NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Today, all the pads went on at the Senior Bowl and the North Squad gave on-lookers a physical, competitive practice to watch. Linemen battled in a variety of 1-on-1s, which gave scouts the opportunity to learn a lot about some of these players. Overall, it was one of the better Senior Bowl practices I’ve been witness to in the last few years. Here are my observations and which players stood out during this morning’s session.
1) Iowa DT Carl Davis was a disruptive force in all phases of the practice. He was extremely difficult to block during 1-on-1s and carried the disruptive play over to the team drills. Davis has tremendous size, plays with power, and gets a great surge on first contact. Davis told me last night his goal was to sneak into the first round and today’s practice certainly didn’t hurt that.
2) Division III and Hobart College’s Ali Marpet showed he deserved to be at the Senior Bowl invite by battling hard against some of the top DL in the nation. Marpet showed good strength, hand placement, and was able to withstand the power of bigger defenders. In team drills he was asked to pull across the formation a number of times and looked capable of picking up his block on the move.
3) Duke WR Jamison Crowder continued to showcase an NFL skill-set on the Senior Bowl field. Crowder is a polished route running, with great quickness, and always competes at full speed. He’s able to create separation at the top of his routes with his ability to stop and change direction on a dime. He had multiple team’s scouts buzzing when he ran a sharp comeback route and almost made a circus catch along the sidelines.
4) Jeff Luc, LB, Cincinnati was a late addition to the mix after Eric Kendricks dropped out of the game, but he’s showing he should have been here all along. Yesterday, I talked about his incredibly thick, powerful frame and that was put to use in 11 on 11s today. Luc is so physical in the box and near the line of scrimmage. He’s comes downhill quickly and isn’t afraid to take on or dish out contact.
5) Oregon State CB Steven Nelson definitely looks like the best Cornerback when going through change of direction drills. He possesses those quick-twitch muscle fibers that allow him to “click and close” or break laterally in an instant. He’s undersized, but there is no doubt he can be a contributor as a Nickel or Dime Cornerback on some NFL roster.
6) Danny Shelton’s power was really evident throughout the practice. His first contact is really explosive and even though he can struggle with his countermove and hand usage, his ability to drive one or two blockers 3 yards into the backfield off the snap blew up plays today.
7) I thought the North Offensive Line as a whole had a pretty good day. I got to watch the majority of individual reps and every player had a moment. Donovan Smith was 4-0 in run blocking situations, but struggled badly when pass protecting. Rob Haverstein showed patience and ability to redirect an inside rush move during drills and Laken Tomlinson showed an ability to recover/re-anchor after getting pushed back. One offensive linemen who turned some heads was Tennessee State OL Robert Myers. He’s a powerful kid who creates a surge on contact and at one point pancaked ASU DT Marcus Hardison onto his backside.
8) Pitt OT TJ Clemmings was up and down once again. His inexperience and “rawness” gets exposed in some drills, but scouts here absolutely love his frame, potential. He seemed to struggle with Nate Orchard’s speed rush to the outside, getting beat off the ball and around the edge at least twice. Through two practices I’ve noticed when Clemmings is good, he’s really good and when he’s bad he’s really bad.
9) Yale’s Tyler Varga continues to excite onlookers. He does a number of things really well, including deliver lead blocks. On one occassion he leveled USC LB Hayes Pullard in the hole and cleared the way for a Jeremy Langford touchdown. NFL Scouts in the stands get a kick out of watching him play. He’ll find a role in the NFL.
10) In terms of edge rushers, I’ve felt Nate Orchard has stood out the most. He’s definitely the most athletic of the bunch, even though he’s more of a one trick pony. When Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha is allowed to attack the line of scrimmage or rush off the edge he’s been good, but he’s struggling when asked to drop into coverage. Kikaha showed me in team drills he can really set a hard edge and uses his hands to control the edge blocker.
11) Quinten Rollins inexperience shows up in his technique and ability to read routes, but his recovery ability is pretty good. When he gets beaten he’s usually in position to recover and make a quick tackle. His biggest mistake today was taking a bad angle on a WR screen and he was left in the dust.
12) Utah DB Eric Rowe was moved to Safety today which was no surprise. At 6’2″ he’s probably too high cut to succeed at cornerback at this level. Rowe started off practice with an interception of Sean Mannion breaking on a deep seam pass.