Tuesday’s Senior Bowl North team practice was held at Ladd-Pebbles Stadium at 9:30 a.m. and the players were in full pads for the first time this week. As the players took the field a brisk north wind gusting at times in the 25-mph range made the mid-40’s temperatures feel even cooler. The Buccaneers were represented by a number of assistant coaches including offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, defensive line coach Joe Cullen, and new quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo. Also in attendance from the Bucs was front office executives Shelton Quarles and Eric Stokes and new Bucs general manager Jason Licht.
The players broke off into individual groups after team stretch. PewterReport.com focused on the offensive and defensive line early in the practice. The offensive line began working on some double team drills, one of which had two offensive linemen going against three defensive players. The Falcons coaching staff instructed the simulate defensive linemen which gap to attack and the offensive linemen who were double teaming the defensive linemen had to make a quick decision when faced with a free defender. The drill is crucial to identifying free blitzers or linebackers who have shed their blocks and are in pursuit. Most of the linemen did a solid job is the read-and-recognize drill, and the coaches seemed pleased with their early progress.
Not to knock the Jaguars coaching staff (who are coaching the South team), but you can easily tell the Falcons have more continuity among the staff and also spend a little more times coaching on the go. The Jaguars staff appeared to be more into tempo and getting as many reps in as possible. That isn’t to say one is better than the other, but just an observation based on the two days of viewing the practices.
The offensive and defensive lineman soon came together for another primarily offensive line drill, which entailed setting the edge. Two offensive linemen worked on double-teaming the defensive end, not allowing them to get outside. The drill got physical a few times drawing encouraging words from coaches from both lines.
One of the most anticipated drills of these practices is always the offensive and defensive line 1-on-1’s and the crowds of scouts and pro personnel swell around the end zone. Tuesday was no different, and the players put on a good show.
Defensively Pitt’s Aaron Donald was nearly unblockable once again. The undersized defensive tackle showed an array of moves in getting to the simulated quarterback, but what stands out to most scouts is his initial quick burst and get off. Donald’s quickness rarely allows offensive linemen to get setup or get their hands on him. Donald bowled over and embarrassed what many feel is the best offensive lineman on the North squad in Cyril Richardson on Monday and again on Tuesday got the best of him. Earlier in the day during a inside tough run drill, Donald split a double team, jumped over the center that he pushed to the ground, and got outside to make the play on the running back. Two scouts were overheard raving about Donald and thinks he will end up going in the top 15 in this year’s draft, and even compared him to former Viking’s great John Randle.
Stanford’s Trent Murphy had a solid practice on Tuesday, although he didn’t make a ton of splash plays . But Murphy showed off his instincts and smarts one particular play sniffing out a quick wide receiver screen, then retreated, and his hands up and knocking the ball down. Murphy didn’t draw many gasps of wow from those in attendance on Monday but always seemed to be around the ball.
Colorado State center Weston Richburg quietly had a solid day of practice and in fact was the only offensive lineman to have any luck in slowing down Donald. Richburg was able to get his hands inside on one particular play against Donald and used a wide base to keep Donald out of the pocket.
Notre Dame’s Zach Martin once again on Tuesday may have been the most consistent offensive lineman in the 1-on-1 drills. The 6-foot-4, 308-pound tackle is rising up some draft boards and it is easy to see why. While he doesn’t do anything spectacular, Martin had solid technique and makes things look fairly easy at times.
Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron had a couple of dropped passes during the wide receiver group’s warm-up session, which was a regression from his excellent performance on Monday. That being said, he was getting open all practice long and did a nice job of creating separation with his quickness and route-running. After two practices, it’s safe to say he’s only improved his draft stock.
Closely watching the defensive and offensive lineman going through run blocking one-on-ones was Buccaneers director of college scouting Eric Stokes.
Just like Monday, the North team quarterbacks did not have a great practice. Clemson signal caller Tajh Boyd threw a terrible pass intended for Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis that sailed about five feet over his head, and later on overthrew another pass headed for Oregon’s Josh Huff. Inaccuracy among the North team’s quarterbacks was a recurring theme, although Boyd had the better day among the three North team QBs.
Virginia Tech passer Logan Thomas performed very poorly Tuesday’s windy practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Thomas showed the most zip on his passes, which was nice to see because of the wind at practice on Tuesday, but he was the most inaccurate quarterback for the North team. The Virginia Tech signal caller badly overthrew UCLA receiver Shaq Evans and later overthrew a quick slant that should have been picked off by the defense. In addition to his inaccurate throws, Thomas had trouble reading the defense and getting the ball out quickly. He held the ball too long on a drop back during the 11-on-11 session, which resulted in a would-be sack by stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Thomas is a project quarterback who will be a late draft pick or undrafted free agent.
Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz dropped a very catchable ball on an out route during the one-on-one sessions. Fiedorowicz has held his own as a blocker and has been getting open as a receiver so far this week. He looks like he is solidifying his draft stock as a third or fourth round draft selection.
Toledo running back David Fluellen was absolutely demolished by Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey during a one-on-one pass-protection session early on in practice. Kirksey came in with a full head of steam, lowered his shoulders, and smacked Fluellen to the ground before he even knew what happened to him.
For the second straight day Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis looked like the most polished receiver on the North squad roster. He made an excellent toe-tapping catch on the sideline on one rep and later on did a great job off catching and holding onto the ball on a quick slant after being hit extremely hard by Wyoming cornerback Marqueston Huff. Abbrederis looks like an early day three prospect that could contribute immediately.
A wide receiver who came in with little buzz that is impressing those in attendance is Oregon’s Josh Huff, who had another solid practice after a good outing on Monday. Huff made an excellent catch in traffic on a comeback route in the 11-on-11 session. He has NFL speed and has shown he can beat press coverage against the longer corners despite his 5-foot-11 frame. He’s been a nice surprise this week.
The North team will be back on the practice field Wednesday morning at 9:30.
– Mark Cook and Eric Dellaratta contributed to this report