Posted on: January 27, 2010 1:20 am
Fellow senior analyst Chad Reuter got his first look at the South squad today. We agreed that I'd focus on the offensive and defensive linemen and that he'd spend his time reviewing the skilled position players on both sides of the ball.
Although it may result in repetitive articles, former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow will be the main story of the South team every day this week. Fans, coaches, scouts and media all have their eyes on number 15 every time he strolls behind the center.
The three-time Heisman finalist did not have a great day of practice yesterday, but an NFL talent evaluator told me before practice that "people made too much of (the practice). We all know he needs work...but his intangibles are just off the charts, and he'll only get better."
Today he did not have issues receiving snaps and set up well in his drop. When he rolled out to his left or right, he set himself before throwing and was typically on target. However, it took him too long to set and throw on the move. It was obvious he worked on shortening his delivery, but he fell back into old habits as the practice went on, winding up and allowing cornerbacks to jump out routes.
Tebow displayed nice touch on deep balls and the zip down the seam that he's always had. When he held onto the ball too long or faced pressure, however, Tebow made bad decisions, throwing two near-interceptions that bounced off the chest of South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood and the hands of Miami middle linebacker Darryl Sharpton.
Fellow Gator Riley Cooper, his favorite receiver and roommate, both helped and hurt Tebow today. Cooper extended only one hand out for a out route early in pattern instead of running through the play, but later tracked a ball over his right shoulder, bringing it in with one hand down the sideline. Cooper had another ball bounce off his chest bounce off his chest after making a nice deep square-in to free himself of coverage. His inconsistency will cost him draft position despite his obvious athletic ability.
A receiver on the rise is The Citadel's Andre Roberts. Measuring in at 5-11, 192 pounds was a bit of a surprise, as scouts expected him to be closer to 5-10, 180. His quickness has not been hurt by the added weight, and his routes were outstanding. Roberts has the feet to run effective comeback routes, the suddenness to free himself on slants, and the vertical to leap up and grab a high pass on the sideline. Typically one FCS receiver is selected in the top 100, and it looks like Roberts fits that ball in the 2010 draft.
The top playmaker on the South offense, however, is Ole Miss running back/receiver Dexter McCluster. He snatched just about every throw away from his frame, showed exceptional quickness in the open field, and a knack of finding the smallest of creases and exploiting it as a runner. In other words, everything he displayed in the Grove this season. The problem, of course, is that he is only 165 pounds and is a liability as a blocker. But any team looking for a dynamic player in the late second or early third round will look seriously at McCluster.
The team's other wideouts, Shay Hodge (Ole Miss), Jeremy Williams (Tulane), and Joe Webb (UAB) all had their moments. Hodge and Williams aren't explosive off the line, but caught everything thrown their way. Webb takes time to get going, as well, but started to revert to his 2007 form at the position, using his body to shield defenders. None of the three can separate downfield or burst to the ball, but will be solid number two or three receivers who will move the chains for their team.
The success of the receivers today came at the expense of the cornerbacks, which scouts already considered a weak group. Oklahoma State's Perrish Cox, Florida State's Patrick Robinson, South Florida's Jerome Murphy, Kentucky's Trevard Lindley all had similar issues staying with their receiver and closing on the ball or making a play on it if in position to do so. Javier Arenas was the shortest of the bunch at under 5-9, but weighs the most (195) and played the strongest today, keeping in contact with his man and ripping the ball away from Webb during a catch on a short route.
The South safeties didn't have much luck locking on receivers, either, especially in one-on-one drills. USC's Taylor Mays really struggled to plant and drive coming out of his backpedal, looking like Fred Flintstone churning his feet without any resulting forward movement. Harry Coleman also looked like he had played linebacker this season at LSU, pedaling high and slow and struggling to change directions in space. USF's Nate Allen is much more fluid in coverage than Coleman or Mays, and scouts know all about his speed and range in the deep half.
With all of the talk about Tebow, some people may not have noticed that the ball flat-out jumps off the hand of West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown. His accuracy was not deadly, but he gave tight ends running down the seams and receivers on the sideline every opportunity to make a play. Brown's still working on getting the ball from under center and is stiff in his drop. His solid arm and ability as a runner, however, bodes well for his future as a playmaker at the next level.
Miami tight end Jimmy Graham had a phenomenal practice today, looking extremely fluid as a runner and catching everything in sight. The former 'Canes basketball player left safeties and linebackers without a clue on where or when his cut would come; the out routes and square-ins were equally crisp and strong. That sort of route-running ability for a one-year contributor, and at 6-7, 258 pounds, is rare. Watch for his name to climb up boards all the way to the draft.
The other South tight ends, Anthony McCoy (USC) and Colin Peek (Alabama) also impressed as able blockers and showed very good hands as receivers. Peek worked over Texas' Sergio Kindle in the BCS Championship Game and did the same today, while McCoy sealed the edge on run plays as he had done many times before for the Trojans. McCoy also used his long stride to get behind linebackers, making a nice diving grab down the seam.
The North squad will have an equally tough time stopping those receivers and tight ends on Saturday, if today's practice is any indication of how the game will unfold.
Posted on: January 27, 2010 1:10 am
With pending deadlines for various NFL draft projects looming, our editors are struggling to review our rambling, half-coherent notes from today's Senior Bowl practices onto the website quickly enough to satisfy some readers.
Rather than wait longer for them to catch up, here are Chad's unedited notes from this morning's North practice. This was his second look at the North squad.
Tuesday Senior Bowl North practice
The sun was shining and a nice breeze was blowing at the North practice in Mobile, but the guys in the trenches didn't pay much attention to that. The highly-rated offensive and defensive linemen were too busy going to work against each other to worry about getting some rays.
The stars of yesterday's practice on the offensive line, UMass's Vladimir Ducasse and Idaho's Mike Iupati, once again looked strong but also displayed some holes in their games. Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham showed Ducasse the sort of strong, relentless pass rush he'll face at the next level during one-on-one pass rush drills, beating him on inside moves using violent hands and getting the corner. Ducasse held his own in team play, however, looking more comfortable as the day went on.
Iupati was a bull in one-on-one drills and team play, anchoring against the formidable strength of North Carolina's Cam Thomas and Purdue's Mike Neal. When taking on Graham outside, however, Iupati showed his inexperience working in space, failing to extend his arms and move his feet to hold the 6-1 Wolverine at bay. The All-American is also not used to coming out of a three-point stance, and the lack of work showed when coming hard off the snap and blocking down on the tackle, but then losing his balance trying to hit a linebacker at the second level.
Needless to say, Graham's strength and phenomenal hustle were pretty obvious in today's practice. Only his 6-1 height may hold him back from getting that first round slot. Another end generating buzz in Mobile is Arkansas State's Alex Carrington, who has displayed the strength and ability to pressure the outside shoulder of right tackles in practice - which is nothing new to regional scouts watching him the past couple of seasons.
Zane Beadles from Utah was one of the offensive linemen getting worked over by Carrington. Beadles has the ability to run-block from the right tackle spot, but he appears to work best inside, playing both left and right guard today and performing much better in tight quarters than out on an island.
Two centers, Mike Tennant (Boston College) and Eric Olsen (Notre Dame) both stood strong today in one-on-one drills and team play. Despite measuring 6-4, 290 pounds, Tennant anchors very well against guys like Thomas outweighing him by 40 pounds. Olsen does not lose the leverage battle often, either. Both guys gave up quick rushes in one-on-one drills to Tyson Alualu and D'Anthony Smith, but those smaller tackles won't have that with which to work in the NFL, limiting their effectiveness.
Fullbacks and tight ends, the extension of the offensive line, also made some nice plays today. Ed Dickson from Oregon looked like former Texas Longhorn and current Green Bay Packer Jermichael Finley as a route runner today, showing good concentration to bring in high and wide throws in traffic and running fluidly enough to make it tough for linebackers to stay with him across the middle or on corner routes.
Wisconsin's H-back prospect, Garrett Graham, had troubles getting off coverage at times because of his marginal suddenness, but when linebackers did not check him at the line he found holes to the outside and easily secured passes to move the chains.
Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount also impressed today, looking like a clone of Jacksonville fullback Greg Jones as a tough runner and willing blocker. A bit raw in pass protection technique and as a route runner and receiver (QB Dan LeFevour had a talk with him after they failed to connect on a throw to the flat), Blount has a ways to go to improve his overall game. However, he ran strong and finished every play today, even spinning off tackles inside. And it is obvious Blount does not back down from mixing it up on the field as a block. Don't be surprised if he has a huge Senior Bowl.
Rashawn Jackson has been the top true fullback in NFLDraftScout.com's rankings for quite some time, and his receiving and blocking skills did nothing to change that rating. Though he works to work on his punch and hand placement when facing oncoming blitzers, Jackson is athletic enough to be effective in pass protection and be a good positional blocker for the run. His hips are flexible enough to adjust to passes to the flat, elude a defender outside, and get more than a first down after the catch.
It's easy to see how anxious the North linebackers were to show scouts they like to hit, as frequent repetitions against the run led to play action plays that usually saw all three guys on the field taking two false steps towards the line of scrimmage. However, just about every second-level flashed talent today.
Washington's Donald Butler stood out as a run-stuffing middle linebacker teams are looking for late in the draft. He attacked run plays from inside-out, finding his way through trash to get to the ballcarrier. Even though Butler and his teammates couldn't drag down backs during practice, anyone watching the Huskies this year knows he can play. And although he's not the most athletic or fluid player, his ability to sniff out screens and get to the edge was surprising.
Daryl Washington played inside in TCU's 4-2-5 defense this year, but his move to the strong side seems likely after watching the past two practices. His ability to knife through traffic to reign in running backs and stay with Oregon TE Ed Dickson down the field (and knock the ball away on one corner route in particular) was impressive. Though a bit high-cut, his speed and aggression makes up for it in space.
Another Mountain West product, Utah's Koa Misi, again looks to be a legitimate outside linebacker prospect. He has the speed to handle tight ends and running backs in pass coverage, as well as the strength to take on fullback blocks in the hole. He had already proved his ability to rush the passer, so the all-around package could see him leap into the top 10 overall selections.
There's nothing flashy about Iowa outside linebacker A.J. Edds, but he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Whether blowing up fullbacks or covering up receivers in the flat, he flashed the skills to be a Ben Leber-type coverage linebacker who will play for ten years in the NFL.
Another player making a change in position this week is Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. There's no questioning his production, and he could have the size to play inside at 6-1, 241, if he can stay at that weight during the season. He slid through trash to make plays in the run game today, and made life tough on running backs running routes in his area by pounding them within the five yard window. And nobody talks as much or as loudly as Weatherspoon, whether talking trash to opponents after blowing them up in drills or trying to give kudos to or pump up his own guys.
Posted on: September 15, 2009 6:43 pm
One of the features I'm proudest that we have carried over from the original NFLDraftScout.com to our work here at CBS is The Draft Slant, a weekly PDF written by fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter and I.
What makes Draft Slant different from all of the other information I've seen available from a draft perspective is that it is updated weekly. I offer a Prospect of the Week based on the film review done of last weekend's games, as well as a Diamond in the Rough and Eight Others that jumped out at me during film work. Chad previews the coming week's action with detailed analysis as to who exactly to watch (and why).
The ten prospects that will be featured in this week's Draft Slant are:
Player of the Week: FS Taylor Mays, USC (awesome athlete, but some troubling mistakes against Ohio State)
Diamond in the Rough: OT Tony Washington, Abilene Christian (among the 5 best athletes among senior OTs)
Eight Others from the Film Room:
Posted on: September 3, 2009 2:10 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2009 6:40 pm
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