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2013 Senior Bowl: North Tuesday Practice Notes

Datone JonesToday was the first day we had two Optimum Scouting members covering an all-star day, which lead to some fantastic notes between myself and Alex Brown (@ABXXV25 on twitter). He covered quarterbacks, receivers, and defensive backs, while I focused on the linemen and watched running backs/linebackers.

The quarterback picture became a bit more clear, Eric Fisher generates the much-deserved buzz, and Markus Wheaton, Datone Jones, Kawann Short, Khaseem Greene, Dwayne Gratz, and Desmond Trufant.

As for the North quarterbacks, Zac Dysert was clearly behind Mike Glennon and Ryan Nassib in terms of footwork, setup and consistent weight transfer. Laboring in his transfer of weight, Dysert often is forced to slow his feet down to set up the throw, lacking ideal lower half mechanics and foot planting. This unnatural weight transfer leads to increased stress and focus on his elbow and upper half, which inevitably results in an armed motion. Dysert struggled to spin a clean ball versus sporadic wind gusts in Mobile, but did flash arm talent from time to time. He’ll need to tighten up his mechanics and release point if he wants to stay in the day two discussion.

-Among the top two quarterbacks, Mike Glennon flashed in the vertical passing game, while Nassib impressed with his throwing base and ability to drive between the numbers. Glennon, when on time with his footwork and given room to step to the throw, drove the ball beautifully on bench-and-go and fly route patterns. The anticipation shown vertically, as well as proper ball placement, loft and velocity was fun to watch throughout the day. Glennon has an easy, over-the-top delivery, but needs to be stay up on his toes and improve his knee bend to avoid low throws on his checkdowns. Naturally rising up to an erect throwing base, Glennon will struggle at the next level in his reset and pocket adjustments due to tight hips and an elongated frame.

-Ryan Nassib, on the other hand, really impressed with his foot speed, ideal throwing base, strong core and quick setup. Tightly wound in his mechanics and sudden with his delivery, Nassib more so than any other quarterback, added RPM’s to his football through proper weight transfer and base. Nassib struggled with deep anticipation and placement outside the numbers, but excelled between the numbers, driving multiple seam patterns to the tight end. Tomorrow I want to see him pull the trigger on high-low reads, as he often was late with the read and forced to check the ball down to the halfback option pattern. Overall an excellent day though for Nassib and Glennon.

Running Backs
-While I wasn’t focused on the running backs, I did seem to notice the lower body pop through the hole and through contact from Oregon’s Kenjon Barner. While he gets the “speed back only” reputation from his time at Oregon, Barner has the balance in his lower half and the cutting ability to redirect inside when working to the edge.

-The other running backs Jonathan Franklin or Robbie Rouse didn’t get to show much today, other than both being able to win in routes out of the backfield. The interior of the line was won by the defense much of the day, and limited what they could show in team drills.

Wide Receivers
Packed tight with muscle and surprising thickness to the lower half, I liked Marquise Goodwin’s overall body type and initial burst. Quickly eating up cushion on intermediate and deep breaking patterns, Goodwin ran crisp speed cut, bench patterns. Early in practice, Goodwin had difficulty shedding the press and getting in-route, as corners Jamar Taylor and Jordan Poyer were very physical off the line. As the day progressed, however, Goodwin steadily improved and used his hands and foot quickness to win off the line. It was good to see the adjustment, and tomorrow I’ll be looking for crisper in-cuts, as Goodwin consistently drifted deeper on dig patterns.

-Kansas State receiver Chris Harper displayed ideal hand usage and technique to fight through press coverage and actually did a strong job in stacking over the top of the cornerback afterwards. The concern with Harper is his build up speed and lack of explosive cuts at the top of the route; in the press drill, Harper consistently created separation for himself and even forced a few holding calls from the opposition. Very much a hands catcher that attacks the ball out and away from his body, Harper should be in-line for a solid week.

-As for Markus Wheaton from Oregon State, he made it quite clear to scouts that he was the best wide receiver from the North squad. Long-legged yet quick out of his cuts, Wheaton separated underneath well enough to provide a clear throwing lane, while dominating with deep speed in the vertical game. Able to separate once the ball is thrown in his bench-and-go and fly routes, Wheaton has a homerun hitting skill set to be a dangerous weapon at the next level.

-Denard Robinson had a rough day today and clearly isn’t comfortable returning punts. I counted three drops in receiver drills, each of which hit him squarely in the hands. It’s going to be a difficult transition for the former quarterback and not an overnight flip of a switch, so teams will need to patient with his development. Aaron Dobson of Marshall didn’t blow me away with explosiveness, but he did have deceptive build up speed and some savvy at the top of his routes with shoulder/head fakes.


Offensive Linemen
-The stud of the day was Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. He extended away from his body to seal the edge well, arched his back to absorb bull rushes, and overall showed the body control, kick slide, balance, and hand adjustments to merit being considered the top OT in this draft. Looking forward to keeping up with him as well as reviewing Luke Joeckel this week to compare the two.

-Also impressive today, after having a “bad weigh-in” was Justin Pugh of Syracuse. Garnering a first round grade before his length concerns came up, he showed the ability to keep his hands tight inside, drive down in interior blocks, and pivot/reset very well in both run and quick pass situations. While his length will limit him, I’m not so sure he can’t fill in at tackle for some zone blocking teams. Also, he pointed out yesterday in our interview that he has played OG in high school (Link)

Ricky Wagner of Wisconsin really showed some ability today, surprisingly. He adjusts his hands well on the outside, keeps them inside to start, and can get some depth his kick slide (enough for the right side, likely). However, he does play a bit high, and lower bull rushes did eat him up today.

-Also of note, I thought two former tackles in David Quessenberry of San Jose State and Brian Winters of Kent State showed some talent playing guard today. Quessenberry exchanged his hands and reset very well on the interior, and stayed strong inside. He looked better than I expected inside at guard, and won’t take much/any time developing there. As for Winters, he showed the same hand strength and flashed ability to work in space, but his struggles at the point of attack on bigger nose tackles and his struggles to maintain inside leverage with his anchors proves he’ll need time before he’s an NFL ready interior lineman.

-Two offensive linemen that struggled today were Hugh Thornton of Illinois and Braxton Cave of Notre Dame. Thornton flashes the upside with his balance, quick ability to set up, and body control, but he tries to block too far away from his body, struggles in his initial engagement, and seemed too slow to adjust off the line. He does flash good blocking ability when he get that initial hand placement, but has struggled after that. As for Cave, he had a poor day holding his point of attack all day, struggled to exchange his hands at all on the interior, and made quite a few interior rushers happy today.

Defensive Lineman
-The surprise star of the day on the defensive line, and maybe on the whole roster, was UCLA DL Datone Jones. Showcasing a strong lower half in the weigh-ins, he seemed to use that today to collapse the inside, drive through offensive tackles with great force while extended and playing with good pad level. Even with a dominant day from Eric Fisher, Jones was the only one to give him trouble.

-On the other hand, Michael Buchanan of Illinois continues his frustrating 2012 season with a lackluster performance today. He flashed the ability to plant and redirect in drills today, but in one vs. ones and team drills, he was rendered useless for the most part. He lacks the ability to exchange his hands and work upfield, he doesn’t drive his inside shoulder well, he lacks any sort of polish in rush moves on the outside vs. more polish offensive tackles, and doesn’t read-react or time in the run game well at all. For a player with so much upside, he’s proved to be a big nothing thus far.

Kawann Short of Purdue impressed today, just a day after many offensive linemen I talked to called him the best defensive lineman they faced in Day one. The stayed tight with his steps laterally (albeit not having elite burst), and drove with his legs well. He adjusts after his initial rush well, with polished moves, and today was a good step toward redeeming himself after a lackluster senior year.

-Another impressive defensive tackle was Sylvester Williams of North Carolina. With maybe the quickest first step off the snap in the entire draft, Williams elite pop and first move (utilizing a rip or swim move well) looked the part of a top tier defensive tackle. On film, though, he did seem to struggle after that first move, and we’ll see if he can show polish as an interior pass rusher throughout the week.

Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern was working hard all day, especially through drills, taking to coaching at a few points as well. He has a high motor, and flashed the ability to exchange his hands off the line when he gets a good first step. However, his initial pop off the line lacks at times, and I’m unsure if he’s ready to take on multiple blockers in the NFL quite yet.

Margus Hunt of SMU didn’t show a whole lot today, and still shows he struggles to disengage when blockers get him in tight. He does also seem to have some balance issues (as Josh Norris of Rotoworld pointed out). Jordan Hill of Penn State needs to also keep his balance better off the ball, and he seems to sell out on the bull rush at times, not chopping his feet and looking for a counter. And Alex Okafor didn’t show much today, but has some active hands on the outside that allow him to generate pressure inside or out.


-Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene had another impressive today, adding to his ability to potentially be in the late 1st round discussion. He shuffled with his hands on the interior well enough today, and showed that, at least on occasion, he could be able to adjust inside in the run game. But he showed good interior linemen recognition in run support and impressed again today in pass coverage, anticipating and reacting very well in the screen game.

-New addition in Harding’s Ty Powell, who was playing the “4-3 Under SAM” linebacker spot in practice. Basically lined up as a 3-4 rusher or an end setting DE in a 5-2, Powell looks like he’ll need to bulk up across his frame. However, he seemed to transition well in the coverage aspect (could have stayed tighter and recognized his responsibilities better), a big plus for a potential 3-4 rusher. Excited to see more of him this week.

-I was told to start paying more attention to special teams this week, and today I noticed Kevin Reddick of North Carolina with some understanding on the punt-team game, showing a good motor and working hard to impress there. It may be minor, but for a mid-rounder like Reddick, it could be the difference between a 3rd round and a 5th-6th round grade.


Defensive Backs
-Jonathan Cyprien might’ve been the best-kept secret prior to the Senior Bowl, but that no longer will be the case. Extremely physical, aggressive and instinctive, Cyprien impresses in the way he can man cover the slot or play in deeper zone coverage. The body type and quick-twitch element that Cyprien possesses may even push Kenny Vaccaro for the top senior safety slot.

-And while UConn corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson continued to use his length well in attaching with opposing routes, it was teammate Dwyane Gratz that looked the part, especially in press drills and 11-on-11’s. Able to maintain leverage and position throughout the route with his plus length, Gratz turned manhandled opposing receivers off the line in drills. In 11-on-11’s, Gratz made an excellent play in cover 2-press by forcing an outside release, passing off the vertical stem of the outside receiver and turning inside to locate an incoming target for a pass deflection. Again, great length and physicality from a prototype cover 2 corner.

-Boise State’s Jamar Taylor started off the day well, particularly in press drills where he was able to corral the speedy Marquise Goodwin with steady body shots and well-timed hand checks. Still, as the day progressed, Taylor grew less and less comfortable when unattached from the route, I.E. off man coverage. I’ll focus on Taylor more so in tomorrow’s practice, but he appears to much more comfortable when able to land his hands and direct the route with physicality.

-Another west coast cornerback, Jordan Poyer had a strong outing in his own right, flashing the great range and closing burst to affect the catch point. While Poyer tends to rise up in his pedal, his change of direction remains quite impressive and the only thing that stands to improve is off the line footwork.

-Desmond Trufant proved today, at least in my eyes, that he was the most NFL-ready in terms of footwork and technique among the North DB’s. Competitive and consistent with his effort, Trufant showcased the pedal steps, pad height and recovery speed to work in off-man coverage at the next level. Called out by Markus Wheaton in press-man 1-on-1’s, Trufant stepped up to the challenge and used the sideline effectively to force an incompletion. Trufant isn’t ideally suited to press and could stand to improve his punch strength, but I loved the way he competed and held separation to a minimum today.