The South team took the field in pads for the first time on Tuesday afternoon under clear skies and windy weather with temperatures in the low 50’s at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Under the direction of head coach Gus Bradley and the Jaguars staff, Tuesday’s practice was very spirited among players and coaches and had a noticeably quicker tempo than yesterday’s South team outing.
Before practice started, a few players were ruled out of the rest of Senior Bowl week due to injuries. Tennessee offensive tackle Ja’Waun James will not return do to a knee sprain, Fresno State tight end Marcel Jensen is sidelined with an abdominal strain and Alabama defensive end Ed Stinson is out with a groin strain.
Practice began on Tuesday with play installation followed by warm-ups and Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel Dennis Hickey was watching from the 40-yard line on the field. After warm-ups the South squad worked on kickoff coverage and other special teams drills while the quarterbacks worked on their mechanics.
The South team signal callers focused on their mobility and pocket presence, dropping back in the pocket and then spinning out of a sack or stepping up to complete a throw to the sidelines. Fresno State’s Derek Carr was a natural moving around in the pocket and Hickey moved down the 10-yard line to get a closer look at the quarterbacks as they went through their pocket drills.
The rest of the South team focused on a variety of individual drills in this period one called for three defenders to line up at the 40-yard line and sprint down to the 15-yard line to contain a return man from that spot. The coaches reminded Oklahoma wide receiver Jalen Saunders to keep the ball high and tight during this drill.
The quarterbacks then threw to their receiving targets on a variety of routes and Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch struggled at the beginning of practice to catch the football. On one play Lynch dropped an easy pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on a stop route and on another play Garoppolo threw the ball too far in front of him as he was slow getting out of his break. Lynch seemed to make a lot of body catches early but got better catching the ball as practice went on.
After spending the first hour of practice doing individual and special teams, the units went into one-on-ones and team drills for the second half of practice. The receivers went up against cornerbacks with the three quarterbacks (Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, and David Fales) throwing to them.
The South team passers threw mostly simple short and intermediate routes, possibly due to the strong wind. Carr’s arm strength was on display when you could see how quickly his tight spiral got to his receiver after release, regardless of the wind.
The Fresno State product was definitely the best all-around quarterback in today’s practices. He has a very strong arm, good footwork, and is generally a good decision-maker. He had a couple off throws, but they looked more due to the timing being off with his receivers because of unfamiliarity, rather than inaccuracy.
Carr improved upon his play yesterday but will need to make some plays the rest of the week to create more buzz. His biggest mistake was on a pass thrown a little late and behind his intended receiver on a crossing route, resulting in an interception by Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins.
Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been the second most impressive quarterback at the Senior Bowl. He has a nice arm and a quick release but needs to work on his consistency. He would have some great throws and then throws that were uncatchable by his receivers. His best throw came on slant where he fit the ball between two defenders in good position, allowing only his receiver to catch the ball.
David Fales out of San Jose State has been the weakest quarterback on the South team. He’s been inaccurate and doesn’t have the arm strength of the other two quarterbacks.
During the seven-on-sevens, Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin suffered an injury and received treatment on the sideline for the rest of practice. It was learned later that he suffered an ACL injury.
While the seven-on-sevens went on, the offensive and defensive lines had some great one-on-one battles in the trenches.
Arizona defensive tackle Will Sutton had a very inconsistent day and his stamina played a big part in that. The 6-foot, 315-pound Sutton is playing at a much higher weight and needs to drop a few pounds to re-gain his explosiveness after putting on weight this season.
When Sutton was on, he had no trouble getting through his opponent. On one play, Sutton abused North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner by getting low and ducking around the edge to get to the quarterback. On another play, Sutton blew past his opponent on the edge so fast that he fell down.
Where Sutton struggled on Tuesday was rushing from the inside. The Arizona State product was completely neutralized by Florida guard Jon Halapio on two plays, in which he looked slow. Nevada guard Joel Bitonio also had his way with Sutton, who tried multiple spin and swim moves on one play but was shut down.
One of the top pass rushers on the day was Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith, who used his speed rush to get by his opponents on most plays. Smith isn’t a one-trick pony however and used his power to push down Bitonio on one play.
The most impressive offensive lineman during one-on-ones was Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses. The 6-foot-6, 325 Moses seemed to tower over his opponents and destroyed Virginia defensive end Brent Urban with a crushing pancake block on one play, which knocked Urban on his backside. Moses completely shut down the majority of his opponents.
Billy Turner was the most disappointing offensive lineman today and struggled with edge rushers. The North Dakota State offensive tackle needs to work on his quickness to play that position at the next level and could be more suited to play guard. Alabama outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard ran circles around Turner on one play to embarrass the North Dakota State product.
After the one-on-one period, the South team sprinted into field goal formation for more special teams practice. Hickey and Bucs Director of College scouting Eric Stokes watched the field goal attempts from the endzone.
The next portion of practice featured the linebackers and had them lined up against the running backs and tight ends to work on edge rushing. The most impressive player in this drill, and probably in the entire practice, was Florida State’s Christian Jones. Jones prefers to play weak and strong side linebacker, but also worked as a defensive end for much of his senior season and is versatile enough to play middle linebacker as well.
The blockers rotated so Jones went up against all of them, but he absolutely burned everyone. He showed quickness, speed, and his get-off the ball was great. The running backs and tight ends had no answer for him, as he got past each of them with either a spin move or just pure quickness.
Jones also played very well in the following seven-on-seven drill. He was all over the field and played to the end on every snap, which shows he’s a hard-worker. On at least two plays when everyone else stopped playing, he ran down the receiver and ripped the ball out of their hands. Jones said he spoke to the Bucs yesterday, so he could be a day-two option for the team.
In the next seven-on-sevens, the defensive outplayed the receivers for the most part, making it tough on the quarterbacks. Cornerback Jaylen Watkins continued his impressive practice with a nice pass break-up against Fales. Jones also had a pass break-up in the drill.
The least impressive cornerback was definitely Auburn’s Chris Davis. He got burned by multiple double moves and receivers just running right by him. He has had a very disappointing Senior Bowl so far, starting when he came in at 5-foot-9, two inches shorter than where he was listed.
Wide receiver Kevin Norwood out of Alabama had a great leaping catch over the head of Chris Davis. Receiver Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt also had a nice practice, showing his ability to adjust to the ball on a poor deep pass from Fales.
The most disappointing receiver was Mike Davis out of Texas. He did burn Chris Davis for a big play, but also had a few drops, fell down on his route, and fumbled later in the practice.
The final period of practice as usual featured the whole squad in 11-on-11’s. Chris Smith showed his exceptional pass rush ability once again and was the most impressive player in this period. Smith ran past Billy Turner at the snap before Turner even saw him coming to get a sack on quarterback David Fales and also stripped the ball out of the hands of Garoppolo a few plays later as he came off the edge unblocked.
Three plays later, Cal defensive tackle Deandre Coleman got by Turner easily and picked up a sack. Derek Carr finished off his practice with a great sideline throw across his body to Texas receiver Mike Davis for a 20-yard gain on a roll out and then was sacked on his last rep by BYU outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who came in untouched on a blitz.
The South team will be back out on the practice fields of Ladd-Peebles Stadium in their last padded practice of the week on Wednesday afternoon and Pewter Report will be there to cover all the action in the team’s third practice of the week.
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