It's still chilly in Mobile, but that's not stopping the action at the Senior Bowl. I spent most of the day watching the offensive and defensive lines so the big guys get some love too. As such, here are my Harris Hits from Wednesday afternoon, Day 2.
I'll start with the draft crushes that have started to develop. Michigan State edge rusher Kenny Willikes has been outstanding throughout the week. He's a whirling dervish with a powderkeg of burst off the edge when he rushes the passer. He uses his hands at an advanced level and hasn't stopped chasing after the quarterback. But, his best play today was against the run on an inside drill when he ran right through a tight end that took him right to the running back and WHAM, he nailed him on the same path too. That drew a ton of "OOOOOHHHHHS" and "AHHHHHHS" from his fellow defensive line cohorts. What I love even more about him is that he never stops and pursues no matter the situation. During a team period, a long throw was completed and Willikes turned and ran 30 yards downfield to chase the receiver. He takes the field with something to prove every single snap, as if he's still a walk-on trying to prove he belongs. He definitely does that and then some.
Another edge rusher that stood out to me today was Utah's Bradlee Anae. Late last week, I studied him against USC's star left tackle Austin Jackson and early in that game Jackson got the best of him. As the game wore on, though, Anae's versatile and intelligent pass rush turned into sacks and pressures. That was the way Wednesday went. On Tuesday, Anae was solid, but sort of feeling out the process and such. Today, he went to work. I saw him rush maybe four or five times from the edge and he had a different pass rush technique on every single one. He's got an advanced skill set toolbox in rushing the passer and he's very intriguing as a prospect.
Temple center Matt Hennessy isn't the biggest guy on the offensive line but he's certainly represents what Temple football is all about - tough and nasty. He held his own, anchoring against some power/bull rushes up the field throughout the day.
NC State defensive lineman Lurrell Murchison went into spin cycle mode TWICE for consecutive wins during 1-on-1 periods. He showed his ability to rush the passer from the interior throughout his career and built on that on Wednesday with individual wins on brilliant spin moves.
One guy that really stepped up on Wednesday was Kansas offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji. The former Jayhawk tackle moved inside for the Senior Bowl and I thought he struggled a bit on Tuesday. But, he was a different player one day later. He flat out stoned some of the best North team rushers, including Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore who is one of the best prospects in Mobile. Adeniji seemed to be much more comfortable inside on Wednesday and his play reflected that in a big way.
When I wrote down North Carolina's Jason Strowbridge's name in my notebook, I just wrote down two words that I can't say on radio to describe him because he has been just unblockable in these individual/group periods. He's rushed from inside, from outside and up and down the line of scrimmage. No one, I repeat, no one has a good plan for how to handle him. He measured in at 267 pounds, but that hasn't stopped the Lions coaching staff from bouncing him up and down the line of scrimmage in drills throughout the first two days of practice.
I also thought Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones had a much better second day than first. He seemed to struggle with the different rushers that he faced on Day 1, but he was much more prepared to face those guys on Day 2. The results were definitely noticeable as he used his length and moved his feet much better to win in pass rush drills. He had a noticeable win against Syracuse pass rusher Alton Robinson. Jones landed a six inch punch that stunned Robinson and allowed the Cougar star tackle to hold up with little issue after that explosive punch.
The Lions coaching staff seems to really like the power and aggressiveness of Ohio State defensive tackle Davon Hamilton. He's strong as an ox and really difficult to move and after each of his reps, the coaches were complimentary, to say the least.
I didn't spend much time watching running backs in 1-on-1 drills, but during 9-on-7 inside drill, UCLA running back Joshua Kelley really stood out. He had a couple of cut-up runs on zone plays that were really outstanding. He displayed the vision and burst that is necessary to make those zone runs successful.
After a couple of successful runs, Cal linebacker Evan Weaver made two consecutive tackles in the middle. He tackles everything that moves, so it was not surprising in the slightest that he would be the one that started getting the defense back on track with those consecutive stops.
Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore has been on my radar for a while, dating back to last year when I thought Gallimore was clearly the best defensive player on the Sooners defensive roster. He holds the point of attack in the run game well, which he displayed on those two Weaver tackles during inside drill.
One guy that really got me thinking this morning was Michigan's Josh Uche. I'm not real sure what his actual position is but he's such a house of fire in the pass rush game that I've got to find a spot for him on first and second down. He's got burst and speed off the edge like Jacob Martin does and he spent the first part of practice playing off the ball, dropping in coverage and playing the run from a Sam linebacker perspective. Then, he went down to the offensive line/defensive line drills and dominated the pass rush game. Wisconsin's Zack Baun is similar and has a fairly consistent skill set. The game is ever evolving and maybe that's one of the next hybrid player that becomes a thing - first and second down, off the ball backer, third down, pass rushing beast. Uche and Baun would be perfect candidates if they can adjust to playing off the ball on early downs.
When Uche worked stunts with Strowbridge (North Carolina), they wrecked shop. I mean, neither one of them was blocked throughout the entire stunt protection drill.
During team, the offense had a horrible time trying to get the snap from center but when Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon finally did, he threw a dime to SMU star James Porche who SNATCHED the rock out of the air between two North team defensive backs.
Kelley (UCLA running back) flashed some big time burst later during team drills. The North defense couldn't get aligned and left Proche wide open in the slot. But, Gordon handed the ball off to Kelley who burst through the side opposite Proche, actually where the defense was, and took it to the house.
Quarterback Jordan Love is going to nail down first round status with more throws to Ohio State receiver K.J. Hill. Those two hooked up a few times for key first down catches. Love also made a brilliant throw off play action to USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
The South team practice was without a few key players. Auburn defensive lineman Marlon Davidson had a boot on his foot. Tennessee star Darrell Taylor didn't practice nor did Auburn tackle Prince Wega Tanogho.
Oregon tackle Calvin Throckmorton was added to the South roster and I thought he was one of the best offensive linemen down in Mobile. During a run drill, the Oregon Duck star earned the respect of Cincinnati OL coach Jim Turner on his first rep. Throckmorton fired off the ball and knocked a South team lineman two to three yards off the ball. It was impressive and I'm glad that he had a day like that - glad that he's here in Mobile.
Florida running back Lamical Perine is a tough cover for linebackers out in space. I got a chance to watch a little of the running back/linebacker pass game 1-on-1s and Perine was open nearly every rep.
I didn't watch the tight ends much throughout this week, but FAU's Harrison Bryant is going to be a guy I want to study when I get back to Houston. I saw two reps in 1-on-1 passing game and he completely whipped safeties trying to stay with him in coverage. Highly skilled pass catcher, without a doubt.
I spent a few minutes with former Texans tight end James Casey, who is now the Cincinnati Bengals tight ends coach. I couldn't help but think that if Casey were playing now he'd be the next Taysom Hill with the way James could throw the ball. I told him as such, and not unexpectedly, he deferred to the greatness of Hill. However, trust me when I say that Casey would've been a monster in that role.
Most of you probably haven't heard of Lenoir-Rhyne University, but NFL scouts certainly know where it is due to safety Kyle Dugger. The 6-1, 217 lb. safety had a wonderful day. He came up with an interception during 1-on-1s and then had a pass breakup later during 7-on-7. The interception during 1-on-1s came on an in route where he ran the route for the receiver and was in perfect position to make the pick. The great thing about it was that he didn't hold or interfere in any way, which is something that these college defensive backs struggle to do. Dugger's made money this week, as they say. Oh, Lenoir-Rhyne is in Hickory, North Carolina.
During inside 9-on-7 drill, the South running backs - Eno Benjamin from Arizona State and Perine from Florida - dominated the early part of the drill. They made a couple of clean inside runs that irritated the defense to say the least.
Then, Colorado's Davion Taylor and South Carolina's T.J. Brunson decided that they'd had enough and stuffed the next few runs, playing with more aggression and not getting caught in the chaos of the inside blocks.
During pass rush 1-on-1s, Florida edge rusher Jon Greenard did give Oregon tackle Calvin Throckmorton the inside okey-doke and left him flat footed. That was probably the one rep that Throckmorton would like to have back, but Greenard is a wonderfully skilled, smart pass rusher with a plan. That's unique, really, for players at this stage of their careers. Like Bradlee Anae from Utah, he has a litany of skills to get loose to the quarterback.
Clemson guard John Simpson had a much better day on Day 2. There were too many times he was on the ground or struggling on Tuesday, but Wednesday, he was back in mid-season form. He was strong in the run game and slid well with pass rushers and anchored against bull rushers as well.
Oh man, South Carolina edge rusher/linebacker D.J. Wonnum was excellent on Wednesday. I wrote his name down a handful of times whether it was against run blocks or rushing the passer. He's gotten my attention with his physical play this week.
Wonnum had his share of battles with St. John's offensive tackle Ben Bartch. The South Carolina star won a few of those during the run game drill, but Bartch, not facing Wonnum, won a number of reps in the pass rush drills. Bartch stoned Kansas edge rusher Azur Kamara on two consecutive reps.
LSU guard Damien Lewis and Florida's Jabari Zuniga could go 1-on-1 all day and I'd be happy with that. Those two had a best of three battle and it was the best head-to-head matchup all day long. That was a heavyweight prize fight.
Alright, it's time to get on home to Houston. Thanks for reading and see you soon, everyone!