I think I have everything dried out from Wednesday’s rainy practice sessions. The notes today will be a bit disjointed (which may not seem new to you) but juggling backpacks, pens & notebooks, while trying to not absorb too much rain was a struggle. Football is a game you can play in the rain, but it’s not much fun to watch in the rain. Okay enough…
The National Team has the early practices all week. I will give credit where credit is due, the players seemed able to ignore the wet and put on another spirited workout. As often happens down here what you see from players one day to the next can be different. And that was true for some players, while others just continue on.
The first guy I noticed as having a much more positive day Wednesday was DESMOND RIDDER/QB/ Cincinnati #9. His overall presentation was much crisper and on point today. He pretty much eliminated his Tuesday issues with handling snaps under center. The flight of his throws seemed to be unaffected in general, and on target. He looked comfortable in the pocket, and scrambled under control, as opposed to the wild, when in doubt run, QB that he was early in his Bearcats’ career. His strong arm showed today. I still see him as a Round 2 guy, similar to JORDAN LOVE (now in Green Bay) who clearly is not ready to take over a pro team as a Rookie. But in a year or two…
Just to update the KENNY PICKETT, and his “hands” soap opera, I actually heard multiple conversations about the fact that in the rain he wore a glove on his throwing hand. It was pointed out in the broadcast booth by DANIEL JEREMIAH/CHARLES DAVIS that most often in wet conditions a QB will wear a glove on his off hand. Pigskin says… whatever. What I saw that I liked was that a wet ball seemed to have little if any affect on his throws. Good day for PICKETT.
#57 TRAVIS JONES/DT/Uconn is hard to miss out on the practice field. At 6’043, and 326 lbs. he stands out even amongst a large group of linemen. He seems to be getting a very quick/explosive jump off the snap, and when he does he just bull rushes would-be blockers. Other than tape most of us of us did little watching on him, because he played at a sadly undermanned UCONN program. I have had him in my Top 100, Day 2, for months now, and he has been dominating in OL/DL drills.
TREY McBRIDE is generally regarded as the best all-around TE in a strong group here, but I clearly feel the guy making $ every practice is JEREMY RUCKERT/Ohio State #88. He did again today, handling a wet ball flawlessly (well almost) with those 10 1/8″ hands. He runs patterns well and is a pure “hands” receiver. McBride is strutting his stuff here, while RUCKERT is the surprise.
I enjoy watching COBY BRYANT/CB/Cincinnati #29, ply his wares in the CB group. He’s athletic and shows some attitude to his play. The other half of perhaps the best CB duo in college football the past couple seasons, he has nice size (6’1/191) for CB but plays even bigger. He is fearless in coverage, knowing that even if he loses a step he has make-up speed to recover. He’s losing some matchups here, but winning even more.
#98 PERRION WINFREY/DT/Oklahoma played most of his Sooners career listed at about 285 lbs. He measured in here on Monday as 6’036/303 pounds. On Tuesday he really showed out as still being among the quicker DL here, but also putting some of his new found weight to good use bullying blockers. During run-game scrimmaging he penetrated several times to record what would be TFL in game conditions. He’s a good looking athlete, even just standing around.
BERNHARD RAIMANN #76 the tall Austrian OT had a bit of a rough go Tuesday, getting beaten a few times by some of the very quick Edge guys. But the 6’6/305 former TE is still exciting scouts with his natural athleticism and his outgoing personalty. This young man will be a locker room hit with his teammates, but it may take a couple seasons for him to hit his stride in the pro game. A move inside to OG? Perhaps, given that his 33″ arms aren’t considered ideal out on the edge anyway.
LOGAN HALL/Houston may be even more of a sensation than WINFREY. He can play either inside at DT, to outside at DE. He’s is cat quick and gets good leverage, as well as surprising power. In one-on-one’s he he showed the ability to get his hands on blockers, steer them a bit and slide past them. He is still a bit raw, which makes his potential/upside rather exciting. He has flashed big time the first 2 practices.
American Team Afternoon Practice session
The weather got downright nasty at times during the American practice. I tried to get pen and paper out to scribble notes, but gave up when it looked by paper was turning into paper-pulp right before my pen point could scribble often illegible notes.
I saw some more highlight throws this aft from #14 SAM HOWELL. Out of the corner of my eye, while watching the big uglies battle it out, I caught sight of HOWELL throwing a deep ball on the other end of the field. In a steady rain, his throw just spiraled high and dropped right in the bucket over the receivers outside shoulder. Russell Wilson would have been proud of that throw. He’s my QB 1 right now!
MALIK WILLIS also looked solid in the rain, but he still makes bad throws too often. Mechanics have to be the problem and a good QB Coach, who is a teacher, can straighten much of that out in a year or so. WILLIS stands at No. 2 for me.
RB DAMEON PIERCE #27 has shown well with his burst and shiftiness, most of it between the tackles. He is also the best blocker from either RB group down here. He’s only 5’9, but packs 220 lbs. of muscle on that frame of his. Secondary guys cannot be looking forward to taking him head on, under full steam in the secondary. He even caught a few balls in the wetness.
DT DeVONTE WYATT of Georgia may not be “pretty” or very flashy, but man he is tough and never stops working. He shows the strength along the line of scrimmage, and relentless energy to get to the ball no matter how far he has to run to do so. An all-over-the-field player. Overall he’ll bring more to your defense that his monstrous DT mate at UGA, JORDAN DAVIS.
I mentioned BRAXTON JONES OT Southern Utah yesterday and I am happy to report that I feel like I saw even more from him today. In run blocking drills he had great foot movement and again used this 36″ long arms to reach and push people around. I think what he’s showing here is what an appealing lump of clay he is for some NFL team to mold into a starting LT given patience and time. Might squeeze into my Top 100 when all is said and done. Looking very good down here.
SPENCER BURFORD/OL/UTSA has gotten my attention this week starting with the weigh-in, when he measured at just under 6’4 and 293 lbs. I kept thinking OG, but he has used his 34 1/4″ arms to good advantage at OT on most reps. He shows a bit better footwork than I anticipated. He may end up as one of those guys who plays a bit better than his frame might indicate at first blush.
I think it would be safe to say that former 5-Star recruit CADE MAYS had a lackluster college career, finishing up at Tennessee. And I will not pretend that he is wowing folks down here since being added to the American roster just in time to participate here. But he does not look lost overall, and might make a nice project Pick (albeit Day 3) for an NFL team with a vet, teacher OL Coach. It seems to be his footwork, especially in reverse, that hinders his play. He got walked back a few times in 1-on-1’s both days but in half-line blocking drills he showed some quickness shooting through traffic to get to second level blocking position.
I was totally surprised while watching route running and catching today by CONNOR HEYWARD #30 the all-purpose FB-HB-TE from Michigan State, and yes younger bro of CAMERON/Steelers and son of former NFL RB “Iron Head”. HEYWARD came right my way for a nice hands catch just past a LB chasing him, and then make a quick/smooth turn upfield. He looked faster than I thought he was at 5’11, 230 lbs. and the hands looked really soft. If I can figure out which group he’s working with I need to watch this young man more.
I just happened to notice last night that the name of KYLE PHILLIPS had appeared on the American roster. He’s the UCLA WR who was getting kudos at the Shrine game and being likened to HUNTER RENFRO. I did not notice him on the field Wednesday and have a feeling he was en route to Mobile. If I can sniff the Practice Field today (closed to general media) I will surely look around for him.
Also added to rosters
TE TRAY BARRY B.C. #81 to National
RB T.J. PLEDGER Utah #5 to American
Mr. Nagy has done a really solid job getting good quality into town to replace injured players from multiple position groups this week.
Speaking of which, one more player to mention. DT ERIC JOHNSON #99 was added to the American Squad after completing his stint playing at the NFLPA venue. He stood out for his work at that game, and has fit right in here this week. He is a solid addition and making plays in practice. Nice to see for a guy from the relatively little MISSOURI STATE program.