The sun came out for the first time since we've been in Mobile and the offensive stars did as well. Consequently, there were a few of those stars that didn't even have a season in 2020 and last played against Southern, North Central and Northern Iowa well over a year ago. As such, here are my HARRIS HITS for the offensive side of the ball on day two at the Senior Bowl.
One of those players that didn't have a 2020 season is a young man by the name of Cade Johnson. In 2019, he was an All-American receiver at South Dakota State, one of the many FCS schools that decided to punt the 2020 season until the spring. Seniors with designs on the NFL had a choice to make and Johnson was one of those players. He decided on the opt out/prepare-for-the-NFL path and the first step on that path was showing off at the Senior Bowl. And, OH MY GOSH is he ever showing off. The one-on-one period is becoming The Cade Johnson Showcase. For the past two days, he's run away, around and past nearly every single defensive back charged to cover him but he saved his best for last on Wednesday. He was matched up with San Diego State cornerback Darren Hall on a go route down the near side of the field. Hall had a hold of Johnson's jersey on the inside and pinned the receiver's inside arm to his body. As the throw descended, about 50 yards downfield, Johnson threw out his left hand and, inexplicably, hauled in the touchdown pass. I've never heard a group of media, fans, players, scouts, NFL people react to any single play at the Senior Bowl...until today. As soon as Johnson reeled the pass in, a collective "OHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" went up from the South stands of Hancock Whitney Stadium. The thing that was so much more impressive was that Johnson turned back to run down the field and didn't even react. He didn't pose or preen or make a show of it, just jogged back to the sideline as if he hadn't just made the play of the Senior Bowl. Hall had so much respect for him that he helped push the jersey back onto Johnson's shoulder pads as they jogged back together. I watched player after player during the following break find him to just dap him up. Quite simply, no receiver has been as impressive this week than the unassuming Johnson and it's not even close.
I first saw interior offensive lineman David Moore from Grambling State when he accepted his invitation to the 2021 Senior Bowl. I was struck immediately by his bodybuilder sized arms and the brickhouse-like body. Intrigued as I could be, I found what I could of Grambling on tape and really enjoyed watching Moore physically dominate FCS competition. Like Johnson, Moore decided to take the Senior Bowl invitation and opt out of a spring season. As such, he's been preparing, but he hasn't had pads on in over a year. Yet, he looks as if he's been playing one week after the next. His power is highly evident whether he's playing guard or center. He's never played center but he looks like a natural at the position and handled the move with maturity. He's only 6-1 5/8, but he has nearly 33-inch arms and he uses that length effectively. One of my favorite reps on Wednesday was when he got locked up with Wake Forest defensive lineman Carlos 'Boogie' Basham. I don't think Basham, who has given nearly everyone offensive lineman issues, cared much for a lineman to stone him the way Moore did. Cooler heads did prevail, but Moore didn't back down or look like a lesser FCS player. He's one of the three best linemen in Mobile at this point.
One of the others in that troika is Wisconsin-Whitewater interior lineman Quinn Meinerz. Keep in mind I didn't say University of Wisconsin. Division III Whitewater is a power, but it's DIII football. Yet, Meinerz is dominating dudes left and right. He buried a Big 12 defensive lineman on a run drill from the center position. He's holding up against bull rushes in pass protection astoundingly well. Pitt's Patrick Jones II, one of the ACC's best rushers, attempted a cross chop on him and Meinerz caught him in mid-air and planted him in the turf. Quite frankly, he's becoming more than just a cult figure. I told an agent friend of mine that I would take Meinerz over nearly every big time NAME interior linemen in this draft, not just in Mobile. He's this close to being my number one center and the thing is that I really liked studying him before I came down to Mobile. Here was my initial report from December when he declared early for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Never seen more dudes get put on their back than when Meinerz is locked on. I saw on Twitter in December that he had declared and the poster seemed to scoff at the notion that a DIII was declaring early for the 2021 NFL Draft. So, I went looking for anything I could find. Holy cow, his run game reel, especially on power, is NC-13, if you remember the old movie ratings. He's certainly worth studying even more given his bulk, power and agility for a guy his size.
Meinerz is the real deal, no doubt, and a fun character to boot. I saw one of the running backs go up to him at some point near the end of practice and point at his exposed belly, the co-star of the Meinerz Experience. Meinerz looked at the running back, grabbed his belly for a quick shake and left the running back laughing out loud.
I had a chance to watch the linebackers and running backs blitz pickup drill today live and oh man, Virginia Tech's Khalil Herbert was fantastic. On two different occasions, he stoned linebackers and put them on their back in the process. Twice, I said. There were some running backs that struggled just making a block once. Herbert was outstanding. As a runner, he takes a backseat to no one at the Senior Bowl and some team will find a gem in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers on a reverse? Yes please. Man, I love to watch this guy ball out.
Each year, Alabama head coach Nick Saban makes a pilgrimage down to Mobile to make the rounds, if you will. Today was that day and Saban must've loved seeing his national championship winning quarterback Mac Jones make one of the best throws of the first two days in Mobile. After a play action fake to draw the linebackers, Jones eyed his tight end Georgia's Tre McKitty on a deep over route. The Bulldog tight end was wearing LSU linebacker Jabril Cox in coverage and there was about negative two inches of space. Jones threw the ball to the one spot where McKitty could reach out his large right hand and reel in the throw in one handed on the far sideline. I mean, the catch? The throw? Just brilliant on both Jones and McKitty.
On Jones, specifically, he's thrown it very well on the first two days, but the lack of mobility is going to be a real issue. That said, there isn't going to be a team that doesn't like his anticipation, ball placement, attitude and professional demeanor.
Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman has the strongest arm in Mobile and it's not even close, but he's not seeing things that he should see. As a result, he threw two consecutive interceptions during 7-on-7 drills.
UCLA's Demetric Felton continued to get more reps at receiver than running back and is as tough to cover on short-to-intermediate routes as any receiver in Mobile, including Amari Rodgers. Felton has insane short area burst that embarrasses defensive backs and there are plenty feeling that pain today.
I forgot to mention two offensive linemen that were excellent on day one. Thankfully, Notre Dame linemen Robert Hainsey and Aaron Banks continued that ascent on day two so I'll mention them here. These two were foundation pieces for the Irish offensive line that was outstanding in 2020. Hainsey hit yesterday's star UCLA defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa with as strong a one hand punch as I've seen in one-on-one pass protection period. Hainsey just snapped the UCLA star's helmet and helped slow him down. Banks is fundamentally sound, has a great base, is patient and under control in nearly all of his pass protection reps. Both guys have been establishing physical presences and excelling in both phases. They were also the last two guys to leave the field for the second straight day as they worked on footwork and hand placement with one another before heading to the bus.
I'm a fan of Louisville receiver Dez Fitzpatrick and my fandom is growing by the day each and every rep. He measured 6-2 ⅛, 202 pounds with a wingspan of nearly 81 inches. He doesn't have huge hands but I haven't seen him drop passes at all this week. I like the sudden, and precise, nature of his route running. He's been coached well. He doesn't angle his routes, running direct and straight lines. He uses his hands properly to get loose from the clutches of some sticky defensive backs. He has go-route speed to burn some defensive backs. This is a DEEEEEEP receiver class and it's hard to say exactly where he fits but he can play and will be an effective NFL receiver - I get a little bit of a TreQuan Smith (Saints/UCF) vibe from Fitzpatrick
North Carolina running back Michael Carter continued to struggle in pass protection, but he's working at it. When he gets the ball in his hands, though, it's a game changer. Talk about short area burst and explosiveness?? Wow...just wow. I love watching him run the football.
Florida receiver/Weapon X Kadarius Toney was one of my favorite players to watch in 2020 and he's been as advertised on the first two days. There hasn't been a singular play that he's made that's stood out, but it's more about how consistent he is and how professional he appears in every drill that he's in. Watching him do the little things is also impressive and he's playing through a little bit of something too. He landed hard on his shoulder reaching out for a deep pass on the first day, but he made it back into yesterday's workout and today's as well.
Jaylon Moore. Every time I see him, I keep saying "the Western Michigan tackle" because I keep forgetting his name. HEY, don't judge, these have been 48 long years and the memory is fading a little bit every day. Either way, I liked Moore when I studied him before I got to Mobile and even more so since I've gotten to see him live and in person. He can be a bit of a waist-bender in pass protection but when he drops his butt and anchors, he's as good as anyone here.
Another offensive lineman that fits in that category is North Dakota State tackle Dillon Radunz. He's not as thick as Moore, but he's athletic as can be. Now, I'd like to see Radunz drop that backside and anchor a bit more and not lose that outside hand latch/placement. However, from a movement perspective, he's quick and agile and that's a great place to start for a tackle.
Alright, that's going to do it for day number two on the offensive side of the ball. Keep your eyes out for the defensive HARRIS HITS a little bit later. See ya tomorrow, everyone!