A sunny day in Mobile was the highlight of Wednesday’s action at the Senior Bowl. The main takeaway from today’s practice session is the Bears and Browns staffs, who are coaching the North and South respectively, are really obsessed with positional coaching and not necessarily with letting the offense and defense compete.
That’s not to say we didn’t get some action, but the scouts and media are here to watch competitions, not drills. Browns DL Coach Clyde Simmons had the South linemen literally running around in circles.
Drills are important. It’s a great way to see how players have been taught technique and how well they perform in the drills relative to their counterparts. But watching safeties go through backpedal and change-of-direction drills isn’t the same as seeing them try and defend a tight end down the seam or fill the gap against a running back.
Among the players who did stand out on the field…
Josh Dobbs--The Tennessee quarterback put quite a bit of distance between himself and the other two South QBs with a very strong performance in the breezy late afternoon. He was comfortable moving in the pocket and keeping his eyes up, and his throws were the most on target and showed real zip. It’s not that Davis Webb or Antonio Pipkin were bad, but they were inferior compared to Dobbs.
Duke Riley--LSU’s linebacker was outstanding in the pass rush drill, showing fast hands and quick feet but also the ability to fire out his hands and then follow it up with a move. Riley unloaded a big hit in team drills too. He also looked decent moving in space and fairly instinctive in the coverage drill, though he couldn’t run with tight ends on deeper routes.
Cooper Kupp--After an okay first day, the Eastern Washington WR looked fantastic in Wednesday’s North session. Despite spotty QB play, Kupp demonstrated soft but strong hands. Where he really stood out was in crossing routes and working the deep middle of the field. His acceleration and ability to catch the ball away from his body at full strength.
Kareem Hunt--Toledo’s running back blew away the North field in receiving drills. Like Kupp, his acceleration once he catches the ball really stood out. Hunt has slimmed down his body and it is paying dividends in his work in the passing game.
Tyus Bowser--the well-built Houston linebacker was dominant in pass rush drills. He absolutely destroyed South Alabama TE Gerald Everett in a pair of reps. Bowser packs great power into his pads but he also has lithe movement skills that are unusual for such a rocked-up physique. He’s been one of the week’s big winners.
Tarell Basham--I might be partial to my fellow Ohio Bobcat, but he earned a lot of praise with his play today. He put a quick inside spin move on USC behemoth Zach Banner that was so well-timed Banner didn’t lay a hand on No. 93 on his way to the quarterback. He had more wins than losses in every drill and also showed coachability.
Tanzel Smart--I had not seen much of the beefy Tulane DT, but after two days of practice I want to see a lot more. He’s light on his feet when attacking but heavy when anchoring, and he plays at full throttle all the time. His battles with LSU center Ethan Pocic, who is also impressing, have been epic. The two even fought Tuesday.
Sefo Liufau and C.J. Beathard--the two North quarterbacks really struggled with the wind in their faces. Liufau couldn’t throw a tight spiral and his accuracy was all over the place. Beathard had a handful of really nice throws but there is no rhyme or reason to his ball placement. The North wideouts are having a tough time running the routes with confidence because they don’t know when or where the throw will be. Perhaps no player has done less to improve draft stock than Colorado’s Liufau, who looked sloppy and heavy in weigh-ins too.
Tanoh Kpassagnon--the biggest winner of the weigh-in has not been able to capitalize on the practice fields. He’s not instinctive as either a pass rusher or an edge presence in team drills. Despite his awesome physique, he doesn’t play with as much power as fellow South ends Daeshon Hall or Jordan Willis. Coming to Mobile my comparison was Devin Taylor of the Lions, but I’m not sure I’ve even seen that level of player in two days of practice.
Jon Toth--one of the things scouts and NFL teams want to see with interior offensive linemen is the ability to play either guard or center. Toth remains a very solid center prospect, but his turns at guard in Mobile have been disastrous.
Antonio Garcia--many have touted the Troy tackle, but he continues to struggle handling power moves. He is the lightest tackle here by several pounds and it shows. Worse, he tends to play too high. His inside arm technique needs work, too.
There were several injuries on the South roster, including three offensive linemen. One of the replacements is Auburn offensive tackle Robert Leff, who looked decent considering he just got to town. Forrest Lamp, Nico Siragusa and Isaac Asiata are the three injury departures up front. Another of the replacements is Vanderbilt tackle Will Holden, who played well in last week’s Shrine Game practices.
A handful of owners were taking in practice today, including Jeff Lurie of the Eagles and Jimmy Haslam of the Browns. I nearly ran over Lurie, who is much shorter than I expected.