The South team, led by Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff, hit the practice field for their second day of practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The Buccaneers were well represented at Wednesday’s workout, including general manager Jason Licht, head coach Lovie Smith, linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson, and a host of other Buccaneers front office members.
When Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall decided to switch to the cornerback position upon arrival in Mobile on Sunday, the South team at the Senior Bowl was left with just two quarterbacks in Alabama’s Blake Sims and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson. On Tuesday executive director of the Senior Bowl Phil Savage made a phone call and added Southeastern Louisiana’s Bryan Bennett to the roster. Bennett, who was working out in California, hoped on a plane and arrived in Mobile early Wednesday morning and joined the South team for practice in the afternoon.
Bennett isn’t a household name for most college football fans, but hardcore junkies will remember him at Oregon where he backed up Darron Thomas and Marcus Mariota. Bennett didn’t stand out on Wednesday but gives the South team another arm and gives Bennett the opportunity to showcase himself to the city-wide collection of NFL talent evaluators who have assembled in Mobile for the week.
Speaking of Sims, the former Crimson Tide QB had a better day on Wednesday than his first practice, but still appears to be behind Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson. Grayson had a solid day on Wednesday and showed more accuracy than he did the previous practice.
Grayson hooked with Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett on a deep TD pass after Lockett burned a cornerback on a double move. The speedy former Wildcat is showcasing his speed to the hundreds of NFL front office staff members in attendance this week, and also has the ability to be a special teams standout at the next level.
Miami’s Phillip Dorsett is another small receiver that practiced well on Wednesday, showing the ability get deep and also work the middle of the field. While quick off the ball, Dorsett has excellent acceleration after the catch.
One tight end separated himself from the rest of the pack on Wednesday, and that was Dorsett’s teammate Miami tight end Clive Walford. The 6-foot-4, 254 pound tight end was simply dominant at the South team’s practice on Wednesday, making huge plays in the passing game throughout.
The Miami product simply could not be stopped during one-on-ones, where he went up against safeties and linebackers. Walford did a great job of using his suddenness and route-running abilities to separate from defenders. On back-to-back reps, Walford toasted both defenders by using an out-and-up route concept where he pushed the seam.
Walford made a gorgeous diving grab in traffic on a pass thrown by Garrett Grayson during the team’s seven-on-seven session.
It was a spectacular practice for the former Hurricane, but there are still question marks that scouts and talent evaluators have regarding his athleticism and upside. The NFL Scouting Combine will be very important for Walford and his draft stock.
Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt is a player has looked good through two practices. His range and short area quickness for a 6-foot-2, 212 pound defensive back are excellent. Prewitt was the cause of a couple of incompletions on Wednesday, batting away passes and forcing quarterbacks to make ill-advised throws elsewhere.
Prewitt has the size and athleticism that can matchup against tight ends, running backs and wide receivers, and that will play a big factor in determining his draft stock. At this point in the process, he looks like a day two selection.
Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah didn’t impress as a receiver during one-on-one drills. He showed soft hands catching the ball, but the struggled to get out of his breaks and doesn’t get much separation from linebackers. At 6-foot-5, 265, Uzomah definitely has the size to be an impact blocker at the next level, so he should get a look as a late rounder or a free agent.
The cornerbacks used the individual drills to first practice backpedaling and flipping their hips, and then in the next portion of drills they practiced high-pointing passes thrown their way. TCU cornerback Kevin White made a great catch in this drill, which got the attention and praise of his coaches, however that momentum didn’t carry over in the next drill as White had a couple of bad drops on passes thrown his way.
The next period of practice was wide receiver and defensive back one-on-ones and that gave the best evaluations of the South squad’s secondary on Wednesday as they weren’t heavily targeted in the seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 periods later on with most of those passes going to check downs or tight end targets along with too many overthrown balls down the field from the South’s signal callers. The one-on-ones started off with blocking drills and then the defensive backs worked on shadowing their receivers on various routes before the quarterbacks got into the fold.
Miami cornerback Ladarius Gunter had mixed results in this drill. Going up against Kansas State’s speedy Tyler Lockett, Gunter was beat inside on a slant and then beat on a fly route. However, against his fellow Hurricane receiver Phillip Dorsett, Gunter made a great play on a quick slant to break up a pass and then had great position on a stop route against Josh Harper to knock the intended pass away.
Gunter wasn’t the only corner that struggled to keep up with Lockett. The Wildcat star also torched Auburn quarterback turned cornerback Nick Marshall by five yards on his way to catch a touchdown pass in the endzone. Marshall did have an impressive pass breakup though, knocking the ball out of Central Arkansas receiver Dezmin Lewis’ hands on a quick slant later in the drill.
Northwestern State’s Imoan Claiborne also won and lost some battles on Wednesday, getting beaten on a stop route by Dorsett but then getting good position on Lewis later on to cause an incomplete pass.
The standout cornerback of the day in one-on-ones without a doubt was TCU’s Kevin White. White easily jumped a bad route ran by Harding receiver Donatella Luckett, which prompted the wide receivers coach to yell, “it looked like me coming out of the turn.” White stayed stride-for-stride again with Luckett on another play, knocking the ball away from his hands. The 5-foot-9, 180 pound White always remained in good position against his receivers, although he was out-jumped for the ball on one play against Hall.
Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson struggled the most in one-on-ones, getting beaten to the inside and outside on two separate plays by UCF’s Rannell Hall. When Hall attempted to go to the outside again on his last rep against Golson, the UCF product made a great cut back to the inside of the field an made an impressive grab over Golson, as Golson fell to the ground and could only watch Hall race to the endzone, adding insult to injury.
The offensive and defensive line faced off in one-on-one pass-rushing drills and several offensive linemen stood out. Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio looked good in drills yesterday and he continued his success on Wednesday. He is quite athletic and did a great job against the South’s best interior rushers, including Auburn’s Gabe Wright. Kouandjio looks like he is the most talented guard at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins looked very good at times on Wednesday. He flashed brilliance at left tackle but he also made some big mistakes, which led to losing reps. Collins will need some time to develop into a left tackle, but in the short-term he looks like a solid right tackle prospect.
Norfolk State defensive end/linebacker Lynden Trail looked fantastic as a pass-rusher on Wednesday. He showed off his rare combination of size, speed and power, highlighted by his best rep of the day against Alabama right tackle Austin Shepard. Trail fired off of the ball and used a silky smooth swim move to get past the Crimson Tide tackle. Trail is having a great week so far and is really improving his draft stock.
With Denzel Perryman sitting out of Wednesday’s practice, the two standouts at the mike linebacker position were Clemson’s Stephone Anthony (6-2, 245) and Arkansas’s Martrell Spaight (6-1, 231). The former outshined his fellow linebackers during agility work, including high knee drills and quick feet drills. Although he didn’t finish as well, dropping numerous passes. The former Tiger also looked good in coverage, showing his ability to accelerate while backpedaling and being able to shift as the coach moved the ball.
Equally impressive during coverage drills with no moving ball was Spaight. The former Hog was beat a few times during one-on-one drills with running backs, however, but did show athleticism on one play where he had to go up high to defend a dump pass. Spaight was also caught for a hold while covering a running back over the middle. He played well in run pursuit during 11-on-11s, staying low and clogging the middle.
Georgia’s Amarlo Herrera (6-2, 231) also displayed some ability in coverage, staying with Northern Iowa’s power back David Johnson (6-2, 229) on a couple plays.
The most impressive linebacker, however, was probably Lorenzo Mauldin (6-4, 243) out of Louisville. Again, outside linebacker isn’t as much of a need for the Buccaneers, but the former Cardinal has the size and athleticism to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. His ability to seal the edge, as well as cover running backs in space won’t hurt his stock either. Mauldin said yesterday that he played both, outside linebacker in 3-4 and defensive end in 4-3, and feels comfortable in either spot. He also showed his speed when he ran down Miami’s speed receiver, Phillip Dorsett, on the sidelines during an 11-11 play.
As for the running backs, Johnson’s size and frame stood out. At 6-foot-2, 229 pounds, his stature resembles Adrian Peterson, but that could be where the comparison ends. The Northern Iowa back did have a few nice receptions out of the backfield.
Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne (5-10, 210) had a few nice carries. The former Tiger made a couple shifts, showing his ability to change direction.
Alabama’s Jalston Fowler, who stands 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, is truly built like an NFL fullback. He made a nice catch out of the backfield, but seemed slow to turn around and head up field. His size will be beneficial in pass protection and run blocking.
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