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Senior Bowl Notes: Small School, Big Game


It's time for the second day of our Senior Bowl Practice Notes. Alex Smith, Fran Duffy and Tony Pauline of are bringing you the latest updates from Mobile, Alabama. Here's a running list of who stood out during Wednesday's practice, which includes some small-school players coming up big ...

11:30 A.M.: Our adventure starts today with some of the best ribs I've ever had at a local joint called 'Saucy Qs'. It's a travesty that we just went here for the first time in my six years coming down here. It will now become a staple destination for my yearly jaunt to Mobile. - Fran Duffy

11:30 A.M.: As is normally the case, I agree with Fran 100 percent here. What a meal. I need a nap. - Alex Smith

12:05 P.M.: We arrive at Ladd Peebles Stadium just in time for the North Squad's team photo. This led directly into the start of practice for the Chicago Bears; a day that went considerably faster than yesterday's opening practice with more competitive drills for the players on that roster, which was good for the onlookers in the stands. – FD

North Practice

12:25 P.M.: Practice starts with an 11-on-11 run drill, and the starting offensive line looks a bit different today to get different guys reps with the 'first team'. At left tackle is Bucknell's Julien Davenport, with Temple's Dion Dawkins at left guard, Baylor's Kyle Fuller at center, Indiana's Dan Feeney at right guard and USC's Zach Banner at right tackle. Corey Clement (Wisconsin running back), Sam Rogers (Virginia Tech fullback), and CJ Beathard (Iowa quarterback) make up the rest of the starters in this drill between the tackles. - FD

1:07 P.M.: We jump into one-on-one drills with the receivers and defensive backs going head to head. Trent Taylor, who is Paul Turner's former teammate from Louisiana Tech, carves up Missouri's Aarion Penton in the middle of the field with a great route for a catch to get things going. Taylor is very small for the NFL, but is quick and flashes good hands at the catch point. - FD

1:08 P.M.: On the next play on our side of the field, cornerback Rasul Douglas from West Virginia gets a great jam on wide receiver Jalen Robinette from Air Force. The 6'2, 204 pound cornerback engulfed him at the line of scrimmage and forced an incomplete pass. Douglas celebrates after the play, showing the confidence that he exuded when I spoke with him on Tuesday night. Douglas comes off as a very competitive corner that is extremely confident in himself, presenting the right mindset to play on the outside in the NFL. - FD

1:08 P.M.: Toledo tight end Michael Roberts does a really nice job of using his size to his advantage. He completely outmuscles Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds. Biegel did all he could, and was actually called for interference by an official on the play, but Roberts caught it anyway. He's impressed me. –AS

1:10 P.M.: Robinette's next rep goes a bit better for the big receiver, as he runs a good route on a 'fade stop', where he fakes as if he's running a fade before sticking his foot in the ground and breaking back towards the quarterback on a dime. Beathard hits him right in the hands, but it flies right through to the ground for an incomplete pass. It was a good route from Robinette and a tough drop to swallow, but Beathard is throwing the ball with better timing today. He's known for habitually holding onto the football longer than he should, but he looked less gun-shy on Wednesday early in practice. - FD

1:10 P.M.: Another Toledo player, running back Kareem Hunt, has been impressive as a ball carrier but also as a pass protector. During one-on-one drills, he completely stifled Michigan defensive end Chris Wormley three separate times on one play. -AS

1:10 P.M.: Temple defensive end turned linebacker Haason Reddick has been the most impressive linebacker in my opinion this week. During these one-on-one drills, he completely overwhelmed Wisconsin running back Corey Clement. No back has really come close to slowing down Reddick this week. Later on in this drill, Virginia Tech fullback Sam Rogers gives his best effort, to no avail. –AS

1:14 P.M.: A couple of minutes ago, Zay Jones from Eastern Carolina scored on a slant route against Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis, but now the tables have turned. Jones gets a pretty good release against Lewis' press coverage, but the cornerback didn't panic and played the ball through the body without interfering and drawing a flag in the secondary. Lewis forced the ball on the ground for an incomplete pass on the slant route from press coverage. That rep ends the drill and I divert my attention to the offensive line against the defensive line in pass rush drills. - FD

1:15 P.M.: Things start in a hurry on this side, as Julien Davenport crushes Wisconsin linebacker Vincent Biegel on the first play. The senior linebacker didn't stand a chance on his bull rush and he was immediately swallowed up by the much larger offensive tackle. Dion Dawkins keeps the streak going for the offense after eating up Michigan defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow's bull rush attempt. The defense gets some love on the very next play when large nose tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu bull rushes Kyle Fuller into the backfield for the win. - FD

1:17 P.M.: Chris Wormley beats Indiana guard Dan Feeney with ease thanks to a swim move off the ball. That's the only time I've seen Feeney lose yet today. - Tony Pauline

1:18 P.M.: The action continues and here's Temple linebacker Haason Reddick, who is one of the best linebackers at this game but is now lined up as a defensive end in a three-point stance in this drill. Reddick beats Pitt left tackle Adam Bisnowaty immediately off the ball with an inside swim move and flies into the backfield untouched for what would've been a sack. If Reddick can prove that he has what it takes to play off the ball on first and second down and then play as a pass rusher on obvious throwing downs his value will skyrocket. - FD

1:20 P.M.: Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp continues to show really good hands this week. He made a nice catch in traffic on a quick slant route over the middle. He's proven to be effective on a number of different routes this week. –AS

1:20 P.M.: They're both two of the best players at their respective positions at this game, but Western Michigan's Taylor Moton has Illinois defensive end Duwayne Smoot's number. The former Bronco stoned Smoot with an outside rush, again displaying his strong hands. I asked Smoot on Tuesday night who was the best player he faced all season, and he said it was Moton for sure. - FD

1:24 P.M.: On to team drills now and Beathard hits Cooper Kupp square in the numbers for a first down on an in-cut. Beathard's improvement carries over to the 'live' period from what I saw in team drills. - FD

1:24 P.M.: Agreeing with Fran on that point, also notice Kupp's scissor-sharp routes. He looked like a natural receiver on film and that has definitely been the case here in Mobile. He's catching everything thrown his way. –* TP*

1:27 P.M.: My first 'ooooh' throw from Peterman this week in the team 11-on-11 drill. He hits Toledo tight end Michael Roberts along the sideline, dropping in a beautiful touch throw with Reddick in coverage underneath him. That was an impressive pass. – FD

1:35 P.M.: After some special teams drills, the offense and defense again go head to head in 9-on-7 action, an 'Inside Run' drill. On the first play, Banner and Feeney team up to completely blow up Notre Dame's Isaac Rochell off the ball. That's a lot of beef coming at the former Irish defensive end. - FD

1:37 P.M.: Time for some red zone one-on-one action. We just saw another Kupp slant route for a touchdown. What else is new? He's been running the slant route excellently today. - AS

1:39 P.M.: Eastern Carolina's Zay Jones just ran a perfect slant route versus West Virginia's Rasul Douglas. Jones showed off a lethal first step. Douglas had no chance. I'd say Jones has been a top-three receiver here in Mobile. –AS

1:40 P.M.: A bad shotgun snap kills this play, but if not it would've been Iowa's Jaleel Johnson. The defensive tackle showed a powerful first step, exploding off the ball and firing into the backfield in a hurry as the play was blown dead with the fumbled snap. Still an impressive rep from the 309-pound Johnson. – FD

1:43 P.M.: Good plays by linebackers have been a bit hard to find, but here's a good one from Michigan's Ben Gedeon. The offense is in the red zone, and Peterman throws a shovel pass to Roberts near the goal line (a play that was very successful for Peterman in his upset victory over Clemson this fall). Gedeon sniffed out the shovel, however, and stopped Roberts behind the line of scrimmage; a heady play by the veteran 'backer. - FD

1:47 P.M.: Ohio defensive end Tarrell Basham makes an impressive play against the run as an edge-setter. A few plays earlier he had a great rep against his MAC-rival Taylor Moton where both players went back and forth with each other. I spoke with Basham on Tuesday night and was so impressed with his mental approach to the game. - FD

1:47 P.M.: Basham has looked good out of both a 2- and 3-point stance today. You can see his athletic ability, his change of direction and his lateral movement. He's having a good day today. – TP

1:49 P.M.: Here's a big play on the ground from running back Kareem Hunt. The offense runs a 'flip' play, and Hunt gets the ball out in wide open space, shows off his wiggle to make a defender miss in the slot and he was off to the races for a long gain down the left sideline. Hunt is very good at making the first man miss, and that showed up on that run. - FD

1:50.P.M: It's time for some red zone team drills. Toledo's Kareem Hunt with another nice play, this time showing great body control to catch a pass that was a bit behind him. Hunt adjusted and then gathered himself to get into the end zone. –AS

1:51 P.M.: Practice is almost over, but what a great play by Haason Reddick in the run game. The offense ran a Draw play, and an offensive linemen was on top of the former Temple star immediately, but Reddick used his hands and physicality to defeat the block and get to the football. He looked the part of a linebacker on that play. - FD

1:51 P.M.: It's really starting to click for Reddick. He was dominant in blitz drills, we saw the pass rush earlier against Bisnowaty, and now this. I saw him make a play in coverage earlier as well. This is really good to see before the end of practice. - TP

South Practice

3:20 P.M.: The second practice is underway and Tony can't help himself. He goes to get some peanuts from the concession stand and as he cracks them open the shavings are blowing all over me as I write notes down about players on the South squad. He noted that I probably shouldn't be sitting down-wind from him. - FD

3:32 P.M.: I asked Tony who he's most anxious to see from the South team after yesterday's practice, and he says quickly that it's Antonio Garcia, the tackle from Troy. He said Garcia was a bit up and down on the first day of practice, and he'd like to see him rebound. Tony also mentioned Houston linebacker Tyus Bowser and Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon as players he's excited to watch on Wednesday once the real drills begin. - FD

3:46 P.M.: During one-on-one pass rush drills, we get to see a really fun matchup of Troy's Antonio Garcia versus Alabama's Dalvin Tomlinson. Seeing the small-school players go head to head with the bigger program players is always one of the best parts of the Senior Bowl (see Carson Wentz), and this matchup is pretty even. Garcia gets the best of him with help from a double team on one route, but Tomlinson gets the best of Garcia a few plays later. – AS

3:48 P.M.: Clemson receiver Artavis Scott makes a nice grab in one-on-one drills along the left sideline against cornerback Ezra Robinson. The junior receiver ran a 'fade stop' route and made a contested grab against the Tennessee State corner. Scott transitions best as a slot receiver, but it's good to see him making some plays on the outside as well, as I wait for more of these receivers to shine through in practice. - FD

3:50 P.M.: Grambling State's Chad Williams makes a great catch downfield on a deep Post route, jumping over the safety after darting past the cornerback. I have yet to study Williams but that was a really impressive play. - FD

3:50 P.M.: I was one of the only analysts to have a grade on Williams entering the year, I think he has a chance to be a pretty good possession receiver at the next level. - TP

3:50 P.M.: During the same set of drills, Tennessee State's Jess Dunker completely stops Auburn's Montravius Adams in his tracks. Adams is a physical player up front, and while Dunker has been up and down, he gets the best of the Auburn defensive linemen here. – AS

3:54 P.M.: The tight ends are matching up against safeties and linebackers in the middle of the field, and Ole Miss' Evan Engram is running an out route against Miami's Rayshawn Jenkins. The safety jumps the route perfectly and is in an ideal position to intercept this pass, but the sun gets in his eyes and the ball goes right through his hands into the waiting arms of Engram, who takes it all the way to the end zone for a long touchdown. That was impressive concentration from the tight end, but I like the anticipation by Jenkins as well; it was just a shame he couldn't finish because of the harsh light as the sun begins to lower in the sky. - FD

3:58 P.M.: Jenkins comes back in the next drill, an Inside Run period, and gets a physical thud in on a ball carrier. He's a prototypical strong safety and I'm not worried at all about his ability to play in the box, it's his athleticism in coverage that's the question. - FD

3:59 P.M.: LSU linebacker Duke Riley makes an outstanding play at the point of attack in the run game. The one-year starter used his hands perfectly to stack and shed an offensive lineman and get to the football, showing violence in his mitts to disengage from the block and find the ball. - FD

4:03 P.M.: Tennessee's Cam Sutton has seen a lot of time at safety today. Auburn's Rudy Ford was hurt yesterday, so Sutton is showing off his versatility on Wednesday, something he tipped me off to on Tuesday night. He can play outside, inside or at safety, the kind of versatility you want from a defensive back. I'm a big fan of Sutton's. - FD

4:05 P.M.: The Inside Run drill comes to a close, and Evan Engram really stood out to me at the tight end position. He did a great job as both a blocker and a pass catcher in that drill; he really stepped up his game. - TP

4:27 P.M.: Antonio Garcia beats Jordan Willis one-on-one. I loved his balance and ability to stay square to his target, staying between him and the quarterback. That's the kind of play I wanted to see from Garcia today. - TP

4:28 P.M.: UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes beats Kentucky center Jon Toth with a quick swim move, the same technique he used to beat Forrest Lamp yesterday. Vanderdoes has consistently been one of the best linemen in attendance this week. - FD

4:33 P.M.: LSU center Ethan Pocic looks better today and looks much improved sustaining at the point of attack in both the run and pass games. That's good to see. He received very high  marks from scouts coming into the season. - TP

 4:33 P.M.: And right on cue, Pocic beats Alabama nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, riding him right out of the play in a pass protection drill. He's got great length for a center, and I think he has the ability to be a very good guard at the next level as well.  - FD

4:33 P.M.: Tulane defensive lineman Tanzel Smart blows by Miami guard Danny Isadora during one-on-one drills. Just another example of small school versus big program. Smart has had a nice little week here. – AS

4:34 P.M.: Now this is a fun matchup to watch. Villanova defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon (listed at 6-foot-6, 280 pounds) goes one-on-one with Troy's Antonio Garcia (listed at 6-foot-6, 293 pounds). This is a matchup of players who pass the eye test with flying colors. Both players look like they could be successful at the next level. –AS

4:36 P.M.: He might be flying under the radar through two practices here at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, but I think Florida linebacker Alex Anzalone has had a quietly nice two days of practice. During team drills, it just feels like Anzalone is always around the ball, which is similar to what people said last year about Temple's Tyler Matakevich. -AS

4:38 P.M.: Villanova product Tanoh Kpassagnon lines up inside and absolutely destroys the center off the ball with his quickness. I think Kpassagnon is probably at his best inside at the next level, but his combination of size and athleticism is truly rare. He's not a finished product but if he shows that he can be really coachable this week, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he was picked earlier than most analysts suspected coming into the week. - FD

4:55 P.M.: South practice comes to a close, and I ask Tony who the best player on the field was today. He wonders aloud if it was Alabama tight end OJ Howard again, and after mentioning Jamaal Williams from BYU as a possibility he finally lands on LSU linebacker Duke Riley. Pauline mentioned how active he was and how terrific he performed against the run during drills throughout the afternoon. - FD

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