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dalbuc

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: January 26, 2007, 10:43:25 AM

Wednesday's buzz: Leonard, Alexander making noise
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Scouts, Inc.

MOBILE, Ala. -- Here's the buzz from Wednesday's Senior Bowl practices:

Around the North practice

The North team had its best practice of the week on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the headline is the absence of Northern Illinois RB Garrett Wolfe (hamstring) and Rutgers TE Clark Harris (toe), both of whom are finished for the week due to their respective injuries. Making matters worse, Cal CB Daymeion Hughes and Michigan DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley both suffered hamstring injuries and are not expected to play in Saturday's game.

Kansas State RB Thomas Clayton and Delaware TE Ben Patrick were brought in to replace Wolfe and Harris. Clayton showed good vision and burst as a runner in today's drills, but he also lost a fumble during team drills. Patrick is undersized and will need to make it in the NFL as a reserve H-back type. However, he made the most of his opportunity today, showing good athleticism as a route runner and reliable hands throughout pass-catching drills.

It raised more than a few eyebrows when Louisville DT Amobi Okoye weighed in at just 287 pounds on Monday, but he is having one of the best weeks of any prospect in Mobile. His explosive first step has made it difficult for offensive linemen to get into position. Okoye also has flashed the ability to shed blocks quickly. Though he is still vulnerable to getting driven back when he can't win with his quickness, he never gives up on the play. Okoye has locked up a spot in the first round with his play this week.

Virginia Tech WR David Clowney continues to use his quickness and speed to overcome his lack of size and strength when releasing off the line of scrimmage. He also has impressed with his ability to pluck the ball on the run and in traffic. Clowney is one of the more underrated prospects at the Senior Bowl. He has a future as a No. 3 receiver who can stretch the seam out of the slot position.


After a slow start, Rutgers RB Brian Leonard picked up the pace in Wednesday's practice session. While he's not a traditional fit as a running back or fullback, the bottom line is that he's a good football player who can do an awful lot of things well. He will be an excellent special teams player as a rookie and contribute in just about every facet of that part of the game. He is acting as the punter's personal protector this week and could excel in that role in the NFL. Leonard is an intelligent, hard-nosed runner who catches the ball well and is a fine pass-blocker. He can help on short-yardage situations and third downs. While some teams will drop him on their draft boards due to his lack of a specialization, teams like Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit, Green Bay and Arizona should really like what they see.

Michigan OLB Prescott Burgess might be the best-looking player at the Senior Bowl in terms of how he fills out his uniform. He is ripped with a lean waist, wide shoulders and long arms. He is exactly what you want your outside linebackers to look like. The problem is that his play hasn't measured up to his looks in a uniform. Burgess' awareness is below average and he takes too many false steps. His skill set also isn't really suited for the weakside or strongside in a 4-3 scheme, or as an inside or outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment. Some team is going to draft him too high because a coach will be convinced he can mold him into something he's not.

Stewart Bradley of Nebraska is another linebacker whose best fit is somewhat unclear. He has great size and outstanding pure strength for an outside linebacker, but Bradley may not be the ideal athlete to cover tight ends as a strongside linebacker in the 4-3 or the pure pass-rusher for outside in the 3-4. However, Bradley is a much better football player than Burgess. He is a much less risky selection and could end up playing in the league for a long time.

Several proactive offensive linemen used the special-teams period to work on their technique on the sidelines. Boston College teammates OT James Marten and G Josh Beekman started it off, as they could be seen working on their first steps and punches. Beekman also worked with Texas Tech's Manuel Ramirez, focusing on getting his feet set underneath him after as he fires off the ball. Ramirez worked on shortening his punch -- and a quicker punch could help him a great deal because it would mask his lack of ideal foot speed.

West Virginia C Dan Mozes appeared to regress after having a strong Tuesday. He didn't move his feet well when forced to change directions and was driven back on more than one occasion during the one-on-one pass protection portion of the practice.

Penn State OT Levi Brown hasn't made a big splash this week, but he continues to get better every day. Brown gets set quickly, uses his hands well and rarely gives ground during the one-on-one drills. He also did a good job of sealing the edge during the team drill.

Around the South practice

Oklahoma OLB Rufus Alexander may be the most impressive linebacker at the Senior Bowl, especially from a quickness and athletic ability standpoint. He has shown better instincts than anticipated this week, quickly inserts himself against the run and plays with a physical edge to his game. Alexander has very good speed and is strong in pursuit. He is a fine downhill linebacker without compromising the ability to play in space or excel in coverage. Alexander seems to fly a bit below the radar and probably fits only as a Will (or weakside) linebacker at the next level, but he is a fine football player. He has the makings of a potential high-end starter in the NFL.

Florida WR Dallas Baker is catching the ball extremely well this week, which is expected after studying him on film. He has a great frame and is at his best competing for jump balls along the sideline. However, Baker does not possess good top-end speed and will struggle to consistently separate from defensive backs at the next level. Even more of a concern is his lack of strength and toughness. He hates working against press coverage, which was evident in red-zone drills Wednesday when Tennessee CB Jonathan Wade took him out of his route with the press technique. If Baker is going to make it as a subpackage receiver in the NFL, he needs to lose his finesse mentality and hit the weight room more frequently.

Speaking of Wade, he continues to show more confidence and better awareness as the week of practice progresses. Wade is a track star who didn't settle in as a cover corner with the Vols until late in his career. However, he could be a valuable late first-day pick if the team drafting him does a good job of coaching.

Alabama OLB Juwan Simpson has not been overly impressive this week. His speed is his strong suit and he has enough to play Will linebacker at the next level. However, he is not instinctive, takes far too many false steps and is too slow to recognize the play. Making matters worse, he is a taller leaner linebacker who plays too high without a solid or strong base. He gets knocked backwards against bigger blockers and is slow to shed.

Florida OLB Earl Everett also has been underwhelming. He does have great speed and will probably bang out an impressive 40 time at the combine and at his pro day, which will inflate his stock and cause him to be overdrafted. His awareness is not up to par and he struggles to react quickly, which often causes bigger blockers to get him quickly when he has a hard time shedding the block.

Central Michigan OT Joe Staley is having an excellent week of practice. One of his most impressive attributes is his balance. Today LSU DE Chase Pittman had some success knocking back Staley during one-on-ones, but Staley's balance has allowed him to recover and get back into sound position.

Georgia Tech OT Mansfield Wrotto played defensive tackle for the first three years of his collegiate career and is still learning the position, so his technique needs work. He should have to move to guard in the NFL because he lacks prototypical height for a tackle. However, he looked good during one-on-one drills and held his own against Florida DE Ray McDonald, who has represented himself well. Wrotto got into position quickly, kept a wide base and moved his feet well.

Texas DE Tim Crowder is quietly having a strong week. Against the run on Wednesday, he played with good leverage, flashed the ability to shed blocks quickly and was relentless in pursuit. During one-on-one pass protection drills, he showed a quick first step and a strong rip move against Arkansas OT Tony Ugoh.

Oklahoma State DT Ryan McBean is getting driven back far too often, raising concerns about his ability to hold up against the run when lining up at defensive tackle. The problem is he hasn't showed great burst, so he shouldn't have much success rushing the passer when lining up at defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. With that in mind, McBean may have to line up at defensive end in a 3-4 scheme to play an every-down role at the NFL level.

All posts are opinions in case you are too stupid to figure that out on your own without me saying it over and over.

bradentonian

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#1 : January 26, 2007, 11:02:31 AM

Oklahoma OLB Rufus Alexander may be the most impressive linebacker at the Senior Bowl, especially from a quickness and athletic ability standpoint. He has shown better instincts than anticipated this week, quickly inserts himself against the run and plays with a physical edge to his game. Alexander has very good speed and is strong in pursuit. He is a fine downhill linebacker without compromising the ability to play in space or excel in coverage. Alexander seems to fly a bit below the radar and probably fits only as a Will (or weakside) linebacker at the next level, but he is a fine football player. He has the makings of a potential high-end starter in the NFL.




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#2 : January 26, 2007, 11:10:26 AM

Oklahoma OLB Rufus Alexander may be the most impressive linebacker at the Senior Bowl, especially from a quickness and athletic ability standpoint. He has shown better instincts than anticipated this week, quickly inserts himself against the run and plays with a physical edge to his game. Alexander has very good speed and is strong in pursuit. He is a fine downhill linebacker without compromising the ability to play in space or excel in coverage. Alexander seems to fly a bit below the radar and probably fits only as a Will (or weakside) linebacker at the next level, but he is a fine football player. He has the makings of a potential high-end starter in the NFL.

If he's available in the 2nd, he's YAO (yet another option).

Sounds great to me.

dalbuc

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#3 : January 26, 2007, 03:03:23 PM

I'm sort of shocked people are shocked by Rufus. I've seen him for years and he looks for all the world like the Derrick Brooks starter kit. I was hoping he'd slide to us at the top of R2, the thought that we could get him at 2b or 3 is just crazy to me.

All posts are opinions in case you are too stupid to figure that out on your own without me saying it over and over.

Booker Reese

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#4 : January 26, 2007, 03:07:11 PM

I like Alexander a lot, and am frankly stunned that Kiper thinks he's a 3rd rounder. If the Bucs can grab CJ/JT in round 1, come back with Spencer and maybe a DT like Mebane in round 2, and still have a shot at Alexander at round three, it's going to be quite a good day. I don't believe he's going to fall like that though.

dalbuc

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#5 : January 26, 2007, 03:08:15 PM

I like Alexander a lot, and am frankly stunned that Kiper thinks he's a 3rd rounder. If the Bucs can grab CJ/JT in round 1, come back with Spencer and maybe a DT like Mebane in round 2, and still have a shot at Alexander at round three, it's going to be quite a good day. I don't believe he's going to fall like that though.

If we rolled that draft I'd be giggling like a school girl for weeks after the draft. I agree though, i think with all the Cover-2 teams out there Alexander won't fall that far past all of them.

All posts are opinions in case you are too stupid to figure that out on your own without me saying it over and over.

alldaway

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#6 : January 26, 2007, 06:52:18 PM

Alexander is this years Demeco Ryans.  Bring him home Bruce!
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