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Senior Bowl Top 20: South squad

Posted Jan 22, 2018

The Senior Bowl starts in earnest on Tuesday morning when 110+ best of the college seniors in the nation stride across the stage for weigh-ins at the Mobile Convention Center.

The Senior Bowl starts in earnest on Tuesday morning when 110 best of the college seniors in the nation stride across the stage for weigh-ins at the Mobile Convention Center. The Texans will be there, as always, but this year, head coach Bill O’Brien and the Texans coaching staff will lead the South squad against the Denver Broncos staff and the North squad.

Seeing as how the Texans are leading the South squad, here are 20 players to watch this week down in Mobile on that side of the ledger.

1. San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny (5-11, 220) is the most dynamic ball carrier of the group of running backs on either squad. He has a different gear than anyone else that’ll carry the mail in Mobile.

2. Virginia safety Quin Blanding (6-2, 210) finished his four year career as one of the most decorated safeties in UVa history. At 6-2, 210 lb., he’s prototype size for that position at the next level.

3. Alabama defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (6-4, 288) was the nation’s top recruit out of high school four years ago. The Texans may not have a significant need on the defensive line, but he’s one of the freakiest athletes at his position on either team.

4. Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington (6-0, 205), in my estimation, is one of the top four receivers in the entire draft. He latches on to anything and everything thrown his way.

5. Auburn safety Tray Matthews (6-1, 209) is a linebacker in a safety’s body. He started his career at Georgia, but transferred to Auburn for his final three years. He’s a fearless hitter but his coverage skills will be under the magnifying glass throughout the week.

6. I love San Diego State fullback/H-back Nick Bawden (6-3, 245). Why were Donnel Humphrey and Penny record setting running backs at San Diego State? Well, they were very good, but Bawden was instrumental in opening lanes for those two backs the past four years.

7. Southern cornerback Danny Johnson (5-11, 194) is one tough cover man. He’ll challenge for every ball thrown in his vicinity and has great ball skills. He picked off seven passes as a senior, while racking up nearly every honor an FCS player could earn.

8. Jacksonville State defensive back Siran Neal (6-1, 205) can play nearly every single position in the secondary. He’ll probably best fit at an inside nickel position at the next level, but he’s an intriguing secondary player, no doubt.

9. UCF outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin (6-1, 223) is a blur. If he were 250 pounds, he’d be a day two pick for certain. He has a motor that never stops and he relentlessly runs down quarterbacks and ball carriers with a desire unmatched on the field. In 2017, the Texans faced his brother Shaquille, who was a rookie starting cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks.

10. Ole Miss linebacker Marquis Haynes (6-3, 230) may not seemingly have a true position on the field, but one thing he absolutely can do is rush the quarterback. Tirelessly. That dude will find the quarterback, no question about it, and will challenge the South offensive linemen all week long.

11. Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (6-1, 220) played his football at, well, Clemson, so you know we’ll all have our eyes on his him, right? Not to mention, he’s an intriguing off-the-ball linebacker prospect with a myriad of skills.

12. UTSA defensive end/outside linebacker Marcus Davenport (6-7, 255) might be the highest ranked player at the Senior Bowl. Yes, I said UTSA. Just take one look at this guy and you’ll see why. He has arms for days and can play effectively as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s ferocious with his long arm/stab move off the edge and he has elite traits. Consequently, this is his opportunity to unleash those arms/skills on the South offensive linemen all week.

13. Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn (6-2, 302) played tackle throughout his career, but he projects to guard at the next level. Tough, sturdy and competitive, Wynn could/should get snaps at both positions this week.

14. Two years ago, I was watching South Dakota State against TCU, and SDSU kept throwing the ball to its tight end. Dallas Goedert (6-5, 255) was just a sophomore at the time. Two years later, he’s one of the best tight ends in the draft. Stud. Complete and total stud. He has glue sticks for hands and should really grab everyone’s attention this week.

15. Quick, you know where Humboldt State is? Even I had to look it up so I could find Alex Cappa (6-7, 305). The Division II star will be tested this week facing guys like Davenport and Haynes in pass rush one-on-ones but his strength should give him an opportunity to succeed.

16. LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark (6-4, 198) can flat out fly. We saw that a couple of seasons ago in the Academy Sports Outdoors Texas Bowl so he’ll put defensive backs on notice right away in one-on-ones.

17. North Carolina A&T offensive tackle Brandon Parker (6-7, 309) has a nearly similar wingspan to UTSA defensive end Davenport. If those two stand next to one another they could stretch from hash mark to hash mark on the field. Parker is physical at the point of attack and moves well for a man his size.

18. UMass tight end Adam Breneman (6-5, 255) was once recruited and coached by Bill O’Brien. After leaving Penn State, he transferred to UMass and became one of the best tight ends in the nation.

19. West Georgia offensive tackle Desmond Harrison (6-6, 313) is definitely a WOW guy. As in, when I watched tape on him, I said “WOW” a number of times. Consistency and quality of competition are significant question marks, but he can alleviate some of those concerns with a strong week.

Okay, you know that I don’t care too much about punters and/or kickers, but JK Scott (Alabama punter) and Daniel Carlson (Auburn placekicker) are outstanding. That’ll give you a head start, so to speak. I’ll have observations throughout the week from both the North and South practices.

See ya then.

Content on HoustonTexans.com does not necessarily represent the views of the Houston Texans front office staff, coaches or executives.

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