Authored by Jeff Risdon - 22nd January, 2009 - 11:13 am
It felt much warmer on Wednesday despite still not hitting 40 degrees before the morning practice ended, as the howling wind is all but gone. It really showed in the performances of the quarterbacks, who turned in a much better overall day.
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Star of the morning: This is not a broken record, but Boston College DT B.J. Raji is the unquestioned Crown Jewel of Mobile. His explosive power and quick feet are superior to that of last year?s star DT Sedrick Ellis. Raji weighs nearly 25 pounds heavier but appears just as fast and certainly quicker to disengage from blockers. He is playing his way into the Top 5 overall of the draft.
Other players having a good day:
Cal OL Alex Mack, who took some reps at LG and looked very good leading the run while pulling. He is the only lineman here who has done anything against Raji. He also handled a strong bull rush and shows good ability to recover from a bad step or lost contact.
UConn DE Cody Brown drew oohs for running right through Illinois OL Xavier Fulton. Brown is consistently showing good burst off the snap and solid hands to disengage.
Wisconsin G Kraig Ubrik got beat in his first rep on pass protect drills, but after that, he controlled the action. He was also responsible for the day?s funniest moment, lining up as a gunner on kick coverage.
Cincinnati?s Connor Barwin took all his reps at DE today after being mostly a TE earlier in the week. He needs to add some lower-body strength, but he?s certainly got the motor and bevy of inside/outside moves teams covet. He was quick to point out he?s an experienced special teamer to anyone who asked.
Oregon S Patrick Chung showed good closing speed and anticipation. He is the last guy to pull up after every rep.
Ohio State LB Marcus Freeman made an outstanding INT off a deflected ball. He also fared quite well in blitz drills, showing the power to get an inside rush and the footwork to not get sucked past the QB. He needed a good day, and he delivered.
Cal LB Zack Follett sniffed out a screen pass and showed great closing speed to blow it up. He also fared well in blitz drills.
Guys not faring well:
If Oregon C Max Unger were a basketball player, his line would read something like this: 1-10 FG, 6 fouls in 15 minutes. He continues to struggle with snapping the ball, sending one meters over Cullen Harper?s head and putting two others into the shins of the QB. Raji has made Unger his own personal whipping boy. He did make a very nice seal block on a run, however, showing he can engage defenders at the second level. I can?t imagine him not being moved to G in the NFL.
Missouri S William Moore had issues keeping the play in front of him, and he and Western Michigan S Louis Delmas had major communication issues whenever they were paired together. That is to be expected in such limited practice time, but while Delmas went and talked with the coaches about the play, Moore stomped aside and sulked with his hands on his hips.
Oregon State G Andy Levitre had trouble with leverage and let the defenders dictate his actions too readily. He needs to work on consistently bending his knees and staying balanced over his feet.
I spent the bulk of the afternoon practice watching the WR's and DB's and the red zone drills, so this is real light on line play. I?ll focus more on that after a trip to the film room.
San Jose State CB Coye Francies put on a nice jam, and he demonstrated quick feet and great burst out of his breaks. He plays bigger than his size.
Wake Forest S Chip Vaughn, is probably the best cover safety here in Mobile. He has enough technique and speed to play nickel corner against most receivers. Real fluid hips and comes out of his backpedal nicely.
Vaughn?s teammate, CB Alphonso Smith, is consistently the best man coverage corner here. Outstanding ball skills and closing speed, and he does a pretty good job keeping his outside shoulder square. He did get exploited for being short by Patrick Turner, another guy who had a nice day.
SMU punter Tom Morstead really put on a show. Standing in the corner of the end zone, he was booming kicks into the bleachers across the field. Two kids started shagging balls, and no matter where the kids moved to, Morstead nailed it right to them. Great height on his kicks. Not that I advocate drafting a punter, but Morstead certainly belongs in the NFL.
Troy CB Sherrod Martin needs work on directing receivers, but when they went to a zone set he looked real solid. Made a nice play in the red zone drill where he jumped a lazy route by FSU WR Greg Carr.
USC LB Rey Maualuga also looked very good in zone coverage. As I stated yesterday, Rey has pleasantly surprised me with his fluidity and patience. He has solidified a place in the top 20.
Richmond DE Lawrence Sidbury flashed both a nice bull rush and a hyper-quick spin move that left Michael Oher lunging for air. He needs to work on disengaging and finding the ball, but he looks the part of a strong pass-rushing RDE.
I heard several people humming about Andre Brown, RB, NC State, who looks very fast for his size.
Tennessee G Anthony Parker suffered what looks like a nasty ankle injury and was carted off.
Alabama S Rashad Johnson had some real issues with footwork and locating the ball in coverage. He came out of breaks flat footed a couple of times.
USC OLB Clay Matthews looked very much like a 4-3 DE and not a 3-4 OLB in coverage drills. He crossed his hips while dropping back and missed some keys in his reads. Shawn Nelson outran him on a pattern although Matthews broke up the pass on a terrible throw from Cullen Harper.
Alabama C Andre Caldwell had some real problems with quickness. He leans and doesn?t keep a strong base consistently against smaller, quicker linemen. He did fare quite well in power run blocking, including a short stint at RG.
West Virginia CB Ellis Lankster struggled to get a jam. Twice, he basically whiffed and had to sprint down the receiver. He also had issues locating the ball, problematic because it was one-on-one, and the receiver was looking back early.
Domonique Johnson of Jackson State really had a rough afternoon. He is really slow coming out of his backpedal and struggles with the intricacies like shoulder placement and breaking sharply. He was several yards late on a couple of out patterns. He?s a real nice kid and a willing learner, but he?s got a lot to learn.
Not much to report in the way of rumors or whispers on the NFL front, as I spent the evening hanging out with a couple of scouts and an out-of-work scouting director down here and we had a kind of scouting round table. Comments from that will be in the next update of the Top 103 and mock draft v5.0.
Jeff Risdon is RealGM's senior football writer and draft expert. He may be reached at Jeff.Risdon@RealGM.com