In the first day of split practices, I personally was at North to watch the best three quarterbacks throw, as well as get the first look at talents like Eric Fisher, Denard Robinson and more.
Fisher impressed, Robinson piqued curiosity, the quarterbacks didn't separate, and Jonathan Cyprien, Robbie Rouse, Khaseem Greene, and Markus Wheaton impressed.
-None of the quarterbacks did anything special today to separate themselves, which isn’t surprising. These three talented quarterbacks are all very close, and all could have their claim made for the best quarterback here. If I had to choose the “best of the bunch” today, it’d have to be Zac Dysert of Miami OH just barely over Ryan Nassib. Neither quarterback looked great today, but Dysert showed better touch downfield and overall his velocity control between reads looked better.
-If I had to pick the worst of the bunch, it’d be Mike Glennon, but again, not by much if at all. His ball placement was a bit off all practice, and he didn’t look comfortable in exchanging his progressions, which shouldn’t be surprising for day one.
-At the end of practice, there was a period where just Glennon and Nassib were working out (Dysert was by the special teamers). Watching each throw, both quarterbacks seemed to have negligibly equal velocity from a variety of foot platforms. Part of that is because Ryan Nassib has much better short area fluidity (an under-rated aspect to his game) and can swing his hips to adjust to rollouts/adjustments much better than the taller Mike Glennon.
-Didn’t get to see all the running backs in full on running drills without full pads, but Jonathan Franklin of UCLA SEEMED to show the best vision initially, utilizing multiple cut backs to attack the open field. Again, it wasn’t full contact, but it was noticeable enough, especially in that initial cut.
-Out of the backfield, it was almost unbearable to watch Robbie Rouse of Fresno State tear up linebackers in RB vs. LB coverage drills. He’s not a polished out-of-the-backfield route runner, but he’s certainly too quick for the likes of John Simon and Trevardo Williams.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
-Best receiver of the bunch today was surprisingly Marquise Goodwin of Texas. The speedy receiver showed off balance and explosion in all of his routes today, and really got great separation on deep comebacks. We’ll see how he does versus press this week, but it’s a good start for the speedy, high ceiling receiver.
-Markus Wheaton of Oregon State flashed a bit what he can do, but also proved to still be a bit of a work in progress. He extended away from his body well today on a variety of throws, and his vertical stretching ability is evident. However, he struggled with efficient steps in his routes and physicality downfield, enough to limit throwing windows and adequate timing routes for his quarterbacks.
-Aaron Dobson of Marshall didn’t’ get a chance to show off his highlight-reel catch ability, but did show some physicality versus press, which I didn’t expect to see. He wasn’t great in his technique, but he showed the ability to engage and break off, while still being unpolished with his hands. However, on more than one occasion, he stopped/lagged in his route, and left his quarterback with no throwing lane or an incompletion that was on him. For a raw route runner to begin with, he’ll need to get on the same page this week.
-The trendy small school sleeper Aaron Mellette from Elon didn’t look great today, and showed off (as he did on film) that he lacks physicality on the inside routes to get separation/win balls in the middle of the field. He doesn’t open his body well to the quarterback, and leaves a big lane for a defensive back to close on the ball on the inside.
-The final, and most intriguing, receiver of note today was Denard Robinson. He didn’t do any contact drills today, so we didn’t get to see him versus press, working in the slot, or attacking zones. However, in individual drills, he showed signs of still being a work in progress in extending away from his body and looking the ball in, as well as his footwork along the sidelines. He also struggled in gathering punts today. I will say that his routes, though against air, didn’t look half bad, and it shows that he’s been working there.
-Finally, at tight end, Kyle Juszcyzk of Harvard (considered a FB) didn’t look bad in his work from the backfield, despite being a next level H-Back mostly. Also at TE, Nick Kasa showed that he’ll still struggled to get any separation as receiver, and I still wonder if he should be considered more of an OT project. At 6’5, 270 pounds (with AMPLE room to get bigger), he may be a worthwhile developmental tackle, which he played before tight end.
-The best offensive lineman today was easily (and unexpectedly) Eric Fisher from Central Michigan. No question the most talented here, he slid laterally both ways very well, kept his hands inside consistently, and didn't let rushers beat him inside or out. So far, so good, but we'll see if he can win against Michael Buchanan of Illinois (who flashed physicality with his hands and the ability to pinch inside vs. the run) and Alex Okafor all week.
-I had heard good things about Illinois OG/OT Hugh Thornton, but he struggled off the snap today, and got beat inside and out by quicker rushes. He needs to drive with his hands much better, doesn't have much of a punch, and doesn't adjust his hips after first contact, but flashes the upside and athleticism.
-Alex Okafor of Texas flashed in a variety of areas today, especially showing the bend around the edge, the adjustment to shift his body weight inside against the run, and the balance to stay upright after contact and react to the QB/run game. He looked the best of the defensive ends, and if he can show polish this week in his rush moves, he could be in the 1st round discussion.
-Also of note: Justin Pugh utilized his athleticism at tackle to secure the edge, but struggled against power rushes on two occasions (an issue because of his lack of length, Ricky Wagner of Wisconsin didn't show a great kick slide, David Quessenberry of San Jose State set up well on the interior in pass protection, Brian Winters still impressed as a mauler after moving inside to guard (because he's under 6'4), Kawann Short got erased as a rusher twice today and didn't get off to a good start, and Margus Hunt of SMU didn't utilize his natural power well when bull rushing on the inside.
-The best linebacker of the day (and the only one legitimate with positive notes from me) was Rutgers’s Khaseem Greene. He showed fantastic pickups in coverage against running backs and linebackers, utilizing his safety-hips and physicality initially to not allow a pass caught him throughout the drill, the only linebacker to do so. He really, really impressed in this area, a huge value for a potential WLB.
-The Senior Bowl has Ohio State’s John Simon at linebacker, which is just tough to watch when he’s in space. He struggled throughout practice in coverage, and obviously looks out of place there. The plan is to play the SLBs line him in a 4-3 Under (almost a 5-2) so he’s closer to the line like a 3-4 linebacker, but he’ll continue to look poor in generic linebacker drills…because he isn’t a generic linebacker.
-The stud of the defensive backs today was the "full contact" safety Jonathan Cyprien from Florida International. Attacking upfield in both run drills and coverage drills with full aggression, he showed the physicality scouts want to see at safety, albeit it not being a full contact drill. We'll see if he has the same impact when EVERYONE ELSE is going full speed tomorrow/Wednesday.
-I was impressed today by the two UConn cornerbacks, as I was told I would be by people close to the team. I already was impressed on film by Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and today he showed good balance, tight feet in his drops, and exchanging his hands well. He did get beat on the interior and vertically one time each, but made up for it with a great press and then interception on the same play.
-The other, and less heralded, cornerback was Dwayne Gratz, who I actually thought was more impressive. He showed the quickest feet in defensive back drills and pressed as well as any other defensive back today. I'm excited to see which UConn cornerback looks better this week. Both could play their way into Top 100 (Wreh-Wilson already there for us).
-USC's TJ McDonald added to a poor season this year with a lackluster first day. He's a bit high cut and has the slowest feet of the DBs, not a good match for the fairly stiff safety. His hips don't allow him to break quickly on inside routes in coverage, and he didn't show great explosiveness in his plant-and-redirect cut.
-Also of note, Utah State's Will Davis struggled today against double moves, which adds on film to my concern that he can't adequately make a 2nd transition. He's a fluid athlete and can turn and run with most receivers, but his feet get too far outside after his first break, and he struggled to run with receivers. He still has loads of upside, and it'll be curious to see if he improves over the week as he learns these receivers more.
-Finally, and without many exact notes, Jordan Poyer of Oregon State and Desmond Trufant of Washington both looked good today. Poyer closed well on two occasions to inside routes, and Trufant was the only receiver who adjusted and attacked in off-coverage on shorter routes today.