EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is part of HoustonTexans.com's 2010 Path to the Draft presented by FOX Sports Houston.
MOBILE, Ala. – Thursday at the Under Armour Senior Bowl, the North practiced in the morning while the South went through drills in the middle of the afternoon. Both teams will participate in a walk-through tomorrow, with the North starting at 9:30 a.m. and the South starting directly afterward at 10:30. The actual game is set for kickoff on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.
Blount is blunt: The Texans' rushing attack ranked 30th in the NFL in 2009 in yards per game, and in only two games did the club produce a runner who gained more than a hundred yards.
If the team is searching for added backfield depth, there are several strong draft prospects. One player at the Senior Bowl who has been intriguing is LeGarrette Blount from Oregon. He missed the bulk of the season after punching a Boise State player following the Ducks' season-opening loss, but he said he used the time off the field to his advantage.
"I stayed healthy," Blount said. "Trained, did everything with my team. Only thing I didn't do was play on Saturdays, so as far as that goes I did extra running after practice."
RV Lineup: After the North wrapped it's practice, there was a parade of recreational vehicles on the street outside Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Folks were driving into the stadium area to begin tailgating for the Senior Bowl, and the bulk of those RV's sported either Alabama Crimson Tide or Florida Gator flags. Those two schools have been represented well this week by fans at the practices.
Mount Cody: Rare was the occasion today, and rare has been the occasion this week, that Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody has been blocked by only one man. In team drills around the goal line, he would line up over the center and get double-teamed by the center and the left guard. If he was over the right guard, he was doubled up by that right guard and the right tackle. At 6-4, 370 pounds, he's a body that commands help blocking.
"It means they respect my ability to stop the run," Cody said to HoustonTexans.com after practice. "But it probably could just be a blocking scheme that they have, but it's a lot of respect when they double-team me."
The Texans employ a 4-3 defensive alignment, and their biggest interior defensive lineman is Frank Okam, who measures in at 6-5, 338.
Cody is a space-eater who is focused on improving during the months leading up to the draft and beyond.
"There's a lot of things I can improve on," Cody said. "My ability to rush the passer. I still have to learn a lot more techniques and stuff to add to my arsenal."
Secondary-watch: General manager Rick Smith has said before that the Texans never can have enough good cornerbacks. There are several strong defensive backs at the Senior Bowl, including Boise State's Kyle Wilson.
Wilson lined up at cornerback Thursday, but has been utilized as a safety at times as well. He said being able to play at various spots was helpful.
"I really just wanted to bring my versatility and my playmaking ability to the Senior Bowl," Wilson said. "It's a new learning curve, but with a little hard work and determination for it, you can pick anything up."
Wilson (5-10, 190) will play corner at the next level and doesn't lack for confidence when asked about his future in the league.
"They'll know me as a playmaker," Wilson said. "I just make plays out there in the run game and passing game, anywhere on the field. I just make plays."
Dexter's cuts: It was another successful day--in terms of gaining yards and finding the end zone in goal line situations--for Dexter McCluster of Ole Miss. The running back/receiver combines explosive speed and incredible shiftiness to find holes and produce yardage, and his lack of size (5-8, 165) hasn't seemed to hinder him.
He also has relished being able to play all over the field and thinks his performance at the various spots has helped him in the eyes of scouts.
"I think I'm showing it out here right now," McCluster said. "Pretty much playing everywhere: punt return, kick return, slot receiver, maybe running back. I want to make sure I'm crisp at all of them, so when it's time, I don't miss a beat."
Running to daylight: USC running back Stafon Johnson found the hole quickly and with grace Thursday. He missed the bulk of the 2009 season after a weight lifting accident, but looked very smooth today in drills. Johnson also returned punts in practice today.
ACC coverage: Virginia defensive back Chris Cook picked off a pass in the end zone during the 7-on-7 period, but on the very next rep, he was juked out for a touchdown catch by Pittsburgh's Dorin Dickerson. Such is the life of a DB at the Senior Bowl. Cook is big for a corner (6-1, 212) and matched up well with the various North receivers in practice today.
Another defensive back to watch is Brandon Ghee from Wake Forest. During the team drills at the end of practice he slapped away a would-be touchdown pass, eliciting a string of whoops from his teammates. Ghee's a bit smaller than Cook at 5-11, 183 pounds.
Closer to home: Baylor center and Allen, Texas native J.D. Walton is with the South squad and has enjoyed his week in Mobile. With injuries to both Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel, the Texans might try to bolster the interior of the offensive line in the draft.
"It's been awesome and a lot of fun getting out here with all these guys," Walton said. "The greatest players in the United States are coming together."
Walton also doesn't lack for any confidence.
"I'll be a starter in the NFL at center for as long as I can go," Walton said.
Small school? No problem: Division II Wayne State sent running back Joique Bell (5-10, 223) to the Senior Bowl this week and he's done a solid job during practices. Only five players in D-II history gained more yards in a career than Bell did (6,728), and he appreciates the chance to play against Division I athletes.
"It's a great opportunity not only to mingle with them, but play against them," Bell said. "To stop all the talk about, 'Well, he's a Division II athlete. Let's see how he does against Division I.' Or, 'He did that against lower competition.'"
Texans wide receiver Jacoby Jones emerged from Lane College, which is also a D-II school, and Bell said he hopes to be a story like that someday in the NFL.