Authored by Jeff Risdon - 24th January, 2012 - 6:57 pm
My first look at the South squad in action. Weather changed as practice progressed; started at 71 degrees and mostly sunny and calm. but got progressively cloudier and a little breezier by the end of the day.
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-- Sean Spence from Miami is a big-time striker despite being small. He has quick feet and showed he can really thrust through contact with his hips and legs. Very traditional type of backer, though I was a little disturbed that his head snaps back pretty violently every time he makes a hit. That sentiment was shared by two scouts standing next to me. He looked good in coverage, making a nice inside step to cut off a route and showing he can run with the backs and tight ends.
-- Nigel Bradham from Florida State impressed with his technique. Squares his feet, shoulder through the navel, strong leg drive with enough upper body strength to lift and drop the carrier. He also looked good at stripping the ball. In coverage he took an extra step to change direction but showed a real nice closing burst with his head up. Bradham did overrun one open field tackle in passing drills on a nice sidestep move from Terrance Ganaway.
-- Zach Brown has everything you could want in a 4-3 OLB. I loved his pad level and his fluidity of motion, very natural and comfortable. He packs deceptive power. Like Bradham he was very good at stripping the ball with a strong punch. Brown moves so well in space and in coverage. He really closed a throwing window on Ganaway quickly on one rep and sniffed out a misdirection run on another, beating the ball carrier (Vick Ballard I think) to the hole. I see a lot of Lance Briggs in Zach Brown.
-- Jake Bequette seemed a little out of his element playing LB. He is very upright even for being 6-foot-5 and he looked uncomfortable having to take a couple of steps before getting into contact. Bequette did not consistently keep his feet moving once engaged and tried to use his upper body exclusively to get off the block. I liked him at Arkansas as a 4-3 RDE with a great motor and I think that will be his NFL future.
-- Texas has a pair of backers here and they had very divergent days. Keenan Robinson thrived in coverage drills, showing great recognition, very good ability to change direction and stick on the hip of his man, and real closing burst. If you did not know better you would think he is a super-sized safety. He made a very athletic diving breakup of a pass where Brandon Weeden thought he had paydirt.
Emmanuel Acho, on the other hand, did not look good. He is the slowest to move laterally of the LBs, often needing an extra step to get flowing. In coverage he took terrible angles and was consistently torched. Alabama TE Brad Smelley ran a fairly pedestrian route but left Acho a good five yards behind him. He did not stand out in 11s.
During the coverage drill the RBs also were on display. Quick thoughts:
-- Vick Ballard really struggled to catch the ball, even on great throws. He also went too wide on a wheel route.
-- Terrance Ganaway generally caught it well with his hands (one bad drop though) but he does not quickly transition from receiver to runner.
-- Chris Rainey played some receiver and was probably better at WR than he was coming out of the backfield. He was repeatedly "coached" about getting proper depth on his routes. He is a nightmare in space a la Darren Sproles.
-- Lennon Creer from La Tech (replacing Cyrus Gray) has nice hands, gets north/south quickly with the ball.
-- Brandon Weeden has an effortless release with very good touch and pace. He made several throws into tight windows where he put it exactly where and when it needed to be. That is real impressive considering this is the second day he has thrown to these guys. Weeden did misread a LB in zone once and it looked like he forced some balls deep when shorter options were more prudent and open. Mechanically he is real strong.
-- Ryan Lindley brings back memories of Chad Henne. He has a pretty long release and the ball comes out flatter than the other QBs. His timing was really off on many throws, well behind or over the intended target. I also did not see the zip on his throws I wanted. One scout pointed out it appeared his natural walking motion contains a limp, and like Henne he wears a cumbersome knee brace on one leg and looks fairly stiff in the pocket. He made some bad decisions as well, once throwing into double coverage (great play by Zack Brown) when the backside flat was uncovered, much to the chagrin of the coaching staff.
-- Nick Foles was relatively nondescript. He made some good throws and showed solid weight transfer, and his release point was high and relatively concise. He appears to have the strongest arm here but he does not always use it. I need to see more of him in person to shed my bias against him I held coming here, but I am warming to him.
--Juron Criner of Arizona made an awesome one-handed stab on a play where the WR, QB and CB all played very well. Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt) was all over Criner (and everyone else, more on him later), but Weeden saw an opportunity to make a back shoulder throw. It was a little lower than Criner expected but he made a great catch while wearing Hayward as a jacket. The catch drew "oohs" and "aahs" from the enthusiastic crowd.
-- Casey Hayward was the defensive star, an absolute blanket in coverage. His route anticipation skills are top shelf, and he breaks quickly out of his backpedal with an excellent ballhawkish burst. He handled all shapes and sizes of receivers with aplomb. His vocal nature was well-received by his teammates, even those whom he was covering. Stock way up.
-- Dwight Bentley from Louisiana-Lafayette showed good fight in press coverage. He turned and ran nicely when asked. Bentley is a little grabby when receivers make their breaks, notably Joe Adams trying to cross him on an outside break. Bentley made a nice diving INT on a pass that bounced off Jeff Fuller.
-- Patrick Edwards from Houston was feisty in competing with Rainey to see who the top mighty mite receiver is here in Mobile. Edwards flashed strong hands but he did let the ball get to his pads a couple of times. Rainey is shiftier but Edwards runs more polished routes, and he nicely set up an out and up route that left Bentley reaching and missing. Marquise Maze of Alabama is also in the running, but honestly I did not notice him doing much Tuesday other than running way past Furman CB Ryan Steed (IIRC) on a route where the throw went to the other side.
-- On the same route on a different rep, North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins did not bite and easily forced Edwards to the sideline. Jenkins ran step-for-step with Edwards for over 30 yards down the field. Jenkins showed a real strong jam and the ability to turn and burn out of it. Very impressive cover man, has a lot of Champ Bailey to his game. Yeah, I said that.
-- South Carolina CB Antonio Allen has real good size and used it well while playing outside. But when he had to come inside for tight formations or play the slot his inability to quickly change direction was obvious. He did make a couple of nice closes on the receiver and broke up a pass on one rep. He also held backside contain on a run in 11s nicely.
-- Arkansas WR Joe Adams is really skinny, but he has excellent quickness. He releases from the line and gets to full speed immediately, very sudden on his cuts too. For some reason the QBs had trouble throwing him the ball even when he was open. One scout within earshot compared him to Wes Welker. Not endorsing, just reporting...
-- North Carolina WR Dwight Jones looks smaller in person than he does on film. He did not show a lot of suddenness coming off the line and needed to gear down to make cuts. Jones did make a couple of nice stabs where he really reached out and seized the ball from the air.
-- Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller has really fallen off. I saw him in person twice in 2010 and I thought I was watching a first round pick. He has clearly been impacted by some hamstring issues that have robbed him of his speed and any quickness on his release. He also had struggles all 2011 with drops, and that held true here today.
-- Louisiana-Lafayette TE Ladarius Green is built almost identically to Brian Quick of App State, a wideout on the North squad. Green is not real fast with his long strides but he presents himself as a target nicely and quickly secured the ball with his hands on almost every throw. He would function very well in the way the Bengals use Jermaine Gresham.
-- I spent part of practice chatting with a senior scout for a team about a couple of players he watched last week at the Shrine Game. He told me that Coastal Carolina CB Josh Norman was "better than any corner here but Jenkins" and that Miami-OH guard Brandon Brooks "is going to start for a long time" and reminds him of Mike Iupati.
-- The Peyton Manning situation keeps coming up and it is obvious that nobody has anything but speculation. Do not expect Jim Tressel to get the Colts job, but one NFL mover and shaker here thinks the Colts are going to hire Marc Trestman. I would like to see Trestman get a chance in the NFL again too.
-- Alabama fans are some of the nicest people you can ever meet, much more fraternal and warmer than notable fan bases from Ohio State, LSU, Texas, and USC.
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