2012 Shrine Game: Monday East Practice Notes

BJ ColemanDay one is in the books, and the East roster really showed why they likely have the most depth of the two teams, especially at almost every position on offense and the better defensive backs.

The biggest winners were BJ Coleman, Tim Benford, and Josh Norman, but take a look at who impressed.

Quarterbacks
-Of all the quarterbacks, it was obvious that Chattanooga’s BJ Coleman was leaps ahead of the other quarterbacks. He delivers a tight pass, has the arm to sling it around, timed outside passes well. He wasn’t connecting deep down the field, and his touch and accuracy past 15 yards was a concern. Still, he found a rhythm with some receivers, and I expect him only to get better as the week goes on. Along with his abilities as a passer, he was a vocal leader, challenging, motivating, directing the receivers well. Looks like he’ll get the “character/leadership” grade easily this week.

-The second best was Austin Davis of Southern Miss of the three quarterbacks, but that’s not saying a lot. He didn’t show great arm strength to the outside, but good enough on deep passes. He looked very comfortable and confident in the middle of the field, which goes along with my evaluation from the game film. Still, his footwork is very raw, and coaches pointed to his time in the shotgun as the main issue.

-Finally, John Brantley of Florida rounded out the crew, and he was as I expected: underwhelming despite footwork. His throwing motion is loopy and still comes out low, and he could deliver with power on three-step outs and five-step deep slants on time. He seemed on film like more of a timing based quarterback, so once he develops that with his receivers this week, he SHOULD improve.

Running Backs
Overall, it was tough to get a read on the running backs because the practice was pad-less, but it was pretty obvious that Tennessee’s Tauren Poole is going to be (as expected) the best running back here. he exploded well through the hole, was decisive in his cuts, and just looked like the polished running back he is. Davin Meggett of Maryland also flashed some intriguing stop-start ability. But again, tomorrow through Thursday should be a MUCH better indicator of the running back prospects. 

Wide Receivers 
-A major shock to me, Tim Benford of Tennessee Tech was the most consistent receiver on the field for the East roster. He’s very sudden, explodes very well in his cuts, and was able to plant, flip and comeback to the ball very well. He was a favorite target in the offense, and if he can show some shake in the open field too, he might get himself firmly in the draft-mix. Still, a long week ahead for the smaller receiver.

-Two guys were working primarily in the slot today: AJ Jenkins of Illinois and Kevin Hardy of Citadel. Hadey had three drops that I counted, two of which were on him and he just couldn’t shoot his hands out and extend for difficult but certainly catch-able passes. As for Jenkins, he showed why he’s one of the safer receivers in this draft, running tight routes inside, extending well for the catch. Jenkins especially is likely limited to the slot in the NFL and doesn’t have great moves after the catch, though.

-California PA’s Thomas Mayo looked about as good as I expected, especially for the first day. He explodes well out of his low stance off the snap, tracked ball well, especially in coverage on the inside, and took to coaching well. His deep routes are still an issue, and one of his biggest weaknesses showed up in practice, as he struggled to hold his route down the field and react without changing his path deep, but overall, he very well could’ve been the best of the NFL outside receivers

-Also of note, LaRon Byrd of Miami and BJ Cunningham of Michigan State showed great concentration on some passes, catching away from their body well. But both dropped passes throughout the practice, and neither was able to separate down the field. Hope Cunningham gets a shot in the slot this week as well, as I think he’s best as an inside-out slot receiver.
 
Tight Ends
-To me, Temple’s Evan Rodriguez was the clear leader of the tight ends, also not overly surprising to me. He showed tight, smooth routes in the seam, and used sutler hand placement, route definition down the field to show some separation ability, including one deep pass over the head of Penn State safety/linebacker Nick Sukay. He, as well as the other tight ends, played some full back, but overall, Rodriguez looked the part of the best tight end at the game.

-I haven’t scouted much of Chase Ford of Miami (FL), but he flashed a little today, catching the ball away from his body, smooth down the field in his movements. But he didnt’ fire off the ball well as a blocker (something I’ll be watching closer tomorrow), and didn’t seem to get separation on man coverages.

-Emil Igwenagu of UMass looked raw as expected, but didn’t do much in terms of an in-line tight end. He seemed very comfortable coming out of the backfield on his routes, however, and he looks like he NEEDS to be an H-Back in the NFL.

Offensive Linemen   
With no pads, I didn’t focus heavily on the offensive line, but I did notice a few things:
-Mississippi State’s Quentin Saulsberry set up very well in pass protection and get that initial punch and drive very well. He looks the part of a complete center, and I’ll be looking to see how he drives off the snap in the run game. As I said, the next three days will be much better for evaluating offensive linemen.

-Desmond Wynn sure looked the part of a potential NFL tackle, built lean but strong, looked like he could add weight depending on which NFL scheme. He showed some latterell movement and balance, shot his hands well versus the speed rush. Looking forward to hopefully seeing him at tackle this week, think he could be a much higher pick if he can play RG and RT.

-Jeff Adams of Columbia really impressed with his fluidity and balance in drills. I thought he would struggle to run and keep low with some of the FBS blockers, but he looked as flexible and comfortable moving laterally as anyone. Looking forward to see if he can kick slide and keep his feet in pass protection, as that will really make or break his stock.

-Rishaw Johnson of California PA seemed a bit heavy footed and struggled to drive with balance and force in run blocking, which has been an issue on his report. But he contained multiple types of rushers well in pass protection, and I expect he’ll continue that all week long.

Defensive Linemen
-To me, the most impressive defensive linemen was Nick Jean-Baptiste of Baylor. A high motor, hand fighting, somewhat sudden rusher, he showed two or three different rush moves, and was the only guy to give Quentin Saulsbery trouble on the inside. I’ll be interested to see how he does with pads on and if he can hold his feet and keep leverage in the run game

-Matt Conrath of Virginia was very underwhelming as a rusher. He was contained on every play I saw of him, didn’t seem fluid in the circle drill, and lacked any counter rush move, mostly because he couldn’t redirect his body weight. Interested to see if he can impress if they run some 5-technique in practices.

-Julian Miller of West Virginia some athletic ability in drills, but I don’t know what his position is at the NFL level. He’ll need to show a bit of everything this week to show he’s a “versatile” guy and not a defensive end without an NFL position.

-Didn’t watch him too closely, but the Canadian import Akiem Hicks looked a bit underwhelming to me. He sure passed the eye test, built outstandingly well, but didn’t get much pressure inside, got too high off the snap, and his hand placement wasn’t good at all. He lack some explosive qualities as well. I’ve heard good things, so lets see what he does with pads this week.

Linebackers
I didn’t get a real good feel for the linebackers today, but they are maybe my favorite position to scout and I’ll have plenty of notes on them this week. But, Penn State’s Nick Sukay, who played safety in college but was listed as a linebacker, did most (if not all) of his drills with the safeties. We’ll see if that changes at all this week. Also, Brandon Lindsey looked surprisingly fluid in coverage, transitioned well in breaks. He’s a very interesting one to follow this week, as he went from a defensive end to a 5-technique and now as a stand-up linebacker.     

Defensive Backs
-The three small school cornerbacks stole the show for sure for the defensive backs, and the best of the bunch seemed to be Coastal Carolina’s Josh Norman. He had great length, seemed fluid enough to transition with multiple receivers, and showed great ball skills, position his body well and making plays on the ball. He seemed patient in coverage as well. Of note, he did forget his helmet, and someone told me that’s not surprising, classic Norman, so take that for what it’s worth.

-Micah Pellerin of Hampton was another small school cornerback that impressed. He closed outstandingly well, drawing consistent praise form the coaching staff. His match-ups against BJ Cunningham were maybe the best to watch, and Pellerin fought well through the ball and seemed to consistently have the edge in the battle. Also, Justin Bethel of Presbyterian has some physical plays, closed to the inside well, seemed fluid and was in consistent good position.

-The safeties as a whole were underwhelming today, with Jerrell Young of South Florida and Christian Thompson of South Carolina State both were beat deep, and need to show they can run, even with tight ends, in the middle of the field. Matt Daniels looked impressive as I expected and played well in short area coverage, but I didn’t seem him in vertical routes, so I’ll be checking that this week for sure.    

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