The first day of full pads is always a great one to track, especially in getting to see the offensive line and defensive line meet up and show off their skills for the first time.
While Collin Klein struggled, the receiver and running backs didn’t show much, and the defensive backs and linebackers weren’t of much note, it was the day to learn Terron Armstead’s, David Bass’s, Mark Jackson’s, and Mike Catapano’s name.
-While quarterbacks weren’t my focus, it didn’t take long to realize that Collin Klein was struggling again today. His arm strength, accuracy outside, and timing on vertical throws was off, and he was clearly the slowest in his decisions and progressions. He showed the most NFL upside on two different zone option runs the offense utilized him for.
-The other quarterbacks in Nathan Stanley and Colby Cameron both showed decisiveness, quick releases, and some comfortability in their progressions. Stanley still has the biggest arm, but Cameron seemed to get the ball out the quickest and cleanest in shorter and roll-out throws.
-The star of the day again today was Ray Graham, who was cutting laterally with great burst, staying low and avoiding big hits, and bursting through arm tackles to get up field. He’s the clear cut top back here, and he should be the first call-up if the Senior Bowl has an injury.
Virginia Tech’s Marcus Davis continued his struggles in locating the ball vertically, and didn’t look the part of an NFL outside receiver. For a bigger receiver who can work down the field well, he should be controlling the deep routes, not struggling in them.
-Florida State’s Rodney Smith was working well downfield and was even high pointing the ball well, but struggled to consistently bring down the ball, including one poor drop on a well-placed Nathan Stanley jump ball. For Smith thus far, everything in impressing except his ability to bring in the ball.
-North Carolina’s Erik Highsmith on the other had was doing a great job in looking the ball into his hands, and was consistently catching the ball away from his body well. He couldn’t consistently stay in bounds , but part of that was due to poor timing by quarterbacks, something that will progressively improve as the week goes on.
-Finally, Auburn’s Emory Blake had another impressive day running routes, showing great plant and drive in out routes, getting consistent separation on inside and outside breaking routes, and had a one-handed grab on the sidelines before crashing into (likely impressed) NFL scouts.
-At tight end, Lucas Reed of New Mexico was the only one who really stood out, using his hands to get upfield in the seam on multiple occasions, and showcasing the physicality and natural ability to be a high upside tight end. He drew praise from the coaching staff on multiple occasions.
-This is where my notes really heated up, as the line battles were the attention of 80% of the scouts there when they began. The star of the offensive tackles was almost without question Terron Armstead, a player who I’ve been a fan of all year. He showed ideal body technique, hand placement, and kick slide depth in pass pro, and pinched inside well in the run game in team drills. He showed the ability to seal defensive ends in the run game, and was the only offensive tackle to slow/stop David Bass (more on him later) all day.
-Also impressive was center TJ Johnson from South Carolina. Almost unbeaten in interior rush drills, Johnson was engaging well initially, getting physical with inside hand placement, and driving with his hands while maintaining leverage. He could drop his hips a little smoother, but for an interior linemen, he controlled most rushers in the pass pro drills today.
-Two other small schoolers impressed athletically today on the offensive line. Mark Jackson of Glenville State did a great job extending away from his body and redirecting his hips in pass protection. He sank well as he slide, and didn’t lose leverage in the pass protection drills at all (from the reps I saw). Also, Eric Kush really flashed the athletic upside he possesses, adjusting his body very well smooth, moving laterally and sinking very easily, and setting up well initially. He did let rushers get too far into him at times, and Izaan Cross (more on him later) beat him in 12 vs. 12 drills on running plays.
-Finally, and sticking with the small schoolers, Earl Watford showed why he may still be a work in progress moving forward. He has the naturally quick feet, and works hard to get hand placement, but his block adjustment technique, his struggles to open his hips after beaten laterally, and overall having the decisiveness in his block technique decision making is evident. Lots of upside and I know scouts like him a lot, but he’s not quite NFL ready based on today’s practice.
-The star of the practice without question was Missouri Western State’s David Bass. He was a step quicker than another defensive linemen off the snap, maintained balance and explosiveness in every drill, and was using his hands with force in both drills and one vs. one reps. In the pass protection drill, he was 4 for 5 in getting a sack, with only Terron Armstead slowing him (but likely still forced QB out of the pocket). A dominate day, he may no longer be a “late round sleeper” if he keeps this play up.
-Also impressing was Mike Catapano of Princeton. The defensive end struggled to bend on the outside and run the arc as a pass rusher, but he consistently stays low in drills and in one vs. one drills, and dipped his inside shoulder very well. He was active and aggressive all day, and was a force as a rusher today, giving blockers (especially Rutgers’s RJ Dill) fits all day.
–Devin Taylor had the now synonomus “Stiff” written in his scouting report today multiple times, and even scouts were talking about his all bull rush for the most part. He flashed some inside counter moves, but he’s simply too tall to adjust against more defined blockers (like Terron Armstead) and as expected, struggled today.
–Izaan Cross didn’t really impress in pass rushing drills early on, coming off fairly slow and struggling to sink and drive underneath blockers. However, he showed great leg drive and burst in the run game, getting in the backfield and shutting down plays on multiple occasions.
–Gerald Hodges of Penn State was active today, both in pass coverage pick-up as well as in the run game in team drills. He was reacting well in pick-up and zone coverage, and sank to transition well in drills. And in team drills, he stayed low, scrapped, and attacked upfield to force the runner outside or into his arms on multiple occasions. He looks like the most polished of the East linebackers.
-Also standing out was UConn’s Sio Moore, who was flying around the field in team drills, disengaging well and attacking the ball carrier well. I didn’t get a great look at him in coverage, but he showed the ability to sink and transition at times on film. I’m curious to track him closer tomorrow to see if he can be consistent in a weak-side or strong-side role at linebacker.
-Once again, Cooper Taylor impressed today, as the Richmond safety followed up a surprising Monday. Showing great reaction and pickup ability with running back and tight ends, he closed on routes quickly and only gave up one catch in his zone/man, which was a quick out by Ray Graham (tough to defend from SS spot).
–Josh Evans of Florida was transitioning well and exploding to his reads consistently in 7 on 7s, and maybe was the most consistent in being in ideal position of the safeties.
-Struggling today was the still raw yet physically imposing Melvin White of Louisiana-Lafayette. He got caught up with wide footwork on a few occasions, including beat by Marcus Davis and Erik Highsmith early.