2012 Players All-Star Classic: Thursday South Practice Notes

Antoine McClainAfter not being able to finish Wednesday’s practice, the South squad showed up early today to get in some much needed offensive/defensive team install. During practice I couldn’t help but notice how empty the stands were, but considering NFL teams are beginning to do in-house work, prepare for free agency and the draft, it’s no surprise scouts did in fact leave early.

Practice for the North team was in shorts and helmets, but the South squad went with the shell look for one last time. This gave me the opportunity to get a final look at the trench players, and multiple guys really stood out.

The big winners of Thursday’s practice were Taylor Thompson, Antoine McClain, Rennie Moore, Damon Harrison, and Coty Sensabaugh.

Quarterbacks
-Jordan Jefferson, after a solid first day of practice, seemed to digress back into old habits as the week went on. Jefferson simply would not hit the checkdown or secondary option, and locked onto his initial read all day. Either he doesn’t trust what he sees, or he doesn’t know what he’s looking for. At any rate, Jefferson struggled with deciphering post snap information, didn’t release the ball on time consistently, and in the 2-minute drill, was unable to make anything happen. Seems to be unable to take off velocity on underneath throws, constantly ripping the ball at full speed; needs to be able to tone down easy throws across the middle to remove his “bull in a china shop” label as a passer. Jefferson at this point is a pure thrower, who has elite physical attributes, needs major overhaul in his mechanics, and isn’t developed in terms of reading coverages.

-Nathan Dick had a good, not great day today; threw with more command and velocity inside the numbers, confidently went through his progressions, and at times, looked off defenders to create throwing lanes vs. zone coverage. Must improve deep accuracy and anticipation for out cut patterns, but shows enough intrigue as an over the middle passer to be worthy of a priority grade.

-Aaron Corp looked the best of the South quarterbacks today, and likely will start on Saturday for the team. Corp has excellent feel and touch within 10 yards, threw very well on the move, and showed a little bit of pocket mobility today, albeit against a pad-less rush. Gets jumpy at times with his footwork and bails on his footwork whenever he senses pressure, something that seems to be a bat habit. Will have to re-work his 3 step pass drops, as he shows no rhythm or timing with his lower half; looks lazy in quick game, which tells me he thinks 3-step passing is easy on the feet. Very much the opposite, the 3-step pass drop needs to be quick paced, precise, and have proper depth; Corp needs to really improve in this area, but did show polish, comfortable, and active with his feet in longer drops of 5 and 7 steps. Although Corp’s lack of productivity could scare off teams, there are certainly natural quarterbacking traits to be sought in this former USC starter and I see him as a solid undrafted free agent/possible Day 3 draft pick.

Running Backs
-Joe Banyard had a rough go today, not looking sharp at all during the shorts and helmets practice. Banyard dropped multiple passes, fumbled twice, and didn’t look like himself today.

-Daryl Richardson continued to run away from defenders with ease today. Showed better patience in choosing his holes, looked more like a straight-line, one-cut guy, and looked to me, this week, like the best back in the event.

Tight Ends
-A scout told me today that Taylor Thompson might end up a 4th round draft pick after his impressive week at tight end. Having played defensive end his entire career at SMU, Thompson picked up the position so naturally and so quickly that all scouts in attendance couldn’t help but be impressed. I spotted a Chargers scout after practice, talking at length with Thompson and showing a good deal of interest. Seems to be a good fit, but once we get to April, all teams will be interested in this guy, who’s big, tall, athletic, and gifted. June Jones personally contacted the Player’s All-Star Classic and requested Thompson be played at tight end, where Jones said he would have his best chance at making the NFL.

-Phillip Supernaw played with a ton of energy today, gave great effort on special teams, and finished every catch with power at contact. Lowers his shoulders after the catch, turns upfield immediately, and takes on tacklers like a battering ram, stiff arming one defender right into the endzone.

Offensive Line
-Easily the best offensive line prospect here for the Player’s All Star Classic, scouts here all agreed that Antoine McClain was a “stud” all week long. Sits into his stance ideally with proper bend and weight distribution, can keep his balance while delivering a jolting hand punch, and utilizes excellent hand placement. Ultimately looks like an instant contributor who can be a more than solid backup and long term starter at right guard.

-Kyle Nunn surprised me with a very strong practice, showing that he can sit, anchor, and punch effectively in his pass set. Has good stamina and doesn’t tire easily, hand punch is consistent with placement and force, and anchor is fairly sturdy. Not an overly impressive guy at first glance, Nunn grew on me as the week went on; looks like a good camp body and practice squad, developmental inside player.

-James Carmon didn’t distinguish himself above any offensive linemen this week in practice and looked very raw for the most part; that being said, one scout told me he fully expects Carmon to be drafted because of his size (6’5, 347 lbs), movement skills, and raw element (only played offensive line for one season). The former defensive tackle could be the next Jamarcus Webb from this event.

Defensive Line
-Kendrick Adams from LSU, though not near as dominant as he ought to be, looked great in bag drills; the most gifted athlete at the Arkansas Player’s All-Star Classic, Adams underwhelmed all week and needs to have a solid game on Saturday.

-Jacqiues Smith from Missouri rushed the quarterback very well today, notching one sack and more than a few hurries on my count. Generates a lot of power from his upper half and locks out exceptionally well to create separation from the blocker. I spotted a Cleveland Browns scout speak at length with Smith after practice was over.

-Dezman Moses, though not as developed a rusher as Smith, has even better power as a pass rusher and did a nice job of playing his responsibilities vs. the run today. Sets a hard edge and can crash things down from the outside in; barrel chested, tightly wound, power end that looks like a base 4-3 end.

-Rennie Moore continued to impress with a bevy of inside pass moves, initial quicks, and explosion off the line. Reminds me of Geno Atkins, and could really be productive as a 4-3, attacking 3 technique.

-Damon Harrison really flashed snap and pushback at the point of attack, collapsed the middle at times and disrupted the offense during 9-on-7. When Harrison plays with leverage, he can roll up underneath the double team and stick the running back right in the hole. With the upside to develop into an impact nose tackle, Harrison will be sure to have many teams’ interests come April.

-Ishmaa’ily Kitchen struggled some today and looked frustrated at times, being unable to beat double teams and stay active. An overlooked position at times, the nose tackle of the defense, especially in a 3-4, has to eat up blockers in order to keep the linebackers clean and able to make plays. Though Kitchen may have felt like he did a poor job at the time, in reality, he’s doing what all teams will ask of him to do in the NFL; sacrifice your body for the betterment of the defense. As a former linebacker I realize the importance of having stout defensive linemen to eat up blockers, and as thankless of a job as it may be, they are the foundation to strong run defense.

-Brandon Joiner was the only defensive lineman to beat Antoine McClain all week in the pit drills I watched; with a quick burst off the line, McClain overreacted to Brandon Joiner’s initial speed rush, which Joiner recognized immediately and spun off McClain’s off-balance body for the spectacular sack. He flashed enough for teams to want to go back and watch the tape, which is really all you need to do in an event like this.

Linebackers
-Aston Whiteside, constantly sought out advice and coaching on pass coverage technique, how to improve his drops, and do a better job-locating receivers. Although he didn’t have a terrible day in coverage, Whiteside was anything but spectacular. On the surface, Whiteside looks tentative and unsure in coverage; but on a closer examination, you find a player who generally doesn’t know any better and is completely new to the position. He’s unable to drive on the underneath routes, but doesn’t get beat deep generally. Needs a good deal of work and reps, but shows the adjusting and learning skills to get up to speed by the end of training camp.

-Garrick Williams really showed his true colors today, being an old-school, run-stuffing, 2-down backer; struggles in coverage so much to the point that its unbearable to watch. Consistently gets beat in man coverage against running backs, doesn’t have sudden change of direction ability, and only plays what’s in front of him. Has all the tools to be a solid run defender and high volume tackler, but will have to improve his man-to-man ability.

-Jake Trantin shows better coverage skills, but took multiple bad angles to close on the catch, resulting in YAC. Is very good with run fits, attacks the line of scrimmage, and shows some block avoidance ability. Gets overwhelmed at times by blockers, but uses his quick feet to step in the hole before the blocker reaches him.

-Sammy Brown ran well in coverage today, but still hasn’t dominated the lower level competition like I expect him to. Gives poor effort at times and doesn’t finish drills.

Defensive Backs
-Jeremy Lane has been a lock down, cover corner all week long and today was no different. He’s improved daily in off-man coverage and nearly intercepted one throw during pass skeleton. Needs to work on his footwork and pedal and be a bit more consistent with landing his jam press, but certainly has next level starting tools.

-Coty Sensabaugh looked every bit as good, if not better than Lane this week.  Extremely vocal, recognizes route combos, communicates pre snap information with teammates, and just comes across as a natural leader in the secondary. Has plus football intelligence, and has the long speed to last on the outside in the NFL. Coty Sensabaugh looks primed to be a future starter and instant contributor at the NFL level.

-Lionel Smith made some nice plays today, jostled with receivers in man coverage, and stuck to his man’s hip pocket without allowing much separation. Doesn’t have much ball skills at all, but shows the confidence in man coverage you need your cornerbacks to have.

-Charles Mitchell played solid, not fantastic today, and in 7-on-7 made nice reads, flashed some click and close athleticism, sinking those hips into his pedal and getting out of his pedal with good acceleration.

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