Wednesday, January 15
Sorry to say, I think I dozed off three times while standing on my feet watching the WEST practice. The pace differential between the two squads practices is incredible. Now watch the West put a solid licking on the East come Saturday.
Much like the West Squad last year, ROMEO's charges should be super prepared for Special Teams play for all the time they spend on it in practice under the guidance of Coach LOUIE AGUIAR.
One of the biggest surprises on this squad to me has been South Dakota OLB TYLER STARR. The strapping 6-4, 249-pounder has been all over the field during 11-on-11 action. He topped today off with an acrobatic sideline pick. He wasn't on my radar at all a week ago. Now he's a nice addition to my draftable LB list.
Michigan State MLB MAX BULLOUGH has also been outstanding so far. He weighed in at a whopping 265 lbs. on Monday. He has been incredibly active and around the ball constantly. He had a big interception in the middle of the field during 11-on-11 this afternoon. I'm still not convinced that this is his ideal playing weight, but it does not appear to be hindering his play so far.
Big Wisconsin DT BEAU ALLEN is throwing his weight around quite effectively, both literally and figuratively. The big inside player, who indicated to me that despite the lack of glamour playing on the Nose he enjoyed the change in scheme this past season in Mad Town. The standard 4-3 scheme used in these All-Star Games is still looking like it plays to his bulk and strength. He's been pushing OL teammates all week.
Baylor TE JORDAN NAJVAR is also making an impression this week with his practice work. The big physical specimen has shown both blocking and receiving skills. He also catches your eye with his 6-6, 262 pound frame. In a speed receiver offense, NAJVAR had only 10 catches last season, but he looks like a solid all-around TE prospect this week.
It's not a big year for senior RB prospects, so a willingness to look at undersized but productive college players is needed more than ever. One such player to look at from the West squad is Sam Houston State's TIMOTHY FLANDERS. He rushed for 1430 yards last fall at an average of 5.9 yards per pop. He's not blowing anyone away this week, but he's done a little bit of everything and with his power has to be listed as short, but not small. Don't be surprised if he makes his mark in the game Saturday. He's hard for defenders to see behind this tall offensive linemen and is very quick to and thru the hole.
The West receiving corps has been whittled down because of injuries. Both T.J. JONES of Notre Dame and Nebraskas QUINCY ENUNWA were out of practice today, and the East team has transferred over Army wideout PATRICK LAIRD. With both squads being down to 5 WR both groups should have plenty of snaps for all the remaining receivers.
KEITH WENNING of Ball State continues to look like the best of the West QB group. He throws the best spiral and long ball of the three on this squad. He is also mobile enough to escape pocket pressure. There are times he looks a little hesitant to try to squeeze the ball into his receivers. QB Coach CHRIS PALMER appears to be working on both a few sloppy throwing throwing mechanics as well as his psyche with WENNING.
Cool temps, no rain and the East football squad greeted me as I arrived at practice this Wednesday morning. The team looked refreshed and ready for some contact after being relegated to an indoor walk thru Tuesday.
I decided that since I always end up spending too much time watching the big uglies work I would at least start my morning with DB drill work. Lo and behold, who should be camped out directly beneath the goal post watching the same group but TED THOMPSON? It's a large group of DB despite the absence of E.J. GAINES who is nursing wounds from the Mizzou Bowl game. I quickly identified two good sized CBs who looked smooth with their footwork in ball direction drills in ANDRE HAL of Vanderbilt and small-college star PIERRE DESIR of Lindenwood. HAL had a strong steady career at Vandy and reminds me some of CASEY HAYWARD his former Commodore teammate who is now with the PACKERS. He's not flashy and is probably best suited in a primarily zone cover scheme, but he can turn his hips and accelerate quite nicely after a change of direction. He also locates he ball well. DESIR is the highly touted small school guy who has the length of frame and arms that scouts always look for and rarely find. He's on a pretty big stage compared to what he's used to from small school days. He seems a bit slower than HAL in reacting to the ball, but can get to it and shows good coordination and balance.
But I couldn't stay away from the big boys for long. I was drawn to some drill work by the DL, under the supervision of former BADGERS/BENGALS DT TIM KRUMRIE. I continue to be drawn to the smaller school guys and couldn't keep my eyes off of the big energizer bunny, ZACH KERR of Delaware. Though lacking a bit in finesse, KERR displays a high rev motor and great enthusiasm for the game. Krumrie calls him Delaware and offers advice and encouragement constantly. In later scrimmage type work KERR inflicted some big hits on blockers and ball carriers. He has a knack for pushing the middle right into the pocket. He's not running anyone down from behind, but he will chase.
Long and strong is how I would describe Richmond DE KERRY WYNN. I show WYNN's weight at 270, but he looks a bit thicker than I would have expected. I am anxious to see what his arm length measurement is. He sticks those arms out and deflects passes and stops runners in their tracks.
I'm still thinking that Cornell QB JEFF MATHEWS is the top overall QB down here. But his lack of play against top-level competition is showing in his hesitancy to squeeze the ball into his receivers against D1 level CBs. He holds it a bit longer than you would like and is gong to get sacked way too often. He certainly has NFL talent and athleticism, but he's going to be a grooming project before he's ready to compete for a starting job as a pro.
Watching Northern Illinois QB JORDAN LYNCH run the O at midfield I couldn't help but think to myself that he was sorely tempted to tuck it and run on multiple occasions. The 11-on-11 moved to the red zone, at the 15-yard line, and sure enough on the second play LYNCH tucked it and ran a QB keeper for a TD, straight up the middle.
I don't see him as much of an NFL prospect, but some CFL team should be excited about the prospects for McGill OT LAURENT DUVERNAY-TARDIF as a big time candidate for the Canadian league. LDT may not look pretty from an NFL blocking technique standard, but he's reasonably athletic and battles to the whistle. I can see him starting right away for some CFL team.
Arkansas PK ZACH HOCKER had his teammates fired up this morning with his FG kicking which seemed to get better the longer the attempt. He was up to 50 yards when he finally missed a long one, and his mates were hooting and hollering for him to make one more kick. You'd have thought he was possibly earning them all a no curfew night.
His work is far from perfect, but I keep seeing good things from Tennessee C/G JAMES STONE, who has moved from OC to OG this week. He's showing more strength than I expected, and in a limited area is moving his feet very well. He's quick in a short area and uses his hands very well to move bigger DL away from the pocket. He's also quick to the second level blocks on running plays. He's been much more impressive than I remember from the film study I did of him at OC for Tennessee.
The best RB for my money continues to be another RAJION NEAL, another former Volunteer who is a solidly built guy who has shown incredible quickness, cutting ability and flat out speed. He took one to the house during 11-on-11 work this morning. He faked a couple of defenders out of their jocks with one jump-cut. Then he outran everyone to the end zone. He looks to me like the best RB out of Tennessee since the equally unheralded ARIAN FOSTER. Yes, I like him that much this week.
Louisville OLB XAVIUS BOYD used his speed and athleticism to be all over the field this morning. He penetrated into the backfield on multiple occasions during 11-on-11, but on a couple of occasions the ball was headed in the other direction. His athleticism will be highly coveted by NFL personnel people, but his "guessing" and lack of assignment discipline will also cost him in some personnel evaluations. His overall play clearly indicates he has a future as a starter in the pros, just maybe not immediately.
I took time to chat with Penn State OG JOHN URSCHEL after practice. The double degree math man was arguably the top legitimate student/athlete in the country this past season, although he is very intent on giving a pro football career a serious try. He says he had a special relationship with JOE PATERNO and will always consider him one of the strongest personalities who ever influenced his life. I think URSCHEL may be drafted if he can put up decent numbers at the combine and/or his pro day. He's a stout body guy, and may be tough to cut once he's on an NFL roster. He's also very articulate and polite. That should count for something.
I mentioned Louisville OLB DERRELL JOHNSON on Monday and I continue to be impressed with this large, athletic LB. He put his hand down on the ground for some blocking/pass rush drills and showed an impressive combo of power and speed. In an NFL defense where the DC is creative and willing to move this guy around he could become a star. He will have to work on his pass drops, but has enough going for himself already to be a top 100 pick and see plenty of action in sub packages
at the least.
Another solid, high energy practice was orchestrated by JERRY GLANVILLE and his staff of well respected coaches including JUNE JONES, TIM KRUMRIE, PAUL SPICER, MARCUS MASER and more. And yes ELVIS, Glanville will be leaving 2 tickets for you at the will-call window if you are in the area Saturday.