|Senior Bowl: North Practice Report (Wednesday)
|By: Sideline Scouting Staff
|January 26, 2011
The weather was beautiful for the North practice today. After a successful day yesterday, it was easy to get to Ladd-Peebles Stadium with a sense of excitement.
Although practice seemed a little more relaxed today than yesterday, there were still a lot of good observations to take away from practice.
Jake Locker (Washington) looked much better today. He appears athletic enough to roll out of the pocket and get away from the rush. He throws a
good ball while rolling out and appears most comfortable rolling out to this left. He did miss a couple open passes and missed Dane Sanzenbacher on a quick throw, but
overall, he looked much better today. Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) has really stood out for this North squad. He has much better arm strength
than I gave him credit for coming into this week. During skeleton drills, he routinely worked through a progression before making his decision to throw. Nevada's
Colin Kaepernick has
been very disappointing. He consistently misses open targets and doesn't get much velocity on his intermediate throws. At one point this morning Kaepernick was
asked to throw two screen passes in a row and threw the ball over Titus Young's head on the first one, then threw the second one into the ground in front of Dwayne
Harris. His throwing motion is extremely awkward. Kaepernick's release is not a one motion, full wind up, like most quarterbacks. He brings the ball to the top
and then flicks it which exposes the football more than coaches would like to see.
The running backs focused on pass protection and receiving drills today. Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter was the most
impressive of the bunch which is surprising considering his small frame. I stood next to one scout who said that he liked what he sees with Hunter and his ability to
leverage in pass protection. The scout also brought up a great point about what teams look for out of running backs at the Senior Bowl. He said that all of the
running backs here got to this point because they can run the football, there is no doubt that they can carry the ball, the thing that really gets exposed
here is that coaches can take a look at how a running back fits in the grand scheme of things. Can he block? Can he catches passes in the flats? Can he run
routes out of the backfield or line up in the slot? Can he return kicks? Those are the types of things that coaches are looking for down here more so than
whether or not a guy can run the football.
Coming into the week, I thought that Owen Marecic would alternate between fullback and linebacker just as he did
at Stanford, but so far, he has worked exclusively with the running backs. He has not worked with the linebackers at all.
Today's most impressive receiver had to be Boise State's Austin Pettis. He routinely made tough catches in traffic and
appears to be a very good route runner. During skeleton drills, Pettis seems to always be open despite not having elite quickness or speed. Another standout was East Carolina's
Dwayne Harris who made multiple acrobatic catches. Harris is not the biggest or fastest player, but he is quick, sure-handed,
and works the boundaries very well. He made multiple grabs along the sidelines today where he was able to keep both feet in bounds.
Titus Young (Boise State) continues to look like the most explosive player here in Mobile. His combination of acceleration
and open field moves has made him a media favorite this week.
It was more of the same from the tight ends today. I'm not going to knock someone for something we knew they struggled with coming in. That said,
Lance Kendricks and Mike McNeill (Nebraska) are showing their
worth as receivers and Lee Smith (Marshall) as a blocker. Smith also lined up at fullback in a full house formation during team
drills and any added versatility shown this week can definitely help their draft stock. Kendricks is a willing blocker who breaks down reasonably well and can generally
hit a moving target; he made a nice block at the second level in space today.
Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo surprised me with his footwork and did a nice job on Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan,
who dominated for much of the practice. Castonzo isn't real strong or powerful and needs to add 12-15 lbs. and improve lower body strength, and he's susceptible
to bull rushers but he handled the speed of Kerrigan and has had a solid week, solidifying his status as a first round tackle. Colorado's
Nate Solder had an inconsistent day, but most of his struggles came against Kerrigan around the edge. He doesn't have
picturesque technique and his footwork is a little sloppy but he's quick enough to be used as a pulling blocker on running plays and sets the edge well.
I wasn't too impressed with Jason Pinkston (Pittsburgh) on the first day but he's come back and put together two
straight solid practices. He's a hard worker and although he doesn't possess good outside lateral range and can be beat by good outside speed he recovers well and
regains position. For that reason, he's better off at guard and compares to former Packer and Brown Ross Verba. Indiana OT
James Brewer had another poor day and was thrown around like the neighbor's cat on both inside and outside moves.
As mentioned, Ryan Kerrigan had a nice day and is finally getting looks as a rush linebacker as well. He gets pressure
around the edge, sometimes going in untouched and get the better end of some highly rated offensive linemen. Getting some work at linebacker is no surprise after
weighing in at 255 lbs. but he struggles making tackles in space so he'll still need to refine his game if that's a permanent switch to make following the draft. Iowa's
Christian Ballard and California's Cameron Jordan continue to impress and
at around 290 lbs. they're versatile enough to move inside to DT on passing downs at the next level for added team quickness. South DE Allen Bailey also fits that bill.
Notre Dame DT Ian Williams continues to flash his talent. He's very physical with a nice arsenal of moves and forced a hold at
one point by Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi. He plays low and with good leverage and is a big-time run stopper that is a little undersized but still might gets looks as a 3-4 NT.
Oregon St. DT Stephen Paea did not practice yesterday and will undergo surgery to repair lateral meniscus in his right knee.
South Florida's Terrell McClain will replace him on the roster.
It's often hard to scout linebackers during this week of practice because of the lack of hitting, but Washington's Mason Foster
looked very good today. It's hard to not like a guy who plays his tail off, and Foster is one of those guys. He looked very physical today in pass-rushing drills. His spin
move is a lot better than I would have initially given him credit for. Michigan State's Greg Jones got some looks at outside linebacker
today. People are still harping on his size, and at just under six feet tall, there are certainly disadvantages to being so short for the position. However, I think it will
depend a lot on what sort of system he plays in. Jones looks very physical and energetic, but he will struggle in a cover two system because of the deep middle responsibilities.
He's going to have to show more ability to drop into zone coverage and be highly effective in pass defense heading into Saturday.
For yet another day, I was mostly unimpressed with the North squad's defensive backs as a whole. It is not without a couple surprising players, but safeties Eric Hagg (Nebraska) and
Joe Lefeged (Rutgers) left a lot to be desired. Hagg just looks very slow and stiff, and seems to lack ideal quickness at the position. He has great size, but just looks out
of place in the secondary, especially in man coverage drills.
Virginia Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael was held out of practice today. He was on the sidelines is sweats watching the
action, but the source of his apparent injury is still unknown. He looked pretty good at practice the last couple days, so hopefully his injury is nothing serious and will
be back on the field soon.
I'm not sure whether to defensive backs on the North team are playing poorly, or if the wide receivers are better than I had initially thought. The receivers on the team
do look like they run great routes and made a lot of big plays today in practice. Hopefully the issue is the latter, and not a situation
of poor defensive back play.
Nebraska's Alex Henery showed a stronger leg than UCLA's Kai Forbath. Henery connected from 54 yards while Forbath's attempt fell considerably short.
The team also tried out kick returners today and the players who returned kicks were: Dwayne Harris, Niles Paul, Demarco Murray, Joe Lefeged, Titus Young, and Kendall Hunter.
(January 27) --
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, and will be attending the daily press conference at 5:30 CST.
Full transcripts from the press conference will be posted later this evening. Refer to the tabs above for full coverage.