2012 Shrine Game: Wednesday East Practice Notes

AJ JenkinsDay three for the East roster, I got a great chance to look at the receivers and defensive backs especially today, with also focus on how the linebackers and running backs did in team drills.

The big winners today were Tauren Poole, Chase Ford, AJ Jenkins, Josh Norman, and RJ Blanton, but see who did well at each position here.

-Austin Davis of Southern Miss may have actually gotten the better of BJ Coleman today for the East roster’s best quarterback. He showed great touch down the field, keeping the ball tight and on time, hitting his deep receivers on time. It was his pocket passing accuracy that intrigued me before the week, and he showed that now that he has more chemistry with these receivers, he has the accuracy and timing, especially on the outside.

-BJ Coleman of Chattanooga was confident deep, getting the ball out quickly and over the top, utilizing his big arm and velocity. He did struggle to place the ball well in the red zone, floating passes out of the endzone at times, but he overall looked composed and had some great vision as a passer in traffic. Not perfect day, but better than yesterday with his accuracy, and still week-long, the best quarterback here. Also, look out for my interview notes with him in the “Daily Notes” tonight.

Running Backs
-So I hate to keep talking about only one running back, but Tennessee’s Tauren Poole continues to impress this week. He’s getting to his top speed quickly, accelerating through the hole, decisive in his vision and cuts down the field, and even showed some explosion and power in the goal line. He’s not a dynamic guy, but he does everything well and seems like the perfect #2 running back in the NFL.

-Alfred Morris of Florida Atlantic flashed a little today, some power and playing behind his pads well in traffic, but he’s not smooth out of the backfield, doesn’t have a ton of wiggle in traffic. And Davin Meggett of Maryland struggled in the open field, didn’t make a ton of plays in space, and overall was lackluster.

Wide Receiver
-The usual suspects lead the way at the receiver position today, with BJ Cunningham of Michigan State showing once again why he’s been impressive. He explodes well through the catch, something myself and Chris Kouffman of Universal Draft noticed in position drills. He’s tracking the ball well on quick routes, doesn’t hesitate, and can explode upfield well. I still hope he gets some more reps in the slot as I don’t think he gets consistent separation against more physical and fluid cornerbacks, but he looks the part of a Top 4 rounder. 

-Tim Benford of Tennessee Tech showed some explosion again today, but more impressively, he was making some plays in the red zone drills, getting vertical and grabbing the ball as well as some suddenness off the line. He did have a few drops in traffic today and needs to rip the ball out of the air more consistently, but another adequate day moves him closer and closer to a solid draft pick.

-California Pa’s Thomas Mayo had a decent day today, continuing to echo his strengths and concerns from my film evaluation before the event. In shorter routes, he grabs the ball in traffic well, getting off the line with some quickness and burst, and reacting very well to timing routes. But once again today, he struggled to track the ball in stride and in the red zone, and needs to work on his ball skills down the field much more. He’s athletic and quick enough to get down the field, but his hesitation once the ball is in the air and his lack of great ball recognition has limited what was a very solid day.

-Laron Byrd of Miami flashed a bit today, showing some raw red zone skills and getting the ball at the highest point, but still didn’t get separation overly well and is a bit of a body catcher. Lance Lewis of East Carolina looked better today, grabbing the ball away from his body, and positioning his body well inside.

-Finally, maybe the position’s most consistent players has been Illinois’s AJ Jenkins. Small, thinly built guy, he won’t be an outside receiver in the NFL. But he grabs the ball so well away from his body, has great suddenness off the line and in his routes, and tracks the ball well in traffic, looking it in well. He may end up being this draft’s top slot receiver

Tight End
-Similar to yesterday, Chase Ford of Miami stole the show. He’s not overly athletic, gets high in blocking, and doesn’t get separation in man coverage well, but he’s been tracking the ball outstandingly well in both practices with full pads, grabbing the ball away from his body and looking the ball well in. I’ll be surely watching more on him after the event, but he looks like at the very least, a red zone option for an NFL team.

-Evan Rodriguez of Temple and Emil Igwenagu of UMass were once again a bit overshadowed by Ford today, but both got more chances out of the backfield. Rodriguez once again looked polished as a blocker from the fullback position, as well as getting off the line and vertical in traffic from the tight end position. Igwenagu still doesn’t looked developed as a fullback receiver, needs more polish as a run blocker, and overall seems like a project compared to the other two.

Offensive Linemen
-Rishaw Johnson
had another solid day today, showing why I think he’s a Top 6-7 offensive guard in this class. He has some great burst and pop in pass protection, he’s best skill by far as a guard prospect. But today, he seemed to be keeping his feet and staying in good position on down the field blocks, something he didn’t really show in college. He’s still got heavy feet and won’t be a great down field run blocker, but he’s showing some athleticism to the second level for sure.

-Jeff Adams of Columbia had another adequate day, transitioning his hands well to secondary blocks, keeping his hands explosive and in good position. He wasn’t the best tackle from what I saw today, though, as Lamar Holmes of Southern Miss seemed to be consistently balanced in his kick slide and ready to pop, once time even bringing Julian Miller of West Virginia to the ground on his speed rush.       

-South Florida’s Jeremiah Warren has really impressed me this week, starting off with his length in weigh-ins (84 inch wingspan). He’s not overly technique-ready for the NFL, but he’s been taking to coaching and using his length very well, today especially in engaging, then transitioning to the short area second level, getting some initial punching. He’s gone from a PFA to a potential draftable guy so far this week.  

Defensive Linemen
-Miami (FL) Micanor Regis showed once again his suddenness initially and in his pass rush moves. I didn’t watch a ton of him before the event, but based on this week and the high praise he’s drawn from Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, he looks like a solid situational quick rusher in the NFL, and worthy of a late round selection.

-Nick Jean-Baptiste of Baylor showed some effective rush moves in drills, but he really lacks the quick hips and change of direction skills (echoed in yesterday’s notes from one-on-ones), to be a consistent pass rusher. Julian Miller of West Virginia reset his feet well in his rushes and getting off the snap low and with some burst, but he’s lacking raw pass rushing ability and hasn’t been utilizing his length and hands well so far.

-Finally, Akiem Hicks of Regina wowed once again today in drills, showing some great pop in his rip moves, quick in his rush transtions, and an overall smoothness as he moves in drills. He sure looks the part in drills and situational plays so far this week, but we’ll see if we can put this all together.
-I wanted to focus more today on Brandon Lindsey of Pittsburgh, and got a chance to see what he really is as a linebacker. He does look stiff in deeper drops, not fluid, doesn’t have great recognition. But, I will say that he reacted well in short area, closer to the line of scrimmage in his coverage, nearly had a pick. THAT is where he’ll be dropping in coverage in the NFL in a 3-4 scheme. Wasn’t great, but for what he is, I didn’t think he had a bad day.

-Shawn Loiseau tracked the ball and scrapped well once again today, getting up field quickly on a screen pass and (if they were full contact) would’ve blown it up in the backfield. He’s been showing more fluidity and completeness in space that I thought he did on film, and so far, he’s been the most consistent linebacker on the East squad.

Defensive Backs
-Josh Norman of Coastal Carolina stole the show again today. He had three interceptions that I saw. Now, part of the picks was the poor route by receiver or just guessing right (something he seems to do a lot) and being in the right place. But he did finish each of the three chances he got today, and reacted quickly to the receiver. He’s still not exploding quite as well fro his back pedal, but he surely is the top cornerback here.

-Micah Pellerin of Hampton and Justin Bethel of Presbyterian both closed well and were physical today, Pellerin especially. He shot well with his hands in man coverage, got physical in the red zone drill and re-directd routes well, and consistently closed hard and quickly on plays, one time intercepting a John Brantley late, slow outside route. Bethel still isn’t reacting as well as I’d like, but I do think he could be a solid nickel cornerback or a free safety in the NFL.

-RJ Blanton of Notre Dame was very physical today, consistently keeping the speedier receivers off their route and frustrating the quarterback-receiver timing. He’s been very impressive the past two days, looking to see if he can finish up tomorrow with a last good day of practice. More on Blanton in the ”Daily Notes” tonight as well.