We opened out action today with the NORTH practice at 12:30. As expected a bit more action and hitting today.
I spent a good deal of the first hour with the DL group , which seems to be one of the more talented position groups on the team. And some of the work and constructive instruction OL Coach BILL KOLLAR provided them with was refreshing and enlightening to me. OGBONNIA OKORONKWO #31 is splitting his time between the DL and LB groups this week, and I am impressed so far with his work. In either group he shows very good explosion at the snap of the ball. He has decent power for his size and of course shows very good spin moves and hand usage to gain the edge on those trying to block him. At 6’2/243 I would expect that he will be expected to stand up in a 3-4 base scheme to earn a starting job. But he may find himself as a situational edge-rusher and Special Teamer in his Rookie year. He seems to have fairly strong hands and hid 34 1/2″ long arms serve him well in keeping blockers off of his body. He could flash in Saturday’s game.
One of the most impressive DL in workouts today was #97 NATHAN SHEPHERD/DT from little Fort Hays State. At the weigh-in Tuesday he was 6’037 and 310 lbs. He has shown power and surprising quickness in drills today. He overpowers with his snap explosion and them overpowers with his strength. He sure looks like he belongs with the big school boys, and could have a chance to flash on Saturday. But the Football Gods have teased us again. He was injured in practice with an apparent broken bone in is hand. Word is he will be replaced by BILAL NICHOLS of Delaware who showed well last week in the Shrine venue.
The Tackle Twins from NC State are both showing well in drill work. #27 JUSTIN JONES & #98 B.J. HILL are both very strong players who can move. JONES checked in at 6’2/311, while HILL was even a bit bigger at 6’3/321. They have shown better explosion out of their stance than I might have expected in drills. They were part of the very unique all-senior DL for NC State, which included KENTAVIUS STREET (SHRINE) and BRADLEY CHUBB at the DE slots. I’m now wondering how in the world anyone moved the ball on the Wolfpack defense.
A lot of people I have spoken with this week from the Draftnik community have labeled LB to be the weakest position group here this week. After watching some of their drill work I’m not so sure how accurate that observation really is. GERRET DOOLEY #55 and TURAY EMOKO #58 are splitting their drill work time between the DL group and the LB group, so I think it is safe to say they will see game action in both DE/OB spots. They have both shown very good quickness and ball awareness so far. Meanwhile NICK DeLUCA #49, MiKe McCRAY #9 and FRED WARNER #4 have all shown decent speed and ball awareness. Roll them all together and we may have something pretty good going here.
The 1-on-1 work between the OL and DL was a mixed bag. Quite frankly the most impressive man in that competition was OT TYRELL CROSBY #73, who flat out dominated He dominated a rep against JAYN HOLMES #91 by halting his progress into the backfield and then pancaking him to the ground seemingly effortlessly. CROSBY was a career starter at Oregon, but missed the entire 2016 season with a knee injury. He’s back folks! He was credited with not allowing a sack the entire 2017 season, and earned A-grades in both run and pass blocking for the season. I have not seen a better OT in this year’s Draft Class and for my money is a first round talent!
The 1-on-1 drill was a challenge for OT BRETT TOTH #78, whose ARMY team averaged single digit pass attempts per game. He was beaten a couple of times in the drill, but he also won a couple of match-ups. He was quick to see and accept instruction from his coaches. I still feel that this man has an NFL future if he and the league can work out his service commitment and some time with anNFL team in his spare time to learn more about pass-pro. He has the size (6’6/303) and athleticism too play pro football, IMO.
I got some glimpses of D3 CB MICHAEL JOSEPH #22 and I do indeed see him as having a shot to play at the highest level. He showed some press-cover skill today, is certainly quick and fast enough to keep up with receivers. He’s a bit thin at 6’005/186 but might find himself a job as a Nickel Corner. He looks like a guy who can run all day.
Also caught KYZIR WHITE/SS #28 in action a few times this practice and was impressed by his size/speed ratio. He was able to cover deep at 6’2/216. And we know he can and will hit people.
HARRISON PHILLIPS/DT #66 is exactly the hair-on-fire player that we saw at Stanford. He really uses his hand and upper body strength that he used to excel as a high school wrestler to his advantage in moving aside OL. He will have to work on the fine line between holding and legal grabbing, but he really has a knack for grabbing onto a blocker’s jersey, between his pads and moving him aside. He also is relentless in pursuit. He may not have the speed to catch a lot of skill position players, but if they cut back into the middle of the field he will lay them out. How about if I just say he is one tough SOB.
BAEKR MAYFIELD certainly looked like the best and most pro ready QB out on the field. He really shows a knack for moving around in the backfield to extend plays and throws accurate balls on the run. There is no doubt in my mind that his extended playing time in college, as well as his competitive juices really make up for some of his shortcomings. By the way I am sure you have already heard, but he measured in at 6’003/216 with 9 1/2″ hands.
The receiving group has made a lot of plays out on the grass, and I will make sure to spend more time observing and then talking about them to you on Thursday.
There was a pretty impressive Punting display by JK SCOTT/Alabama at the start of today’s practice session for the South squad. It took me a moment to get my stop watch out of my backpack but once I did I was able to verify the nice hang times SCOTT was getting. I had times ranging from 4.50 -4.83 and distances of 40-45 yards. Then he craned one 50+ yards, that seemed to touch the clouds over Ladd-Peebles Stadium. His hang time on that Punt was 5.47 on my stopwatch. SCOTT recovered very nicely this season after a rough start back in some September games where he shanked balls and even had a couple blocked. He continues to amaze me with his overall consistency as long as he is at 6’052″. Timing and placement of his ball drop has to be challenging with long legs and arms. If you will recall I expressed surprise last week at the work of JOSEPG DAVIDSON/BGSU who is also over 6.5″ tall.
I just now that someone on this South team is going to make me eat these words, but what a difference in watching this QB group sling he ball compared to the North QB group.I don’t see anyone in this crew with the arm strength and athleticism of ALLEN & MAYFIELD an hour earlier. If pushed I might say I was most impressed by KYLE LAULETTA/Richmond #5 today overall.
For the first two practices I would have to say that the hardest worker/hustler out on the field for both teams may be #99 ANDREW BROWN/DL. Every time I notice him he is just flat out hustling until every rep is over, whether it is in drill work or competition. He may not be the best DL in Mobile this week, but no one is going to outwork him, which is meant as a compliment to him and not criticism of others.
I really like watching RB ITO SMITH #25 and his running style with the ball in his hands. He is quick into and out of breaks. He seems to have superior balance and can accelerate once into the open field. He also appears to be reading his blockers well and heading for daylight. I think this man may do some serious damage come game-day.
I was very concerned Tuesday with the work of AUSTIN CORBETT #73 who spend most of his time out at OT and quite frankly looked like a duck out of water on many snaps. I am happy to report that today he played OG (his natural position) and looked much more comfortable and effective in his blocking execution.
To my eyes the most effective and active player on the field for theSouth wax LB DARIUS LEONARD #50 from S. Carolina State. He was good in pass coverage as well as run D. He tackled people on the outside in pursuit, and found the gaps in the OL blocking on several running plays. He looked like a guy who make a big play on any snap of the football. Also looked solid at that lost art of tackling. he was doing everything, every where. He was pretty impressive on Tuesday as well. With the talent level here it is tough to excel day in and day out.
And talk about an impressive day, how about TE/JORDAN AKINS/UCF, the ex-pro baseball player. He showed good speed to get separation, made some excellent catches and broke tackles in some Red Zone work. He did indeed catch a TD pass down the left sideline that was a thing of beauty. This guy is 6’032 and 246 lbs. and he showed the straight line speed of a lot of the bigger WR in this game. Kudos Mr. Akins!
UCHENNA NWOSU #42 USC, is splitting time between DE and OB. At 6’2/245 he’s a bit light in the pants to play with his hand down in a 4-3, but since LB can’t blitz in this game, they need him in the LB group at times, but want him at DE to provide pass rush. And he. has shown a nice edge-rush ability with a combination of violent hands, quickness and speed and the ability to get low, while hustling is arse off. He’s just hungry to get the QB and gets good results.
MJ. STEWART/CB #26 played on a pretty bad UNC team this past season. Bt he is showing down here that he has very strong cover skills and a pro sized body at 5’105/198 solid pounds. He’s physical but shows some very good quickness to react to moves from the receivers he is being asked to cover.
MARCEL ATEMAN #13 Oklahoma State also had a very impressive showing both days of practice. He is very long at 6’042″with 33 5/8″ long arms. He works the sidelines well but is not afraid to come across the middle of the field. He made an excellent, and courageous, catch of a somewhat low throw, in traffic in the end zone late in today’s practice session. He has decent weight on his bones at 216, and reminds me a bit of ALSHON JEFFERY, former Gamecocks wideout. He is not a speedster, but with his long legs he can get separation on downfield throws.
Have I raved about DANIEL CARLSON/P #38 Auburn yet? I am pretty sure he is a generational prospect. He is so big (6’5, 213) that he gets incredible length on his kicks, based primarily on his kicking form. He does not have to try to “juice” his longer kicks, thus increasing his accuracy. 76% of his kick-offs were touchbacks in 2017. He made 51 of 63 FG attempts which is 81%. The average on accuracy in FBS in 2017 was 73%. On an NFL team that plays home games in a dome I think he’d be in range from 60-yards in. IF the game is played in wet conditions Saturday this guy could be the difference maker.
One more day of practices Thursday. Good night from Mobile folks.