The South team took to the practice field at Fairhope High School in Fairhope, Ala. to kick off Senior Bowl week. The South squad, which was coached by Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions staff, was dressed in helmets, jerseys and shorts, and there was quite a bit of contact despite not being in pads. Temperatures were in the low 60s and skies were sunny and all 32 NFL teams were represented, along with a large media and agent contingency. Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban made his annual Monday appearance and as expected drew a huge crowd. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was also in attendance to watch his former players who were part of the South squad.
The Buccaneers had general manager Mark Dominik, director of player personnel Dennis Hickey and director of college scouting Eric Stokes in attendance for close to half the practice before heading over to the North practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings dropped a couple of balls in individual work with the defensive backs and continued to fight the ball all afternoon. Another player that struggled holding on to the ball in the individual period was Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox.
San Diego State’s Leon McFadden isn’t big at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, but he’s smooth in and out of his breaks and catches the football effortlessly. He changes direction with ease and that allows him to play tight man coverage.
Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, who stands 6-foot, 185 pounds, looked real smooth going up against bigger and better competition. Alford looks like he belongs at the Senior Bowl.
Cal cornerback Marc Anthony is 6-feet and has long legs. He plays too high and needs to do a better job of sinking his hips in his backpedal and when he breaks on the ball.
Florida State defensive lineman Everett Dawkins is big and strong and showed decent agility when going through the bag drills.
BYU defensive end Ezekial Ansah doesn’t look as big as his 6-foot-5, 270-pound frame would indicate. He was not smooth at the start of the defensive linemen bag drills, but he got noticeably better with each rep and displayed good agility despite not having great technique. He needs to do a better job of bending his knees and widening his base.
Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins is huge at 6-foot-3, 358 pounds, but was really slow going through the bag drills. Jenkins has great strength and swatted the bags away easily, but doesn’t have quick feet.
Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman has a good frame at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, but looked clumsy and awkward going through the bag drills with the defensive linemen.
In the 1-on-1 drills Georgia wide receiver Tavarres King started things off with a nice catch on Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo, who struggled on Monday.
Baylor wide receiver Terrence Williams made a great diving catch on his back on a rainbow of a pass from Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones against Alford, who had tight coverage.
McFadden also had blanket coverage on Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon on one play that resulted in an incompletion. Vernon had an early drop, but bounced back later with a nice play on McFadden on which the DB tipped the ball away, but Vernon caught the carom and hauled it in before turning up field.
McFadden made a great, leaping one-handed pick when King slipped down while running an out route. McFadden tipped the pass from E.J. Manuel to himself and made the interception right before he stepped out of bounds.
He would have been an ideal fit in Tampa Bay in Monte Kiffin’s old Tampa 2 defense as his play is reminiscent of that of former Bucs cornerback Donnie Abraham. However, with the arrival of new director of college scouting Eric Stokes, the Bucs may be gravitating towards bigger cornerbacks like he had in Seattle in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman.
Manuel showed off his strong arm in Mobile, but his throws were a little high and away from his receivers. Manuel was not nearly as accurate as Jones was as a passer and he also didn’t show as much anticipation with his release. Jones was superior in that category, too, with better anticipation than even Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson on Monday.
Southern Miss linebacker Jamie Collins had an impressive jam on Florida running back Mike Gillislee, who did a good job of recovering after being knocked down and catching the ball.
Anthony had solid coverage on Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton and broke up a pass from Wilson to his college teammate.
Alabama tight end Michael Williams is huge at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds, and while he is slow and lumbering, he somehow freed himself up from Wilcox to make a nice catch across the middle. However, he did struggle to get separation throughout the rest of practice.
Rice tight end Vance McDonald turned Rambo around in coverage and made a nice catch. However, he did have a drop while being covered by Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson.
Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope had a couple of dropped passes on Monday and may have been the most disappointing receiver on Monday for the South.
Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton has good size at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and is a smooth wide receiver. He can create separation by being physical and warding cornerbacks away once he gets off the line. Patton does a nice job of getting open and presenting himself as a target for the South quarterbacks.
On the last play of 1-on-1’s, Alford made a great pass breakup on a deep pass to Terrence Williams, who almost made the catch while falling down on his back. The competitive Alford swatted at the ball three times while falling to the ground before knocking it out of Williams’ hands.
After the 1-on-1 drills, the South went into 7-on-7 drills. McDonald got open and made a nice catch down the middle on a pass from Jones to start the session.
McFadden had a nice pass breakup on a slant intended for Terrence Williams. McFadden has good instincts, diagnoses the play quickly and does a nice job of breaking on the ball.
Patton had a nice catch on a quick pass from Manuel and turned up the field for extra yards.
Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas read Manuel’s eyes on the next play and jumped up to swat down a pass across the middle.
In 11-on-11’s, Patton started things off by making a great catch on an intermediate throw by Jones. The Oklahoma quarterback does a great job of throwing on the run and the Detroit coaching staff had him do several designed rollouts during the practice, which showcased his mobility and accuracy on the move.
Patton also showed some great concentration and awareness as he caught a ball that wasn’t intended for him, but one that bounced off the hands of Hamilton, who was five yards in front of him.
Jenkins used his size to effectively bull rush the middle of the South line and push the pocket on a couple of occasions. The other defensive lineman that stood out during the 11-on-11’s was Ansah, who showed great power on one play by using a two-handed punch to jolt McDonald to the ground on his butt.
Ansah also made a nice play at the line of scrimmage by anticipating a throw by Jones and getting his hands up to swat it down for an incompletion. But Ansah had trouble with Oklahoma right tackle Lane Johnson, who was the most impressive lineman during the South practice on Monday.
Johnson did a great job of shielding Ansah away from the quarterbacks, although he did overextend a bit on South Florida defensive tackle Corey Grissom. The 6-foot-6, 303-pound Johnson is long and lean, but muscular. He’s athletic and has a very good knee bend that allows him to play low with a wide base.
Despite having only played football for two years, Ansah has a ton of raw athletic ability and he hustles. He is always giving 100 percent effort on every play and does a nice pursuing whether it is to the play side or the back side.
Georgia defensive end Cornelius Washington has good size at 6-foot-4, 268 pounds and was getting pressure rushing from the right side of the line.
Wilson is definitely the smallest quarterback on the South roster as he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 218 pounds. He was picked off by Wilcox towards the end of practice and didn’t make a strong impression on the first day of Senior Bowl week.
Early in practice after working on individual drills, the offensive line and defensive lines met in 1-on-1 drills in the north end zone. Practicing in just helmets without pads, it was hard to get a true assessment of the players but scouts and media members formed a large circle to get an idea of players “get off” and footwork.
The Detroit Lions coaching staff is in charge of the South team this week in Mobile and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek stayed on his players the entire day. Kocurek’s style was most likely a huge change from most of these players, as Kocurek had no problem ripping his players for even minor mistakes. Intense wouldn’t be strong enough adjective to describe Kocurek’s demeanor.
Initially the defensive line got the best of the offense, whipping the unpadded linemen with quick outside speed moves and strong bull rushes. BYU’s Ezekial Ansah was very impressive for the majority of his reps. Ansah is raw but loaded with upside and potential, and showed it off to the large number of scouts who were watching the matchups.
Another player who stood out was Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins showed his strength and power getting great push and collapsing the guard or center back into the mark established as the QB. Jenkins told PewterReport.com on Monday that he looks up to Patriots DT Vince Wilfork. Jenkins says Wilfork does things that a guy of his size shouldn’t be able to do, and on Monday he may have created that thought in some of the NFL personnel in attendance.
The offensive linemen finally got it together about halfway through the drill and it all started with Oklahoma Lane Johnson. The Sooner tackle stonewalled Clemson’s Mallich Goodman in one of his mini-battles, and was perhaps the most dominant lineman for the South squad on Monday. Johnson is a flexible tackle who played both the left and right side, sometimes on alternating series this season. The ability to play both sides most certainly is an intangible that scouts love.
The South team will be back on the practice field on Tuesday morning and Pewter Report will have a detailed report on who looked good and who struggled later in the day.
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–Scott Reynolds and Mark Cook contributed to this report
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