The first North team Senior Bowl practice of the week kicked off on Monday afternoon at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Led under the direction of Oakland head coach Dennis Allen and the Raiders staff, the North squad took the field under the sun in partially windy conditions.
Before warmups the team was working on punt return drills and former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson muffed three punts to begin practice. Robinson struggled on Monday at multiple positions and had to receive tons of coaching from one of the Raiders’ assistant coaches.
Later on in practice Robinson was allowed to play wide receiver during quarterback and receiver timing drills. He did not run good routes and was rather weak in and out of his cuts. Robinson didn’t have any terrible drops as a receiver, but he was not polished whatsoever.
The next portion of practice included a group installation period for the offensive and defensive units and individual drills soon followed. The offensive line worked on their footwork and pad level, while the defensive linemen went through bag drills.
The North team receivers warmed up by running through cone drills and the defensive backs caught passes from Oakland’s secondary coach. The linebacker unit practiced scooping up the football and scoring, which was a theme the Raiders coaches preached to the North team defense all day.
Next came one-on-ones with running backs and tight ends going up against linebackers and safeties. First up throwing the ball was Miami of Ohio quarterback Zac Dysert.
Dysert’s first pass was to Colorado tight end Nick Kasa who was covered by Rutgers linebacker Steve Beauharnais. Kasa ran and in route, but Beauharnais was all over the Colorado product and broke up the pass. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end did not display very good speed on the play, which allowed for Beauharnais to blanket him in coverage.
Dysert then went to Oregon running back Kenjon Barner out of the backfield with Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien on the coverage. Barner was easily able to beat Cyprien to the outside on a flat route.
Tight end Jonathon Doyle from Western Kentucky was up next and his speed destroyed Ohio State linebacker John Simon, who is converting to linebacker from defensive end and is more suited to play a rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense rather than play coverage. The 263-pound linebacker couldn’t keep up with Doyle, who got five yards of separation and made him slip on the play.
The next drill was the wide receiver and defensive back one-on-ones and North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon was first up throwing to his receiving targets. Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson was on the receiving end of Glennon’s first pass and easily beat Utah State cornerback Will Davis to the outside with his speed to come down with the completion. Dobson next went up against Nevada cornerback Duke Williams and didn’t fair as well as Williams ran with him the whole time and made a great play on the ball to break up a pass from Dysert.
Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette was next up and ran a good route against Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor but dropped what should have been an easy completion from Dysert. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin ran another great route on the next play. The Texas product faked an inside move and then cut outside to gain five yards of separation on Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz.
Goodwin showed great separation on his next attempt as well and got wide open on Connecticut cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson on a deep route, but Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib couldn’t connect and overthrew Goodwin on the play.
Kansas wide receiver Chris Harper then went up against Davis and broke to the outside to catch a Glennon pass. Harper gained some good separation up sideline and showed his yards after the catch ability. Davis got his revenge went he went up against Harper a second time, however, as the Utah State product was all over Harper on an inside route and broke up the ball.
Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant got his chance to go up against receivers next and did not disappoint. Trufant was all over Dobson on a slant and broke up a Glennon pass. Glennon next tried to go to Wisconsin’s Markus Weaton on Trufant, but the Washington product was all over Wheaton and displayed great physicality with him in press coverage at the line. Trufant was the most consistent cornerback on Monday and was always in a good position on his receiver, showing off his skills as a cover corner.
Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer finished out this portion of practice with a great breakup on a Glennon pass intended for Dobson. Poyer had an excellent recovery on the play after initially getting beat to the outside by Dobson.
The North squad then went into seven-on-sevens next and Nassib first went to Dobson with Boise State’s Jamar Taylor on the coverage. Taylor went up and got into great position to make a pick on a slightly underthrown deep ball by his quarterback. Nassib went to Wheaton next, who made a great jumping catch to come down with a pass that was thrown a little behind him on a quick slant and then found Goodwin with a great throw between three defenders in a hole in the zone coverage.
Glennon then took his turn at quarterback and had inconsistent results. Glennon first found Wheaton, who made another great catch on the sideline and displayed his great hands, but then had his pass broken up by a defender on the next play.
Dysert faired the worst among the quarterbacks during this drill. He first overthrew a pass and came back by getting a slant pass jumped by Gratz, who broke up the play. Dysert finished off by overthrowing San Jose tight end Ryan Otten, who was wide open down the same, by 10 yards.
During the seven-on-sevens, Bucs General Manager Mark Dominik, Director of Player Personnel Dennis Hickey and Director of College Scouting Eric Stokes were watching the defensive backs from the sideline and eyeing how the players faired from the back end.
The last portion of the North team practice consisted of 11-on-11’s. USC cornerback TJ McDonald picked off Glennon on an overthrown pass to Doyle to begin this session. Then Oregon tackle Kyle Long got pushed back into Nassib, whose pass was deflected off the helmet of Long which drew a laugh from the crowd.
The defense was the more dominant unit of Monday’s practice, and Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien and Nevada safety Duke Williams seemed to have taken the leadership duties for the North team. Both were very vocal and were eager to encourage all of the other defensive backs. Williams made a great play against San Jose State tight end Ryan Otten in the one-on-one drills. Williams played press coverage inside of five yards of the line of scrimmage and conjured up enough strength to shove Otten to the ground, preventing him from running his route.
Texas defensive end Alex Okafor also had an outstanding practice for the defense. He displayed great strength and used many different pass-rushing moves throughout the practice. During one-on-ones, Okafor destroyed Oregon tackle Kyle Long, who was arguably the best offensive lineman of the day. He later went on to beat Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner with a good speed rush.
During the 11-on-11 session, Okafor continued his great performance. The former Longhorn beat Ricky Wagner once again on a speed rush, forcing Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib to run out of the pocket. Wagner was holding on the play and if he didn’t Okafor would have crushed the quarterback.
Later on in the drill Okafor made a nice play on an outside running play. UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin received a stretch handoff to the right side and before he could even get started, he was met by Okafor and North Carolina linebacker Kevin Reddick.
One of the best performers of the day on offense for the North team was Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton. The speedy receiver had a great practice and showed off his great hands on a number of plays. Wheaton got good separation on comeback routes and he also made some great catches across the middle. The former Beaver made a great diving catch over the middle where he extended his arms fully as he laid out to make the play. PewterReport.com wrote that Wheaton could be a riser during the pre-draft process, and he is already off to a great start.
The North team will be back out on the practice fields of Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and Pewter Report will be there to cover all the action in the team’s second practice of the week.
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