I focused primarily on the defensive backs and wideouts on Tuesday, though also caught some linebackers, running backs, and quarterbacks. The notes here are combined from the two sessions, as a lunch powwow ran longer than expected.
There were very few real standouts, as most players had some wins and some losses. A few did stand out, however.
Coastal Carolina running back Lorenzo Taliaferro stood out in pass protection drills for the South. He’s a thicker back at well-assembled 231 pounds, and he delivered some serious blows when picking up linebackers and safeties. Taliaferro also showed he could catch out of the backfield despite having the smallest hands of any player here.
The one player who bested Taliaferro was BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy. He’s got great explosion from his stance but also has loose ankles to change course on the fly. He can get himself low and still stay moving, and he also demonstrated some yank and shoulder dip moves. During one linebacker drill, he laid out fellow LB Telvin Smith with a serious pop. Van Noy has impressed all week.
Wyoming wideout Robert Herron stole the show in the morning North session. As I tweeted:
Daily summary of Robert Herron: wins at everything. That's it.— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) January 21, 2014
What I really liked was his explosion off the line. It made everyone else, both offense and defense, look stuck a lower gear.
Wisconsin LB Chris Borland is short, not small. He has to hope that teams don’t view his lack of height (he’s 5’11”) doesn’t scare teams away, because he’s a great football player. There is a definitive pop to his hits, as he can really uncoil power from his hips and shoulders. His lateral agility is on par with bigger, leggier backers.
Utah State CB Nevin Lawson earned his call-up from Shrine Game Week, here his quickness really stood out. It stands out here as well. There is a strange paucity of corner talent on the North roster, and Lawson is taking advantage of his opportunity. He was the only DB that had a prayer against Herron, even carried him all the way down the field on a straight fly pattern. On another rep he jolted big Saginaw Valley State wideout Jeff Janis with a strong jam and then quickly turned and ran with him.
UCLA wideout Shaq Evans did a good job changing speeds and using his quick feet to create separation down the field. He was consistently open.
Northwestern WR Kain Colter continues to impress in his transition from college QB. His feet still need more crispness but he has proven he can handle the more physical aspects of the position. I’ve heard teams are really enjoying his company in interviews too.
Also impressing were Toledo RB David Fluellen, LSU LB Lamin Barrow, Texas WR Mike Davis, UCLA LB Jordan Zumwalt, and Baylor S Ahmad Dixon, though he cannot play man coverage.
Not to be blunt, but both Miami QB Stephen Morris and Clemson QB Tajh Boyd are playing their way off draft boards.
Morris has a decent arm, and his footwork stepping into the ball is generally sound. He just has poor accuracy. Even throwing versus no pass rush, he struggled with antsy feet and ball placement. Morris missed 11 throws in a row at one point.
Boyd is a hot mess mechanically. When I first got to the practice, I watched the QBs going through drop drills. Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas looked polished and strong. Morris was up on his toes and had consistent feet. Boyd was landing on his heels on every step, a big no-no. His foot frequency on his drops varied from rep to rep. Later, he was throwing almost underhand and with his front foot flying off the ground at his release point. That’s great for Omar Vizquel gunning a ball to first base, but it’s completely out of place on the football field. He looks like an option running back playing quarterback, and appears to be undraftable. He’s not anywhere near as good as Troy Smith was, to compare him to a similar player.
Here’s how poor of a day South OL Gabe Ikard from Oklahoma had: I wasn’t watching the line drills other than when there were lags in the passing reps, and he was getting beaten on every rep I saw, often badly. Twice I saw him put on skates backwards, once by Tennessee DT Dan McCullers (better today) and another by Cal’s DeAndre Coleman.
Liberty DB Walt Aikens struggled in drills today. In the agility drills he was visibly slower than every DB who was running the drill next to him at the same time. He needed to step outside to change direction instead of firing forward out of his backpedal on every rep. Utah’s Keith McGill was demonstrably faster too. Aikens stumbled on a break once and dropped two passes as well.
Missouri DE Michael Sam has been trying his hand at linebacker. It’s not been pretty. There is zero spatial awareness and he’s clearly uncomfortable moving any direction but forward. Part of the problem is that he has an exaggerated forward lean when he runs, and when he’s not going forward he’s quite awkward.
Others not impressing include North Dakota State OL Billy Turner, noted as Billy Turnstile by my colleague Darren Page; Alabama LB Adrian Hubbard, who has the flexibility of the broken ironing board in my hotel room; San Jose State QB David Fales, sorely lacking arm strength and downfield vision; Wisconsin TE Jacob Pederson, dropping two passes and falling down on a route; BYU WR Cody Hoffman, who overstrides and fell down on a handful of routes.
Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin went down with a torn ACL in practice.
Three players from the South have been scratched due to injury. Alabama DE Ed Stinson, Tennessee OL Juwan James, and Fresno State TE Marcel Jensen will no longer participate. Colorado State TE Crockett Gillmore will replace Jensen. He impressed as a blocker and wide target over the middle at Shrine Game last week, including very good chemistry with QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
Top underclassman prospect Jadeveon Clowney was sighted meeting with the Houston Texans during South practice in one of the stadium boxes. I note that purely for informational purposes.
The wind was strong and cold today, which did not help the QBs or the kickers. The kickers and punters from the Shrine Game all impressed me more than their counterparts here in Mobile.
Alabama coach Nick Saban made an appearance and was all smiles. Really.
Mobile native Jimmie Ward, a safety from Northern Illinois, had a raucous cheering section during the morning session. He’s holding his own here in a venue where other locals have struggled in recent years.
Notably absent from Mobile are the Miami Dolphins, much to the chagrin of their fans.
On a personal note, I got to meet new Texans LB coach Mike Vrabel today. He looks like he could still play.