SENIOR BOWL 2021 Thursday Practices

January 29, 2021

It’s the final day of practices in Mobile, and it appears to be none too soon. The list of players attending, but not participating in pads, has grown to noticeable numbers this Thursday morning at the National practice session. It has hit the WR group especially hard. Here, but without pads, are TYLAN WALLACE, SAGE SURRATT, and D’WAYNE ESKRIDGE. We lost BEN SKOWRONEK late in practice yesterday. Lest risking being caught up really short of Wideouts on game day, the Dolphins wisely are giving WR reps to TE KENNY YEBOAH of Ole Miss. By the way, YEBOAH looks like a natural in that role, so under the heading of “the more you can do”, YEBOAH is looking the part out wide or in the slot and earning himself some plus grades on the scouts score cards.

Before I jump to QB evaluations, I want to mention a couple of players that have performed well these three days of practice, but whose names have not appeared in this space yet.

Pitt S DAMAR HAMLIN #33 has had some solid coverage reps, especially on receivers trying to run crossing patterns on him. He positions himself well and has good timing on disrupting the catch without contacting the receiver too soon and drawing a PI flag. HAMLIN almost came out after the 2019 season, even having his name listed on the 2020 Shrine roster initially. However, he changed his mind and returned for another season at PITT. Mark him down as a savvy, experienced defender with some athleticism to his game. Probably an early Day 3 Pick.

On the other side of the ball, I have to say I have been impressed with the play of the two primary OC’s in the game from this team: CREED HUMPHREY #56, and the surprising D3 guy #71 QUINN MEINERZ. They are both wide bodies with nasty attitudes. HUMPHREY should be a Day Two draftee, while the little known MEINERZ looks to be pushing his way into the draftable category, which he was not previous to his presence in Mobile. Sorry to report that MEINERZ broke a bone in his hand today. He vows he will play on Saturday, likely with a club cast, but the Senior Bowl does not like to put injured guys out on the field. We shall see.

I have grown to appreciate the play and potential of Notre Dame DE ADE OGUNDEJI this week. Even though he seems a bit light to me (256 lbs.) for full time work at DE, I cannot dispute the fact that he has been active and effective this week, and intrigues with his 35 1/4″ arms and 85 3/8″ wing span. Those numbers explain how he catches guys as they try to scoot away from him at the line-of-scrimmage.

I am not highly confident that the National team is going to be able to move the ball consistently on Saturday, because I believe their QB group is undermanned in the pro level talent department. That will be especially true if they are staying in the pocket to prove they can do so and deliver the ball downfield to their receivers. A big part of the success of IAN BOOK #12 and SAM EHLINGER #11 in their college careers has been their ability to run when needed, especially in EHLINGER’s case. Neither of them, as well as FELEIPE FRANKS #8, has shown a lot of throwing accuracy on a regular basis. FRANKS has the biggest arm when he rears back and cuts loose, but I think he’s barely hitting 50% of his throws in practice work. I am not convinced any of these guys will get Drafted in April, though they will all get signed for a Training Camp roster. BOOK, with his experience and high FBI, might be the guy here that gets drafted in Round 5/6 as a solid addition overall to a team’s QB room. More on QB’s at the end of this column.

Afternoon  Practice       AMERICAN Team

This team also looked like a group returning from battle with heavy casualties today. MALIK HERRING #10 DL/Georgia had a full “cast/wrap” on his right leg and was on crutches. MARVIN WILSON/DT/FSU and ROBERT ROCHELL/CB were both without pads as practice began. Highly ranked OT D’ANTE SMITH #67 was to leave the field with a Trainer in the middle of practice.

Under the heading of saving the best for last, I guess, I want to say that one of the most impressive athletes in Mobile, as well as an active participant in pads, has been JABRIL COX #19 from LSU, after he transferred back south from the Dakotas to play against the big boys in the SEC. Except for smallish hands (8 3/4″), he shows excellent size for as fluid as he moves, at 6’3/233. He covers a lot of ground and clearly looks like he has accepted coaching at LSU, and here, to improve his overall play. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his play is his ability to shine in coverage. But he also brings the lumber to stop the run. I have not run into anyone yet at this venue who thinks he won’t slide into late Round 1 when the Draft rolls around.

Local boy KADARIUS TONEY #1 has displayed his speed and quickness all 3 days, but he has struggled, especially on Tuesday, with drops. I live in Florida these days, so I get Florida football to watch every weekend in the Fall. I certainly do NOT remember dropsies being an issue for TONEY last season for the Gators, so his catching issues this week have been a surprise. His name has been hovering around late Round 1 Draft talk, and I am sure he will be pushing hard for a big game receiving on Saturday. He is one of the best “big play” threats in the 2021 Draft Class.

Speaking of Florida school prospects… I also get UCF games most football weekends. There has been a lot of luv heaped on UCF S RICHIE GRANT #27. GRANT is a good athlete who has been starting since his freshman year at UCF. He’s no giant, but at 5’115/200, he’s a solid S who started his career as a ball hawk and then seemed to change into a bit of a head hunter in his last two seasons. He has shown that aggressive nature in Mobile, but he has also looked solid in coverage and has had his hand on the ball multiple times in coverage for either PBU’s and/or an INT. My feeling is that he is positioning himself for a Day Two draft slot.

Let’s get to the QB group to wind things up. The picture is a bit brighter on that front for the American squad.

After a solid start on Tuesday, JAMIE NEWMAN #7 has lost his momentum in the past two days. He has looked tentative in making his throws and has mixed good throws with bad. He has also looked jumpy in the pocket. He opted out of the 2020 season, and we expected some rust, but not a quick start and then a drop off. He’s Day 3 now. IMO.

KELLEN MOND was KELLEN MOND, #12. He is a frustrating evaluation for scouts because of inconsistency. When he’s on, he can lead his team up and down the field with nice running to supplement decent throws. When he’s having a bad day, it can get ugly. Overall, I think he sees the field well most of the time and comes across as a solid leader in the huddle. But when he’s off  his game, it is not pretty.

MAC JONES #10, ALABAMA, was the big “get” for JIM NAGY for this year’s game. Any ‘Bama QB is a big get for a game in Mobile, AL and JONES is really good. He proved it again this week. He was clearly the most consistent of the 6 QB’s. He has a good, not great arm, but shows excellent accuracy and touch on his throws. He reads the field well and makes good decisions. Unfortunately, he pulled up lame after a TD run late in practice today, and is unlikely to play on Saturday, I would think. I believe he showed enough to my eyes this week to think that he is a late First Round QB.

So, to wrap it up, here is my QB ranking list based on what I saw this week, along with my Draft position for each QB.

  1. MAC JONES  Alabama    Round 1
  2. KELLEN MOND   Texas A&M     Round 4/5
  3. JAMIE NEWMAN  Wake Forest  Round 4-5
  4. IAN BOOK      Notre Dame   Round 5/6
  5. SAM EHLINGER   Texas   Round 7-URFA
  6. FELIPE FRANKS    Arkansas     URFA

That’s a wrap. Covid-19 has messed up college football and the Senior Bowl, like the rest of our lives. But kudos to JIM NAGY and his staff, as well as the coaching staffs, and of course players, for making the best of a terrible situation. I will try to tweet during the game on Saturday, but if not, I will be posting game observations hopefully Saturday night.

Cheers from Mobile.