CBS Sports: 10 Observations from Senior Bowl Day 1

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CBS Sports: 10 Observations from Senior Bowl Day 1

Postby Pudge » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:27 pm ... h-practice

2014 Senior Bowl: 10 observations from Monday's North practice
By Dane Brugler | Senior Analyst
January 20, 2014 7:36 pm ET

Former Canes QB Stephen Morris wasn't his sharpest Monday at Senior Bowl practice. (USATSI)
Former Canes QB Stephen Morris wasn't his sharpest Monday at Senior Bowl practice. (USATSI)
More Draft: NFL Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Latest news | Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. – The North squad suited up at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Monday afternoon and practiced as the wind picked up and sun started to set, disappearing behind the stadium's elevated press box.

The Falcons coaching staff, led by head coach Mike Smith, led a well-organized practice with hundreds of scouts, coaches and evaluators looking on from the stands. Atlanta's general manager Thomas Dimitroff had a front row seat, viewing the practice on the field next to his coaching staff. The important takeaway from Monday is to isolate where certain prospects struggled in order to see if they show improvement on Tuesday, Wednesday and the rest of the week. A prospect's ability to respond to NFL coaching is a substantial part of Senior Bowl week, especially in an unfamiliar setting.

Like Rob Rang's report on the South team, I deciphered my practice notes into 10 coherent observations from the North team's practice on Monday.

1. DT Aaron Donald was an unstoppable force on Monday. Like his play all season, the Pitt defensive tackle was extremely quick in drills and was relentless from snap to whistle. His burst and anticipation off the snap and active energy to fight through and around blocks make him tough for any blocker to handle. Donald repeatedly victimized Baylor OG Cyril Richardson at practice, winning with leverage, hustle and fluidity that Richardson has likely never seen before on the football field. Donald's skill-set is ideal for one-on-one drills so he should shine, but the NFL team that drafts him will get a really good football player.

2. I feel for the wide receivers on the North team due to the inconsistency from all three quarterbacks on the roster. Miami QB Stephen Morris, Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas and Clemson QB Tajh Boyd were all inconsistent on day one, which was almost expected after the up-and-down senior seasons of all three. Boyd in particular struggled with accuracy and his ball placement is a strong concern. Thomas threw a few pretty passes that hit receivers between the numbers, but other fastballs hit the ground or sailed over his intended target. The good news for this group? The only place to go from here is up.

3. Speaking of the wide receivers, I really like the group on the North team. The South squad might have the only senior wideout who ends up being drafted in the top-50 picks (Jordan Matthews), but the mid-round talent at receiver on the North is above average. Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis, Wyoming WR Robert Herron and Oregon WR Josh Huff all looked good on Monday before, after and during the catch. All three have a legitimate chance to be drafted in the top-100 and Monday reminded everyone why.

4. Ohio State OT Jack Mewhort lined up at right tackle and did an excellent job sinking his butt, digging his cleats in the ground and stonewalling rushers. He lined up across from North Carolina DE Kareem Martin (and his long 34 3/8” arms) several times and Mewhort did an excellent job combating hand moves and riding him past the pocket. The former Buckeye is built well for the right tackle position at 6-6 and 306 pounds and has shown consistent improvement from his underclassmen days.

5. Miami OT Seantrel Henderson continues to be a mystery. He flashed on Monday with his strong, heavy hands to punch and control rushers. But his snap anticipation and balance were up-and-down throughout drills. It's been said time and time again, but if a NFL coaching staff can get Henderson to play focused and ambitious, they'll land themselves a very good player. He is a player to watch this week to see how he responds to the instructions of the Falcons' coaching staff.

6. Linenwood CB Pierre Desir and Nebraska CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste are both tall, long defensive backs who have the athleticism to turn and run with receivers downfield. They both did a nice job in press-man to get physical at the line of scrimmage and then ride the receiver through the route, although both got away with a little too much holding. Neither are elite when controlling their start/stop momentum, but neither are allergic to contact either. And with several teams who utilize press-man techniques on defense looking for the next Richard Sherman, both Desir and Jean-Baptiste are players to watch this week.

7. As I mentioned in my Senior Bowl preview, Northern Illinois S Jimmie Ward is the top safety prospect in Mobile this week in my opinion and he played like it on Monday. He overcame a few poor angles early and put together a good practice, showing off his foot quickness and aggressive instincts. A Mobile-native, Ward could make a case to be the top defensive back overall this week.

8. Louisiana Tech DT Justin Ellis picked up right where he left off last week at the Shrine Game, using his quickness and snap anticipation to surge past blockers before they were in a stance. He is a quick thinker and reacts well to what the blocker wants to do, either attacking with pure momentum or using a spin or sidestep move to get past him. Ellis, who weighed nine pounds lighter from the Shrine Game weigh-ins, has helped himself as much as anyone the past two weeks and shouldn't last long on the draft's third day.

9. Clemson OT Brandon Thomas played left tackle in college, but he projects better at guard where he can operate in a smaller space and that showed in practice on Monday. He measured in at 34 3/8” arms and will use that length to engage and bury defenders – just ask fellow ACC prospect DE James Gayle out of Virginia Tech who Thomas dominated a few times. But the former Clemson blocker also struggled in space during drills, bringing up questions on whether or not he should stay on the edges.

10. Yes, he plays on the South squad and this is a North practice review, but I feel compelled to mention North Dakota State OL Billy Turner. He lined up at guard and tackle during practice and showed off his quick feet, upper body strength and mean punch to handle rushers. If Turner can learn to consistently sink his hips and not bend so much at the waist, I truly believe there are several Pro Bowls in his future. ... h-practice

2014 Senior Bowl: 10 observations from Monday's South practice
By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/
January 20, 2014 5:50 pm ET

Sun Devils DT Will Sutton had an impressive day on the field Monday at the Senior Bowl. (USATSI)
Sun Devils DT Will Sutton had an impressive day on the field Monday at the Senior Bowl. (USATSI)
More Draft: NFL Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Latest news | Senior Bowl

The first practice of the 2014 Senior Bowl featured noteworthy performances by the recognizable stars from powerhouses FBS programs you might expect, but a handful of small school prospects also proved capable of handling the big stage.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley and his staff led the South team through a spirited, scripted practice at Fairhope Stadium which featured plenty of one on one matchups, allowing the hundreds of scouts and fans in the stands to evaluate the athleticism of the prospects. Players sported helmets, shoulder pads and plenty of physicality but were not wearing thigh pads and tackling -- as is virtually always the case in all-star game practices -- was forbidden.

Rather than focus on any one positional group on the first day, I kept my eyes open and head on a swivel. Here are 10 observations from Monday's South practice.

1. Of the South's quarterbacks, Fresno State's Derek Carr unquestionably possesses the best arm. The ball explodes out of his hand and caught a few of his new teammates by surprise with how quickly it got to them. Carr showed good anticipation, often delivering passes before his receivers turned back to look for the ball.

2. Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continued the positive momentum he'd gained from the East-West Shrine Game with an impressive initial practice. While he does not possess Carr's howitzer, Garoppolo has a very quick set-up and release and frequently threw led his receivers away from defenders, showing better ball-placement than Carr on several of his throws.

3. On the defensive side of the ball, Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin demonsrated good speed and fluidity in coverage, as well as excellent leaping ability and timing to knock away passes.

4. Tennessee right tackle Ju'Wuan James hasn't received a lot of fanfare but he is a smooth athlete at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds. He was beaten on occasion but plays with terrific knee bend and got to the second level during scrimmages.

5. As impressive James was, arguably the most impressive offensive lineman of the day was North Dakota State's Billy Turner, who possesses a very similar build at 6-foot-5, 316 pounds. Unlike James, Turner struggles a bit with leverage, bending at the waist rather than the knees but he has strong hands and is a good athlete who projects as a quality NFL starter with a little refinement. His upside could push Turner into the top 100 picks, if he isn't there already.

6. Given his 6-foot-2, 243-pound frame, perhaps it isn't surprising that Auburn's Dee Ford was the most explosive of the South's pass-rushers but he certainly showed the burst to catch the attention of every scout in the stands. Ford is stronger than his size indicates and carried over the strong senior campaign that helped his Tigers qualify for the national championship game into Monday's practice.

7. While Ford played well, his former Auburn teammates, Chris Davis, struggled a bit fielding punts early in the practice. Davis has a tendency to allow the ball to hit his chest plate, which results in some double-clutching. Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders also struggled in this area. The former Sooners' star also dropped a couple of passes.

8. San Jose State quarterback David Fales is more of a gamer than a practice-guy but his lack of ideal arm-strength, unfortunately, stood out in comparison to Carr and, to a lesser-extent, Garoppolo. Fales telegraphed some throws (including a short pass over the middle that was intercepted by LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow) and his passes to the perimeter had too much air under them.

9. Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton didn't have the most impressive weigh-in but he showed off his athleticism with a terrific spin move to beat Arkansas center Travis Swanson (who was playing guard) during one-on-one drills late in practice.

10. Of the linebackers, I was most impressed with BYU's Kyle Van Noy, who frequently is lauded for his ability at the line of scrimmage but showed off his fluidity and instincts in coverage by closing quickly to bat away multliple passes.

Fellow Senior Analyst Dane Brugler posted his notes from the North's practice, which began two hours later at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, where Saturday's game will take place.
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Re: CBS Sports: 10 Observations from Senior Bowl Day 1

Postby backnblack » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:53 pm

Would love to see Dee Ford get selected. I had thought he might be a third round guy but these practices may have him moving up. As aside note he plays keys in a friend of mine's band called the Good Doctor and is quite good.

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