Authored by Jeff Risdon - 24th January, 2012 - 6:29 pm
Much better weather conditions Tuesday, sunny with temperatures in the low 60s and a gentle north breeze. Attendance was at least triple the afternoon session on Monday. My focus was on the linemen and linebackers, after focusing on the QBs, WRs, and DBs on Monday.
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-- Watching Mike Singletary in his element as the LB coach was awesome. I have given him a lot of crap as a terrible head coach but with his focus narrowed he is quite good. He is very positive, very demonstrative and not afraid to show how he wants things done. It almost looks like he could still play.
-- James Michael Johnson from Nevada (hereafter JMJ) is an intriguing athlete. During the agility drills he was consistently high in his stance, much to the chagrin of Singletary. He is long-legged and it shows. It took him an extra step between each pad to do the step-over drill. In the pass rush/protect drill where the LBs squared off against the RBs, JMJ showed little creativity or ability to disengage. He did flow to the ball outside the tackles very well in 11s, dodging a block and forcing a run back to the teeth of the defense nicely.
-- Demario Davis from Arkansas State was the best of the group, very impressive practice. He is very compactly built for being 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and he demonstrated the ability to coil up and explode into the play. He dominated in the pass rush drill, bowling over Doug Martin on one rep and making Dan Herron look like Manolete on another. Singletary correctly praised him for staying low and for driving his hips thru the tackle. There is a tangible pop to his hits and he kept excellent pad level during 11s. He was the smoothest in the agility drills as well. I know he caught the eyes of some coaches along the fence.
-- Audie Cole is a tough guy to peg. He is pretty upright and had real trouble keeping his butt down. He also kept peeking at his toes in the agility drill. But Cole looked lithe and creative in pass rush drills, nicely setting up an inside move once and going straight through Bradie Ewing on another. In 11s he correctly read his key and blew up a stretch run, with some help from Cincy DE Derek Wolfe, who was mighty impressive in his own right. Cole has some AJ Hawk to his game.
-- Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner is clearly more of a project than I expected. I really liked him on tape but now that he is in with the big boys his rawness really shows. He showed a tendency to get too far over his toes, and his hits were too high. His strike move is to lunge out over his toes and thrust upward, which is not unique or bad in and of itself but requires exceptional timing and leaves a lot of vulnerability to quickness. He has no pass rush wiggle, tried to bull rush his way every rep. Singletary spent extra time with him on his footwork and staying bent and low.
-- Lavonte David does not lack confidence in his ability. He is a demonstrative leader on the sideline and loudly shouts out the sets quickly and correctly. He keeps good pad level and really sliced his way thru the agility drills. David is smaller and is more of a hustle/flow tackler than a hitter, so this is not his ideal situation for evaluation. He is a bigger, more cocksure Brian Rolle.
-- Shea McClelland from Boise State did not fare well in the pass rush drill, which is a problem for a guy who is making the move from end. He was easily directed wide by Herron on one rep and stoned by his Boise teammate Doug Martin -- the only victory Martin got during the drill -- on another. In another drill he was the LOLB and got caught flat-footed by Ohio State tackle Mike Adams, who fired out off the snap and leveled him. McClelland fared better on the next rep, dodging inside and then flowing back out behind Adams to catch up to the run.
-- Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead was easily the best of the RBs in pass protection despite being the lightest guy in the drills. He really uncoils his power and is not afraid to attack. Dan Herron did okay, but Bradie Ewing of Wisconsin and UMass H-back Emil Igwenagu were both substandard. As they are the only real blocking backs/ends on the team, that is not a good sign.
-- The top story was the "chippyness" between Ohio State center Mike Brewster and Michigan DT Mike Martin, who nearly came to blows twice. Martin bested Brewster on both those reps, nicely establishing his pad level and using his leverage to push Brewster backwards. Martin had a strong morning, rocking Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler backwards on another rep and splitting the A gap nicely on a rep in 11s. Brewster really struggled, rushing a snap, bouncing another, and showing little ability to get any sort of push. He and Russell Wilson, who mishandled at least three snaps, spent a good 10 minutes working on the exchange.
-- Derek Wolfe from Cincy had a very good practice. He is tall at 6-foot-5 and almost appears skinny despite being 300 pounds, very well-distributed. For a tall guy, getting a low initial pad level is imperative and Wolfe does it very naturally. He forced Kirk Cousins into an INT (nice play by George Iloka too) by quickly identifying a bootleg and beating the Kelechi Osemele blocking effort. Wolfe made Osemele look bad, including forcing a false start on one rep and showing off a nice shoulder dip move on another. Wolfe threw some people off as he was wearing an all-white helmet that made him look like a Penn State player.
-- Jack Crawford would be that Penn State player, and he is not in the league of Wolfe, though he did have some moments. He is pretty upright and had issues with blockers getting into his pads. He looked better in 11s, shedding blocks and finding the ball quickly. Crawford bears a strong physical resemblance to NBA player Charlie Villanueva.
-- Another guy that had a very impressive morning was Kendall Reyes of UConn. He shined in the pass rush drill, showing the ability to go inside or wide and flip around the corner. He fires his long arms out quickly and did a good job dictating the action, particularly when facing guards. He dipped under Kevin Zeitler (who otherwise had a solid day) and exploded through it. Reyes seems like a very natural 3-4 5-technique, and one NFC North team that happens to need one of those was paying very close attention to him.
-- Billy Winn did not have a good morning, really not a good day for the Boise contingent here. He was easily stonewalled and redirected in pass rush drills, including one rep where Washington guard Senio Kelemente (playing right tackle) let Winn corkscrew himself into the dirt. Winn did not show the requisite power to play along the line against the physical linemen.
-- Utah guard Tony Bergstrom had a solid morning, looking very stout in pass protect and firing off the ball with good balance and pad level in 11s. He does not have great power and tends to rise up while engaged but he keeps his balance and stays engaged nicely. His initial punch is solid but can be high.
-- Marshall end Vinny Curry is clearly the most reliant on speed, and he definitely has that. He whipped around Osemele on one rep and made a nice duck under move past Mike Adams on another, and once he got the edge he flattened nicely and closed with real burst. But the only time Curry did anything was going wide around an exposed tackle. On the two reps I watched where he was on the strong (TE) side, he was easily pushed out of the play. On one 11s rep where the run was right at him he wound up a good 10 yards beyond the ball upfield, nicely steered by Adams.
-- Mike Adams lined up on both sides at tackle, but he looks better on the right side. He moves pretty well for such a large man and he has improved his spatial awareness since the beginning of the Buckeye season. I was talking with some others about Adams last night and the consensus is that he is a definite first rounder.
-- Joe Looney of Wake Forest arrived and filled in for Garth Gerhart (Stanford), who left Monday with an injury. Looney had a couple of snap mishaps but generally acquitted himself well in drills and strikes me as a better prospect than Gerhart.
Other Random Notes:
-- Michigan State TE Brian Linthicum did not practice. I did not hear why.
-- I did not watch a lot of the passing drills, but it did seem as if Kellen Moore had a better day. Having said that, he did throw behind his target on one rep and then bounced a ball five yards in front of his target after picking up a bad snap on the next rep in 11s.
-- Kirk Cousins is progressing with his delivery. He has shortened his shoulder motion and sped up his weight transfer since the end of the season, but it still is not 100% inherent to him.
-- Brad Nortman continues to put on a punting exhibition. It would not surprise me if he has booted his way into the late fourth round.
-- The Jets contingent was scouting the linebackers hard. As in, they had different individuals spend the entire practice focusing on one linebacker apiece.
-- I saw reps from all the UFL teams here, a good sign that the fledgling league might survive.
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