The North team led by the Oakland Raiders coaching staff took the field for the 9:30 a.m. practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium under sunny, but chilly skies on Tuesday morning. With the team practicing for the first time in full pads a who’s who of recognizable NFL faces were in attendance including Jerry Jones, Rex Ryan, Marvin Lewis, Mike Smith and Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, just to name a few.
The Buccaneers were represented by head coach Greg Schiano, general manager Mark Dominik, director of player personnel Dennis Hickey, and director of college scouting Eric Stokes.
During the individual period, Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor struggled catching the ball, as did Connecticut cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Both had a couple of drops in the interception drills.
Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant continued to shine in Mobile, Ala., performing wonderfully during the individual drills. Trufant demonstrated a great backpedal, a nice vertical jump leaping up to get the ball and smooth hip turning during the drills.
Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas looks like a great athlete, but needs to do a better job of sinking his hips as he runs a little too high. That causes him to be a bit stiff getting into his cuts and breaking on the ball.
In 1-on-1 drills between the wide receivers and defensive backs, Elon wide receiver, Aaron Mellette looked good. Mellette, a big, tough receiver at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds is very physical off the line and knows how to get a good release. He manhandled Taylor at the snap of the ball and created instant separation.
Trufant did a superb job of being physical with Oregon State wide receiver Kenny Wheaton.
The UConn cornerbacks, Wreh-Wilson and Dwyane Gratz, struggled in man coverage as they typically played six yards off the ball.
In blitz pick-up drills, 5-foot-5 Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse was overwhelmed by bigger defenders. Rouse struggled mightily and gave up sacks to Harding linebacker Ty Powell (twice), Rutgers linebacker Khasim Greene and Thomas. His only stalemate came against USC safety T.J. McDonald towards the end of the drill.
The best pass protector was easily Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who drew “ahhs” from the crowd when he rocked Greene and knocked him on his butt during a blitz pick-up play. Juszczyk also beat Nevada defensive back Duke Williams and Rutgers linebacker Steve Beauharnais. Juszczyk did overextend one time against Powell, who beat him with a spin move and made him pay with a sack.
The pass-protecting halfback proved to be UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, who beat North Carolina State linebacker Kevin Reddick, Thomas, Beauharnais, McDonald and Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien. Franklin managed a draw with Reddick and showed good footwork to mirror the movement of his opponents.
Oregon’s Kenjon Barner had a decent showing in blitz pick up, winning match-ups with Beauharnais and McDonald, but lost a rematch with Beauharnais, in addition to losing to Cyprien and Reddick.
In the 1-on-1’s between the receivers and the defensive backs, Trufant started off hot by shutting down Wheaton downfield.
Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson beat Utah State cornerback Will Davis on a post and showed good speed.
Kansas State’s Chris Harper is one of the most impressive wide receivers on the North squad and also at the Senior Bowl. He did a nice job of sitting down in the zone while running a slant pattern, using his body to shield the ball away from McDonald. Harper also got the better of Trufant, who cooled off towards the end of practice, on a double move to make a great catch along the sidelines.
Trufant was involved in an interesting play where he was not slated to take a rep, but wound up doing so against Wheaton as he waved off Davis, who protested the move. As it turns out Wheaton used his speed to beat Trufant downfield.
Former Michigan wide receiver Denard Robinson beat Thomas on a catch across the middle, but the Fresno State safety stayed aggressive on the play and forced a fumble an instant after he made the catch. Robinson smoked Davis on a stop-and-go, getting open by 10 yards down field and drawing raves from scouts.
Miami of Ohio quarterback Zac Dysert made a laser throw right on the money to Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who had inside position on Jordan Poyer. The Oregon State cornerback also struggled against Mellette, who hauled in a great throw from North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon. Mellette beat Wreh-Wilson on a deep pass from Glennon to score a touchdown.
Taylor really struggled throughout practice and was constantly beat. He didn’t look like he belonged at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday.
As the horn blew to signal the end of 1-on-1 drills, Harper was very ticked off that Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib didn’t go ahead with a final snap and throw the football as he was up next for his rep.
In 7-on-7 drills, Juszczyk caught an outlet pass and trucked Williams, but the Nevada cornerback wound up forcing a fumble on the play that was recovered by Poyer.
Wheaton continued to showcase his speed and playmaking ability catching a deep pass from Glennon against Taylor, who didn’t make a single play in practice.
Davis showed good physicality when he tackled Syracuse wide receiver Alec Lemon after he made a catch.
Trufant played Wheaton very physically on a rep in 7-on-7 drills.
On the next play, Gratz picked off Nassib’s pass to Mallette for the only interception in the practice.
Goodwin throttled Taylor with a double move that was so well executed that the Boise State cornerback fell down, leaving the Texas wide receiver wide open.
On the first play of 11-on-11 drills, Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short recovered a fumbled quarterback-center exchange.
Harper made one of the best catches of the day, catching a deep post pass from Glennon in traffic between Trufant and a safety. Harper had a great day, showing great separation ability and a physical presence.
Poyer had a nice pass breakup on a pass from Dysert in the flat, showing off his instincts and ability to read quarterbacks.
Nassib had a nice throw to Lemon, his college teammate, but Davis came in and rocked him with a big shoulder hit, knocking him down.
In 11-on-11 play, Beauhamais looked to be the better linebacker over Greene, his Rutgers teammate, on Tuesday. He did a better job in covering tight ends and backs.
Near the end of practice, Cyprien delivered a huge, powerful hit on Franklin after a running play broke to the second level. The FIU safety knocked the UCLA running back on the play and said, “It’s about to get real right here!” The play drew applause from the scouts in attendance that loved his physical presence and enthusiasm.
PewterReport.com also paid attention to the quarterbacks on Tuesday. The West team quarterback play was overall pretty good on Tuesday with Syracuse signal-caller Ryan Nassib playing as well as any of the three West QBs, but not overly impressive. On one play Nassib looked terrific on a rollout drill, running fluidly to his right and making an accurate throw across his body. While not the best-case scenario, it is something that NFL QBs are expected to do from time to time, and Nassib was mobile and showed great mechanics to go with a strong arm.
N.C. State QB Mike Glennon flashed at times, showing a strong arm and overall good accuracy. The knock on Glennon is his mobility – or lack thereof – and the former Wolfpack star admitted to PewterReport.com that becoming more mobile is something that he knows he must improve on. Glennon said he knows he can’t be a Russell Wilson-type NFL QB, but must improve and at the very least be able to slide to the protection or step up while staying in the pocket to deliver the pass.
Of course we also closely watched the offensive and defensive line battles as those are two positions the Buccaneers could spend their No. 13 pick on, or at least will address during April’s NFL Draft.
As expected, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher had several dominating moments Tuesday. Fisher had two of the single best one-on-one reps we have witnessed in sometime going up against highly touted Texas defensive lineman Alex Okafor. Fishers stoned Okafor on back-to-back reps with amazing hand movement and technique. It was almost like watching a karate demonstration as Fisher countered every move by Okafor, almost as if he knew exactly what was coming. There was an audible gasp after both reps from those in attendance, something rarely heard at these practice sessions.
Fisher’s stock has been soaring all season and many scouts have him projected being selected at No. 11. There is even a chance Fisher sneaks into the first 10 picks.
Fisher is not perfect however. At times, especially when the play is away from the left side, he can get lazy and doesn’t always finish his block. The inconsistency could be a bit of a red flag for some scouts, but the physical tools are all there.
Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh also had a good day in front of the large Mobile crowd. Pugh didn’t overwhelm anyone, but rarely made a mistake. The steadiness and consistency is something scouts and pro player personnel love about Pugh.
On the defensive side of the ball Okafor, other than his two times getting beat by Fisher, showed strenth and quickness for the most part and had several “wins” in the 1-on-1’s Tuesday. Intriguing prospect Margus Hunt was hot and cold and his inexperience showed at times. But other times the Estonian turned American football player flashed some of the strength and quickness that have scouts still trying to determine exactly where he should be in the upcoming draft.
The practice ended with special teams and the West team punt returners struggled to hold onto the ball all day. Michigan receiver/QB/athlete Denard Robinson had several drops, but it didn’t stop there as even Markus Wheaton contributed a muffed punt.
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