Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Quarterback: Of all the quarterbacks, Rhett Bomar has the most potential, but he needs a lot of work in terms of his mechanics and consistency. Don’t expect him to be an instant impact rookie a la Joe Flacco regardless of the similarities. Like Flacco, Bomar transferred from a FBS school (Oklahoma) to a FCS school (Sam Houston St.) before earning a Senior Bowl invite. (Flacco ended up at Delaware after starting his college career at Pittsburgh) In addition to having the best arm of this group, Bomar is the most athletic quarterback of the North threesome. He had some issues taking the ball from under center, making the transition from a shot-gun quarterback.

Going under center, Graham Harrell did a nice job dropping back and talking the ball. He didn’t look like a quarterback who spent his entire career (high school and college) in shot-gun spread offenses. Too bad he wasn’t as impressive when asked to throw the football – his ball flutters. Even on the rare occasion when he threw a tight spiral, Harrell simply didn’t have the arm on the deep comeback throws.

Nathan Brown had some issues under center and fumbled a couple of snaps. He is short and doesn’t have the strongest arm, which makes his lack of crisp mechanics and side-arm delivery even more concerning. Like Harrell, Brown didn’t show the arm strength to make sideline throws. Brown looks his best in “game situations” – in the 11-on-11 he was able to settle in and make some solid throws. Thursday was Brown’s best day as he ran the 11-on-11 very well.

Running Backs: Jeremiah Johnson stood out among this group. He has very good lateral quickness – simply put, he can make you miss. Coming out of the backfield, this former Duck is a tough cover and while he is not a feature back, he will make somebody very happy with his ability as a number two.

Cedric Peerman looks like a natural route runner. He should land somewhere as a third down back.

Syracuse product Tony Fiametta had a stellar week. Fearless and physical as a blocker, he also looked good as a receiver coming out of the backfield. At this point, he is the odds-on favorite to be the first fullback off the board come April.

Wide Receivers: Brian Robiskie has terrific hands, maybe the best of this group. He also has no peers in terms of his route running skills. A true technician who plays like his father is a receiver’s coach in the NFL…which he is (Terry Robiskie coaches wide receivers for he Minnesota Vikings).

Ramses Barden had trouble adjusting to playing against a higher level of competition. Even with his big school size, Barden had some trouble getting off jams at the line of scrimmage.

Juaquin Iglesias
showed good quickness and the ability to change direction. He plays faster than his 40-time.

None of these defensive backs on the North – and there were some good ones – were able to stay with Derrick Williams in terms of his speed/quickness. After making most of his yardage at Penn St. on screen and junk passes, Williams showed he can in fact run routes and get down the field.

Before he was injured, UNC’s Brooks Foster flashed the ability to stretch the field, but he can also be pushed around. He needs to get tougher and more physical.

In addition to displaying skills as a pass catcher, Brandon Gibson laid an impressive crack back block on defensive end Will Davis in 11-on-11 drills. Gibson showed great hands and could not be held in check – he always found a way to get open.

Malcolm Johnson was a late (injury) addition but quickly became a favorite target of the North quarterbacks, seeing a lot of action in 11-on-11, flourishing in the Red Zone.

Tight End: Brandon Pettigrew
pushed Scott McKillop out with relative ease in one-on-one blocking drills. He is a man at tight end, one of the few legitimate in-line blockers at the position.

Big man John Phillips is known as much for his blocking as he is his pass catching, if not more so, but he displayed excellent hands in 11-on-11 drills. He doesn’t necessarily get a lot of separation so he won’t be an explosive pass receiver but appears to be a safe/reliable option.

Offensive Tackles: One of the more intriguing prospects is UConn tackle William Beatty. He needs to do a better job of keeping his back upright and bending his knees, but you have to love the upside he possesses. He got better as the week went on, which is how his pro career will likely go. He needs to put on weight or he’ll be vulnerable to a bull rush, but he has the frame to do so and he’s got the athleticism and footwork to protect the quarterback’s blindside.

Early on, the weakest offensive tackle on the North team was Illinois product Xavier Fulton, who was beaten pretty regularly in one-on-one situations. I did like that he improved throughout the week, rather than hanging his head after his early struggles.

Phil Loadholt was very inconsistent in one-on-one pass blocking drills. The problem is his footwork and lack of lateral mobility. When he gets his hands on pass rusher, it’s game over. The size and length (excellent wingspan) are there for him to play left tackle, but in all likelihood his lack of footwork will prevent him from playing the marquee position. He will shift to the right side on Sundays. Against some of the lesser talent, Loadholt was able to block them, but when he had to block the premier pass rushers on the North, he couldn’t handle them – yet another sign he belongs on the right side.

Guards: Wisconsin guard Craig Urbik was the most consistent interior lineman all week. How do you not love this guy? While most of the centers and guards were getting outplayed by a strong group of defensive tackles, Urbik held his own on almost every snap. He anchors well and even showed excellent footwork when the opposition changed direction. You're not going to overpower Urbik

Andy Levitre is making the move inside after playing tackle at Oregon St. He simply lacks the length to play in the perimeter as his short arms prevent him from pushing linemen away and knocking them off their moves. Levitre had trouble when asked to block speed rushers but has good technique and uses his hands well.

Centers: Max Unger
had some trouble handling the faster/quicker players and powerful linemen. When matching up with a noseman like Ron Brace, he was pushed right back into the pocket – the same happened when he was asked to block B.J. Raji. He does a better job when the opposition tries to out-quick him – he’s more athletic than your typical center.

Alex Mack is tougher than Unger, but he had troubles with Ziggy Hood’s spin moves. He was also overpowered by B.J. Raji (in 11-on-11), putting in doubt whether he will be able to handle premier defensive tackles one-on-one. Mack has a nasty streak and does a good job of maintaining leverage.

Defensive Tackles: At his best, B.J. Raji was dominant, pushing around most guards and centers throughout the week. He displayed both the quickness to get around offensive linemen as well as the strength to overpower them. Raji can be so disruptive – at one point breaking up a hand-off in 11-on-11, pushing Alex Mack back into the quarterback.

The other Boston College defensive tackle, Ron Brace, is a one-trick pony. He’s not trying to trick anybody – it’s a straight power bull rush every time. At times he comes out of his stance too high, a no-no for man expected to make his living over the center. It was disappointing to see Brace get handled on back-to-back plays by Virginia Tech’s Ryan Shuman, a borderline draftee. He easily had the most false starts in one-on-one drills. Brace will get solid push from time-to-time, but rarely will flat out beat his blocker.

If you’re looking for moves, Mizzou’s Ziggy Hood had the O-Line baffled with his spin move. While he typically put the offensive linemen through the spin cycle, Hood also busted out an occasional swim move to beat his man. He is tough to block one-on-one.

Mitch King blew by several offensive linemen using his quickness on inside moves, as well as speed off the edge. He also uses hands well. The one-on-one scenarios play to his strengths. When he tried to use a power move, he was cut off at the path – he had no chance to get into the backfield. He is explosive, but simply lacks the size NFL teams are looking for, which doesn’t mean he can’t create a niche for himself as a role player at the next level.

Alex Magee who was added to the roster on Tuesday, exploded by Andy Levitre, using his hands to get by the former Beaver. Magee displayed a speed rush and showed a nice combination move when he powered outside to set up with spin move back inside. I really like his quickness.

Defensive Ends: Larry English showed some glimpses as an edge pass rusher. It looks like he put on some weight for Senior Bowl week, but has he robbed himself of some quickness? He picked up his play as the week went on, displaying a variety of pass rush moves, which is how he’s going to make his money on the next level. English looked solid when asked to cover. He is an ideal candidate to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Tim Jamison
had some moments, but often goes too wide, always trying to beat his man on the perimeter. He looks like a ‘tweener – to small to play on the line of scrimmage, not long enough to be an outside pass rusher.

Cody Brown plays a little too upright. He could not get by Phil Loadholt on numerous one-on-one opportunities. Brown responded later in the week, at times attacking the blocker – he knocked both Xavier Fulton and college teammate William Beatty on their rear ends.

After spending most of his time at tight end, Connor Barwin did get an opportunity to show what he could do as a pass rusher. He was able to drop his inside shoulder and go around the pass blocker and also showed his natural instincts and quickness setting up linemen with a hesitation move.

Linebackers: Tyrone McKenzie
, out of USF, looks like a solid three-down linebacker. He’s not very explosive but he can cover and there is something to be said for not having to leave the field. He did a great job sticking with Brandon Pettigrew and knocked some balls away.

Marcus Freeman had trouble shedding blockers, although he did avoid Brandon Pettigrew in 11-on-11 as the former Cowboy was trying to block him. He will be a productive pro, but is likely limited to being a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Freeman is at his best playing in space, whether he is trying to avoid a block or make a tackle. He may be the best linebacker in coverage – so smooth and natural when dropping back.

Clint Sintim
is trying to prove he can play in a 4-3 defense after flourishing in a 3-4 system at Virginia. He might be able to play the strongside, but is probably better suited to be a rush linebacker. On that note, he struggled in one-on-one coverage when asked to stay with running backs.

Cornerbacks: Darius Butler displayed good footwork throughout the week. He’s a little undersized, but his hips are as fluid as any corner playing this week. At times, Butler disappointed a bit with his speed – does his 40-time translate to the field? For a corner who lacks ideal size, he needs to show more closing speed. He did impress with his physical play at the line of scrimmage, at one point spinning Brooks Foster completely around right at the line. He looks like he has the skills to play bump-and-run.

Coming out of Oregon St. Kennan Lewis is a physical corner, not at all afraid to mix it up.

I believe Macho Harris had a better week than he’s being given credit for. He’s never going to be an on the island corner, but will find a place in the NFL. He was very physical with Ohio St.’s Brian Robiskie, simply not allowing the former Buckeye to go where he wanted to go (by most accounts, Robiskie was one of the tougher receivers to cover). He also showed the ability to play off-man coverage, which is not his strength.

Safeties: William Moore lacks the fluid hips to be effective in coverage, which is why some scouts are speculating he may have to make the move to linebacker, like Oklahoma’s Nic Harris. He seemed to get pushed back step-by-step by Brandon Gibson in coverage and then was completely turned out of position.

Coming out of Western Michigan Louis Delmus also struggled as a coverman. On one drill, he gave Derrick Williams a ton of cushion only to see the Penn St. product run right by him anyway. This Bronco is at his best running down hill and will flourish against the run. Delmus will get caught peeking into the offensive backfield on play-action.

One safety who was solid when asked to cover wide receivers one-on-one was Oregon’s Patrick Chung, who surely helped his stock this week.

Photo Credit: Mizzou Media Relations; OU Athletics Department; David Knachel, Virginia Tech Athletics Communications; USF Athletics Communications; OSU Athletics; Sam Houston State Athletics, College Press Box