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2012 Shrine Game: Tuesday East Practice Notes

Akiem HicksIt was day two for the East Roster on the practice field, but day one for them for their pads. While I focused heavily on the offensive and defensive lines (always fun to see the one on ones), I got a good feel for almost every position.

The biggest winners today seemed to be RB Tauren Poole, TE Chase Ford, DT Akiem Hicks, DT Travian Robinson, and LB Shawn Loiseau, but see how each position players did at today’s East practice.

-While I did focus more on the linemen and linebackers today, I did notice Austin Davis of Southern Miss looking smoother than Monday. He seemed to more consistently spin the ball cleanly, had better timing, especially on quicker throws, with his receivers, and showed some nice touch throws down the field, all three of which he struggled with on Day One.

-Davis is still the second guy on the QB rankings behind BJ Coleman of Chattanooga, but Coleman didn’t blow anyone away today either. He does seem controled, developed in his drop backs, a big plus for a small school prospect. He still didn’t consistently complete passes down the field and needs to show better accuracy across the field past ten yards. NFL Network’s Chad Reuter even asked if he had completed a pass of greater than 5 yards the past two practices. Still, based on his coachability, leadership, and overall way about him, I love him as a prospect.

John Brantley looked more comfortable as today, as he’s really a rhythm passer that needs to be in-sync with his receivers. Still, that windy release and low release point limited his arm strength again and he still floated far too many deep passes.

Running Backs
-Tennessee’s Tauren Poole impressed once again today, this time with pads. While there wasn’t a ton of physical contact, he did impress as he stayed low through the hole, played behind his pads while seeing the field well, and had a great second gear and exploding through the hole. He should impress in the non-running position skills as well, and if that’s the case, he could rise event further of draft boards.

Alfred Morris of Florida Atlantic showed his lack of great stop-start ability today, not being able to re-direct himself overly well in traffic, but he did have better than expected vision on a few inside out cuts, and seemed decisive in his reactions. Anxious to see how he does in more physical drills.

Wide Receivers
-Probably the biggest winner today was Tim Benford of Tennessee Tech once again, getting consistent separation and drive quickly and powerfull in his cuts. He’s been outstanding in driving down the field, getting vertical, then driving back on comebacker routes. He adjusted well to balls as well, despite lacking great length, but needs to extend more effectively and get better release down the field to be a potential Top 4 rounder.

BJ Cunningham of Michigan State had a bounce back day today, got some seperation with developed route running and baiting the defense well. He didn’t suffer as many drops today, but those drops will come with his small hand size in the NFL. As I said yesterday, I think he’s best suited in the slot in the NFL, using his vision as a receiver and balance in traffic, and he could really be effective in his inside-out routes.

AJ Jenkins of Illinois continues to be maybe the most sure-handed receiver from what I’m seeing, and he could be challenging Jarius Wright (on the West Roster) as the best slot-only receiver at the Shrine Game. Opposite of him, Kevin Hardy of the Citadel has struggled with drops, counting five so far in the times I’ve watched him the past two days. He runs tight routes, but isn’t explosive in them, and with drop issues as well, he’s not emerging as safe draft pick.

Tight Ends
-Evan Rodriguez of Temple didn’t flash as much today as a receiver, but he seemed comfortable and effective blocking from the fullback position, and as I saw on film over the course of the season, he’s developed into a multiple-system/set tight end.

-Miami’s Chase Ford may have had the most surprisngly impressive day, as he wasn’t noticable yesterday. But he showed concentration and receiver skills off the line, adjusted his hands and vision to the ball in traffic, and flipped his hips to turn and run well. Still needs to show a quicker get-off and a more effective in-line blocker, but I’m intrigued for tomorrow for sure.                  

Offensive Linemen
-Today, the defensive line won most of the battles. Probably the most impressive were South Florida’s Jeremiah Warren and Rutgers’s Desmond Wynn. Warren was using his length very well, and when he got his hands low and tight and didn’t over extend, he was consistently slowing inside rushers. Wynn fires his hands up quickly and moved laterally very well, but still is raw in hand placement and footwork. But he held his feet very well, strong base, and showed good leg drive in the run game

-Rishaw Johnson of California PA had an up and down day today. He had some powerful leg drive and stayed low in run blocking, driving to the second level well. But he showed once again his heavy feet and over-extended consistently once again. He lacks the lateral quickness to stay with high motor/quicker rushers like Micanor Regis or Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.

Jeff Adams of Columbia and Joe Long of Wayne State both flashed a little today. Adams extended well with a strong punch initially in the run game, and was repositioning his hands well in pass protection. But he didn’t seem overly balanced in his kick slide on the outside and didnt seem to stay fluid laterally against counter rushes. He did flash, but not as much as yesterday. Adams worked out at long snapper a little as well, which is intriguing for his draft prospects. As for Long, he kept his feet fairly well in pass protection, but he lacked great explosion or power in his hands, needs to shoot them quicker and get a stronger initial punch while staying engaged longer.

Quentin Saulsberry seems very polished in his hand placement, stays low and bends very well, and when he locks on, he was the only one to handle Travian Robinson or Akiem Hicks. He looks like maybe the most consistent offensive lineman here.

Derek Dennis of Temple didn’t seem overly fluid, and as it showed on film, he’s too choppy and off-balance to the 2nd level. He also was consistently too high in his hand placement, allowing rushers to drive him back far too easily inside.    

Defensive Linemen
-As I said in the offensive linemen section, today, the defensive line really impressed. Most notably of the group, Canadian import Akiem Hicks of Regina showed why Matt Elder of BuffaloBillsDraft.com told me to watch out. He still came off the snap a little high and didn’t consistently extend and drive well off the line in drills, but that mostly looks like raw-ness as a prospect. He did, however, show outstanding power and drive in drills, some suddenness in his counter rush moves, and generated consistent pressure in team drills. He was consistently impressive, and despite being raw, he could play his way onto an NFL Draft board if he can finish out the week like today.

-Also very impressive on the defensive line was Travian Robinson of South Carolina.  He was driving his feet very well, extending and setting up his rushes with good balance. He played with great leverage all day despite being taller than some of the offensiive lineman, and had some inside and outside shoulder rush moves. He and Hicks were quite a tandem on the inside in Ones vs. Ones today, and it should be more of the same.

Micanor Regis of Miami and Nick Jean-Baptiste of Baylor both had some suddeness in their initial rushes today, but neither was able to gain consistent leverage and push after the initial snap. Jean-Baptiste seems like an all motor guy, attacking doubles fairly well, fighting at the line, but he lacks great suddeness, flexibility in interior rushes, and overall, he doesn’t look like an ideal nose tackle pass rusher in the NFL.  

-Virginia’s Matt Conrath still lack the quickness and flexibility to get low and generate some consistent pass rush, but he seemed to improve his technique and vision in the defense over the course of the day, taking well to DL coach Paul Spicer’s points. That coachability and headiness is a good quality for the lackluster athletic Conrath is, and he could be a worthwhile rotational 5-technique in the NFL.

-It’s important, at least in my eyes, to see which players emerge as the true leaders at each position, and that’s especially true for linebackers. That role, it seems, so far goes to Shawn Loiseau of Merrimack. Along with showing maybe the quickest feet in linebacker drills and scrapping to the ball well all practice, he seemed to be a fiery leader that the linebackers and defensive linemen related to. He’s quickly showing why he belongs here, as he probably the clear top linebacker of this group.

-Former Pitt defensive end Brandon Lindsey seemed to be a bit looser and more comfortable in zone drills. He still is a long way to go as a linebacker prospect (especially as a 4-3 guy), but that may be his best bet to stick in the league. he did react well to one pass in his short area zone and nearly had an interception that he dropped, following it with 10 pushups. Overall, he’s improving slowly, and I’ll be intrigued to see him on Thursday to see how much he’s improving with the coaching he’s getting.  

Defensive Backs
-I didnt’ get a great look at the defensive backs today, but the two things I did notice was that Josh Norman (along with now having his own helmet), continued to use his length well and flipped his hips well in deep breaks. He does need to keep his feet underneath him better and not over-anticipate routes as much, and his overall back pedal was the focus of coaches more than once. We’ll see if he can keep his balance and transition on the ball quicker without losing his feet over the rest of the week.

-I also noticed that a guy I like a lot, Duke safety Matt Daniels, before the event, was still struggling with picking up a man in coverage. He’s a pure strong safety who can lay a hit and comes downhill hard, but when asked ot man up with tight ends, he struggled to turn and run and be in good position. I do think, from film, he has better vision as a short area zoning safety, so I’ll be interested to see him in that role more this week.