Under overcast skies and chilly temperatures, the South team, led by the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff and head coach Gus Bradley, hit the practice field at Ladd Peebles Stadium for their final practice before Saturday’s Reese’s Senior Bowl. The tempo at the South team’s practices have been noticeably more up-tempo and energetic. Bradley and his staff are very vocal and use a hands-on style of coaching.
The South team wide receivers began practice by participating in special teams kickoff coverage and positioning session before breaking out into an individual period in which they worked on route running and cutting drills. Next the South squad pass catchers warmed up with their quarterbacks and caught passes on an assortment of routes.
Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates has been the most impressive pass catcher this week and displayed his ability in warmups, making a spectacular one-handed behind the back grab on one pass and effortlessly catching everything thrown his way and turning up the field in one fluid motion. Harding’s Donatella Luckett on the other hand dropped a quick slant pass and has been the most inconsistent pass catcher of the South team so far.
After the receivers finished warming up they paired together with the defensive backs for redzone one-on-ones. Luckett started off this period where he left off in warmups and dropped a quick slant against Auburn’s Nick Marshall. Luckett continued his disappointing day by dropping a fade route against Miami corner Ladarius Gunter later in the drill.
Coates, however, showed up to play against live defenders and made an impressive grab on a quick slant pass that was gunned in to him against against Northwestern State corner Imoan Claiborne for a touchdown. After the play, the 6-foot-1, 213 pound Coates exclaimed, “Make that money!”
The most impressive play in this drill was made by Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, who made a hard cut against Claiborne before catching a fade pass in the back of the endzone. Claiborne was nearly juked out of his shoes as Lockett left him five yards behind in the dust.
In the final play of one-on-ones, Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett made another great juke on a route against TCU’s Kevin White, faking inside and then cutting outside for a touchdown just as the horn blew to end the period.
Immediately following that play, the wide receivers stayed in the endzone, but this time they were facing the other way as they were backed up on the goal line for a 11-on-11 session. White got his revenge on Dorsett a few plays later by making a great leaping interception on a pass intended for the Miami product and taking his lunch money.
Lockett then got into the action to take the South team offense off the goal line by catching a pass on a crossing route for a gain of 30 yards. Lockett was featured again a few plays later on a wide receiver reverse, in which the Wildcat speedster gained another first down by making an impressive cut to the inside of the field.
Coates went up against Claiborne once again but it was Claiborne that had the last laugh of that battle as he fought Coates in the air to break up a 50-yard bomb that was intended for the Auburn product.
The team then separated for the next period of redzone seven-on-sevens and the South receivers dominated this portion of practice. Fresno State’s Josh Harper made an impressive diving catch in the back of the endzone and Sammie Coates also made an amazing leaping catch, both against Gunter.
Lockett ran a great route and found an opening in the back of the endzone under the goal post and then got two feet down on an extending catch. On the final play of this period, the quarterback went to an open Lockett again but the Kansas State product slipped on the route and the pass was overthrown.
The offensive and defensive line joined for one of the most exciting and physical drills of the day, the pass-rushing one-on-ones.
Colorado State offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo had an excellent session of one-on-ones, including one rep where he stood up Kaleb Uells of Mississpi State. He showed good strength agains the defensive tackle and didn’t let up any ground to the former Bulldog. On his next rep, he stonewalled Owamagbe Odighzuwa of UCLA, who tried to beat Sambrailo with speed around the edge.
Sambrailo hasn’t been very consistent in the early goings this week, but his performance at today’s practice was a step in the right direction. The athletic tackle from Colorado State is a day two or day three selection.
Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio was phenomenal at Thursday’s practice. The Jaguars coaching staff praised him after the majority of his reps. He showed tremendous anchoring ability and balance when going against the strong, stout defensive tackles. Kouandjio dominated every opponent he went against in one-on-ones and he recorded two pancakes during the team’s 11-on-11 session. The Alabama guard has helped himself as much as any player this week.
Kouandjio’s college teammate, Austin Shepard, did not fare as well on Thursday. He was beaten by three consecutive spin moves by Arkansas’s Trey Flowers during one-on-ones. Shepard doesn’t appear to have the quickness to play effectively at the NFL level. A move to guard may be Shepard’s best career decision.
Georgia Tech offensive guard Shaq Mason, who stands 6-foot-1, 310 pounds had a great day of one-on-ones. He stuffed Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett on two consecutive reps. On the first, Mason mirrored Jarrett’s swim move and on the second he ran Jarrett behind the quarterback. At 6-foot-1, Mason doesn’t have ideal length and could struggle against taller interior defensive linemen, but he looked very solid on Thursday.
There are a few safeties on the South roster that look like NFL starters, and one of those players is Cody Prewitt from Ole Miss.
Prewitt, who stands 6-foot-2, put on a good display during 11-on-11 red zone situations. The former Rebel matches up well with big tight ends, and plays extremely physical. On one goal line pass, he read the play perfectly but dropped the easy pick, causing a loud reaction from teammates and coaches. His physicality could get him into trouble, though, so he’ll probably have to work on technique in coverage.
UCF’s Clayton Geathers (6-2, 208) also has great size and plays physical. The former Knight also has quick feet, as he showed during agility backpedaling drills.
The fastest of the safeties might have been UCLA’s Anthony Jefferson. He moved like a cornerback, but at 6-foot-1 the former Bruin matches up well against bigger targets in the red zone. Jefferson also looked swift in changing direction during multiple drills.
Mobile native Jaquiski Tartt (6-1, 218) from Samford plays physical in the running game, and possesses decent speed, too. On one play in coverage, he sprinted to the opposite sideline in chasing down a receiver.
Miami’s Clive Walford (6-4, 263) had some good red zone moments at tight end, finding ways to get open and finishing with a touchdown grab.
At 6-foot-5, 264, Auburn’s C.J. Uzomah has the best size out of the three tight ends for the South team. He’s not particularly fast, and didn’t seem to run crisp routes, but he did have a few receptions on the sidelines. His stature could be beneficial in run blocking.
BYU’s Devin Mahina (6-5, 265) had some good blocking moments, but lacks speed and route running technique. On one play he seemed to run effortlessly, and finished with a bad drop.
Like the North squad, the South team practiced red zone offense and defense on Thursday. And like the morning session, the defensive backs fell victim to the receivers on most reps.
Six-foot-3 wide receiver Dezmin Lewis from Central Arkansas made a fantastic leaping catch against UCLA safety Anthony Jefferson, and Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates made a few sensational catches on Thursday, including one in the end zone against Northwestern State cornerback Imoan Claiborne.
Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett might have ran the route of the day against Claiborne, shaking him with a juke move at the 5-yard line and catching an easy touchdown in the end zone. Lockett also had a touchdown in the middle of the end zone from the slot receiver spot during the 11-on-11 sessions.
Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett also smoked TCU cornerback Kevin White on a back corner touchdown and then beat him for another score in the individual period. But White got some revenge in the 11-on-11 period, leaping in front of Dorsett and picking off Grayson.
However, there were some good reps by the defensive backs. Auburn cornerback Nick Marshall, who is making the transition from the quarterback position, had a nice diving pass breakup at the goal line. Marshall also had good coverage on Coates, his former receiver on another play in the end zone. But UCF wide receiver Rannell Hall did outleap Marshall for a touchdown in the back of the end zone.
Miami cornerback Ladarius Gunter also had a nice day in pass defense. He broke up a late throw to Lockett in the end zone, and then had a diving interception against Dorsett, his former Miami teammate, in the end zone. Florida Atlanta cornerback D’Joun Smith also recorded an end zone interception, but came up injured on the play as the defensive backs had a much better session in the 11-on-11s than they did during the 1-on-1s.
The South team linebackers are a very athletic group for the most part and have looked good over the first three days in Mobile. With Tampa Bay in the market to add a potential starter if Mason Foster is not re-signed, something many feel is likely to happen, it is no wonder Bucs linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was in attendance at all of the practices that took place in Mobile.
After warm-ups and stretch the linebackers spent part of the practice working on dropping into coverage, first individually then as three-man groups. Next the unit worked on pass protection with the running backs, giving them a look. The drill was most likely more for the running backs than the linebackers, but it gave coaches and scouts an idea of the pass rush and blitz ability of the linebackers. The two units, along with the fullbacks, took turns winning reps.
Next, the linebackers and running backs went against each other in receiving and coverage drills. The South team quarterbacks threw to either a fullback or running back as a single linebacker was responsible with stopping them. The standout linebacker of the days was Georgia’s Amario Herrera who was excellent in coverage notching two pass break ups. Clemson’s Stephone Anthony also had a good showing in this drill. Lorenzo Mauldin from Louisville and Arkansas Razorback Martrell Spaight were beaten in coverage one a piece but overall the linebacking until showed promise in the drill.
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