SHRINE WEEK has begun, with perhaps the best overall quality rosters in over a decade. Being a former teacher one of my first tasks at each practice is to take roster attendance. Everyone present and accounted for at the East practice session. However, one big absence later on at the West practice. Perhaps the No. 1 Draft prospect listed on the rosters, KEYARRIS GARRETT/WR/TULSA #1, was nowhere to be found this afternoon. I’m sure that by Tuesday’s practice we’ll have info on whether he’s injured, headed to the Senior Bowl instead, or just staying at his performance camp on the advice of his agent. I’ll bet on one of the latter two.
Both of the first day practices were a crossover between a walk-through and a full pad practice. There was some hitting on a limited basis, while all the players try to cram enough information into their heads to be able to carry out the instructions and designs of their new coaches. I expect to see much more hitting and a faster tempo overall on Tuesday. Along those lines let me also advise you that I will have no comments tonight on QB performances. They have the largest learning curve of all and will not hit their stride until Wednesday. IF anyone really stands out Tuesday I will advise.
The first NFL Exec I spied as I got out of my car at the East Practice was, drum roll please, TED THOMPSON, which should surprise no one who is aware what a talent scout grinder he is. My guess is that he caught a direct flight after the Packers loss in Arizona to Tampa. Later I caught TED in spirited conversation at the West practice with former protege’, and current Seattle GM JOHN SCHNEIDER.
A coaching highlight of the day was the WEST squad DC JERRY GLANVILLE, who will no doubt be leaving tickets at the Will Call window for ELVIS, as is his custom since The King’s reported death. My chuckle of the day from GLANVILLE today was finally catching sight of him out on the field instructing his charges adorned in a full Ten-Gallon Stetson Hat. In a small concession to convention he wore sneakers, not cowboy boots. Maybe he’s saving the boots for game day, because he probably won’t wear any hat since the Trop is a domed stadium.
I was just a wee bit surprised at the East Practice to see NAVY/QB/KEENAN REYNOLDS, listed as a RB, but indeed taking some snaps from OC and leading some run options plays. I guess HC CHARLIE WEISS wants to cover all his options in case his Offense stalls on game day.
In this year of a sparse TE prospect list DARION GRISWOLD/Arkansas State served himself well with a couple of very nice “hands” catches. He also impressed just getting off the bus looking every inch and pound of his listed 6’5/255. Tuesday, I will try to get a better field on how punishing of an inline blocker he really is. Conversely, KYLE CARTER/#87/Penn State although a very smooth looking athlete looks leaner than his 6’3/252 program weight, and is looking more and more like an H-B type whenever I see him play.
JOSH FERGUSON/RB/ILLINOIS, #6, started out the week showing right away what we all know is his biggest prospect skill… catching the football. He showed good hands and burst once he got the ball under control. He showed some nice moves on a couple of actual carries as well.
It was well over a decade ago that I totally missed the boat, during Senior Bowl week, when I failed to notice anything special abut and undersized, heavily tattooed, OC by the name of NICK HARDWICK, who just hung up his spikes last year. So I made sure to chat with the latest Purdue All-Star OC, ROBERT KUGLER, letting him know I would be paying attention to him. He was well aware of HARDWICK, who is a bit of a football legend at Purdue. He also reminded me that he is a bit of a football gypsy due to his dad being a college and pro coach for as long as ROBERT can remember. I had totally lost track of the fact that his Dad, SEAN, is the current HC at UTEP.
If KUGLAR has a good week in St. Pete, then OC could be very strong for the East. My top ranked OC, GRAHAM GLASGOW/MIchigan/#61 is running with the first team and I saw nothing from him today to make me rethink my high regard for him. He’s tall and strong looking, and acting. He’s long and strong, and reminds me of TAYLOR LEWAN, now of he TITANS.
Chatting along the sidelines with several other Draftniks, whom I respect, we were in agreement that the East team looked to have more talent on the roster from top to bottom. We then concluded that it seemed likely that the West would therefore win the game, based on past years projections and results.
Highest revving motor at the East practice belonged to VICTOR OCHI/DE/STONY BROOK/#91. THat was based on one-on-one drills as well as full squad scrimmage work. He wasn’t always making plays but it certainly wasn’t from lack of effort.
The best, purely athletic looking player for the East may be LB/TERRANCE SMITH/ Florida State/#44. Listed at 6’4/230 he has a very long frame with extra long arms. He also moves effortlessly, at times. He did a nice job picking up receivers coming off the line. Next we’ll see how many plays he actually makes in scrimmage type action.
I also spoke with Wisconsin/QB/JOEL STAVE/# 14 and he admitted to still be living the dream since his walk-on days. He managed to keep his starting job for most of 4 years, while leading his team to a lot of Wins despite playing under 3 different Head Coaches during his time in Madison. Now he finds himself in a showcase position to earn a Combine invitation with a good week in Florida.
During a cool and windy West late afternoon practice a solid body of work was demanded by JUNE JONES’ coaching staff and the players delivered. With only 3 players being listed in the RB group the team looks a bit light there. The most impressive of RB crew looked to be JJ WATT’s younger brother to me. He showed some nice running skills, excellent hands catching out of the backfield and of course threw some crunching blocks, earning praise from his coaches on multiple occasions.
The best Canadian collegian in this game, DE/EKUBA ONYEMATA/#97 had some serious 1-on-1 battles with ALEX LEWIS/OT/Nebraska/#71, who may be the best all-around OL for the West. LEWIS was the winner in my eyes, but ONYEMATA held his own and made LEWIS work very hard to retain the upper hand. This could get very interesting as the week progresses.
I was very impressed with the energy, burst and strength of DL/CORY JOHNSON/#67. CJ, as he likes to be called, dominated at times and put forth very solid effort. He’s listed as a DT in a game that requires a 4-3 line scheme, but he looks to me like a strong (literally) candidate for DE in a 3-4 scheme right now.
It was great to see former BADGERS & BENGALS NT/TIM KRUMRIE working with the West DL charges again this year, after an absence last year. He was his usual vocal, rousing self while doing a ton of teaching with a pretty good DL group. Those guys will come out of this week with some serious new skills & technique if they pay attention to Mr. Krumrie. KRUMRIE truly teaches his charges.
I will confess that I made a calculated error at the afternoon practice. I left my jacket in my car and when the winds picked up, the temps stayed in the 50’s and sun dipped below the tree line I made the 15 minute round-trip walk back to my car to put on that jacket. A few minutes after getting back to the practice field I heard TED THOMPSON explaining to an associate that he had just gone back to his vehicle for another jacket. Hope this falls under the ‘great minds think alike’ category.
I spoke with ex-Badgers MIKE CAPUTO/S/#42 & TYLER MARZ/OT/#64, after West practice, and both told me they were shocked to have played for 3 different Head Coaches in their Badger careers. They both succinctly explained to me that the history of program stability played heavily into their decisions to attend school in Madison and be part of the Badgers Football program. Rest easy UW fans. They both feel HC PAUL CHRYST is a good coach and is going nowhere any time soon.
Good night from Florida.