Friday, January 30, 2009

Senior Bowl: South - Practice Notes

Quarterbacks: Pat White had a solid week throwing the football, displaying good zip on his sideline passes. On one play in 11-on-11 Alphonso Smith – hands down the best cover corner – thought he could jump White’s pass, but did not get there in time. White also showed the ability throw on the move, rolling both to his right and left. It’s hard to say how much NFL personnel people were turned off by White’s reluctance to play another position during the week--if he holds firm on that stance, he could hurt his stock. However, if he agrees to play a slash role, White may have opened some eyes in terms of being a viable option as a number two quarterback. He could be very valuable, saving an extra roster spot or two.

John Parker Wilson had his moments – both good and bad. His arm is solid and he made some sharp throws, but also was off target on several occasions. Wilson does seem to have the intangibles teams look for and commands the huddle, making him a solid candidate as a number two quarterback.

The least impressive quarterback on the South squad in practice was Cullen Harper. Many of his passes were short or behind his intended target. He also didn’t exude confidence with his body language. Harper did not have the bounce back week he desperately needed after a down senior season.

Running Backs: NC State product Andre Brown showed good burst running the football throughout the week, particularly for a man of his size. After the underclassmen are selected, Brown could be the first senior running back off the board. Durability is his biggest question mark.

James Davis couldn’t have been more disappointing in passing situations. He struggled trying to block linebackers and he completely missed Rey Maualuga…didn’t even get a hand on him. He wasn’t any better coming out of the backfield as a receiver, allowing passes to go through his hands coughing the ball up after he was hit by a defender in the Thursday scrimmage.

Small school runner Rashad Jennings looks as good as any of the backs in the blocking drills. More importantly, he looks like he belongs among the big boys…for my money he’s the best FCS prospect heading into the 2009 Draft. A big back who runs with power between the tackles and has more than enough speed.

Arian Foster did a solid job on Rey Maualuga. Considering Foster will likely make a living as a number two back and a pass catcher, the ability to protect in pass coverage is critical to his evaluation.

LSU fullback Quinn Johnson was not stellar in pass blocking drills, but he has the look of a very good lead blocker in the running game – he’s at his best in the eye-formation. He’s shown enough this week to earn a draftable grade.

Wide Receivers: Mohamed Massaquoi
looked very smooth coming in and out of his routes – he’s a natural athlete. He made a nice catch on Alphonso Smith. We saw the good and the bad from this Georgia product on one play: Massaquoi beat Derek Pegues with crisp move at the line of scrimmage…but dropped the ball, which has always been the knock on him. A hamstring injury cut his week short, which was too bad…he looked like he had a chance to help himself this week.

Quan Cosby
made several great catches and held on to the football after taking a big hit from Corey Francies. No one can question his hands.

The same can’t be said for former Seminole Greg Carr, a late injury addition, who had several passes bounce off his hands. Way too many balls end up on the ground after touching his hands.

Mike Wallace had a good week, showing the ability to run crisp routes and blowing by most of the defensive backs he was matched up against. He did have a bad drop, but I think he made an impression on scouts this week. He could be one of those guys who turn out to be a better pro than he was a collegian. Wallace has nice tools.

Patrick Turner flashed some nice moves to shake free from coverage. Not many receivers can go up and get the football like this former Trojan – he catches the ball with his hands. He’s a big kid, with good athleticism making him a very intriguing prospect. Turner looks comfortable running slant patterns, which is how he can make a living at the next level – as a West Coast Offense wide receiver. With his size, he could be a real red zone weapon.

Tight Ends: Shawn Nelson surprised with his ability as an in-line blocker, particularly when he man-handled Rey Maualuga, throwing him down to the ground in a one-on-one blocking drill. Nelson really helped himself this week–everyone knew he could catch the football and if he continues to show this type of ability as a blocker, his stock will only continue to rise.

Travis McCall
had his issues blocking linebackers. First Darry Beckweth blew by him, then Ashlee Palmer used a spin move to evade him. Pass catching isn’t McCall’s calling card so his stock may be slipping, especially when you consider that neither one of these linebackers are considered pass rushers.

Anthony Hill impressed as a blocker, a role which wasn’t considered his forte coming into the Senior Bowl. He constantly drove back linebackers and did an excellent overall job run blocking.

Offensive Tackles: Troy Kropog disappointed as he was bull-rushed way too easily and was even knocked on his rear end. While he has a solid frame, Kropog needs to put on some weight. It will take some time for him to develop before he sees regular action on Sundays. He is a bit of a project – boom or bust.

Michael Oher had an uneven week – at times he was dominant, flashing the potential we’ve seen over his four years at ‘Ole Miss. He owns a heck of a punch--once he gets his hands on a defender, consider his man blocked. Oher showed a nasty side and I mean that strictly in good way. However, he was beaten more often than one would expect from a potential top-10 pick. He is not a lock franchise left tackle and may have fallen behind fellow seniors Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith, who interestingly chose not to attend the Senior Bowl.

Florida’s Jason Watkins had trouble with speed and quickness throughout the week, which doesn’t bode well for a tackle.

Centers: Eric Wood is a physical interior lineman. He may have helped himself even though he wasn’t always winning the one-on-one battles. He’s not very athletic, but may be the most powerful center. Wood isn’t for everyone, but if you like your centers big, strong, and nasty, this Louisville man is for you.

Not a great week for Jonathan Luigs who too often was moving back, not of his own volition. Luigs can get overpowered at the point of attack by bigger linemen.

Antoine Caldwell battled well all week. The Alabama product is at his best holding his ground and going power against power.

Guards: Herman Johnson was overmatched at times, particularly when asked to block fellow SEC product Peria Jerry, who had him backpedaling and stumbling on several occasions. The big man was overpowered at times, and while some like his potential as a tackle, I’m not sure the lateral quickness is there and believe he should remain at guard.

Tyrone Green made a name for himself this week and in a year that is not deep at the guard position, Green is creeping up the charts. He struggled on the first day, but bounced back well and finished very strong.

Defensive Ends: Kyle Moore looked very good this week and should be moving up draft boards. His long arms allow him to keep linemen away from his body. He was beating interior linemen all week – at times overpowering them – and you could see him shifting to the inside in pass rushing situations in the NFL.

Robert Ayers did it all this week, showing he is stout at the point of the attack and that he possesses the athleticism to get into the backfield off the edge. He put an impressive spin move on Jonathan Luigs, blowing by him almost untouched. Not many players helped their cause in Mobile as much as this Volunteer.

Lawrence Sidbury
may not have come to the Senior Bowl with a recognizable name, but certainly made an impact as a pass rusher, something no team can have too much of. Another small school product who looks like he will make a smooth transition to the big leagues.

Did David Veikune just whiz by Michael Oher? Yes he did, displaying good speed and quickness. The second time this duo matched up, Oher dominated Veikune – once he was able to get his hands on the defensive end, Veikune wasn’t going anywhere. Veikune continued to flash potential throughout the week, showing quickness and the ability to get leverage.

Defensive Tackles: Peria Jerry beat Herman Johnson pretty easy with his quickness, then got around Eric Wood – he's a pure 3-technique type disrupter from the interior of the line. On the next rep, he pushed Wood off his heels. In 11-on-11, Jerry bested his man for what would have been a sack on John Parker Wilson. He could easily be the defensive player of the week for the South squad. His stock has risen all season and continues to do so.

Fili Moala flew under the radar, overshadowed by the performances of Peria Jerry and B.J. Raji, but he had a solid week in his own right. He went around Tyrone Green using his quickness on one play and on the next rep, he just bulldozed the Auburn product right into the pocket. Moala also beat Eric Wood, Jonathan Luigs and Herman Johnson, who he overpowered on one play, then followed it up by making the guard move his feet as Moala beat him with his quicks. I think Moala is underrated for two reasons –he’s overshadowed by bigger name players at USC, and he was hurt by playing so much nose tackle in USC’s 3-4 system. I could see him as a potential 5-technique 3-4 end at the next level, not a noseman.

Corvey Irvin doesn't always win the battle, but boy does he battle--it’s collision time when he's in there. Matching up with a fellow SEC product, Irvin got low and pushed Tyrone Green back. Irvin knocked John Parker Wilson down in 11-on-11s, he just couldn't help himself after making a nice move to break through the offensive line. You gotta love it! On the next play he got penetration against the run, beating Eric Wood. Irvin beat Jonathan Luigs with speed then pushed him back into the pocket. In the Thursday scrimmage he displayed good instincts reading a screen play.

Linebackers: After a mediocre Tuesday, Rey Maualuga came out like a man on fire on Wednesday, tossing James Davis aside like a rag doll in blocking drill. He then flashed his shoulder and got around Quinn Johnson, exploded by Arian Foster and used a swim move to burst by Davis again. He looked a different player, more like someone who will be off the board among the top 10 picks come April. In the scrimmage he proved he can cover and no one hits like this Man of Troy.

Brian Cushing showed the ability to shed blockers and was tough to contain as an edge pass rusher. He can do it all and is worthy of being a top ten pick.

He’s not quite as explosive as teammates Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, but no one can doubt that Clay Matthews is going to be a player at the next level. He looks like such a natural pass rusher, who showed he can overpower blockers using leverage in addition to his ability to get off the edge.

Darry Beckwith has good athleticism, but can be overpowered if he gets engaged by blockers. Beckwith seems to try and go around blockers rather than beat them.

Cornerbacks: Alphonso Smith is what we thought he was…the best coverman in the 2009 Draft. He blanketed several receivers in one-on-one situations throughout the week of practice, and showed big play ability when he jumped a John Parker Wilson pass with nothing but green between him and the end zone. Smith dropped the pick, but his resume (21 interceptions) indicates ball skills aren’t an issue.

Ellis Lankster had a solid week and could be moving up the charts among his fellow cornerbacks. He had excellent coverage and showed the ability to cut and change direction quickly. The WVU product locked up several receivers and knocked a pass or two away.

Corey Francies is a very intriguing prospect because of his length, although he did not look great coming out of his pedal. He’s at his best in press coverage, but struggled some in off coverage.

Safeties: Defensive back Sherrod Martin is a little too aggressive, making him vulnerable to the double move. Martin’s tackling skills are in question, which limits his potential as a safety, but does he have the cover skills to play corner?

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, College Press Box, Chris McGuire (USC)