2013 Senior Bowl: North Wednesday Practice Notes

Desmond TrufantApologies for the delay, couldn't get the notes in before the second practice. I (Eric Galko) took the quarterbacks, running backs, and linebackers, myself and Mark Dulgerian worked on the receivers and defensive backs, and Alex Brown focused on the offensive and defensive line.

Mike Glennon won the day's "best QB award", while Jonathan Franklin, Markus Wheaton, Marquise Goodwin, Eric Fisher, Brandon Williams, and Desmond Trufant impressed today.

 

Quarterbacks
-Another day of flashes and concerns by the North squad’s quarterbacks. The best of the bunch today was clearly Mike Glennon of NC State, however. His timing and velocity on deeper routes really impressed, as he threw some of the best balls of the week today. He got great spin on the ball and delivered dig and out routes with great velocity. His ball placement still was a bit off in the short area today (which is now a bit of a concern after three days with these receivers).

-Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib really needs to improve his deep touch and velocity control. He floats too many balls vertically, but it doesn’t seem to solely rest on his lack of a big arm. He doesn’t have “elite arm strength”, but it’s certainly enough in the NFL and isn’t a weakness in my eyes. However, he needs to get a better understanding for those deep bucket throws. However, he continued to impress in his footwork on shorter routes, a big plus for his game as a potential west coast quarterback.

-Zac Dysert of Miami (OH) continued to overthrow passes today, but I couldn’t quite figure out what his problems were, but it’s concerning that it’s been an issue over the course of the week.

 

Running Backs
-The best running back of the bunch today was UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin. He looked great in blitz pickup in individual drills and was decisive in his initial cuts as a runner. Also, Kenjon Barner looked great in route running drills, especially utilizing his great wheel route out of the backfield. He’s shown enough in each area as a runner to prove his not just a “speed” back.

 

Receivers/Tight Ends
-Markus Wheaton again showed why he’s considered the best of the North group.  He’s a 3 step guy who consistently eats up cushion quickly and caused most defensive backs to turn their hips sooner than they wanted after selling the fade.  His speed is obvious, but one of the concerns I had with Wheaton were the occasional drops he has on film.  Today, and for most of the week, he showed exceptional hands plucking away from his body and securing the football through contact.  He made two really nice catches today-one was on an out route when he dove to snag a pass low and in front of him using all hands.  Another was an acrobatic back shoulder catch in traffic on a seam route just before being blasted by the nickel corner and safety over the top.

-Scouts were still intrigued to see Denard Robinson’s prospects as a receiver convert and were looking for any improvement after a rough first two days here in Mobile but the former QB still looked very raw.  He had several drops throughout the day (half of them would’ve been tough catches, regardless).  He can be slow to locate and adjust to balls that are slightly off target and did not look comfortable coming back to the ball with hands extended.  Overall, he looked like he was counting his steps this week and the pressure of the NFL spotlight on him while he tried a lot of things he’d never done before in college really showed in his play.  There’s no doubt he’s got the athletic qualities you look for in the position, but you hope he can improve his hands and route running by the NFL Combine in February.  He’s likely limited to the return game early in his career.

-Another impressive day for Marquise Goodwin of Texas. For a smaller, elite speed receiver, he showed consistent speed throughout his routes, able to get vertical in a hurry, and even showed the ability to extend away from his body well. He’s really impressed all week, enough to consider putting more weight than his struggles (partially team related) in 2012.

-Aaron Dobson of Marshall, a favorite of mine the past two years because of his highlight reel catches and production despite poor QB play, showed great routes today, especially along the sideline. His development there is better than I expected, and with his upside and quick feet to pick up speed and drive through contact on the interior, he could be a trendy 2nd round favorite.

-Elon’s Aaron Mellette didn’t show off great foot speed today in drills or in getting separation, and had trouble getting off press. I’m unsure if he has a natural role at the NFL, either inside or out.

 

Offensive Linemen
-Once again, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher proved why he’s the top rated prospect at the Senior Bowl in 2013. Tremendously gifted in terms of foot speed, balance in his kick slide and overall redirect skills within a 6’7 frame, Fisher continued to confirm his plus skill set to talent evaluators. What impressed the most today, however, wasn’t in athleticism or range, but rather in finishing strength and overall punch technique. The one area that Fisher can improve upon is his inside anchor, as was exposed by Texas defensive end Alex Okafor, but that should not be unexpected for a player so tall, upright and leanly strapped together. Fisher still has room to add weight and is so athletic that teams have to be salivating over his potential.

-Brian Winters of Kent State had a better day today, showing more comfort inside with his footwork at left guard. Pad level in his pass set and overall bend seems to be an issue with the mauling run blocker, but overall hand strength remains a big-time plus and natural anchor ability is there.

-Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner improved his play today, handling the explosive Datone Jones with patient hand usage in his pass set and mirroring technique. Scouts nearby spoke of possibly moving Wagner to the inside, but he appeared more than adequate at right tackle today.

-Speaking of offensive tackles converting to guard, Justin Pugh –who measured in with shorter than ideal arms– kicked inside for reps at left guard today and made the block of the day, pulling out on the perimeter and finishing at the point of attack with an audible clicking of pads. Athletic enough to stay at tackle in a zone scheme, but also able to be an on-the-move guy inside at guard, Justin Pugh has done his best to recover after a disappointing weigh-in.

-Of the guards and centers, Joe Madsen stood out the most in one-on-one drills, sitting patiently in his pass set and resetting properly with his hands to combat the defensive tackle’s counter move. Madsen created absolutely zero movement in the run game and was physically abused by Brandon Williams during 9-on-7’s, but can be a versatile swing guy on the inside for teams in need of depth at both guard and center.

 

Defensive Linemen
-Kawann Short
was a more sudden and explosive guy than Sylvester Williams in drills, showcasing excellent balance, bend and coordination in running through bags, running the arc and changing directions. Developed with his hands, Short flashed a variety of off-the-line arm-over and arm-under short moves, but failed to have a consistent impact due to motor issues. When he comes off the football and engages properly with his hands, Short can be tough to corral; however, Short doesn’t possess a great motor and at times shut it down during the practice.

-Very good initially with his hands and pass rush repertoire, UNC’s Sylvester Williams impressed quite a bit in pit drills and one-on-one’s. Having superior burst and even showing off an inside spin move, Williams defeated just about every blocker he encountered in one-on-ones. Where Williams struggles, involves gap control and extension at the point of attack, as he’s unable to lock his arms out and reset the line of scrimmage. All penetration and upfield burst, Williams has some Jay Ratliff to his game and can only one-gap at the NFL level.

-Last but not least among defensive tackles that impressed today, was Brandon Williams from Missouri Southern. Possessing a prototypical one-technique, “fire hydrant” body type, Williams is as wide as he is tall and capable of creating natural push, leverage and extension at the point of attack. Dropping his weight and leveraging properly, Williams was an animal inside, working his hands to snap his opponent’s back at the point of attack and collapse running lanes. Dominant at times in the practice, Williams walked Syracuse offensive tackle (who was lined up at left guard) back into quarterback Zac Dysert during 11-on-11’s, leading to a missed throw and incompletion. Following this bull rush, Williams and Pugh got into it with one another, exchanging some shoves before having to be separated. While that may seem insignificant, Williams is showing the fighter’s mentality that coaches love at the shade nose tackle position, and this small schooler’s stock can only go up.

-At defensive end, Michael Buchanan proved to be a far more fluid, balanced and explosive moving athlete than the rest of the group, but too often played high and without maintained hand positioning at the point of attack. Buchanan shows glimpses of strong and sudden punches to create movement, but too often his initial punch slides off and he fails to create ideal separation. A project that can be molded into a dangerous edge rusher at the next level, Buchanan needs to land in the right circumstance in order to reach his potential.

-Margus Hunt struggled once again in practice, as a lack of proper timing with his punches and extension led to minimal effect versus the run and the pass. Flashes of off-the-line speed can be seen with physical freak, but Hunt continually popped upright and allowed himself to washed out of the pocket. Hunt’s raw ability, length and weight room strength haven’t translated to the field as I had hoped, and he’ll be facing a serious learning curve at the next level.

-An end that did win with hand usage and proper technique was Alex Okafor. Getting underneath Eric Fisher’s chest plate and putting to use his heavy hands, Okafor walked Fisher back into the quarterback’s lap on multiple occasions during today’s one-on-one’s. Okafor’s early development at defensive tackle, has him prepared for hand fighting at the next level and allowed him to be effective at times, against a much better athlete in Eric Fisher.

 

Linebackers
-I didn’t get a great look at the linebackers today, but I did notice Kevin Reddick playing with good pad level, and pop to fill the hole. He works well on the interior and in traffic, and he’s really in his element in team drills at either ILB or SLB. Also, Khaseem Greene was closing well in the run game, using good hands and driving well on the interior, better than expected, this week.

 

Defensive Backs
-Desmond Trufant
(Washington) had a great day in all sessions.  Starting during one on ones, he was dominant in all types of coverages.  Markus Wheaton called out Trufant again and, although Wheaton initially got Trufant’s hips to turn the wrong direction on a post-corner, Trufant did not give up on the play and showed excellent recovery speed (ball was high and off target out of Wheaton’s break).  Steelers head coach was watching Trufant closely during the session and challenged him to dominate his remaining matchups.  On his next rep against Aaron Dobson, Trufant was initially beat on a quick slant but recovered and made broke up the pass.  One area he showed a need for improvement today is in his hand punch in press coverage as he doesn’t quite have the upper body to jolt anyone.  But overall, Trufant showed exceptional competitiveness in all aspects.  Corners will get beat in the NFL but it’s the ones who continue to compete and improve that succeed.  He was clearly the most NFL ready corner this week, not surprising considering his bloodlines. 

-USC safety TJ McDonald has had an up and down week and today was no different.  On film you see a guy who either flies to make a play on the football or a guy who gets beat because of misdiagnosis or poor angles.  This week confirmed that when McDonald anticipates correctly he is in position to make plays but if he misdiagnoses early he lacks the recovery speed to correct mistakes.  Today, he took good angles to passes in front of him and showed adequate burst out of breaks.  He was also beat on a post he thought was going to be a corner route and couldn’t flip his hips and recover in time to stop the deep touchdown.  If recognition is a problem, you’d like to see recovery ability.  There is an issue if your last line of defense lacks both.

-UConn cornerback Dwayne Gratz is thick and has obvious natural strength, especially at the line, but he struggled today.  He was slow out of breaks and showed only marginal deep speed in downfield coverage.  Against double moves, he lacked the foot speed to redirect on the move and gave up too much coverage in man.  He may be limited to cover 2 or man under type of schemes.

-Jordan Poyer (Oregon State) had a solid day today but didn’t really do much to wow scouts like he had the past couple of days.  He again showed good physicality at the line and as he directed the route with his hands but there were a couple plays in off man coverage he flipped his hips too early to transition and was subject to comeback routes.  This was more a matter of discipline and reading his queues properly, which he’s shown to be consistent at on film.

-Also to note from today: Jonathan Cyprien continued his impressive week with fantastic range. It seemed as though most of the quarterbacks knew where he was on 7 vs 7s and stayed away (wisely); Jamar Taylor from Boise State needs to stay tighter and time his breaks better down the field, but has good footwork and closes well in the short area; Will Davis of Utah State continues to impress if he’s facing a single receiver move, and showed off his upside and ceiling. However, his struggles on film and this week with double moves is concerning.

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