The stadium is closed and the sun is setting, somewhere behind those clouds, to the West out my hotel window. The first practices are in the books and hundreds of us will be tweeting and blogging about what we thought we saw going on.
Let’s get right to the QB situation, as that always seems to be of paramount interest to fans, and those teams who don’t have a franchise QB on their roster. Which by the way, now also officially includes the Tampa Bay Bucs, just in case you somehow missed that. I am going to give you a daily update on who impressed me and who didn’t among the QB group.
Today I have a Top 2, of 6, for you. The 2 QBs who did more good things than bad, at least when I was watching them were;
SAM HOWELL #14 With strong accurate throws and traces of mobility to his game.
MALIK WILLIS #7 Showed off his arm at times, but also had some pretty bad throws mixed in on a regular basis.
The other 4 QBs here this year, I would all rate as just “GUYS” right now.
DESMOND RIDDER Looks the part and had some nice throws, but had trouble with snaps from OC at times.
BAILEY ZAPPE Just doesn’t have the true arm strength you need as a pro, unless he ends up in a chuck & duck offensive scheme.
CARSON STRONG After we were told how his knee is good again, he looked like a statue too often, and threw wildly while scrambling. Arm strength is good, but he was lobbing mortar shells today on long ones.
KENNY PICKETT Was inconsistent in his throwing, and held the ball too long, resulting in sacks.
We haven’t gotten all of the details officially yet, but it was a tough start on the injury front. It looked like LB TERREL BERNARD; DE/ER CAMERON THOMAS and OL LUKE GOEDEKE might all be on the verge of being done with football this week because of injuries.
Nice addition to the National Roster was announced by JIM NAGY this afternoon, that Oregon S VERONE McKINLEY is flying in to join the National team starting Wednesday. He is currently ranked in my Top 100.
As most of you know GPS determined MPH speed for players is gaining ground in replacing the good old 40-times in judging player speed. So just to show you that even an “old dog” (me) can learn new tricks, here are some of the fastest speeds recorded today during practices:
CB JOSH WILLIAMS Fayetteville State 21.75mph
WR ROMEO DOUBS Nevada 21.25mph
RB RACHAAD WHITE Arizona St 21.15mph
WR BRAYLON SANDERS Ole Miss 20.84mph
WR CHRISTIAN WATSON N. Dakota St 20.71mph
WR ALEC PIERCE Cincinnati 19.82mph
It certainly looked to my eyes, that the TE group is one of the strongest position groups in not only this game, but the entire 2023 Draft. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise in the group of 8 here this week, at least for one practice is GREG DULCICH of UCLA. In case you missed some of the numbers, DULCICH measured in at 6’036/248, with 9 7/8″ hands and an 81 1/4″ Wingspan. He is a smooth route runner coming out of his stance, tracks the throws well, and showed nice soft hands on several slightly off target throws this afternoon.
Ohio State’s JEREMY RUCKERT also looked quite good this afternoon. He gets downfield well and also exhibited good hands on catches. He was likely underused by the Buckeyes in their offense, where the wideouts are so good and plentiful that the TE becomes an after-thought. Here’s thinking that this guy will make a more productive receiver as a pro than he was in college. And of course, he is a solid blocker in the run game.
The OL group has some very large bodies in the groups for both teams. The most effective blockers for the national Team today were MATT WALETZKO/North Dakota & ABE LUCAS/Washington State, but perhaps the most highly ranked OT this year in Mobile is TREVOR PENNING/Northern Iowa, the 6’066/330, who also took care of business here today. He has a tremendous wingspan of 83 5/8″. He looked solid in both run blocking and pass-pro 1-on-1 drills. I find it somewhat ironic that last year the BILLS drafted SPENCER BROWN, also from Northern Iowa. He was starting for them by season’s end. These guys acquitted themselves well in the morning practice.
Then some OL from the American squad afternoon practice strutted their stuff. DARIAN KINNARD/Kentucky needs some refinement to his technique, but the massive 325-pounder is relentless and can wear defenders down as he did this afternoon. Based on what I saw today, I think another OT named BRAXTON JONES from little Southern Utah has some major long range potential. At 6’5/306, #77 looks almost skinny, but he has long (36″ arms) and competes on every snap. I’m anxious to see if he progresses as the week goes on.
As often happens, it is not all a bed of roses for every player down here. One of the least impressive performances I saw today was from small school CB GREGORY JUNIOR, from the National squad. He was just overpowered and outrun most of the morning practice. And he sure did not look like a 202-pounder. He just couldn’t keep up with most receivers and had trouble anticipating the throw. Let’s call him a project for now. This is a big step up for him in competition, coming from Ouachita Baptist.
On the other hand, Fayetteville State CB WILLIAMS (mentioned above for hissed) held up very well. He allowed a few catches, but he also broke up a couple of throws. Not that he was expected to tackle much in college, but he was way too content to just dance with a WR/blocker on several occasions. Some NFL team will be glad to work on that if his cover skills continue to look this solid.
There are a lot of solid DL in this game, and I don’t mean Edge players, I am talking about legit hand on the ground DL. How about my top 2 from each team, after just one practice.
National Team: LOGAN HALL/Houston & TRAVIS JONES/UConn
American Team: KINGSLEY ENAGBARE/South Carolina & JOHN RIDGEWAY/Arkansas
Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I always pay attention to my kicking Special Teamers so…. my quick impression is that neither of the PK’s in this game are going to be drafted or make an NFL team. But both of the Punters here impressed me today. JAKE CAMARDA/Georgia, #90, wasn’t called upon to Punt a whole lot for UGA last season, but he booms them with good hang time. His range for my stop-watch was 4.09-4.90 seconds. Meanwhile, Penn State’s JORDAN STOUT, #96, was booming them this morning. He was kicking for such distance that a receiver group had to twice move further downfield to keep from being bombarded by his practice punts. These guys both look like future NFL-ers to me.
Gotta run. Weather permitting, hope to be back at you Wednesday night.