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Senior Bowl Notebook: Thursday
Authored by Jeff Risdon - 28th January, 2011 - 2:54 am

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The practices on Thursday were less intense, with the players not in full pads. At least 75% of the NFL-employed crowd was gone for the morning session and the afternoon session had even less representation. Some thoughts:

-- Stanford CB Richard Sherman had a great day. He?s very big but also real fast. Showed great instincts in the red zone drill, understood where the receiver was going and had enough skill to redirect and/or impede without committing a penalty. Made a couple of good adjustments on the fly, has the balance to change direction quickly and charge under control. He is visibly better than Chris Cook, a CB with similar size who went at the top of the 2nd round last year. The coaches still in attendance gushed over him.

-- Kendrick Burney from North Carolina also had a great day at corner. He?s the best ballhawk here, incredible at playing the ball. What I really liked were a couple of awkward throws where he chose to just break the pass up for certain instead of trying to make a tough INT that could have let the receiver get a play on the ball as well in the red zone. Has very low center of gravity and breaks from his stance well, and he really understands how to read the receiver. Expertly jumped a few routes in the 2-minute drill, and also made a couple of real good catches. He missed 2010 as part of the UNC eligibility drama, and he has made a very strong impression this week.

-- Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter looked good. He?s the most instinctive of the North safeties and he has the size the coaches want. Once again he struggled to catch the ball but he was very quick to read the play and get to the ball. He reminds me of Abram Elam minus the ball skills.

-- Texas DE Sam Acho might have unearthed an NFL function after all. He?s a DE/OLB tweener that hasn?t shown much this week until the Bills coaches ran a drill where the ends dropped in coverage. Acho looked very fluid and comfortable in space, moved backwards quickly and kept his hips open. I can now see him being useful to a zone blitz team, still a late-round pick though. He will ace the interviews with teams; Acho is one of the most intelligent, easily conversant athletes I?ve ever encountered.

-- Christian Ponder played in the most pro-friendly college offense, but today he had some issues taking snaps. It?s hard to tell who is at fault on the exchange with no replay, but after the second flub TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick looked at the line coach with a look that said ?that?s on him?. Ponder did spot the ball very well and had some real chemistry with USC WR Ronald Johnson, who also looked good again.

-- The other Seminole here, Rodney Hudson, probably helped himself more than any player on the South. He showed the ability to anchor but what stands out is his agility. He?s very reminiscent of Panthers center Ryan Kalil, great on the move and tenaciously pugnacious despite being on the small side. He waffled a bit when I asked him if he preferred guard or center but it was clear he wants to play the pivot. A week of primarily playing guard here showed he can do both very well at the next level.

-- TCU QB Andy Dalton got better every day, and it was clear that he benefited the most of any QB here with increased reps with his receivers; his accuracy improved as he learned where the guys wanted the ball, and he appeared to feel more comfortable putting more zip on the ball. It really stood out when throwing shorter crossing routes. His TCU teammate Jeremy Kerley did well for himself as a slot receiver. He was the most natural slot guy here, and he secured the ball better today.

I spent about half the day talking to a handful of remaining coaches and a couple of talent evaluators. Some of their observations:

On Danny Watkins--?he can start at right guard for us next year? and ?I can?t believe he didn?t play ball in high school. His feet are better than anyone here.?

On Ahmad Black--?I love the kid but we can?t take him at that size.? He brought up both Bob Sanders and the durability issues of undersized safeties that are hitters.

On Von Miller--?He?s DeMarcus Ware with skinny legs.?

On James Carpenter--?I can?t believe this is the same kid that I watched at Bama. Where was all that hiding there?? I was very impressed with him as well.

On Jarvis Jenkins--?He needs to learn to keep his ass down, but he?s a straight up baller in there.?

On Leonard Hankerson--?He isn?t as good as I thought he was. Watch him catch the ball, he fights with it too much. He doesn?t play to his size either.? I must admit I didn?t see much of that myself. He wasn?t great this week but I don?t feel he had a bad week at all.

On two guys not here, Cameron Heyward DE Ohio State and Da?Quan Bowers DE Clemson:

I don?t have the exact quotes (my Droid battery died, and with it my voice recorder) but here?s the gist:

-- Heyward is the most natural 3-4 DE in the draft. I will admit to advancing that thought but the evaluator readily agreed. He did offer that Heyward would work best if he got to move inside a lot in the manner the Ravens move their linemen around.

-- Had two different guys compare Bowers to Julius Peppers. Both thought Carolina was going to go in a different direction, however.