up with the speed of the game. Meanwhile, best player on the field for the North today may have been unheralded West Virginia C Joe Madsen who showed great feet, balance and strength as he stoned opposing DTs throughout the practice.
On the other hand, it was an up-and-down day for several North offensive linemen including San Jose State’s David Quessenberry, Syracuse’s Justin Pugh and Brian Winters of Kent State each of whom had been relatively solid earlier in the week. Don’t know if they were just wearing down, but all three got caught more than once lunging and dropping their hands that resulted in completely whiffed blocks.
Scouts also got a pretty good sense what they’ll get from Texas DE Alex Okafor. On the one hand, he looks a little bit like a young Michael Strahan with his ability to knock opposing OTs off balance with his initial move and then beat them to the pocket with a quick counter move. Okafor also appears to be ahead of most other pass rushers in Mobile in his ability to set up pass rush moves, but he also clearly lacks the pure foot-speed to consistently run around people which is going to be of concern to pro teams over the next few months. Meanwhile, UCLA DE Datone Jones wasn’t quite as dominating in the one-on-one pass rush drill, although he did put one sweet outside-in move on Syracuse’s Pugh; Jones, though, was able to blow up a couple of plays in the 11-on-11 session.
It was also a good day for a couple of interior DTs as both Sylvester Williams of North Carolina and unheralded Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern didn’t stay blocked long in either the individual or team drills. UNC’s Williams was particularly impressive after a quiet day yesterday as he consistently jarred into the Cs and OGs in front of him with very physical initial contact and then spun and into the backfield. For his part, the other Williams was able to jump around several would-be blocks and get cleanly into the backfield.
North notes: Tough day in the individual’s drills for athletic Rutgers OLB Khaseem Greene as he was stoned in the pass-rush test by 5-foot-nothing Robbie Rouse and then got beaten badly in trying to cover FB Kyle Juszczyk in coverage. However, Greene came back in the 11-on-11 session to break up a couple screen passes … Speaking of redemption, the North receivers had a better day today after struggling with tight coverage from DBs earlier in the week. Markus Wheaton was perhaps the most impressive North wideout, while Chris Harper of Kansas State and Marshall‘s Aaron Dobson also had their moments. Even Aaron Melette of Elon, who really struggled to get separation on Monday and Tuesday, made some plays. At the same time, though, there was no backing down by the North corners, especially Washington’s Desmond Trufant. Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer, though, didn’t appear to be as aggressive today as he was earlier in the week and also struggled at times to keep his footing. Rangy UConn CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson also continued to be slow coming out of his breaks, while Utah State CB Will Davis appeared to be doing a lot of guessing where receivers were going and didn’t have the recovery speed to outrun his mistakes when he guessed wrong ... Former Michigan QB Denard Robinson finally got to toss the no-contact yellow jersey and took part in all drills and in fact, didn’t look out of place despite the fact that he still has a bad hand ... Good coverage at times by safeties T.J. McDonald of USC and Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas.
Tuesday afternon South practice
… It would
certainly appear at this time that Texas A&M junior Luke
Joeckel will be the first OT off the board, if not the #1 player
selected overall, this coming April. However, with fellow juniors
Taylor Lewan and former Aggie teammate Jake Matthews opting to return
to school, which tackle goes next is still up for grabs. Central
Michigan’s Eric Fisher certainly staked a claim to the honor with a
couple of outstanding days of practice with the North team. However,
Lane Johnson of Oklahoma was just as dominant in Tuesday’s South
practice. Johnson, who actually started his college career as a QB
before switching to TE, then DE, and finally OT, got his day off to a
fine start putting Clemson DE Malliciah Goodman, a pretty good player
in his own right, on the ground on successive plays and then stoned
everyone else that came his way. Meanwhile, Florida OT Xavier Nixon
gave up an early sack, but was then solid after that; the former Gator
doesn’t have appear to have the athleticism to figure at LT at the next
level, but plays with a solid base and good arm extension. At the same
time, both of Kentucky OG Larry Warford and California C Brian Schwenke
were rocks in the interior offensive front.
Also had Tennessee G/T DALLAS THOMAS on my list to focus on today only to learn he wasnot in uniform today. No word yet that I have heard, but maybe he’s just sick like LONG of the North.
So, I turned my attention to ODAY ABOUSHI/T/Virginia. No way to sugar coat it, but he was just awful. He was a tick too slow out of his stance and got run over by big guys, and run around by faster guys. I had felt coming in that he was just a half-notch below guys like WAGNER, FISHER and PUGH. Based on today he’s light years behind them. I knew he was not a “strong man”, but I thought he showed athleticism and good feet during his college career. It just didn’t happen for him today. In fact it got so bad during 11-on-11 work that he even failed to react and come off a double team block to pick up a rushing LB. He’s got a lot of work to do the rest of this week to erase today’s debacle.
The RB position is the hardest to showcase in games like this, where the OL has so little blocking continuity even by game day. But you can get a feel for quickness, blocking ability and a few other talents in these runners. I sense that STEPFAN TAYLOR/Stanford is a pretty special RB with multiple skills to bring to some NFL team. TAYLOR is no speedster, but he bursts through the hole, and has excellent open field cutting ability. It looks like his best asset in the open field is his vision. He really does seem to either see or feel tacklers coming from all directions and is skilled at making that extra cut for five more yards. He also seems to run low, thus presenting a smaller target for defenders. His hands are least average and he looks to be a solid blocker. We could be looking at the ALFRED MORRIS of this year’s Draft.
Duke WR CONNER VERNON is more than just your stereotype slow white guy, possession receiver. He’s no speedster, but he gains a half-yard on defenders with quick, tight cuts in his routes and is excellent at picking up the ball’s flight in the air. He has a great feel along the sideline with his footwork. I think he’ll be similar to DANNY AMENDOLA in the NFL... not a long ball threat, but with his moves he’s going to get open deep on occasion when defenders slip and/or fall trying to stay on him. He also looks like a willing participant as a Special Teamer. I doubt he’ll wow anyone, and he’ll have to wait until Saturday to be drafted, but I think he’s got NFL No. 4 Receiver written all over him.
The most impressive WR I saw today
was QUINTON PATTON/La Tech. At 6’0/202 he’s got nice size for the
also showed some really smooth route running and great hands today. He
to be a pure hands-catcher and I am anxious to see what his 40-time
to be at the COMBINE. He got open deep several times today and had some
nice receptions. On his longest play he made a tumbling End Zone catch
about 20-yrads worth of hand fighting with the CB trying to cover him. As I watched him work today I had
visions of a young GREG JENNINGS dancing in my head. I wonder if TED
saw the same thing? Seeing as the PACKERS may need to replace JENNINGS
roster for the 2013 season and beyond, the question now becomes how
PATTON go in April. I’ve seen
the Sooners’ Johnson held serve so to speak, it did not appear as if
BYU DE Ziggy Ansah was able to do the same. Ansah, the Ghanian
immigrant who only took up football after coming to the US as a track
athlete, showed plenty of athleticism and effort, as well as some
rudimentary pass rush moves, but otherwise appeared to be searching for
answers. In particular, Ansah got stuffed on at least three occasions
by Louisiana Tech OT Jordan Mills, a late addition who had his hands
full with several other lesser known DEs. One of the latter was
Georgia’s Cornelius Washington, a proverbial whirling dervish who was
tough to block, but also appeared to be playing out of control at
Now it’s time to mention a couple of small school guys who are looking like big time players.
J.J. WILCOX/S/Ga Southern was a RB as recently as the 2011 season and 2012 was his first year in the secondary. He’s a fast learner and a very good athlete. His size is ideal for the position at 5’11 3/8” tall and 214 lbs. And he really brings that 214 lbs. to his tackling. He also has an uncanny sense for where the ball is going for such an inexperienced defender. He looks at times like he has CB quickness and hip flexibility. This guy has the look of a very special athlete. I’m not sure if he can rise up the charts fast enough, but athletically he looks talented enough to be a 3rd Rounder.
Monday afternoon I was talking to MONTORI HUGHES/DT/TN-MARTIN after the South Practice and he had his left foot in a walking boot. He said it was a late season ankle injury that he had aggravated last weekend at the RAYCOM Bowl. He was hopeful of returning to practice Tuesday. He was out there today, with the ankle triple wrapped. All he did was dominate in everything he did today. He was the fastest DL in several of the group drills he was put through. He also was almost unblockable during pass-rush drills. During 11-on-11’s he was double-team blocked. This was an impressive performance on his part. And his desire to get out on the field may have been the most impressive part of his day.
TYLER WILSON/QB/Arkansas again looked to be their top overall QB today. AT one point during 7-on-7 he threw a perfect spiral to the sideline 55-yards downfield. It was over thrown by a couple of yards, but the throw itself was a work of art.SANDERS COMMINGS/CB/Georgia continues to intrigue with his good cover skills, while playing CB at 6’0/223. That kind of size will have some teams salivating if he can continue prove that he’s quick enough to stay on the Corner at the pro level. He’s also showing some heavy hitting ability that even NFL receivers aren’t used to from cover guys.
Tuesday morning North practice
Another strong day at the North practice by Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher, who arrived in Mobile as arguably the top-rated prospect in the Senior Bowl and has more than lived up to the hype. Fisher continues to show nice light feet combined with excellent lateral agility and was at his best when he stoned Texas DE Alex Okafor on back-to-back plays in the one-on-one pass-rush drill. Fisher, though, did get caught peeking to the outside and was beaten on a cutback by UCLA DE Datone Jones, who also continues to be one of the most dynamic playmakers on the North team. However, as solid as he has been this week, Fisher may not have even been the best offensive lineman on the North squad today. That honor could just as easily have gone to San Jose State G/T David Quessenberry who essentially pitched a shutout in both the individual and tam drills. Where Q ultimately fits at the next level is still up for debate as he has short arms for an OT and only tipped the scales at 295 pounds during Monday‘s weigh-in, but has shown consistently good feet and balance in both workouts. In particular, Quessenberry got SMU DE Margus Hunt to the ground in the one-on-one pass rush drill and then stuffed Okafor at the line of scrimmage in the 11-on-11 phase. Syracuse OT Justin Pugh, another somewhat undersized tackle who may have to kick inside to OG at the next level also had a nice bounce back ractice today after struggling with inconsistency on Monday. Meanwhile, Kent State G/T Brian Winters had another solid day as did West Virginia C Joe Madsen. Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner also had a better day today than Monday as he continues to adjust to RT after playing LT for the Badgers. Wagner did struggle a bit with the speed rushers with size in pass pro drills, but showed good feet to get to the second level in scrimmage work. He is also good at looking to make extra blocks when he got past his initial assignment. Wagner’s best attribute today may have been his balance and ability to stay on his feet as you sometimes get extra chances to make your block if your not laying on the ground.
For the second day in a row, the North OTs had their hands full with UCLA’s Jones who gets off the ball with real authority and redirect on the move without losing any speed. However, pro scouts are going to have a tougher time evaluating Texas’ Okafor, who has been disruptive whenever he‘s been given an inch by the offensive line, but hasn‘t shown the quick-twitch explosion out of his stance to make much headway against the better OTs. It’s also been a disappointing week so far for SMU DE Margus Hunt, who certainly looks the part, but so far he’s just been popping up out of his stance and looking for the ball and has shown little upfield acceleration. The 6-8 Jones has also struggled to keep his pads down and as such blockers have been able to consistently get into his legs. It was also another slow day for Illinois DE Michael Buchanan who still hasn’t gotten off a block in Mobile this week.
Best player on the field for the North on Tuesday may have been Purdue DT Kawann Short, who was in the backfield on just about every play today. In fact, no one has ever questioned Short’s physical tools, but his grade has been all over the place this season because of a sometimes inconsistent motor; for whatever reason, though, Short has had the ‘on’ button engaged since they walked on the field on Monday. On the other hand, UNC DT Sylvester Williams struggled to get off the line of scrimmage on Tuesday.
At the same time, corners Jordan Poyer of Oregon State and Boise State’s Jamar Taylor who also get some consideration if they gave out a player of the day award. Taylor looked a little slow on Monday, but today was in lock-down mode as he showed excellent technique, as well as fine quickness and recovery speed. Same for Poyer, while Washington’s Desmond Trufant was in a feisty mood. In fact, the North corners have been a fun group to watch as both of UConn CBs Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwane Gratz have also had their moments, although BWW has been much better in press coverage than in zone. The one North CB to continue to struggle with the speed of the game appears to be Will Davis of Utah State who was consistently chasing the play for the second straight day.
Focused a lot on NC State QB Mike Glennon today. He is almost painfully long and lean, but shows a lot of what one needs to be in an NFL pocket passer. Certainly he seems to have the best tools of the passers in Mobile. Glennon has nice touch on his throws and adjusts to the situations of his receivers nicely. He is obviously smart both on and off the field. He also has a fairly quick delivery for a man with such long arms. His feet move properly in his drops. And NFL teams aren’t ever likely to have to worry about his off-field exploits. The issue for Glennon is consistency as he’ll mix in a head-scratching throw 5 yards over the head of a wide-open receiver after hitting on a series of darts.
Specialists don’t get much face time at the Senior Bowl, although Brian Anger set the bar pretty high last year with distance and hang time. And while he does not quite match up to Anger, UCLA P Jeff Locke could be a secret weapon come Saturday. He had very respectable hang times today ranging from 4.1 seconds to just over 5 seconds (twice) with most of his punts between 40-50 yards in length. As well, the spin from his left-footed kicks had return men muffing multiple punts or staying away from the ball all together. The to top things off the North faked a FG at the end of practice, with Locke, the holder, taking off to the outside with a first down run, in the process looking like a real athlete running with ball.
North notes: Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib got some company on the North roster with the arrival of his go to guy with the Orange WR Alec Lemon. Lemon wore #15 at practice today and didn’t look out of place making a couple of catches in traffic … On the other hand, Kansas State LB Arthur Brown is out for the North, while Oregon OT Kyle Long did not practice today; nor did Ohio State DE/LB John Simon, who missed the Buckeyes‘ season finale against Michigan with a knee injury, as well as Uconn LB Trevardo Williams, who reportedly has a high ankle sprain. The North LB corps did get some reinforcements as Ty Powell of Harding has been added to the roster ... Both of RBs Jonathan Franklin of UCLA and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner more than held their own in a pass-blocking drill; in fact, the North RBs generally did a much better job blocking than did the TEs … Still waiting for a North WR to separate from the pack, although Kansas State’s Chris Harper, Aaron Dobson of Marshall and Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton have each been solid, while rangy Aaron Melette of Elon did a better job getting separation today after being pretty much blanketed on Monday … UNC MLB Kevin Reddick continues to be around the ball on just about every play …Michigan QB-turned-WR Denard Robinson was still wearing a yellow no-contact jersey today as he is still bothered by an elbow injury which plagued him during the season, but the former Wolverines’ star took part in more drills today. However, Robinson sill looked a bit like a fish out of water running routes and catching the ball on the fly. He probably dropped as many balls as he caught during scrimmage type action. His hands appear small and not dependable. If he can’t get the ball into his body quickly it may hit the ground if a defender is near.
Nobody wants to
make too much out of the Monday practices at
the Senior Bowl as players are only in shells and are just stating to
get acclimatized to the speed of the game. Best player on the North
squad on the first day, though, was Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher.
Fisher came to Mobile as arguably the top-rated prospect in the Senior
Bowl and showed why as he consistently took his man out of the play in
in pass-protection drills. Fisher was light on his feet with excellent
lateral agility, although he did on occasion allow defenders to get
into his pads and gave up too much penetration. That suggests that
angular Fisher who measured in at 6-7, 305 in the morning weigh-in
needs to get bigger and stronger, but appears to have the frame to add
another 15-20 pounds. Other North offensive linemen who had strong
opening workouts included San Jose State G/T David Quessenberry, who
only weighed in at 295 pounds, but showed good feet, balance and body
control in both one-on-one pass rush drills and the team portion of the
practice. Same story for Kent State G/T Brian Winters, while Wisconsin
RT Ricky Wagner was also solid, especially in the 11-on-11 session. On
the other hand, Illinois OG Hugh Thornton and Notre Dame C Braxton Cave
were both consistently slow off the snap and forced to chase the game.
In short: Top
receiver on the field was Texas's Marquise Goodwin who showed off his
world-class speed, while Chris Harper of Kansas State and Marshall's
Aaron Dobson are bigger guys who used their size-speed combinations to
good effect ... UNC MLB Kevin Reddick struggled a bit in the
one-on-one coverage drills, but always seemed to around the ball in the
team portion ... Struggling is probably a kind way to describe former
Ohio State DE John Simon, who is listed as a LB in Mobile, when he
tried his hand at coverage in the coverage drills. He simply had no
chance. Simon, though, did look more comfortable when he joined the
defensive line in the one-on-pass pass rush drills, though he's
undersized at 6-1.5 and 256 pounds; he also made a really nice play in
the 11-on-11 scenario. In fact, one could make the case that the whole
Senior Bowl format is a lousy showcase for Simon, but having not played
since November he probably just wanted to get out and hit somebody.
This was the annual Monday practice across the bay from Mobile in Fairhope. It gives local fans a chance to watch a practice in a different part of the Bay Area. It’s also the day and place where NICK SABAN shows up to say hello/goodbye to his players who are participating in the Senior Bowl, and spread some good will for his recruiting efforts in the football rich area. Right on cue he made an entrance early into the practice and was swarmed by the local news cameras. By the way at the end of practice DABO SWINNEY, Clemson HC stopped by, a bit more quietly, to visit with his players in the game: DE/GOODMAN & OC/FREEMAN.
In between the two coaches there was practice conducted by HC JIM SCHWARTZ and the LIONS staff. Only the linemen wore pads and everyone was in shorts, but it was an active and spirited practice never the less.
Just looking at names on paper I feel like one of the strongest units on the South squad is their LB group. So I headed for their drill session to take a peek. I think they pretty much confirmed my feelings with their work. My personal favorite of the group was CHASE THOMAS/Stanford. The OLB prospect was incredible agile and light on his feet. I know it may sound crazy but at time his feet seemed to just glide around the bags used for footwork drills. He was also one of the fastest players through the drills. He later looked very agile in pass drop drills and 7-on-7 action. Although we didn’t see it today because of the lack of pads THOMAS has also shown good pass-rush ability throughout his college career. I think he is legitimately one of our most solid First Round candidates in this game.
ZAVIER GOODEN was the next best performer in this group today. He too showed good, quick feet and only lacks height to keep him from being elite. I think he’s faster than THOMAS as a straight-line runner. He’s not a huge player, but is an attacking player who hits hard, and really pursues the ball well. His feet appeared to be just a tick slower than those of THOMAS in drill work.
I really like the long range potential of JAMIE COLLINS, Southern Miss. COLLINS spent some time as an undersized, pass-rush DE last year thus putting him a bit behind in his development as an OLB. He also played for a team that went in the tank with the departure of HC LARRY FEDORA. Right now he’s a flash player, but he truly looks to have the potential to start in a 3-4 scheme as an OLB in a couple of years. I am anxious to see how his play develops this week once the pads go on.
VANCE McDONALD/TE/Rice put on quite a show today catching and running with the ball after the catch. I saw him drop 1 throw all practice, while catching at least 8 other balls. His most impressive catch to me was on a shallow crossing pattern in front of ROBERT LESTER/S/ Alabama. He proceeded to turn the run up field with LESTER unable to make up any ground or close the gap and make a tackle. I realize that LESTER is not a speedster, but VANCE is a 260 lb. TE, not a wideout. If he blocks later in the week like I think he can he could be on the fast track to seriously improving his Draft stock into a TOP 100 player.
Speaking of impressive physical specimens, who can also produce on the grass lets’ talk about CORNELIUS WASHINGTON/DE/Georgia. The 6’4, 264 athletic specimen is playing DE this week and spent most of his time this afternoon in the offensive backfield disrupting running plays or collapsing the pocket. His potential for the NFL is very impressive. I would not rule out the possibility of him being able to swing to OLB in a 3-4 scheme as well. He displayed one of the best toned and muscled bodies on the roster in the morning weigh-in session. He played a smaller role than some more ballyhooed teammates in an incredibly talented UGA Defense. But his game may translate better to the NFL than some of those other players.
This game features a strong if not spectacular group of WRs for both squads. Leading the way for the SOUTH today was COBI HAMILTON/Arkansas. Smooth is the way I would describe just about everything COBI did, and how he looked doing it this afternoon. He displayed good hands, nice open field moves and an extra gear. I’m not calling him a speedster at this point, but he covers a lot of ground in a hurry and gets separation from defenders.
In this practice I think his college teammate TYLER WILSON was the best QB on the field despite a late practice pick. The pick occurred when WILSON seemed not to see all of the defenders and had a ball picked by WILXOX on a sideline throw. But he showed a lot of touch on his passes, and other than the INT, he seemed to go through his progressions better than the other QBs. He also has a quick release and is accurate with his throws. Because of his touch on the various throws, there were very few drops by receivers on his throws.<> Thanks to the Senior Bowl officials for the chance to have dinner with the players tonight. I had a great time chatting with RICKY WAGNER, BRAXSTON CAVE, COREY GRISSOM, VANCE McDONALD, ZAC DYSERT, PHIL LUTZENKIRCHEN and BRIAN SCHWENKE. Each and every one of them was engaging and articulate and I appreciate them spending some time with me, in between their more formal interviews with other media.
Thanks to a change in scheduling by new Senior Bowl Director PHIL SAVAGE the weigh-in is over and done with and we’re all blogging away before grabbing some lunch and heading to the afternoon practice of our choice. I will be heading over to the other side of the Bay for the SOUTH team practice in Fairhope.
Interestingly, in introducing himself and opening the weigh-in SAVGE made a bit of a plea to the NFL team reps to help come up with ways to get more of the top players back into the game. He gave an entire list of injured and otherwise missing seniors who had been invited to the game and couldn’t/wouldn’t attend. The list is too long. This game and some of the other All-Star venues deserve to exist and serve as scouting tools for the NFL teams and the Media.<>He was quite clear and concise in saying that the Senior Bowl is only looking to add Juniors to its rosters if the meet 3 criteria: 1) They are 4th year Juniors;
2) They have earned their degrees; 3) they have the blessing of their college coach. He clearly stated that he had no desire to make this the JUNIOR BOWL, and I am using his words.<>
Now for some interesting factoids (with apologies to PETER KING) of the morning, or at least I hope they are.<>SHORTEST Player is Fresno State RB ROBBIE ROUSE @ 5’ 5.7”. That is officially shorter than scouting legend SHANE P.
TALLEST Player is SMU DE MARGUS HUNT @ 6’8.2”
LIGHTEST PLAYER is Auburn RB ONTERRIO McCALEBB @ 164 lbs.
HEAVIEST Player goes to Georgia DT JOHN JENKINS @ 359 and Alabama OT D.J. FLUKER who was a close second at 355.<>In all there were 32 players topping 300 pounds out of the 101 guys who weighed in this morning. That’s done again a little bit. But I would point out that the majority of the 300-pounders were just above that mark and less than 310. The trend for slightly lighter players at the top end of the weight spectrum continues in my opinion, and for multiple reasons I have detailed in the past. I counted 23 guys who were under 6-feet tall, which seems about par for the group to me.
There was a tie for the largest hand spread between Clemson DE MALLICIAH GOODMAN and Oregon OT KYLE LONG at 10.78”. Yes that is HOWIE’S boy and I guess he used those huge hands to help grip that baseball during his minor league baseball career.
A lot is made of the hand size of the QBs in many circles. Of the 6 QBs here only E.J. MANUEL (10.18) & RYAN NASSIB (10.0) hit the magic 10” number. On the other end of the spectrum, TYLER WILSON failed to even come up with 9” meat hooks. His hands measured a petite 8.58”. That kind of number will scare NFL folks a bit when they try to picture him gripping and throwing the ball in the cold and ice of December games.
There are 6 more players who just got to town and are being given their pre-participation physicals who will be measured later today. But I do not think any of them are going to change the results listed above.
Sunday evening ....
Time to twist my head around a couple of turns and realize that I’m not in Kansas, I mean St. Pete, anymore. It’s Mobile and that must mean SENIOR BOWL Week. It was almost surrealistic to drive into town this afternoon. I could see the downtown Mobile skyline before I ever got to the bridge. More often than not the area is shrouded in fog and/or rain, but today was Chamber of Commerce weather day just a few degrees cooler than Tampa Bay.
I saw signs of event changes as I was parking. There were ten times the number of Senior Bowl banners around the Convention Center and hotel. The event schedule is multi colored, laminated and stapled & folded like a booklet. And there were rosters on the reception table even though we are still not safe from the Agents holding their players out until the final head count is taken Monday morning at the weigh-in. And much to my personal satisfaction my Press Credentials list me as PIGSKIN PAUL, not just Paul. The legend is confirmed.
Great to see the table of Draftniks all down in the hotel bar pecking/pounding away at their laptop keyboards. Shane P., Scott W., Doug L., Fred P. & Steve S. Rookie Draft was still at his hotel sleeping after driving overnight from St. Pete to Mobile. Oh, the crazy things these young guys do. The sad news is that in addition to Uncle Colin, Matt the Draft Daddy will not be making it to Mobile this time around.
The initial blush at the rosters confirms what I had been told late last week. The list of potential top Pick seniors has dwindled with last minute pullouts. Hope you guys enjoy your performance camp time while some guys play real football, and learn from actual NFL Coaching Staffs what your next job is going to be like. At this point I don’t even feel like acknowledging their absence by listing their names.
The good news is that the QB group here should provide more top level play than the crew did in St. Pete. TYLER WILSON/Arkansas, RYAN NASSIB/Syracuse & MIKE GLENNON/ N.C State should all be drafted by Friday night in NYC come April. This game even has a FB on each roster. And even though it didn’t end up meaning a whole lot Saturday, to my relief there will be actual Long Snappers here so that the Punters and Place Kickers can concentrate on their kicking.
I think we are going to have to stretch a bit to find SCOTT WRIGHT’s 10 First Rounders, but it could happen.
The unofficial word tonight seems to be that PHIL SAVAGE is not ready to open the floodgates to Underclassmen, but if they are 4-year players and their college coaches give the OK then they may be invited. I would think degrees could also factor in there somewhere too, just for the heck of it. Or at least on schedule to graduate at the end of the current school year.
Rise and shine boys and girls, no bar hopping tonight. The player weigh-in starts at 8:30 AM tomorrow. I wonder if they are testing the resolve of folks to get up and get to work. I will be looking to turn down the sheets a bit earlier than usual tonight, though I haven’t slept in past 7:00 AM in several years. Not by my conscious choice by the way.
I am thinking that one of the most talented position groups down here this week is the DB group, at least on paper. Now we’ll see if they go out and play like it starting Monday afternoon. As of right now I count 11 non-D1 players on the rosters. Hopefully. Seeing these guys against a higher level of talent will make up for some of the “stars” who are too big for this venue.
That’s enough for tonight. I’ll try to bring you some interesting tidbits from the weigh-in and whichever team practice I choose to attend Monday afternoon.
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