Good afternoon folks. We're back from the South's final full pads practice on Day Three here in Mobile Alabama and I'll post notes on those later tonight. As I mentioned earlier today, I didn't make it to the earlier North practice today as i have been pretty sick all week.
From what I understand, I didn't miss much. I'll likely have an abbreviated commentary on it at some point, referring to the excellent work my comrades here in Mobile are doing.
Speaking of which, my plan had been to concentrate on the North defensive players this morning and since I was sick, that didn't happen. So I am throwing in some links by Jene Bramel, fellow Footballguy, who is writing Defensive analysis for the New York Times' Fifth Down Blog. Here is the Day One column, which has both offensive and defensive notes in it. While I also have some Day Two notes from the South squad, here are Jene's Day Two Notes at the NYT as well. It's got both North and South squad notes. Jene is incredibly sharp so you can bet if he saw it, it happened.
You can also head to the 'Shark Pool' at Footballguys.com for some Senior Bowl discussion in this thread as well.
On to my notes then.
By now you've heard that this Quinton Coples kid from UNC is pretty good. When Jene Bramel was saying that Coples won something like 99% of his battles, he wasn't kidding. Big, physical and aggressive he was constantly in the backfield. The North quarterbacks had better not be hesitant or they will find themselves crushed pretty frequently. Coples plays a bit high for most people's liking but showed me a lot of different moves throughout the afternoon. If you stop him one way, he'll beat you another. He's impressive. There have been some reports that he disappeared on occasion and was underwhelming the first two days.
Maybe they lost track of him because he was in the backfield so swiftly.
Coples alternated wreaking havoc with Courtney Upshaw, the Alabama defensive lineman. Upshaw and Coples spent a lot of time meeting in the backfield at almost the same time, missing a chance to do that only when South Carolina lineman Melvin Ingram stepped in for one of them.
Upshaw frequently got lower than his opponent and always had leverage and power over them.
I really enjoyed watching Dwight Bentley, the small school defensive back from Louisiana-Lafayette. Bentley had one beautiful interception where he showed stellar concentration on a ball which (here's a theme you'll notice later) Texas A&M receiver Jeff Fuller's hands. He frequently jumped routes and more than once was a millisecond away from another interception.
Bentley is one aggressive son of a gun. I'm going to have to dig up some footage of him as soon as I am back in New York because I need to know if this guy always plays like this or if he was trying to prove a point. Whatever it was, I liked it. Bentley was always on his receiver Tuesday, rarely got shook off and also showed a very physical style of play on some routes which clearly rattled the guys he was covering.
Most of the South secondary played aggressively on Tuesday, something that to me came a bit from the Skins' coaching staff. They were on their guys constantly, both with praise and criticism, but their enthusiasm and energy translated to a crisper-and more aggressive-practice in my opinion.
For some guys, like Janoris Jenkins, the combination of great teaching and fired up enthusiasm have helped deliver an outstanding week. Jenkins may have been booted from the Florida Gators for two marijuana-related arrests in about three months but came across contrite and honest about his choices in interviews.
The time he has spent at Northern Alabama not only gave him (in my opinion) a much needed wake up call to grow up, but gave him some time to improve his coverage and ball skills. While he did get beat long a few times on Tuesday, he often was right on his receiver, making life difficult (occasionally impossible) for him.
Jenkins has shown enough talent that many teams will probably give him a pass on some extraordinarily
stupid decisions. He's defenitely done nothing but help himself in Mobile.
Stepping back to the trench warfare for a second, Melvin Ingram may get overshadowed by Coples and Upshaw, but he did great work on Tuesday as well. He finds ways to penetrate on pass rush and was good in run defense as well.
As I've said before, it's tough to fully evealuate defensive players (and running backs) because they aren't allowed to finish a tackle or fully lay into a hit. So for all the defensive players, the game is critical because that's the time they can really show everything they can do.
Offensively, I feel like I got a lot more out of the practice than I did for the North practices. I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating-the pace and the situations the coaching staff creates makes player evaluation much easier.
As with the North, the quarterbacks aren't really that terribly impressive. Some people have really liked Nick Foles from Arizona but I felt like he was pretty average. He has a nice short ball but that's about it and had more than a few worm burners throughout the day. He overthrew a few long routes by quite a margin, a problem virtually all the quarterbacks on both sides had (which continued into Day Three).
San Diego State's Ryan Lindley was a bit scattershot throughout practice, throwing a nice ball on the money long, but then throwing another way behind his target. Lindley is consistently inconsistent just like that. A poor throw for every good one he makes. That's a real problem.
The best of the three-of all six quarterbacks really-is Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State. The age thing (he's 28) is a concern but one thing we talked about several over and over while we ate ribs was the fact that in this league, many teams don't have a window of more than 5-6 years. A team who needs a very solid, calm quarterback who can step in when injuries hit (like they did for the Texans) will look at Weeden as an inexpensive back-up who has the experiance to step in and play well in high pressure situations.
Weeden throws a nice ball for the most part, and isn't afraid of zipping it into tight spots between coverages. 'Gunslinger' is a good title for him. He will throw a pass wherever he wants-sometimes even when Brett Favre would cringe and check down.
Now, this is the sort of thing he'll have to do a little less at the next level but he's got such a short memory when it comes to mistakes that if he throws a bad ball, he shakes it off and will go right back to the well if the opportunity arises and he thinks it makes sense.
Jeff Fuller is the wide receiver most people are watching closest. The TExas A&M wide receiver has a lot of problems holding onto the ball. He never looked comfortable, often allowing the ball to come to his body, when he wasn't trying to snatch it with one hand becuase he didn't have his body in good position to make a catch. He rarely used his size-which at 6'4, 217 lbs is considerable-to box out a defender and gets pushed around far too much. I don't know if it is nerves or if he's just over-matched but he was disappointing all Tuesday.
Arizona WR Juron Criner stodd out quite a bit on Tuesday, showing great skills running routes and very nice hands as well. On one beautiful catch, he ran an outstanding route, shook off his coverage and made an incredible catch on a pass that was well behind him and wide. Several times he showed some nice extension on balls thrown too wide or long.
Before we shift to running backs, I want to talk to one the South has shifted to wide receiver. Florida's Chris Rainey is way too small to take the pounding of a NFL season of carries. The Redskins have seen his speed, quickness and incredibly receiving skills though, and wisely moved him to wide receiver to take advantage of what he can do.
Rainey is incredibly smooth in his acceleration and goes from a light jog to sprinting without a hitch. That suddeness catches defenders off guard and more than once he was able to get seperation this week because he was past the corner or safety before they realized it.
When the coverage gets chippy, Rainey doesn't blanch and fights through jams pretty effectively (more on that for the Day Three notes). Keep an eye on him-he could be a better version of Dexter McCluster.
Also, Rainey told one reporter here that he intends to run a 4.1 at the Combine. Ballsy. I like it.
Running back-wise, I like what I have seen from Baylor's Terrance Ganaway. Ganaway shows great power on his runs and can catch the ball effectively as well. He needs to cut upfield faster on those receptions, but can definitely add that to his game.
Mississippi State's Vick Ballard has had moments, but I find him dancing a bit too much behind the line though sometimes that was because there was nowhere to go. He did show some good vision on a few runs, as well as some burst through the hole.
That's it for now. I'll try to post my wednesday notes tonight before bed or at least before bed on Thursday.
Thanks again to Aaron and Corey for making sure I got taken care of for the credential. I hope you are enjoying the coverage and I will probably have some video to share-some media night stuff-next week.
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