January 18, 2017

Today was the peak practice day of the week. Thursday will begin the wind down as the teams get prepared to play a game on Saturday with game planning and walk-throughs. Spirited play and hard hitting contact highlighted both practices Wednesday.

But first let me mention the most shocking thing about this week in my world. For the first time in my 8 years covering the Shrine Game, since it’s move to Florida, PACKERS GM TED THOMPSON is conspicuous by his absence. It is clear that he has not and will not be attending the Shrine Venue this year. I fully expect to see him next week in Mobile. If I do not then I will be concerned about his health and/or status as the key football man in the PACKERS organization.

One of the clear stars of this morning’s session was MICHIGAN RB/DE’VEON SMITH. Considered by most to be a between the tackles, power runner he has stood out this entire week as a pass catcher out of the backfield. And that includes some serious run-after-catch ability featuring power and speed. He ran over and through some defenders today in some Red Zone action. That could carry over to the game on Saturday.

I did indeed spend some time watching QB play today. It wasn’t pretty most f the time. COOPER RUSH looks very unsure of his reads of the defense. He holds the ball too long and looks to take off on too many designed passing plays. He was also not terribly accurate on way too many occasions as well. NICK MULLENS may have looked even more confused, more often than RUSH, and looks to have below average arm strength, when accuracy is factored in. In reality I saw more promise from PENN QB ALEK TORGERSON. He looked very relaxed in the pocket and worked through progressions quickly, making some nice throws. He throws effortlessly, not pushing or forcing his throws. He ranks just behind KIEL in overall arm strength, IMO.
If you read my stuff regularly, you know that I am a strong believer (not unlike AARON RODGERS, apparently) that size matters, especially with a QB’s hands. In the total group of 6 here in St. Pete, the largest hand spread was measured at 9 5/8″, that being ZACH TERRELL. RUSH’s hands spread was less than 9″. That is scary small my friends.

GUNNER KEIL, might be the best overall QB on the WEST team, but he can be terribly inconsistent. He has the biggest arm, but after a vagabond college career, it could be said that his heart & head are still highly questionable relative to having what it takes to be an NFL level QB. Despite leading his team to a 13-0 MAC season ZACH TERRELL just does not have the look of a guy with enough arm or athleticism to play at the next level. Same could be said of WES LUNT, who at times looks absolutely awkward back in the pocket.

I luv the feisty, workmanlike approach to the game demonstrated by OC JOE SCELFO. He looks seriously undersized out there at times, but he passed a few tests Monday during the weigh-in process. He is just over 6′ tall and weighed in at 294 lbs. His 29 1/4″ arms probably mean he’s confined to OC as his only slot. But the good news is that his hand spread measured 9 7/8″ which should allay any fears that gripping and snapping the ball should be of issue to him. He looks like he can handle line calls and plays with high energy. I’d consider him as a late round draftee after an All-Conference season as a senior.

I will jump on the band wagon if it is not full already, regarding DRAKE TE ERIC SAUBERT, who is a good sized kid (6’5/247) with 10″ hands which he uses to good advantage. He does have a tendency to drop a few balls however, which I believe to be a concentration issue. He runs well and has a TE looking body. He will need work on his blocking, but he seems to be a willing worker and learner. I think most personnel people down here this week see him as a legit prospect adding some quality depth to perhaps the most promising TE group this decade.

Probably the best overall receiver for the East is DEANGELO YANCEY of Purdue. His combination of size, good hands and route running has scouts intrigued. He may be the victim of an overall weak Purdue team that has struggled to find a QB leader for their team the past 3-4 seasons.He weighed in at 220 lbs., on a 6’1″ frame Monday. His 9 1/4″hands are acceptable and his 33 1/4″ arm length make for a rather large target area. His 78 5/8″ wing span is most interesting to personnel people.

Even more action of note at the West practice session this afternoon.

I’ve been enjoying the hard work and effort from CHASE ROULLIER OL/Wyoming. He had some very nice numbers at the weigh in @ 6’3 & 321 lbs. He has very large. meaty legs and his 33″ arms aren’t too shabby for the Interior OL. He’s strong and aggressive and has looked just fine when sliding out to play OG. He has also shown the ability to explode out of his stance and get to second level blocks on the LB. He looks like a very draftable, middle round Pick based on his 2016 film and work this week.

My view has changed a bit on AVERY GENNESY/OT/TEXAS A&M after watching him get beaten a bit out on the edge and seeing his weigh-in numbers. Surprisingly, at least to me, AVERY stood only 6’3 on Monday. That would make him the shortest OT in the NFL. His 33″ long arms would also be on the short end for an NFL OT. I would have to say that he may be better suited to slide inside to an OG slot, with back up potential at RT in a pinch. And having said both of those things changes his Draft value considerably. I now wonder if he’s even in the Top 100 prospect list.

Two of the West TE caught my eye today with some nice route running and impressive catches. BLAKE JARWIN/Oklahoma State and TAYLOR McNAMARA/USC both look to join the East’s SAUBERT as 3rd Day draft prospects, again strengthening the TE Draft group. JARWIN made an excellent diving catch over the middle this aft, and McNAMARA showed very good run after catch ability on a couple of grabs.
MIKE ROBERTS/TE/Toledo is still listed as playing next week in the Senior Bowl, and i will ask him THursday if he’s really playing in both games. And he is playing a big time prospect this week. He’s an excellent receiver with giant hands for catching. His hand spread measured 11 5/8″ at the weigh-in. IN a Red Zone drill today he caught a pass and headed to the end zone. Hard hitting S LEON McQUAY sprinted over around the goal line and threw himself into ROBERTS trying for a ball jarring big hit. He bounced off and ROBERTS kept going as if a fly ht him. He’s a man folks. My guess is he may head to Mobile without actually playing on Saturday in St. Pete. THat would be too bad but understandable.

I pulled out the official Pigskin Paul stop watch to measure hang-time from all=purpose kicker AUSTIN REHKOW this aft. The results were not as strong as I expected. I came up with hang times of 4.28/4.19/4.53/4.44/4.12. Not bad, but back when BRYAN ANGER was here he would actually top 5 seconds a couple of times each practice session. Wg=hat I will give REHKPW credit for his ball placement however. Not once did he bang it down to the middle of the field. He was forcing return men toward the sideline and and out of bounds, with little room to reverse field. Directional punting is highly desirable in the NFL these days and REHKOW showed that he could handle that technique today.

For me the star of the afternoon session was DEATRICH WISE/DE/Arkansas. He basically gave his best JADEVEON CLOWNEY impersonation this afternoon. He was on the QB from multiple locations in the Defense and showed his length with several leaping pass deflections. He had the West QB corps on the run and looking for him over their shoulders. His weigh-in numbers from Monday were almost awe inspiring. He stood 6’4 7/8″, 275 lbs, 35″ arms, 10 3/8″ hands & an 85″ wingspan. Those are indeed CLOWNEY-like dimensions. I’m guessing many of you saw what CLOWNEY was able to do against New England when used creatively by DC ROMEO CRENNEL. With his long thin legs WISE has had some nagging injuries during his college career, and that will have to be checked carefully by doctors during the Combine medicals.

Good night from Florida folks. Thursday will be semi-walk throughs with lots of Special Teams work, but I am sure I can come up with a few tidbits for you.