Tag:South team
Posted on: January 25, 2011 10:32 pm
 

South Team Tuesday afternoon practice report II

This is Chad Reuter's report from the South Team's Tuesday afternoon practice:



Typically college football fans look to a team's wide receivers to move the ball down the field for their team to be successful, and therefore spend most of their time watching players on the outside during Senior Bowl practices.

The success of New England's two tight-end offense in 2010, however, means teams will be looking to this year's South squad in Mobile, however, for tight ends to cause similar mismatches next season in the copy-cat world of the NFL.

Tennessee's strapping young tight end, Luke Stocker, today looked exactly like the clone of former Volunteer and current Dallas Cowboys starter Jason Witten. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Stocker stood out as a blocker and a receiver, standing up Mississippi State K.J. Wright when setting the edge on the run then catching everything thrown his way when out on routes.

Stocker does not have exceptional straight-line speed, but finds openings between linebackers in which he can sit down, and also between the second and third levels of the defense. His one-handed grab down the left seam was impressive, even more so considering he held on after taking a shot from Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel in supposed light-contact seven-on-seven drills.

Arkansas' D.J. Williams had his best year for the Razorbacks in 2010, leading the team with 54 receptions for 627 yards and four touchdowns--a lot of which came after junior receiver Greg Childs was lost to injury mid-way through the year. He measured in at slightly less than 6-foot-2 and 236 pounds, which is not much different than successful H-backs like Aaron Hernandez, Dustin Keller, and Bo Scaife.

Williams is not going to be a best of an in-line blocker, but consistently ran solid routes to free himself of linebacker coverage over the middle or to the outside. Like Stocker, Williams have allowed no catchable balls to hit the ground this week, extending outside their frame to snatch passes and tuck them in. He's also given good effort as a blocker, but it's difficult for him to sustain against better linebackers outside. He'll be best as a mobile tight end/H-back prospect walling off defenders on the move.

Stocker and Williams are likely second or very early third round picks, and although Alabama's Preston Dial is the "other" tight end in the group and a late-round prospect, the 6-foot-2, 238-pound H-back also showed strong run blocking skills in addition to solid hands. His ability to tap both feet in-bounds while grabbing a pass on the right sideline displayed awareness , hands, and agility scouts weren't sure he had coming into the week.

When watching tight ends, it is nearly impossible not to also watch a team's linebackers, both in their ability to hold up against run blocking, as well as in coverage.  The top linebacker on the field today was Texas A&M star Von Miller--and that's not even considering his work as a pass rusher in one-on-one drills.

Miller surprised scouts at Monday's weigh-in with his thick lower body, which he used to hold up Williams and Stocker when man-up on run plays. His coverage skills are what really stood out, though, as the quick Williams could not separate from Miller on out routes because of the former Aggie's own lateral agility and speed.

A linebacker with Miller's closing speed to the quarterback, who also can be effective in coverage, is destined for a slot in the top 20 overall selections.

Another linebacker who looked quite adept in coverage and stopping the run was Miami's Colin McCarthy. Though a bit smaller than hope at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, scouts liked his physicality on the line of scrimmage against the tight ends here and ability to stay low and balanced while running with them on crossing and wheel routes (McCarthy ran with West Virginia Noel Devine down the sideline in Monday's practice). His ability to play all three linebacker positions, probably starting on the strong side, make him a potential top 100 pick.

McCarthy was apparently making strong enough contact in this practice that he needed to get his helmet pumped up by training staff while kneeling on the field.

 The South team has two linebackers in this game, OLB K.J. Wright and ILB Chris White. Neither looked as fluid as Miller and McCarthy in coverage, and Stocker consistently stoned them at the line of scrimmage in pass protection and run blocking. Wright was also victimized by Stocker in coverage, with the Tennessee receiver using an overarm move to get inside position down the seam.

Frankly, judging linebackers during all-star game practices is extremely difficult. Tackling is what they do best, and they're not allowed to do that before game time.

But showing the fluidity, strength and agility to cover talented tight ends like Stocker and Williams (who may be seen as similar to the Patriots' rookie tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez) here in Mobile can be a major feather in a linebacker's cap come draft day.

Posted on: January 25, 2011 7:57 pm
 

South Team Tuesday afternoon practice report

With Washington quarterback Jake Locker enjoying a strong bounce-back performance in this morning's North practice, the pressure was on the South's trio of passers to hold serve at the Senior Bowl.

Though TCU's Andy Dalton, Alabama's Greg McElroy and Florida State's Christian Ponder lack Locker's arm strength and athletic upside, their accuracy and ability to locate secondary target was nonetheless impressive.

Dalton was smooth dropping back from center - a question considering the fact that he took most of his snaps with the Horned Frogs out of the shotgun - and was able to survey the field and make generally accurate passes. He zipped the ball between defenders and showed good touch down the seam. Scouts say Dalton is helping himself this week with solid play, though inconsistent accuracy on the deep ball is a concern. Dalton wasn't asked to throw downfield often in for a TCU offense that relied often on screens and other timing-based short and intermediate routes.

It isn't often that a championship-winning quarterback can be characterized as an underrated NFL prospect, but that is precisely how I feel about McElroy. While much of the Crimson Tide's offense was based on their dual running threat of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, McElroy demonstrated the ability to drive the ball downfield while at Auburn and showed the same ability to surprise defenders with just enough zip to fit passes through closing spaces. Another aspect that is sure to impress scouts about McElroy is his ability to do the little things correctly. McElroy was able to move the South's safeties with his eyes and an effective pump-fake, creating wider throwing avenues to exploit.

McElroy's vision stood in contrast to Florida State's Christian Ponder. Ponder has a tendency to stare down his primary read and doesn't have the howitzer typically necessary to get away with against NFL coverage, especially after having undergone two arm surgeries in the past year.  He did, however, show a stronger and more accurate arm on his deep passes than either Dalton or McElroy, surprising more than a few talent evaluators today.

The South's quarterback enjoyed a solid, albeit unspectacular Tuesday afternoon practice despite less than ideal performances from many of their top receivers.

Abilene Christian's Edmond Gates, who left NFL scouts drooling with his deep speed Monday, was sidelined for Tuesday's practice with a pulled hamstring. Hawaii's Greg Salas, normally one of the more sure-handed receivers in the country, struggled with drops Tuesday. Scouts have questions about the 6-1, 206 pound Salas' speed and ability to make plays after the reception. Rather than suddenly forget how to catch, Salas appeared to be trying to make the defender miss before securing the pass.

Miami's Leonard Hankerson and South Alabama's Courtney Smith also struggled with a few drops Tuesday. Unfortunately, their drops were of the uglier variety. Each simply allowed too many passes into his chest, resulting in some bouncing off audibly. A bounce-back performance tomorrow would help the stock of both, though there certainly is a lot to like about the physicality, size (6-1, 205 and 6-4, 220, respectively) and upside of each.
The most impressive receiver for the South team Tuesday afternoon was TCU's Jeremy Kirley. At 5-09, 188 pounds, Kirley lacks the height scouts would prefer, but his quick feet and balance made him a tough draw for any cornerback. Kirley was a featured target of every South quarterback, not just his Horned Frog teammate, Dalton.

With a talented South offensive line doing a nice job in pass protection, it was up to the defensive backs to make plays on the ball.

Texas cornerback Curtis Brown impressed scouts with his athleticism and aggression. At times, he got a little grabby with receivers, but his size (5-11, 180), straight-line speed and fluidity typically kept him in the hip pocket of receivers. He was, however, beaten for two long touchdowns when he gambled on underneath routes and was beaten by double-moves over the top. Perfect throws deep (one by McElroy, the other by Ponder) beat him, but more often than not Brown closed just as the ball arrived, knocking some passes out of the receiver's hands just as they arrived.

USC cornerback Shareece Wright also showed a willingness to gamble on underneath routes. At 5-11, 182 pounds, he possesses almost identical size as Brown, though he isn't quite as agile or explosive to close on the ball. After making a nice break on the ball early in practice, Wright guessed wrong on the next throw, coming up quickly on a double-move and getting beat down the right sideline. Fortunately for Wright, the ball sailed out of bounds.

Perhaps the most consistently impressive player in the secondary was the smallest one. Florida's Ahmad Black may lack the bulk scouts want in a safety, but he has such quick feet that a move to cornerback may be in the future. At 5-09, 183, it may be his best bet at getting selected in the first half of the draft.


 
 
 
 
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