Returning to the great state of Texas, the Texas versus the Nation all-star event did an outstanding job of providing the invited player’s with top of the line facilities at Allen High School’s 60 million dollar football complex. Only being forced inside the indoor facilities for one practice, weather conditions held steady for most of the week with cool, chilly wind gusts and cloud cover.
All 32 NFL teams were represented by scouts attending the event, along with a few well-known general managers, Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers and Reggie McKenzie of the Oakland Raiders.
Texas Starting Lineups Based on Practices
QB – Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State
RB – Khiry Robinson, West Texas A&M
WR – Justin Brown, Oklahoma ; Uzoma Nwachukwu, Texas A&M
SLOT – Michael Smith, UConn
TE – D.J. Grant, Texas
OT – Jacolby Ashworth, Houston ; LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech
OG – Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State ; Ivory Wade, Baylor
OC – Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M
DT – David King, Oklahoma ; DeQuinta Jones, Arkansas
DE – Armonty Bryant, East Central Oklahoma ; Rufus Johnson, Tarleton State
OLB – Phillip Steward, Houston ; Ja’Gared Davis, SMU
ILB – David Nwabuisi, Northwestern
CB – Daxton Swanson, Sam Houston State ; Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
S – Ray Ray Armstrong, Miami (FL) ; Don Jones, Arkansas State
OFFENSIVE NOTES: Picking a starter from this group was difficult, as none of the three throwers separated themselves through two practices. With Ryan Aplin showing more decisiveness in his reads and anticipation upon delivery, I’d feel most comfortable starting him in a game situation. Look for Aplin’s athleticism and movement skills to be on display, particularly when the play breaks down… At receiver, Justin Brown and Uzoma Nwachukwu have both had great weeks of practice, as was to be expected. Brown continues to display top-notch focus and body control at the catch point, while Nwachukwu showed his ability to run the full route tree to success in one-on-one’s and 7-on-7 reps… I was tempted to list D.J. Grant as my slot receiver, as his fluid routes, effortless catches and smooth movement skills impressed scouts all week long. While getting open versus linebackers and safeties haven’t been an issue with Grant, I question his ability to play in-line at the next level. Grant’s value stands as a sub-package tight end, and in reality, teams may be wise to view him as a wide receiver… And while the offensive tackle group for the Texas roster isn’t likely to produce a draft selection, Jacolby Ashworth and LaAdrian Waddle displayed more than adequate movement skills and range in their kick slides; the issue with both players is their balance and core strength, as their anchors tend to weaken with each successive kick slide to the corner… Guards Lane Taylor and Ivory Wade, both of whom I was able to speak with before Tuesday’s practice, are footwork and balance players that excel in their pass sets. Taylor runs into lateral stiffness in his set after a failed initial punch, so it’ll be crucial for him to remain patient off the snap, sink his hips bend and allow the defender to declare his intent before reacting. Wade tends to struggle with overextension at the point of attack, while also showing anchor concerns off the snap due to a high pass set. I’ll be watching both closely to see if they can make such adjustments… Texas A&M center Patrick Lewis had an excellent week of practice, consistently displaying polished footwork and technique at the point of attack. Naturally winning the leverage battle due to his 6’1 frame, Lewis dominates with heavy hands and a quick reset to control the point. Lewis needs to be able to anchor down in this game, as Michigan State NT Anthony White will likely give him a power-based battle from the one-technique position….
DEFENSIVE NOTES: The front four from the Texas squad should be the most exciting group of players to watch in Saturday’s game, as a trio of small school pass rushers – Armonty Bryant, Rufus Johnson and Marquis Jackson – all bring a unique style off the edge to affect the quarterback. Called “Sweet Feet” by the defensive line coach on the Texas team, Armonty Bryant will repeatedly put to use an inside-out, dip and bend move to run the arc; Rufus Johnson, though not as polished as Bryant, attacks opposing blockers with violent hands and a finishing disengage to the inside; and Marquis Jackson is all about first step quickness, explosiveness and speed to run the arc… Not to be forgotten either, is Temple defensive end John Youboty, who projects very well to a 3-4 outside linebacker position –capable of sinking low to the ground and bending the edge, Youboty is one of the more natural rushers at this event, and will likely rotate with Rufus Johnson… Inside at defensive tackle, DeQuinta Jones stands as the strongest body, while David King and Kendrick Payne rely upon developed hand usage and well-timed counters to penetrate the backfield, break down at heel depth and finish the play in the backfield… At linebacker, Ja’Gared Davis and Phillip Steward fly to the football, give tremendous effort in pursuit and showcase plus instincts for the position. The two have fed off each other in practice and I’d assume the same will be true for tomorrow’s game… In the back half, Ray Ray Armstrong will have one more opportunity to pad up with a collegiate helmet. Armstrong hasn’t stood out in a positive or negative light this week, and had to shake off the rust of not playing in pads for quite some time. Aside from sheer size and speed, Armstrong needs to trust his eyes and play with a higher level of physicality from the strong safety position. Cornerback Devin Smith will likely be asked to defend the slot at times, which means he’ll be matching skills with Missouri receiver T.J. Moe. The top cornerback from the Texas squad, undoubtedly was Sam Houston State cornerback Daxton Swanson and he’ll likely be tested vertically by the arm of Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin. Swanson doesn’t miss a beat when flipping his hips to turn and run, and by all accounts displayed the best movement skills among cornerbacks at the event.