Senior Bowl South Practice Notes

By Lance Zierlein
January 22, 2013

Lance Zierlein is in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, following up on the South's practice.

MOBILA, Ala.--

On Mondays, every man has to make a choice at the Senior Bowl -- North or South?  Because the two practices overlap for only this one day, teams and media have to pick which practice they are going to watch. Because I had to be on the radio by 4 p.m., I chose to watch the South.  Here are my notes:


* FSU's E.J. Manuel sure does look good in those pads and he sure does have physical tools.  What he didn't have on Monday was accuracy as he sailed a few too many passes and seem to have some trouble on his out routes.  There is still a long way to go, but Manuel has to dispel the notion that he can't live up to the skill-set.

* Arkansas's Tyler Wilson had his moments both good and bad, but overall, there was nothing that really excited me about him.  He didn't show much touch on his deep balls despite having men open at times.  OU's Landry Jones was solid but unspectacular, but I really do like the way he gets rid of the ball quickly.

Running Backs

* Clemson's Andre Ellington looked very good as a runner and in the passing game.  Ellington has no peer at the Senior Bowl as a 3rd down back and he showed the physical tools that you want to see out of RB2. 

* Both Stanford's Stepfan Taylor and Florida's Mike Gillislee had solid practices as well.  Taylor looked a little stiff during drills while Gillislee practiced with the same consistency that I saw from him during games.  Gillislee is a tough back, but he's not necessarily a plodder.  I liked the way he was able to show some burst to the edge.

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

* Due to some erratic throws from the QBs, we didn't get to see quite as much as I would have liked from the WRs, but I thought Georgia's Tavarres King really looked sharp.  King shows fluid and explosive change of direction and made showed nice, soft hands.

* Baylor's Terrence Williams didn't look quite as quick with his change of direction during drills, but he looked very sharp down the field in one on one drills.

* Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope only measured in at just over 6'0, but he's put-together well and only had one drop on the day that I saw.  Swope runs some of the smoothest routes at the Senior Bowl and no.... I'm not saying that to be funny.  He really does.

* I've heard from sources that La Tech's Quinton Patton is considered the premier trash-talker in college football, but I wasn't able to hear him getting after CBs during one-on-one or 7-on-7 drills.  Patton is a little sloppy with his routes, but is highly competitive when the ball is in the air.  I am very interested on focusing on him more because I want to see if he has better long speed that I think based on tape.

* Rice's Vance McDonald opened some eyes at the weigh-in and on the field.  McDonald measured at just over 6'4 and 262 pounds and has an arm length of 34.5 inches.  The two-way TE is one of the more coveted offensive positions going today as it opens up a great deal of matchup problems for defenses when paired with a pass catching TE and McDonald looks like he can be that kind of 2-way TE.  Safeties and LBs had a hard time staying with him on crossing routes without grabbing at his jersey and he made all but one catch (a Wilson lob over the top of a chasing LB that would have been a tough catch).  I plan on keeping a much closer eye on his blocking tomorrow.

Offensive Line and Defensive Line

* Virginia LT Oday Aboushi shows good, technical movement with his feet and was constantly working on his feet between everyone's reps during one-on-one pass protection drills.

* Clemson C Dalton Freeman is light in the pants at just 286 pounds and he doesn't have much of a lower body, but I really liked the way he competed and fought during pass protection drills.  Unfortunately, he needs more weight on him if he's going to get a legitimate shot in the league.

*Chadron State OG Garrett Gilkey gets the Civility Award for the day after shaking hands with John Jenkins after one battle against the big man where Gilkey got him wrapped up around the neck.  After that rep, he went over to get water and had a nice, congenial conversation with the two ball boys.  Nice guy.

* I'll be the first one to say it - and I know it won't be popular, but OU's Lane Johnson worries me.  He's got long arms and is a good athlete on the move, but I really worry about his core strength and I saw some him get jarred in pass protection against Clemson's Malliciah Goodman (I believe it was him).  I am very interested in how the rest of the week goes for him.  I know I will be out on an island on him, but if he doesn't show enough core strength, I won't be nearly as high on him as most of the draft community will be.

*Georgia's DT John Jenkins looked good.  I figured he would be able to bull rush most of the guys he faced in pass protection drill and that was definitely the case and showed a nice arm over move beating Cal's C Brian Schwenke.  On the down side, he came into the Senior Bowl at 359 pounds which is heavier than teams will like and he also jumped offsides twice and got screamed down for it by the defensive line coach.  Speaking of Schwenke from Cal, I like him.  He's got more sand in the pants than most centers you'll see and has an ability to anchor.

* I know DEs Cornelius Washington (UGA) and Lavar Edwards (LSU) don't carry high draft grades right now, but their athleticism and first step caught my eye in pass protection drills.  That is a small part of the big picture but both guys have my attention now.

* FSU DT Everett Dawkins did not have a particularly strong practice from what I was able to see.  He ended up on the ground on two different reps with Kentucky G Larry Warford completely stone-walling him at one point.  Warford has sturdy, wide base and showed a great usage of hands and power in his pass-pro sets.  I was very impressed with him.

* BYU DE Ezekial Ansah got off to a slow start and looked a little sloppy, but he got it together and showed more power than I expected.


* USM's Jamie Collins moved well and is well worth more attention tomorrow.  Didn't get to see him much though.

* Alabama's Nico Johnson looked good in run drills but was beaten by Vance McDonald in one-on-one passing drills on one occasion and blasted an F-bomb after the play showing his displeasure.

* FSU LB Vince Williams was grab, grab, grabbing out on the field in passing drills.  He did not look comfortable matched up one on one against most of the guys he faced.


* While not a great day for anyone in the secondary, it was easy to come away excited by SDSU CB Leon McFadden.  McFadden is just a shade over 5'9.5, but he was sticky in coverage and challenged every throw he could.  He reminded me of Dwight Bentley from last year.

* I'm not sure how heavy Georgia's Sanders Commings is, but he can't weigh what he weighed today and play like he played today.  While he was very physical, playing at 223 pounds at just under 6'0 isn't going to cut it.  Commings looked slow and too heavy.

* Speaking of Georgia defenders, it was a very unimpressive day for safety Bacarri Rambo.  There is enough good tape on Rambo that teams are going to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I was surprised at how many issues Rambo had in coverage.  I'm wondering if Rambo is nursing an injury right now because he just didn't look he was running well.