The Closest Thing to Being at the Senior Bowl: Day One Notes

By John Harris
January 21, 2014

Photo: Big Ten

Editor's Note: John Harris and Lance Zierlein are covering the Senior Bowl from the ground in Mobile, Ala. Check back daily as new reports and position breakdowns will be going up.

  • Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews showed perhaps the most polish of all the receivers, easily coachable, desired coaching, played physically, didn’t mind mixing things up with the defensive backs.  He ran good routes, consistently caught the ball and whenever he faced the top corners, it was great competition.
  • BYU WR Cody Hoffman struggled horribly today.  He couldn’t get off jams by much smaller cornerbacks. He was frustrated all day long and the coaching staff really stayed on him throughout the practice.  Slow was the key word with Hoffman throughout the day.
  • Oklahoma WR Jalen Saunders is sudden and stop on the dime quick, but really struggled catching the ball away from his body.
  • Tulane WR Ryan Grant was one of my players to watch and he didn’t disappoint.  He had more ups than downs during the day.  He snatched the ball out of the air, caught the ball away from his body.  He beat DBs down field and can get open.  But, he had a couple of lapses in concentration - jumping offsides and then letting a ball go through his hands during one-on-ones.
  • Alabama WR Kevin Norwood really struggled early in practice against CB in a press coverage drill.  He didn’t feel comfortable getting off the jam at all.  I worried that he would truly struggle badly in one-on-one’s but when the DBs backed off, he got open easily, caught the ball cleanly and was highly effective the rest of practice.
  • Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis didn’t win the weigh in, coming in at only 189 pounds, BUT when the former Badger got on the field, he lit up the North team defensive backs.  He caught everything, got open against everyone he faced.  Everyone.  He’s fast.  He’s going to be a star this week as long the North QBs get him the ball.
  • There’s something about a guy that just gets open.  All.  The.  Time.  Wyoming slot WR Robert Herron did that all day long.  Outside of Abbrederis, Herron was the most impressive receiver for the North squad, even though he measured in only at less than 5’9” and 187 pounds.
  • Pitt DT Aaron Donald was even better than expected.  He was matched up with Baylor G Cyril Richardson throughout the practice.  Richardson has four inches on Donald and nearly 50 pounds.  Yet, Donald whipped him all day long.  In run fit 1-on-1 Richardson didn’t win one time.  In pass rush 1-on-1 Donald literally knocked Richardson on his backside.  During team drills, Donald was so quick off the ball that CSU C Weston Richburg couldn’t even get a hand on him.  Hopefully, Donald will get to face a few of the other North OL throughout the week.
  • One of the stars of East-West Shrine Week was La. Tech DT Justin Ellis.  The 6’1” 347 DT showed that he more than belonged on the field with the much more ballyhooed Senior Bowl prospects.  He’s quick off the ball, penetrated into the backfield, used the spin move (as he did last week too) during pass rush one-on-ones.  It’s hard to think of a 347 pounder as more than just a two gap NT but that’s definitely not Ellis.  Well, he could be, but what he showed last week and on his first day in Mobile is that he’s more versatile to play any DT position in either odd or even fronts.
  • One scout said that West Virginia RB Charles Sims could play slot receiver for his team and that scout isn’t wrong.  Sims is one heck of an interesting package with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  The Falcons offensive staff threw a pair of screens to him to get him out in space.
  • Wisconsin RB James White won’t get a ton of acclaim but I liked what he showed on Monday.  He doesn’t have great outside burst as the North defense tracked him easily on a bounce run late in practice.  But, he ran inside a couple of times that caught my attention.  He’ll be worth watching the rest of the week for certain.
  • Georgia Arthur Lynch caught nearly everything thrown to him against safeties and linebackers in one-on-ones.  He’s an adequate blocker that can be a middle day three prospect.
  • Fresno State’s Marcel Jensen struggled in all aspects of the passing game.  He didn’t catch the ball well at all and he’s going to end up being a run blocker, if anything else.
  • Auburn DE Dee Ford won the weigh-in, won 1-on-1s and won the day.  Without a question, he was the most dominant hand-in-the-dirt player on the South squad.  He won with speed off the edge and showed a balance of power and speed throughout the day from individual all the way through team drills.  His next charge will be to show a few of his pass rush acumen when the initial rush is stopped.  He can do it, but he now has to show it.
  • Alabama DT Ed Stinson missed most of practice dealing with a groin issue.
  • Georgia Tech OLB Jeremiah Attaochu played during the day at ILB, which I think is a major mistake.  He’s got to be a space player, but the experience of playing inside can’t hurt.  He’s not really had a chance to show what he can do off the edge.  Hopefully the Jaguars coaching staff will give him that opportunity to hit the edge Tuesday and/or Wednesday.
  • BYU OLB Kyle Van Noy does everything SO well on a football field.  Coverage, rush the edge, pursuit, you name Van Noy has it.  The Jaguars coaches got on him a bit during individual drills because they didn’t think he was flying through a drill.  It’s just that he makes it look effortless.  He made plays throughout the practice in coverage.  It’s not a surprise to me as I’ve got him in my top 15 on our TSV Big Board but I value production and intelligence more than anything.  Van Noy has all of it.
  • Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin was easily the best cover corner on the South squad.  His press technique footwork needs a little work, but his recovery speed is ridiculous.  He’s fluid, moves smoothly and bends athletically.
  • Auburn CB/S Chris Davis had an interesting day and I’m struggling with how to classify his day.  He’s easily the most physical cornerback on the field and he is ultra-physical in press coverage.  He frustrated nearly every receiver in press man, including Vanderbilt star WR Jordan Matthews.  But, the further he got away from the line of scrimmage, he struggled a bit.  He got beat once by Matthews but Davis will compete.  He’s stiff as can be but I love his tenacity.  Ultimately, I think he’s got to move to safety but initially I think playing corner will be great experience this week.
  • Utah CB Keith McGill at 6’3” showed incredible agility in press man drills and will be a guy to watch the rest of the week.
  • Liberty CB Walt Aikens has a great body.  Yeah, I said it.  But, he didn’t look out of place at all.  He got beat a few times but he competed hard and as I mentioned to a few scouts “he’s moldable clay”.  He’s definitely worth watching over the next few days.
  • Vanderbilt T/G Wesley Johnson stouter than his Senior Bowl weight of 290 and did a nice job of utilizing technique (brought his feet with him and kept defenders squared up) in all of his one on one drills.  With his weight and short arms it will be interesting to see if he gets snaps at center this week.
  • Cal DT/DE Deandre Coleman was impressive in run and pass drills using good leverage and quickness off the snap.  Coleman is an interesting follow this week because I see a ton of scheme flexibility with him.
  • Tennessee T Ja'Wuan James' lower body than I expected and had some issues early on in one on one running drills with Virginia’s Brent Urban rag-dolling him on one rep, but he improved in pass pro drills including a lock-down effort on SEC running mate, Arkansas DE Chris Smith.
  • Arkansas DE Chris Smith is much shorter than teams would like at DE (6’1") and doesn’t possess much length, but he had some very physical snaps and was very difficult for the South’s offensive linemen to block in run blocking drills.  Smith also had one of the biggest collisions of the day in oline/dline drills with Joel Bitonio from Nevada where Smith thumped him.
  • UVa DE Brent Urban looks good in the uniform and can play too.  The only problem I saw is that he looked like a world-beater in the first part of practice and appeared to gas a little bit over the 2nd half of practice. Urban has outstanding size, but looked too much like a straight-line guy this week.  I need to see more counter moves this week.
  • Jaguars offensive line coach George Yarno got into NDSU LT Billy Turner with a butt-chewing a couple of times as Turner failed to execute basic functions of the one on one drill. Turner bounced back with good one on one pass pro reps against Deandre Coleman and Brent Urban and handled himself well in the scrimmage portion at tackle and guard.  I’m excited to see how Turner continues to progress under the watchful eye of Yarno.
  • Arkansas C Travis Swanson had a pretty average day and had trouble getting reach blocks on Will Sutton and Deandre Coleman in run drills.  I saw Swanson miss what looked like a fairly easy second level block on a MLB in the scrimmage portion.  I’m expecting a bounce back day from Swanson.
  • Florida State's Bryan Stork was actually much more consistent than I expected.  I didn’t expect much from him headed into Monday’s practice, but he showed a nice, strong base and was able to hole up physically against Coleman on two different reps.  I also noticed Stork took coaching from George Yarno and did a better job later in practice at keeping his head out of his blocks in pass protection.
  • Tennessee Daniel McCullers is massive, but it doesn’t really translate to consistency on the field.  He’s was more sluggish than powerful.
  • Mississippi State G Gabe Jackson flashed the in-line power than will have some teams excited, but I simply don’t like him as much at 339 which is what he weighed in at today.  If he can get his weight down about 10 more pounds he will make himself some money. Jackson buried Coleman on one rep during scrimmage portion.
  • Arizona State DT Will Sutton has been falling down the draft boards this year with NFL teams who don’t like the extra weight he’s added.  Sutton came into the Senior Bowl at 315 pounds which is heavier than he needs to be, but he had a really good practice today.  Wesley Johnson struggled against him in one on one drills as did Bitonio from Nevada. Sutton looked quick off the snap and played with natural leverage.  This is a huge week for Sutton who needs to flash and show his 2012 form.
  • Tennessee State G Kadeem Edwards played with energy, but looked a little overwhelmed from a talent standpoint.  He spent too much team leaning on defenders and needs work with technique.
  • Minnesota DL Ra'Shede Hageman showed active hands and looked to get up the field  on every snap.  I liked how active he was, but I want to see him get up the field more consistently and defeat the man in front of him more quickly.
  • As someone who has a much lower grade on Miami T Seantrel Henderson than most, I was very pleasantly surprised with the way that he used his long arms and natural athletic ability to keep Stanford DE Trent Murphy locked up.  Henderson did fall flat on his face after leaning face first into a run block and that has to be corrected on his part.
  • One I f the problems I had on film with Utah State C Tyler Larsen is that he doesn’t bend or play with as much leverage as I would like and that got him in some trouble against UConn’s DT Shamar Stephen who bull rushed him.  Larsen looked a little out of control at times and will need to tighten that up as the week progresses.
  • Notre Dame T Zack Martin was outstanding today and showed excellent hand placement, a wide base and good core strength.  Martin shut down Stanford’s Trent Murphy time and time again.
  • I am a big fan of Stanford DE/OLB Trent Murphy’s pass rushing skills including his outstanding hands, but we didn’t see much of that on Monday as he had trouble dealing with Zach Martin (who I project down to guard) and Seantrel Henderson who is the longest offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl.
  • Baylor OL Cyril Richardson had to be praying that the coaches would take Pitt's Donald off of him in one on ones as it was a problematic matchup for the burly Baylor guard.  Richardson had issues moving Donald off of his spot in one one one run block drills and was beaten with speed and a bull rush by Donald.  Richardson needs to come ready to play on Tuesday.
  • Clemson OL Brandon Thomas is one of my favorite oline prospects because of his strong hands and ability to stone defenders when he gets them in his sights.  I did see Thomas struggle with change of direction on one snap when his feet got completely out of whack.  Thomas ended up having a solid practice including his patented wrestling-style toss where he dominates the defender’s shoulder and leverages him to the ground.

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