Senior Bowl: North Practice Report (Tuesday)
By: Sideline Scouting Staff
January 25, 2011
Ricky Stanzi
The weather held out long enough for a great Monday morning North squad practice today at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher and Stanford's Richard Sherman practiced with the team today after being late adds last night. There were some pleasant surprised and a few disappointments today, but it is still early in the week, and players have a lot of time to make a good impression before Saturday's game.

The quarterback grouping shifted a little bit today as Iowa's Ricky Stanzi appeared to be the top signal caller on the field. He was getting better velocity on his throws and looked comfortable during 11 on 11 drills. However, it was just more of the same from Washington's Jake Locker who had a very up and down day. Locker's footwork and overall mechanics continue to look flawless, but his passes have been all over the place. Many people expected him to workout great this week with a solid set of receivers, but it appears that the questions surrounding him at Washington are more than valid as his accuracy has really struggled here in Mobile.

DeMarco Murray
Running backs are extremely difficult to scout here at the Senior Bowl practices because there is no tackling so scouts can't see many of the key traits that they look for. With that being said, there are a few notes worth mentioning from today's practice. DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma) and Roy Helu (Nebraska) both saw time lining up in the wildcat formation. Murray looks very explosive, very much a fast-twitch athlete. Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter looked very stout at weigh-ins yesterday but he did get overmatched in blocking drills today. At 5-7 and 199 pounds, his frame makes it very difficult for him to leverage against defenders. The lone fullback for the North squad, Stanford's Owen Marecic, struggled running routes out of the backfield and appears to be primarily a blocking fullback at the next level. At one point, he was asked to run a route into the flats and he ran out of bounds before catching the football. Coaches walked up to him and lectured him about boundary awareness.

Titus Young
The wide receivers continue to be led by Boise State's Titus Young and San Diego State's Vincent Brown, who both looked spectacular today. Titus Young is very explosive and has tremendous short area burst. Mike Mayock made a comment today that Young looks a lot like Desean Jackson, but I tend to disagree. Jackson has incredible straight-line speed and is one of the fastest player in the NFL whereas Titus Young is better in short areas. Watching Young, I can't help but be reminded of Dexter McCluster last year. McCluster appeared like the fastest player at the Senior Bowl last year and was a dynamic threat at Mississippi, but at the combine he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash. Most people expect Titus to run around a 4.50-40 at the combine. The thing that makes him so impressive is how quickly he is able to accelerate and how smooth he is when changing direction, not so much his straight speed. Vincent Brown has caught everything so far this week, he has constantly earned praise from coaches and media members for his ability to pluck the ball in traffic. Brown also handled a reverse during 11-on-11 drills and took it about 15 yards before being chased down. Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher was added to the North roster last night and had a very solid day. He ran crisp routes and caught the ball cleanly. However, he did look rather small on the field and may be overmatched by larger corners.

Lee Smith
Today was our first real look at tight ends and all three were impressive in their own right. Lee Smith (Marshall) is a stone wall of a blocker and really looks like an extension of the offensive line. He tends to round off his routes and isn't real crisp, and dropped one catchable pass but made a nice one-handed grab on another. We got to see how good of a blocker he is, dominating the same players that beat the other tight ends with ease. While Smith will make his money at the next level as a blocker, Lance Kendricks (Wisconsin) and Mike McNeill (Nebraska) are better known for their receiving ability and both ran good routes, did a nice job getting open, showed good hands and might cause some matchup problems at the next level.

James Brewer
Indiana tackle James Brewer is just a marginal athlete and has been unimpressive in two days so far and doesn't have the lateral range to play LT in the NFL. He's been slow to redirect and plays with poor footwork on the edge, overextending and lunges to reach the corner. He's a small area player who will probably have to move inside to guard. Last season, Rodger Saffold gained some first round consideration with an outstanding Shrine Bowl but Brewer is doing himself no favors this year and looks no better than a mid-rounder.

Cameron Jordan
Cameron Jordan (California) has been unblockable both Monday and Tuesday and has had the best Senior Bowl of any player we've seen so far. Remember, yesterday afternoon both practices were scheduled for the same time so we haven't seen anything from the South yet, but Jordan definitely looks bound for the top half of the first round. Last year, former teammate Tyson Alualu had a solid week and went in #10 overall to Jacksonville. Jordan could get consideration as high as #6 to Cleveland, if the Browns stay with a 3-4, #7 to San Francisco or #9 to Dallas. Today, Jordan saw action at both end and tackle and looked equally impressive. He's extremely quick with good, active hands and has some Julius Peppers similarities. Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder was the only player to hold his own versus Jordan in practice, which was encouraging to see as well because Jordan got the better end of that matchup this season in Cal's 52-7 rout over Colorado.

Christian Ballard
Iowa's Christian Ballard also got looks at both end and tackle and had an impressive practice. He is very athletic with good speed, fires off the ball and uses good technique. Ballard gains sold leverage and holds up reasonably well at the point, staying low and get under opponent's pads. He projects either as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme or under tackle in a 4-man front and reminds me quite a bit of Tyson Alualu. He's a bit inconsistent though and only flashes his ability to dominate, but it seems he can be as good as he wants to be.

Oregon State DT Stephen Paea was not on the field today. We'll try to get an explanation on that in tonight's press conference.

Mark Herzlich
The North team's linebacking corps is a fun group to watch in practice. Athleticism is not its biggest strength, but the group is full of hard workers. Mark Herzlich (Boston College) was getting after it all morning long, and Mason Foster (Washington) kept his high motor running during all the drills. What they lack in athleticism, they more than make up for with determination and football smart. I'm still not sold on Herzlich's ability to play well in coverage, but his 250 pound frame is very effective at pushing blockers back off the edge. Foster also looked great in blocking drills early in practice. He bullrushed Kendall Hunter 10 yards into the backfield for what would have been an easy sack in a game situation. Ohio State's Ross Homan looks a tad undersized to me, but he and Michigan State's Greg Jones have done pretty well at the inside linebacker position the last two days. The North linebackers just love to fly around.

Curtis Marsh
Sherman was added to the roster after Curtis Marsh (Utah State) was forced to drop out due to a hamstring injury. Although official measurements were not available, Sherman appears to be a very big corner with a lengthy frame and long arms. He is listed at 6-3 and looks every bit of that. His size is a big advantage, but he looked a little stiff and slow in practice today. He looks more like a safety than a cornerback due to his build and footwork, but he will have a few more days to prove himself. I will be interested to see where Sherman will be lining up at various times throughout the week. He looks like he is best suited for playing overtop of slot receivers in press coverage.

Rashad Carmichael
For the second-straight day, Virginia Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael looked like the best corner on the North squad. He has a knack for getting to the football, and does a very good job of staying in the hip pocket of his receiver. He made a very nice play against Niles Paul along the far boundary in group drills. He nearly came away with a pick had the throw from Ricky Stanzi not been so low. Still, it was an impressive play in tight coverage. Although Kendric Burney (North Carolina) looked very good yesterday, his inconsistency is a bit troubling. At times, his quickness and speed are impressive. He finds ways to get to the football and is very physical for his size. However, Burney's footwork is not very polished, and he needs to work on keeping his feet underneath him when adjusting to cuts and changing directions. He did make a nice diving interception against Stanzi later in practice, and showed great athleticism in the process, though.

(January 28) -- The week of Senior Bowl practices are over, but more coverage is on the way. We have posted notes and observations from both the North and South Thursday practices as well as transcripts from the Thursday press conferences. Also posted is a Week in Review from the week's practices. Refer to the tabs above for full coverage. We'll have all the action coming to you from Saturday's game as well.

*A.J. Green
WR, Georgia
*Patrick Peterson
*Nick Fairley
DT, Auburn
*Da'Quan Bowers
DE, Clemson
*Blaine Gabbert
QB, Missouri
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