It was chillier this morning in Mobile, but the wind was almost still and the nary a cloud in the bright blue sky. Star of the Day Arkansas State DE Alex Carrington put on a show today. The lines were doing a drill where the D-linemen twisted, and Carrington flew into Shawn Lauvao and flattened him with such force that Lauvao?s helmet hit the ground. Later on Carrington drove BC center Matt Tennant backwards into the pseudo-QB, showing great pad level and leg drive. Then in 11-on-11 drills he quickly diagnosed a bootleg by Central Michigan?s Dan Lefevour and chased him out of bounds, staying with him step for step. My enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the poor quality of North OL play (more on that later), but Carrington has shown great burst, energy, and base power all week. I spent the first part of practice watching the linebackers, who worked on agility and coverage drills. Observations from the LBs: Koa Misi, Utah--real good athlete with very quick feet and a nice closing burst in gunning down the receiver, which is important because he was flat-footed in coverage. He shows a tendency to raise up a little early on his hits. Daryl Washington, TCU--very impressive in agility drills, very fluid and controlled. He showed he can explode to the ball and can change direction quickly and then close with power. He?s not a loquacious guy but he exudes a quiet leadership and is clearly respected by his mates. Hits with real authority. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri--extremely fast, but in agility drills he consistently kept his feet too close together. Nobody goes from a standing position to top speed better than Spoon, and in 11-on-11s he flew to the ball, doing a nice job of sifting thru the trash and staying fast. He yaps nonstop, and that is the subject of some debate amongst the observers--and some North teammates--today. A lot of guys eat it up and love his vigor, but we saw a couple of times where certain teammates just rolled their eyes. When he was not in the 11?s drills, he stood behind the offense and correctly yelled out tip-offs and tells that the offensive players were showing. Donald Butler, Washington--best LB in coverage here, real comfortable playing in space and anticipating routes. He quickly sniffed out a screen and blew it up, and he closes on the ball like a safety should. There were a couple of instances where he stopped moving his feet upon initial contact, including one play in 11?s where he met the ball carrier in the hole and stood him up. Phillip Dillard, Nebraska--the thing that stands out with Dillard is his economy of movement. He?s not real quick but wastes no energy. He plays a little upright and doesn?t get outside real fast, but as a downhill between-the-tackles backer he?s reminiscent of Gerald Hayes of the Cardinals, though Dillard is bigger. AJ Edds, Iowa--great instincts, but he?s not real fluid. He reminds me of Scott McKillop from last year, only a little bigger and a harder hitter. Justin Cole, San Jose State--it shows that he was a collegiate DE because he is quite literally lost in space and appears very unconfident and tentative in coverage. He?s a lunging tackler, and both Edds and Weatherspoon (that?s right, LBs) did the old matador move on him as receivers and he went flying by out of control. In 11?s he lined up on the line in the way the Lions often deployed Julian Peterson last year and he fared much better, showing a strong initial burst and getting upfield quickly. The wideouts and DBs did some jam drills, of which I only caught the last few reps. Notes: Ohio?s Taylor Price made a nice swim move to shed Rutgers CB Devin McCourty and beat him downfield. Boise State CB Kyle Wilson absolutely locked up Clemson WR Jacoby Ford in one rep, and he handled Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard nicely in another, not falling for a double move. Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman stayed with Gilyard nicely. One longtime NFL WR standing nearby opined that Gilyard is tipping off his moves, and the Lions coaches talked to him about consistency of how he lines up. Good days Murray State DE Austen Lane can be a real handful on the edge, and he showed he can twist inside with good pad level for a taller guy. He whipped UMass OL Vlad Ducasse, who once again badly struggled at tackle. Lane has great size at 6?6? and 274 pounds and he is having no trouble making the jump from the OVC to running with the big dogs. Virginia CB Chris Cook made a nice INT, jumping a route and seizing the Tony Pike throw from the air with his hands. On another play he nicely steered newcomer Donald Jones (WR, Youngstown State) out to the sideline and allowed no throwing lane. Cook isn?t real fast but he?s consistently shown good body positioning and instincts in coverage all week. Penn State DT Jared Odrick is having an easy time with the interior O-linemen. He?s leaner than most DTs but he drove back his blocker consistently. Odrick used a nice arm punch to create space and motored inside Idaho G Mike Iupati, easily the best offensive linemen here. Cal DE Tyson Alualu learned from his mistakes yesterday and stayed home on backside containment. He likes to line up very wide and he plays shorter than his 6?2? frame suggests, but he can really crash down the line. He quickly chased down a run to the opposite side, hitting low and wrapping up nicely. Bad days Michigan P Zoltan Mesko ruined the punt return drills by being unable to kick the ball far enough to allow a return more often than not (my rough count was 2 returnable out of 7), and his kicks consistently bounce backwards or straight sideways. Utah OL Zane Beadles continues to look very overmatched, no matter who he is facing. He flat-out whiffed lunging for Odrick on one play, then got bulldogged backwards by UNC DT Cam Thomas on the next. I continue to have mixed opinions of Thomas, who flashes a nice variety of interior moves but is basically lost outside the A gap. Notre Dame T Sam Young is also in over his head. In the aforementioned comments on Weatherspoon calling out tip-offs, he was looking right at Young. While playing RT he leaned inside on a running play to the left, and he is almost painfully high in his base stance. I?ve yet to see him win a pad level battle this week. Non-draft tidbits Lions Assistant DL Coach Kris Kocurek is a star amongst observers. He?s incredibly demonstrative and loud, repeatedly yelling ?Beat their ass? and running up to his charges after the play, with his trademark backwards hat and unzipped track pantlegs. I spent a couple minutes after practice talking to him and he?s nothing like that off the field. One of the painful reminders of the physicality of football is watching all these former players limping around, talking about their artificial hips and knees and shaking hands with mangled fingers. I spent a few minutes talking to two former Cleveland Browns along the fencerow, and both expressed genuine, unprompted optimism about the direction of the franchise. Both said that bringing back Eric Mangini was ?absolutely the right move?. And this just in, shamelessly eavesdropping on a radio crew here--Kurt Warner is expected to announce his retirement on Friday.
Wednesday Senior Bowl Notes (North)