I combined the first two days here as I wanted to get a deeper take on some of the players. Monday was primarily spent viewing the skill position players and DBs/LBs. Tuesday was for the linemen.
Here are my notes on the East team for the first two days.
J.T. Barrett is the most popular player here on either roster judging by the media following him around and the young fans. The longtime Ohio State starter showed a decent arm and the best accuracy from the pocket. On Tuesday he delivered several strikes, including a small-window dart to Penn WR Justin Watson down the right seam between two closing defenders. Watson had to dive for the ball but the throw could not have been anywhere else and still completed. Barrett has clearly elevated above his compatriots.
Riley Ferguson has disappointed. I came here with expectations that he has not met. The lack of trajectory and touch on his throws has been a major issue both days. His arm strength is handily the best on either roster and he has shown crisp footwork and consistently solid mechanics, but he’s had several balls batted down because he doesn’t throw with any arc on short and intermediate routes.
South Florida’s Quinton Nelson is an exciting football player. Unfortunately, he’s not an NFL quarterback. One team asked him if he would consider moving to safety following Monday’s practice. He’s shorter in person than expected at 5’10”, much smaller than Barrett even though the two were listed at nearly identical sizes by their respective colleges.
The focus on the first day isn’t so much success at making receptions but rather evaluating movement skills and footwork.
Monday’s standout was Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton, as expected. He’s quick in and out of breaks with crisp feet and a savvy ability to set up moves with his shoulders and hips. At just under 6’1”, he’s a natural as a bigger slot in the mold of Adam Theilen. Hamilton has both the highest ceiling and the most realistic chance of achieving it of the East wideouts.
Of the rest, the most physically impressive was Penn’s Justin Watson. He’s a ripped up 215 pounds at just under 6’3”. Watson was not the biggest, however; Montreal’s Regis Cibasu tipped the scales at 241 pounds. Neither moved with the speed or fluidity of an NFL wideout.
Deatrick Nichols from South Florida has proven a high-variance player, to quote an AFC South scout I talked with briefly on Tuesday. Feisty and full of kinetic energy, he’s a natural fit as a slot corner. When he keeps his wits about him he’s been a blanket in coverage too, but on both days there were reps where he seemed more concerned with making a statement rather than the smart or correct play. I still like him but the gaffes are troublesome.
Virginia Tech has a pair of CBs here in Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman. Facyson brings length and ball skills, and both have shown in practices. He’s confident in his technique but looks to be an unexceptional athlete. Stroman is painfully thin at 5’11” and 174 pounds. He also has the smallest hands (8.25”) of any player here. Hard to see NFL teams using a draft pick on those measurables.
The safeties did not stand out on Monday. Louisiana Lafayette’s Tracy Walker and Ohio State’s Damon Webb both showed quick recognition, with Webb notably sniffing out a swing pass and undercutting the TE block for a would-be TFL. Oklahoma State safety Tre Flowers has good length but needs to pay more attention to leg day.
Jason Cabinda and Chris Worley are jockeying for the best player on the East. Worley has the early lead, consistently making the correct play all over the field. He was excellent in the pass rush drills as well as in coverage. Cabinda doesn’t have Worley’s athletic range but it’s hard to find him out of position. He’s built like a tank. Teams who run 3-4 fronts are liking Cabinda’s potential as an inside backer. He has some young D’Qwell Jackson to him.
North Carolina State end Kentavious Street earned huge praise on Monday, the day I didn’t really watch the line. When I focused on the line on Tuesday, he was up-and-down. He has a very impressive inside rip move and good balance to go in either direction when blocked. Street will get a lot of interest as an upfield 5-tech at 285 pounds.
Slippery Rock’s Marcus Martin is the only D-II player here, and he impressed on Tuesday. He’s got the shoulder dip move down pat.
He’s a better prospect than small-schooler Karter Schult was here a year ago.
Miami’s Chad Thomas plays too upright but he’s proven the best at disengaging from blocks. Penn State’s Curtis Cothran won more reps than he lost in the 1-on-1 pass rush and OL/DL combat drills. He’s got natural leverage and powerful hands inside.
Michigan State center Brian Allen is short-armed and not overly quick with either his hands or feet, but he’s crafty and strong. I liked his older brother, Jack, more as a prospect. Brian did quite well in a tandem block drill, and he pulls out in the run game better than any other interior OL on either roster.
Brad Lundblade from Oklahoma State is optimally a center, but on Tuesday he more than held his own at right guard. His footwork and hand placement in pass protection stood out.
North Dakota State’s Austin Kuhnert is playing both guard and center. He’s got short arms and that means he’s reacting too often to the defender instead of initiating the contact in the run game. The balance, strength and bend are all there but he needs to be quicker and more assertive.
Jaryd Jones-Smith from Pittsburgh is massive with a wingspan of nearly 88 inches at 6’6”. When the linemen are all in their sets his lack of bend is pronounced.
Two players left Tuesday’s session with injuries. Syracuse tackle Jamar McGloster appeared to suffer a significant upper arm injury; he was immobilized in an ambulance off to the side of the practice session, though the ambulance did not depart until after practice. West Virginia guard Kyle Bosch limped off earlier and did not return, either.