The Senior Bowl kicked off its week long activities in Mobile with weigh-ins, two practices and a media night dinner. The practices are what matter to me and everyone else, so here are my observations of the South team practice.
- The first two practices are in different locations so it's difficult to see all of one and then all of the other. The South team practiced down at Fairhope High School and 15 minutes after that workout finished, the North team kicked off practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the home of the Senior Bowl.
- Standing on the sideline at Senior Bowl is like being at a football who's who. I watched practice next to a few Texans' scouts that I've gotten to know. Doug Williams, Super Bowl XXII MVP, was a few feet away. Just scanning the field, it's like being in an important-football-person candy store. As the South team was doing some individual work, I heard a voice say "hey guys...excuse me...what's up guys?". That voice? Nick Saban. He was making an appearance to support his Alabama players, with five of them on the South roster.
- I've been a big fan of Dak Prescott, formerly of Mississippi State, but seeing him up close and watching how easy the ball comes out of his hand surprised even me. He made some big time throws during 11-on-11 and struck me as the most effective and productive South team quarterback.
- The other South team signal callers are Brandon Allen (Arkansas), Jacoby Brissett (NC State) and Jake Coker (Alabama). I interviewed Coker earlier in the day and that is one big dude. Allen has the most rpms and spins it with some juice. Coker's delivery is a bit odd, but he was accurate in the short time I watched him.
- Texas Tech offensive tackel Le'Raven Clark has the longest arms here by a mile. I noticed that when the Red Raiders were in Houston for the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl as well. In talking to him early Tuesday morning, he noted that he wanted to show the scouts that he was more than just a pass protector. He faced a number of different South edge players and struggled a bit with the stronger ones during a 1-on-1 drive block drill. But, he improved throughout the period. In pass protection 1-on-1s, though, forget it - that length just kept guys, including Baylor defender Shawn Oakman, at bay.
- Southeast Missouri wide receiver Paul McRoberts isn't a name many know but I was excited to see what he looked like today. He didn't disappoint. He has excellent hands and it's difficult to hear the ball when it hits his hands. I'll watch him much closer tomorrow.
- Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington is small, but man, that dude is tough. I looked down during linebacker/running back pass rush drills (remember in Hard Knocks the Cushing versus Blue tete-a-tete? That dril.l) as he faced Kentucky's Josh Forrest. Forrest rushed hard and WHAP, Washington stoned him right in the hole. That is one tough hombre; of course, he's blessed with greater Houston ties having played at Marshall High School in Fort Bend County.
- The clear winner on the South team today was Clemson defensive tackle D.J. Reader. In that 1-on-1 run blocking, drive drill, he couldn't be moved and he totally dominated. He just completely dominated at the point of attack. I had his name written down four separate times in my notebook. Just...wow.
- Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins had success as well, but it wasn't really until his spin move on Michigan center Graham Glasgow on a pass rush that a "WHOOOOOOO" was elicited from the gathered masses. This guy is built like a tank and his butt and legs are...just, I mean, tree trunks.
- Baylor wideout Jay Lee is long with some size and gave the smaller South team defensive backs some trouble. He just has to catch the ball cleaner and more consistently.
- Seeing Brissett on the field and Jeff Driskel on the North team later in the day...it's hard not to cringe a little bit for Florida Gators fans. That program ached for great quarterback play and two guys that once wore the orange and blue succeeded in 2015...for two other programs.
- Eastern Kentucky DE/OLB Noah Spence (formerly of Ohio State) had a quick trigger with EVERYONE he faced throughout the day. Spence is an intriguing watch down here in Mobile, considering his background and issues off the field that cost him a spot at Ohio State. But, that guy is all athlete. I watched him go through the bag drills and cover punts later on and it's hard to imagine that he's 261 pounds.
- Duke safety Jeremy Cash is a prototype box safety, but I like his feet and watched his movement skills during individual extensively.
- Arkansas guard Sebastian Tretola completely flat-backed Alabama star DT/DE Jarran Reed on a rep in drive block 1-on-1s. Reed won the next rep, but I didn't think Reed could be moved off the ball, but the Arkansas guard showed me otherwise. I'm a fan of Tretola's and think he could really make some headway this week.
- The best interior offensive here, though, is Kansas State's Cody Whitehair. He was the most consistent in all facets. He'll move inside at the next level, after playing left tackle for the Wildcats. He plays tall at times, but he reminds so much of former Notre Dame tackle turned guard Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys.
- Alabama's Cyrus Jones was brilliant covering in 1-on-1s on the reps, about three that I saw.
- On the first rep of 1-on-1s, LSU's Jalen Mills read quick hitch immediately and broke up a pass. That was a pass that's typically completed 85% of the time. Mills took care of that business to start the drill.
- Mobile's finest and former Minnesota wideout K.J. Maye has much better hands than I expected. I thought he caught it well in his career, but seeing him up close, it's clear that he doesn't fight the ball and makes any catch in his zip code. He's not a huge guy but when he does get his hands on it, look out. He could surprise many the rest of this week.
- Speaking of hands, Georgia's Malcolm Mitchell snatched a pass out of mid-air that was going to take out about three or four scouts on the sideline. That was impressive.
- Alabama running back Kenyan Drake must, MUST, have a better day in pass protection or he'll prove that he can't play on third down at the next level.
- Reggie Ragland, the All-American linebacker for Alabama, played mainly outside today and flashed some solid pass rush skills. When he rushed from the interior, forget it, there wasn't anyone that could handle him.
That was it from the South team on Tuesday.