CBS Sports: Senior Bowl Notes Day 2

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CBS Sports: Senior Bowl Notes Day 2

Postby Pudge » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:36 pm ... on-tuesday

2014 Senior Bowl: Another mixed bag from the North QBs on Tuesday
By Dane Brugler | Senior Analyst
January 21, 2014 1:34 pm ET

Coaches work with North quarterbacks Logan Thomas, Stephen Morris and Tajh Boyd during practice. (USATSI)
Coaches work with North QBs Logan Thomas, Stephen Morris and Tajh Boyd during practice. (USATSI)
More Draft: NFL Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Latest news | Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. -- After an inconsistent practice on Monday, NFL scouts and coaches were eager to see the North quarterbacks on Tuesday, especially with a strong wind swirling around Ladd-Peebles Stadium. But unfortunately it was another inconsistent practice for Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd and Miami (Fla.) QB Stephen Morris.

Thomas is the most physically gifted quarterback, not only in Mobile this week, but in the entire class with his tall, well-proportioned frame and big arm to toss the ball anywhere he wants on the field. But touch continues to be an issue with him. During Tuesday's practice, Thomas would throw a perfect laser that hit his intended target s between the numbers, but then would follow it up with an overthrow that sailed well over the receivers head and another errant pass that caused the wideout to re-route in order to try and track down the throw.

We'll often hear this draft season that Thomas has “what can't be taught” when referring to his physical attributes, but can touch and accuracy be taught? It can be tweaked and improved from a mechanical standpoint, but from his performances the past two days along with three years of game film, it's tough to see the upside with Thomas. It wouldn't surprise me if the Virginia Tech quarterback ends up hearing his name called on the second day of the draft. But a team that drafts him that high is living on a hope and a prayer – similar to many of Thomas' throws this week.

Morris showed improvements from Monday's practice with better all-around accuracy. He appeared to be taking a little bit off his fastball, which allowed him to better control the placement of the throw. Morris' delivery and arm strength appear effortless and easy, but he still struggled with errant passes and inconsistent throws.

Boyd continues to be unimpressive, largely because of his accuracy issues. He slings the ball from wild arm angles and sometimes the ball would arrive on time and hit the receiver in the hands, but there were too many other passes that were off the mark and really caused the intended target to do most of the work.

If you isolated Tuesday's highlight throws from Thomas, Boyd and Morris, you would have three potential first round picks. But once you add the negative passes and lowlights from the practice, you're left with three physically gifted players who are wildly inconsistent throwing the football. There is still work to be done on these players, but it's hard not to be discouraged by this week's results so far. ... on-tuesday

2014 Senior Bowl: Defenders Ford, Watkins shine on Tuesday
By Dane Brugler | Senior Analyst
January 21, 2014 6:18 pm ET

Florida CB Jaylen Watkins is making the most of his opportunity in Mobile. (USATSI)
Florida CB Jaylen Watkins is making the most of his opportunity in Mobile. (USATSI)
More Draft: NFL Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Latest news | Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. – The Southeastern Conference breeds future NFL stars and the South squad at the Senior Bowl has 22 players on the roster from college football's superior conference. And two former SEC players specifically stood out during Tuesday's practice: Auburn DE Dee Ford and Florida CB Jaylen Watkins.

Ford has been dominating offensive tackles all week with his explosive athleticism and natural bend off the edge. He has displayed the first step burst and quick acceleration to win with speed and never slow his get-off momentum through the rush. Ford keeps his frame low and does a nice job attacking the body of blockers to win leverage before quickly ripping past them. He made mincemeat out of North Dakota State's Billy Turner and Vanderbilt's Wesley Johnson on a few occasions, building on the buzz he started in Monday's practice.

On the other side of the field, Watkins, who is the older brother of Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, put together a string of positive plays during drills, getting his hands on the ball on a few reps. He showed smooth feet and hip action to quickly redirect and get his body under control to mirror the movements of the receiver. Watkins also did a nice job getting his head turned around to find the ball, elevate and break up the play. He is noticeably lean and his lack of muscle showed up on tape, but he weighed in at 194 pounds and his scrappy style of play serves him well.

To say the least, Ford and Watkins are prospects who have made the most of this opportunity in Mobile thus far and are helping themselves in the eyes of NFL scouts and the Jacksonville Jaguars' coaching staff. Purely hypothetical at this point, but Ford would be a viable candidate for the Jaguars in the second round for their "LEO" pass rush position and Watkins could be a target a round or two later to help the secondary.

Other notes:

As expected, Fresno State QB Derek Carr has clearly separated himself as the top passer in Mobile with his top-shelf arm strength, athleticism and overall feel for the game. He hasn't been perfect and needs to iron out a few of his bad habits, but the arm talent and competitive drive are there for him to be a starter in the league.
While Carr is the top quarterback on the South roster, Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo has been the next-most-impressive at the position and, in my opinion, is the second-best quarterback in Mobile. He doesn't have elite arm strength, but his velocity is good enough and it has been noticeably better than the arm strength of San Jose State QB David Fales, the other quarterback on the South team. Garoppolo started to build some momentum in St. Petersburg last week at the East-West Shrine Game and it's continuing here at the Senior Bowl. He projects as a solid second day draft choice and a future starter in a year or two in the NFL.
Above I mentioned that Dee Ford had dominated North Dakota State OL Billy Turner on a few occasions, but overall, I was still impressed by the former Bison blocker. With Tennessee OT Ja'Wuan James out due to injury, Turner lined up primarily at right tackle throughout Tuesday's practice, despite showing better when he was at guard on Monday. He was beat a few times, but he also had his positive moments, especially when he could show off his natural feet and powerful punch. Once he learns to consistently bend and sink, Turner will be better suited for NFL rushers. He is well thought of in the NFL scouting community because of what the finished product could be with a little NFL coaching.
Unfortunate news from Tuesday's South practice that Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin tore his ACL during drills, according to multiple reports. The injury abruptly ends a positive week for the former Sooner defensive back and likely pushes him from possible top-100 draft pick to undrafted free agent. Fresno State TE Marcel Jensen (groin) and Alabama DE Ed Stinson (groin) are also done for the week due to injuries. Boston College OT Matt Patchan and Colorado State TE Crockett Gillmore will arrive in Mobile Tuesday night to help fill spots on the roster. ... on-tuesday

2014 Senior Bowl: UVA's Moses parts the red D at South practice
By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/
January 21, 2014 6:48 pm ET

MOBILE, Ala. -- Given the rapid ascension enjoyed by Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson at the Senior Bowl a year ago, one can't blame scouts for spending a lot of their time evaluating offensive linemen this week.

Notre Dame's Zack Martin entered the week as's top-rated offensive lineman participating in the Senior Bowl but with a terrific performance Tuesday afternoon by Virginia's Morgan Moses could result in a significant jump up the board.

Alternately lining up at left and right tackle for the South team, the 6-foot-6, 325 pound behemoth showcased the length, quickness and balance to handle speed rushers like Auburn's Dee Ford (6-foot-2, 243 pounds) and Arkansas' Chris Smith (6-foot-1, 266 pounds), as well as powerful defenders like his former teammate, 6-foot-6, 298-pound defensive end Brent Urban.

Individual pass-rush drills favor the defensive players but other than one exception in which Ford beat Moses with a quick jab-step inside and explosive burst to his right, Moses handled left tackle duties well. When moved back to the right side, Moses also performed admirably, burying Urban with an emphatic pancake block that drew gasps from scouts in the stands.

Best of all, Moses' strong play continued into the scrimmages run by the Jacksonville Jaguars' coaching staff. One particular three-play sequence against the defenders in the South team's red jerseys showcased Morgan's pro-readiness:

On "first down" Moses handled a speed rush from Ford to give his quarterback enough time to complete a quick swing pass to the right.
The next play was a run to the right for solid gain. Moses did not supply a block at the point of attack on the play, instead releasing to run approximately 20 yards downfield to force adjustments from a linebacker and safety. The quickness off the ball, fluidity and straight-line speed Moses used to part the defense was every bit as impressive as the pancake block he'd delivered on Urban during the earlier one-on-one drill.
Appropriately enough, it was Urban who lined up opposite Moses on the next play. Attacking Moses with a strong bull rush that had beaten several other South team blockers throughout the day, Urban instead was stopped in his tracks due to a strong anchor and good core flexibility from the left tackle.
While Moses was the South's best blocker Tuesday, several other offensive and defensive linemen left impressions.

Cal's Deandre Coleman enjoyed a solid day on the interior, repeatedly pushing through Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard and Arkansas' Travis Swanson. Powerful and surprisingly athletic, the 6-foot-5, 315 pounder is position and scheme versatile, though scouts are left to question where this passionate play was throughout a disappointing senior season in the Pac-12. Ikard's quickness and tenacity will intrigue zone-blocking teams but he's struggled with the massive defenders in Mobile. Swanson has also been a bit inconsistent, though most of the struggles he's had over the first two days have come when he's lined up at guard, rather than center. Swanson starred for the Razorbacks at center, showing impressive agility and power in the pivot but at 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, he projects better to guard or even tackle in the opinion of some scouts.
Like Coleman, Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers bullied opponents with his power, slipping past Swanson with a good rip move early during the one-on-one drills. McCullers, 6-foot-7 and 348 pounds, struggles with leverage, playing much higher than the rest of the South defensive linemen. This allows technicians like Florida State's Bryan Stork (6-foot-4, 306 pounds) to turn and seal the massive Volunteer from the play despite a significant weight disadvantage.
Urban has generated some buzz in recent weeks and it is clear that his length and strength project very well as a traditional five-technique defensive end. He is very strong and uses the power in his upper body to stun and disengage from would-be blockers. He also lost track of the ball, at times, allowing runners to slip past him when he appeared to be in position to stop them.
A year ago Nick Saban made a surprise visit to the sidelines of the Senior Bowl. This year, it was players rather than coaches who were seen visiting at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, as South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron were on hand for Tuesday's South practice. While two of the more athletic prospects in the entire country, as underclassmen, neither was eligible to participate in the Senior Bowl and instead likely attended strictly to watch practice and meet NFL decision-makers in town for the all-star game. ... h-practice

2014 Senior Bowl: Trio of lineman highlight physical North practice
By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/
January 21, 2014 2:05 pm ET

Massive Gophers defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman has been a handful in one-on-one drills. (USATSI)
Massive Gophers defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman has been a handful in one-on-one drills. (USATSI)
More Draft: NFL Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Latest news | Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. --- Scouts were greeted by a blue sky but 20 mile-per-hour winds at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, making the evaluation of quarterbacks tough. The conditions were ideal for play in the trenches, however, which is where the best talent in the 2014 Senior Bowl resides, anyway.

Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman (No. 19) and Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin (No. 25) entered the week of practice at the Senior Bowl as's top-rated prospects playing in the all-star game. At Tuesday morning's North team practice, it was easy to justify their projected first round grade.

The well-built Hageman flashed dominating strength and length, routinely driving opponents into the backfield with a his bull rush and showing impressive burst for a man of his imposing 6-foot-6, 318-pound frame.

Hageman was tough to handle in one-on-one drills -- putting Miami guard Brandon Linder on his back during one particularly explosive rush -- but carried over his impressive play into the full 11-on-11 scrimmages, as well. He remains a prospect who flashes rather than consistently dominates but considering his power, size and athleticism, teams operating under 4-3 and 3-4 principles, alike, were taking notice.

Hageman's scheme and position versatility is in stark contrast to an even flashier player -- Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald -- who by all accounts was the star of Monday's practice.

Donald's burst makes him a terror during individual pass-rush drills but at a shade under 6-foot-1 and 288 pounds, he projects best as a pass-rush specialist three-technique defensive tackle in the 4-3 alignment. A team in need of an interior pass rusher certainly could justify selecting him in the first round because Donald could emerge as a 8-10 sack threat in the NFL but he'll almost certainly be doing so as a rotational player -- which not every team in the league is comfortable to dedicating a first round pick towards.

On the offensive side of the ball, Martin locked down the blindside for most of the day, showing his trademark patience, forceful hands and underrated athleticism. While he generally played well, Martin's lack of ideal size was exposed a bit by some of the longer defensive ends he faced during Tuesday's practice, most notably West Virginia's Will Clarke, a 6-foot-6, 271-pounder with nearly 34" arms.

While Notre Dame's standout handled speed rushers, Clarke used his long arms to keep Martin's hands from grabbing hold of him. Unable to latch on, Martin was beaten to the outside, on occasion, reinforcing the theory that while he could remain at tackle in the NFL, he projects as a potential Pro Bowl guard.

A few other notes after focusing on the line of scrimmage:

Baylor guard Cyril Richardson and Stanford edge rusher Trent Murphy, two players who I've previously ranked highly, are thus far struggling to adapt to the different schemes used by the Atlanta Falcons' coaching staff. Richardson, a monstrous man at 6-foot-4 (and a 1/2) and 348 pounds is fine when asked to block straight-ahead, which he did so impressively on a few occasions against Donald, pancaking Pittsburgh's star on one occasion. Richardson's lack of ideal lateral agility and balance was exposed by Donald on numerous other snaps during one-on-one drills, however. More alarming was the inconsistency the former Baylor Bear showed during scrimmages, too often losing his balance and slipping off blocks.
Murphy, a playmaking outside linebacker for a highly physical Stanford squad, is also having a tough time adjusting as the Falcons are asking him to play defensive end. While known for his toughness and physicality with the Cardinal, Murphy looked surprisingly lean during Monday's weigh-ins, showing little upper body development on his 6-foot-5, 253-pound frame. He has strong, active hands to knock away blockers' attempts to latch on and accelerates around the edge in a controlled, efficient manner. He isn't an explosive athlete in any way, however, leading to questions about where he'll fit at the next level as he does not possess great burst nor the strength teams are looking for in an end capable of setting the edge.
One player lacking elite measureables who pleasantly surprised me along the line of scrimmage today was Clemson tackle Brandon Thomas. While shorter than ideal at 6-foot-3 (and a 1/2), the 316-pounder has good balance and the reach (34 3/8" arms) to latch and control on the perimeter. He, like Martin, may project best inside for some but handled speed and strength, alike, during Tuesday's practice.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.

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