After arriving a bit late to practice thanks to a mix of an interview I did between practice and nearly losing my wallet, I didn't get to see every snap as I did of the East, and will all week. However, I saw enough to find some surprising impressers in day one for the West.
Two receivers stood out in Keenan Davis and Jasper Collins, the best tight end goes down with injury, all three quarterbacks impress, and William Campbell of Michigan can't long-snap.
-While the East practice didn’t have a ton to offer in terms of quarterback upside, the West roster flashed three adequate passers, two of which were rather impressive. The least of the three was Texas Tech’s Seth Doege. Though he wasn’t unimpressive, his lack of a great arm was evident. Still, he was decisive in his passes, set his feet well, and had efficient footlocker to get the ball out clean and quick.
-Of the quarterbacks, Matt Scott of Arizona has the most upside, and it showed today. While his running ability wasn’t on display, his arm strength was, and he slung the ball very well vertically and in driving shorter routes. With great velocity on the shorter routes (though not quite as impressive as the East’s Nathan Stanley and the ability to arc vertically should consistently impress this week.
-Finally, Western Michigan’s Alex Carder was the best of the bunch from my view today. He had the two best passes of the afternoon, and seemed to time his bucket throws well on the outside, giving his receivers a chance to make a play. While he does seem to labor at times to get the ball past 30-40 yards on the edge at times, he works hard to get the ball with enough air and depth. His touch on the outside really impressed today.
-The best of this crew was expected to be Texas A&M’s Christine Michael, and he hasn’t disappointed yet. With a few great initial jump cuts, his first cut, plant, and drive up field is his best skill set, and even without pads, he showed that ability in Monday’s practice.
-Utah State’s Kerwynn Williams runs with very tight footwork, keeping his ability to stay as narrow upfield and attack holes at the 2nd level very well. He has a great top speed and can get there quickly, but I’m curious to see if he can play physically in the box or if he sideline hunts at all this week in full contact.
-Finally, SMU’s Zach Line looked good in pass catching drills, showing polished shorter routes, plucking the ball well (including saving myself, Michael Schottey of Bleacher Report, and Cecil Lammey of ESPN Radio Denver from a potential black eye), and then getting upfield. I hope he can show the little things this week, as he should, because his value is more as a 3rd down power/receiving/blocking fullback/running back mix.
-The most impressive receiver from my perspective today was Keenan Davis, though others said Jasper Collins impressed them most. Davis high pointed the ball very well today, adjusted his body well on deeper throws, and worked better-than-expected on outside routes. One of the best interior receivers I think this week because of his high pointing ability, willingness to work in traffic, and his body positioning in the mid-field, he’s started off the week on a good note.
–Jasper Collins stood out to me immediately, but not in the way I expected. He looked much smaller than I anticipated, and though as of the moment I’m writing this I don’t have the weigh in notes, he doesn’t look overly imposing. He did attack the ball well downfield, and sank his hips low to explode in his routes to get separation, better than I expected he would based on his time at Mount Union. Safe to say this week means a lot to the former Division III receiver.
-While I’ll admit I didn’t watch any of Middle Tennessee State’s Anthony Amos before I got to St. Petersburg, based off today, I certainly should. He took well to coaching, and obviously is a bit raw in his routes across the field. But he adjusts to the ball very well, positions his body naturally well on the interior, and seems to have consistent ball grabbing skills. One to follow.
-Eastern Kentucky’s Tyrone Goard is very, very lanky build, and showed the ability to use his hands to gain separation vertically. However, he showed little ability to sink his hips to adjust routes inside, and may be a one-route (vertical) type receiver. He’s a work in progress, and I’m not sure he’ll be able to improve much past being a vertical presence.
-At tight end, Joseph Fauria had a fantastic diving catch to follow a drop on his previous rep, but seemed to injure himself. In talking with Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot on twitter, recommend the follow), he said that “hip” was mentioned when Fauria and trainers were talking, and he was limping. Hopefully he’ll be able to return tomorrow/this week.
-Also of note for the tight ends, Zach Sudfeld didn’t show much speed or burst to separate upfield, but he located the ball well in traffic, including an on-the-ground catch adjustment. If Fauria is out, it’ll be a chance for Sudfeld to be one of the best tight ends here.
-Not much to note on the line front, as I didn’t track them too closely thanks to a completely pad-less practice. However, I did notice Mississippi State’s Josh Boyd getting off the snap quickly, something always good to see early in practice for defensive lineman. Also, I say Western Michigan’s Dann O’Neil using his length and strong hands to keep San Jose State’s Travis Johnson away from his chest plate. O’Neil, listed at 6’8, will need to do that all week, but so far, so good.
-Not a whole lot that I noticed today, as this crew really is a lackluster crop. However, emotionally, it looks like Howard’s Keith Pough is already starting to assume a bit of a leadership role. Vocal today, seeming to feel comfortable despite being a “small schooler”, Pough made a good first impression to scouts who took note. He did struggle in his coverage transitions though, which is expected for a mostly-rushing linebacker in college.
-Recent addition Travis Howard from Ohio State struggled much of the day, including two plays I noted where he struggled to track the ball and receiver and allowed catch that shouldn’t have been. Hopefully he can improve as the week goes on, as I he did flash talent in games this year.
–Micah Hyde was working hard to keep his hips low to maximize his explosiveness upfield, something he did consistently on film as well. He’s great in the short area, and was closing very well on shorter routes. However, the question for him will be when he’s tested vertically. I didn’t notice him in those opportunities in this practice, but I’ll be watching that closely this week.
-I also noticed Illinois’s Terry Hawthorne, who struggled to adjust upfield on a few occasions in shorter routes, UCLA’s Aaron Hester, who ran downfield well with receivers but lacked proper receiver-sideline spacing on a vertical route, and Syracuse’s Shamarko Thomas, who impressed in his transitions in slot match-ups when he was given a chance there.