Wednesday is always the highlight day of Shrine Week. The players have had three days to meet with their coaches and absorb football information. Hopefully they have assimilated that information and can execute on the grass based upon it. So today is the day that the coaches ramp up the intensity and pace of practice. And of course the hope, and expectation, is that the players will respond accordingly. Overall all I think they did.
I felt a positive development at this mornings practice was an awakening of a previously slumbering giant, DT/NILE LAWRENCE-STAMPLE/FSU #95. I perceived a real sense of urgency in his play today really for the first time this week. His motor was running hot from the first drill to last scrimmage action. He showed some of the power and mobility that he exhibited as a senior for the Seminoles. He was quite the handful for blockers trying to move him off of the ball today.
It seems as though CHARLIE WEISS also hit his stride today. His caustic tongue was on display as soon as warm-ups were over. As his team broke into position groups to begin some drills he was yelling at a cluster of about 6 Trainers who were still congregated at midfield, on the playing surface. He sent a clear message that they needed to move to the sidelines… immediately. On several other occasions he let loose with his barbed tongue when he felt players were slacking off or underperforming.
WEISS was also digging deep into his playbook with misdirection plays, flea flickers, and option QB scenarios with former Navy QB/KEENAN REYNOLDS running short yardage plays. Unless he really pulls in the reins come Saturday the West D had best be prepared for a little more variety than the normal All-Star Game vanilla and chocolate play calling. The same could be said of the afternoon play calling under HC JUNE JONES at West practice. IMO, this could be a break through situation. Fans at a Star game don’t want to see a 13-6 defensive struggle. They want some excitement and wide open offense. They just may get it this weekend from these two head coaches.
Based on today’s practice I think WEISS may attempt to run the ball a bit more than we are accustomed to in a Star game, but I do not mean he’ll be conservative overall.
For the third straight day TE/DARION GRISWOLD/#89 had another couple of nice grabs including a long gainer, after which WEISS yelled out that he looked like a ‘slow moving freight train’. I think that was actually meant as a compliment. Many of the smaller defenders don’t look like they really want to tackle him after the catch when he picks up a head of steam.
It must have been a Seminoles Wednesday because another FSU player, LB/TERRANCE SMITH/#44 really put on a show when the Offense began to throw a proliferation of screen passes. SMITH began to read the formations and QB eyes after a couple of said calls and began to make tackles behind the line-of-scrimmage on the unfortunate receivers. He looks very much to me like TELVIN SMITH, who plays for the JAGUARS in his physique and style of play.
CRE’VON LeBLANC/CB/FAU/#5 showed his excellent quickness out on the corner with several nice break-ups and/or tackles for short gains. He has decent size and I would surmise plenty of speed to go with that quickness. Florida Atlantic may not be a powerhouse but they ranked very high on the defensive side of the ball in D-1 play. Watch for this guy at the Combine.
WEISS unleashed his sarcastic wit late in practice when it was time for some kick coverage work. He yelled to his assistants to start the work with all linemen covering the first kick. He said to get the “fat guy” coverage unit in place up on the line. When that was over and the next line of coverage guys took the field, who should be at one “gunner” slot but QB/JAKE RUDOCK/#10. All I could think of to myself was that it had to be a HARBAUGH thing for RUDOCK to assume a gunner’s role in kick coverage. He sprinted downfield and took a solid block from someone.
The pace and style at this session was very similar to the morning practice. JUNE JONES unleashed his aerial attack offense on several occasions during the two hour practice. And much to my surprise what I had thought to be a pretty mediocre WR group really came to life.
#14/HUNTER SHARP/Utah State was the absolute star of the afternoon. He made catches in traffic over the middle, and over the shoulder sideline grabs that left DB on the ground. He created just enough separation to make at least 5 catches that I counted. His quickness in and out of cuts and open field after the catch was impressive.
But he and the QBs had plenty of help confusing the Defense from DEVIN CAJUSTE/STANFORD/#89 who plays WR but stands 6’3 and weighs 234 lbs. He’s not blazing fast but as he gains momentum he separates form even the CB group. He’s clearly helped by sure hands, which measure 10 5/8″, and arms that stretch out to 32 3/4″. He gets to everything and runs over defenders after the catch.
Then you throw in JARED DANGERFIELD/WR/#82 who played with QB/DOUGHTY at WKU, who earned a lot of respect today. He’s bigger than fast at 6’014/214#, but has displayed excellent hands all week.
I have changed my mind and would now suggest that these guys as a group may have more impact of game day than the highly regarded East WR corps.
If some of you have seen the Heisman House commercial where STEVE SPURRIER shows up for a banquet in a suit but with no shirt on, word from a certain former Gamecock on the West squad is that it’s not out of character for the Ole Ball Coach. This player indicated to me that on hot days in Columbia, SC SPURRIER was notorious for shedding his shirt at practice. Maybe even his shoes as well to cool off in the hot sun.
The “player of the day” at this practice was clearly DEREK WATT/Wisconsin/FB/#34. By the end of the practice session WATT had done his very best impersonation of a Swiss Army Knife. WATT has spent time at FB/RB/H-B/TE, and of course is on just about every Special Teams unit the team has. Then at the conclusion of practice Special Teams Coach DENNIS McKINGHT took him to the sideline to see if he might be able to handle long snaps. WATT sailed a couple over his head, but showed very good snap fundamentals & ball speed and got more accurate the more he snapped. McKNIGHT suggested they would work on this a bit more at practice Friday. Then McKnight said to WATT; ‘Your brother is going to the HOF some day, but with your skills and attitude you’ll play longer in the NFL if you want to.’ And he was not kidding.
I suggested the Swiss Army Knife concept to TED THOMPSON who was watching the exchange in close proximity to me. His response was ‘He sure is a football player’. ‘Nuff said TED.
Today was my day to put a rankings list together of the 6 QB on these two rosters. So here we go:
1) BRANDON DOUGHTY/W KENTUCKY STATE/#12 West He’s the most accurate passer and is consistent with his basic throwing mechanics. He also seems to read the field well and make sound decisions. He has plenty of arm and really throws a nice deep ball.
2) NATHAN SUDFELD/INDIANA/#7 West The strongest arm by far and a good reader of the D. But his accuracy fluctuates and he can forget to put touch on shorter throws. More mobile than you might think given his size; 6’060/236 lbs.
These two guys have a chance to go in or near the Top 100 in the 2016 Draft. Now the rest…
3) JOEL STAVE/WISCONSIN/#14 East Even I have tried to bury him as a prospect for his propensity to throw picks and miss 3rd down throws. But he has a live arm, very good mobility, ideal size (6’045″, 229 lbs) and solid leadership command of a huddle. He makes 3 or 4 good plays, then one really bad one. Might get drafted late, but I doubt it. But he could stick as a 3rd QB and maybe develop into a decent NFL back-up.
4) JAKE RUDOCK/MICHIGAN/#10 East His year under HARBAUGH really helped him as an overall QB. He has an average arm but sees the field well. Throws a catchable ball. He can move a bit, but you watch him and realize he probably just doesn’t have enough tools to compete at the highest level.
5) BLAKE FROHNAPFEL/UMASS/#7 East This tall, gangly guy has some potential but lacks sound fundamentals. He has an average arm, but his ball flutters much of the time. He tends to stare down his primary receiver. The issue here is in part that he played in a poor program and just went out each week throwing all over the place trying to keep up with scoring by opponents. If he has any long term talent it’s going to take years on a Practice Squad to develop it.
5) VERNON ADAMS/OREGON/#3 West Despite some rumors to the contrary, this is not the next RUSSELL WILSON, just because he’s short and athletic. He struggles with arm strength on long throws. And a big part of some of his throwing issues is hand size. Whereas Seattle felt that veteran savvy and a 10 1/2″ hand made WILSON worth rolling the dice on, ADAMS hand measures a mere 8 3/4″ spread. That is tiny folks. He’ll end up as an URFA with little chance to make an NFL team as a QB, IMO.
Good night to you all from Florida.