I am sorry to say that it was a damp, rainy day in Mobile and practices were moved from Ladd-Peebles to the University of South Alabama practice field, which is a turf field with a roof for cover. After some initial confusion over whether the media was allowed to attend, (the public was not), things were straightened out and I joined the North practice in progress.
Receiver JAMES PROCHE, #13, from SMU, looks to be the stereotype size of slot guys in the past decade or so at 5’105″ and 196 lbs. He’s quick as a hiccup and catches nicely with 9 5/8″ hands. He’s quick out of his cuts, and is a serious threat to streak for extra yards after catching the ball. Just to put a bow on it, he looks like just the guy for a team like the Packers that seemed to miss Randall Cobb in 2019 when he left them as a VFA. He put in yet another solid practice today, and might be available to someone in the Round 3/4 area of he April Draft.
To my surprise, some of the Specialists have done very well this week. I had this year’s draft eligible kicking group as being a notch below the past two years. On the punting side, even though 2018 Ray Guy Award winner BRADEN MANN from Texas A&M is on North roster, it is his teammate here, TYLER BASS from Ga Southern, wearing #16, that has shown a strong leg and great accuracy with his field goal kicking. He continued that trend today with a long attempt of almost 60-yards that split the uprights. He has shown a very accurate and strong leg, which belies his relatively small frame at 5’10/183 lbs. Just goes to show that kicking form and consistency count greatly for kickers.
Despite concerns at the weigh-in that WR K.J. HILL of Ohio State might have issues in the NFL because of very short, 29″ long arms, he has been a favored target amongst the QB group of the North. He’s been quick off the snap and into his patterns. Those patterns seem crisp and he appears open where the QB expects him to be. Also, he’s catching balls despite his short arms and average hand size of 9″. However, his toughest final test may be his 40-time from the Combine.
Some defenders stood out for the North during today’s practice, and chief amongst them was LB MALIK HARRISON, also of Ohio State, who wears #39. HARRISON has an almost ideal body size at 6’025″, 246 lbs. with 9 7/8″ hands and 32 7/8″ arms. I arrived at practice just in time to see HARRISON make a nice INT across the middle of the field in the red zone. He’s been making plays at every practice and looks to be a do-it-all, 3-down player. He had a very productive career at Ohio State and should be a 2nd/3rd Round Draftee.
Speaking of impact defenders, you have to luv the work of UNC DE JASON STROWBRIDGE this week. STROWBRIDGE, #55, was not a highly regarded prospect heading into the 2019 season. I give credit where credit is due to the new coaching regime of MACK BROWN at UNC. His staff took him out of the middle of the defensive line, encouraged him to lose some weight and gain quickness. He responded to the challenge and checked in here this week at 267 lbs. after having been listed at 280 lbs. or more in pre-season player reports. He indeed picked up quickness with his new, sculpted form and showed some of his speed as an edge-rusher here. That’s what I call a reformation project. He’s been a challenge for blockers all week long.
Let’s pick this up on a similar theme to one from the North practice. In 2018, BRADEN MANN, of the North, was the Ray Guy award winner as the top Punter in the nation. However, the top Punter this week has been JOSEPH CHARLTON #25, from South Carolina. He has been booming punts all week long and practice attendees can testify to the booming sound of his foot meeting the ball. He’s booting them both long and high, with some hang times being recorded at over 5-seconds. These players could have significant impact of the flavor and outcome of the game Saturday.
There was a new player in town for the South today in the personage of BRODERICK WASHINGTON a DT from Texas Tech that is wearing #97. A wide body, WASHINGTON stands 6’2 and weighs 303 lbs. It should be noted that WASHINGTON is replacing First Round prospect JAVON KINLAW from South Carolina, who aggravated a previous leg injury in yesterday’s practice and will not play in the game. Washington has already played in the NFLPA game this past weekend.
One of the favorite receivers for the South QB this week has been former Texas Longhorns WR COLLIN JOHNSON, #11. There were some quiet mumbles in the weigh-in audience on Tuesday when the long, lean JOHNSON measured in as having only 8 3/4″ hands. For a player that stands 6’6 and weighs 221 lbs. those hands seem pretty small, but the South QB crew didn’t seem to mind at all as they continually found JOHNSON open and threw him the ball. And he didn’t miss catching very many at all. By the way, Collin’s dad is JOHNNIE JOHNSON, who was an All-Pro S in the NFL with the RAMS, mostly back in the ’80’s.
One of the most multi-purpose productive players in college last season was #24 for the South, ANTONIO GIBSON from Memphis, who is slotted primarily at RB this week. He is also, hoewver, a favorite receiving target from the QB group. He has sure hands, and accelerates to what looks like elite speed to yours truly. Scouts will be watching closely for his 40-time at the Combine. GIBSON was also a top notch return man in college. In one game this past season, GIBSON scored 3 TD’s, all in different ways. He had a return TD, a receiving TD, and a rushing TD. He has excellent balance and often bounces off of would-be tacklers. He showed big play potential today on several catches.
I would like to note that JALEN HURTS, QB, Oklahoma, (with an Alabama background), has shown solid play at QB all week. Wearing #1, HURTS has been a dual threat in practice, not hesitating to take off running when his receivers are not open. That running ability could play big on Saturday in the actual Senior Bowl game. HURTS is a big fan favorite down here from his years playing at ‘Bama, and most of the expected crowd is likely to be cheering him on come Saturday.
Cheers and good night from Mobile. Look for my All-Practice team sometime Friday.