Day Two of the 2020 Senior Bowl is underway. From Daniel Valente and myself, our news and notes from Mobile, Alabama. Week is flying by. Today is already the final day.
For Wednesday’s practice, Daniel focused on the offense and I flipped over to the defense for both squads.
South Offense (Daniel’s Report)
The Cincinnati Bengals’ coaching staff and the South team were out on the field next. They began the day with special teams’ drills with Austin Mack, Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland and Dane Jackson working as gunners. It is always good to have some special teams’ ability, especially as a rookie. Vanderbilt’s Kalija Lipscomb was returning punts as well.
The South team quarterbacks were working on rolling out to both their left and right during this period while also shuffling through pads to work on their footwork.
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez was a bit high on his first rep when rolling out to his left but his second rep was on the money. Speaking of on the money, Justin Herbert’s passes were on the money regardless of which direction he rolled out. Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts also fired off an absolute rocket on one rep when rolling out to his left.
Next, the quarterbacks worked on receiving a shotgun snap and throwing immediately after receiving the snap. Hurts was a perfect 5/5 in accuracy on short passes to his right during this rep while Montez was 4/5 with one pass going slightly left of the target.
The receivers were working through numerous individual drills during this time, starting first with maintaining the football through contact. The receiver would catch the football as a coach attempted to jam their arm. All receivers did a good job hanging on though Collin Johnson did drop one.
Moving on to the back-shoulder catches and the receivers were perfect through this drill with them each getting two reps each. Johnson did bobble his first target though he held on for the catch.
Out patterns towards the sideline were next on the menu and once again the receivers were mostly perfect minus one bad pass to Tyrie Cleveland. Mack had a nifty one-handed catch on his first rep.
The Bengals’ staff had the receivers working on their breakdowns next as they would run to a series of three cones, breakdown and then turn for a catch. Mack dropped one as did Cleveland on the first go around while Devin Duvernay and Cleveland would drop the ball on their second attempts. Jefferson looked like the top of the group as he definitely balled out during this drill as he looked the quickest out of the bunch. Johnson was much quicker than you would think while Jauan Jennings caught everything that came his way.
Lastly the receivers were put through a drill where they would have make an over the shoulder grab. Nothing at 100-percent pace but it was a notable drill because Tomlin was once again keeping a close eye. At one point he was even demonstrating to the Steelers’ personnel beside him how to make an over the shoulder catch. All receivers came down with their targets during this drill.
The quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends met up for a walk through next. The quarterbacks rotated between taking snaps under center and in shotgun. Hard to keep your eyes off of Herbert as he has such an effortless release and pretty ball. Hurts also delivered a nice deep ball to LSU tight end Stephen Sullivan down the right sideline on one throw.
Sullivan also had a big day on Wednesday. He just looks like a wide receiver playing tight end, which is essentially what he is but monster athleticism.
Continuing on, Jefferson continued to shine his star, making a nice catch on a route that broke towards the sideline. Harrison Bryant showed some nice body control as he readjusted from a pass thrown behind him from Montez in order to make the catch.
Big takeaways from this walk through – Herbert is consistently on the money and Jefferson is in a league above all his other fellow South receivers.
On to the 1v1s again.
Mack beat Pitt’s Dane Jackson to the sideline to open up the 1v1s. Jackson is coming off a huge performance in day one where he was just all over the ball.
Jennings went up against Vildor Kindle next and the rep was a mess from the get go. Kindle grabbed Jennings jersey which drew a flag and an animated coach yelling “Don’t grab #2!”.
Jennings was tough for many of the South cornerbacks to keep up with as he was just too physically imposing to contain. He drew a pass interference call shortly, this time on Jackson.
Mack would then beat Kindle by using his arms to fight for an inside release. Jefferson continued to shine making a great catch over the top of the defensive back.
Hurts started the drill very poorly, missing his mark severely times but man, he caught some fire towards the end of the drill. His best throw of the day came on a throw to Collin Johnson down the left sideline. Hurts dropped this one right in Johnson’s basket for a terrific pass and catch.
On his following throw, Hurts put the football in a place where only Jefferson could get it and the Florida receiver high pointed the football near the sideline for the catch. Herbert still owned the top spot but Hurts seriously caught fire towards the end of the 1v1 drills.
Jumping into the 11v11 team portion of practice now.
Herbert started right where he left off, showcasing great accuracy on two passes to Jefferson and then to Jennings. Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin had a great route out of the backfield next. He is a small guy but he can seriously move.
Hurts slightly overthrew Jefferson down the right sideline but that was just the day he was having. When he was on, his passes were remarkable but when he was off, he was nowhere close. Just shows the boom or bust potential with Hurts.
Hurts would respond later on though with another NFL-caliber throw to Sullivan down the sideline. This pass must have been at least 20-25-yards downfield but it fell right into the bucket.
Sullivan is another big win from today’s practices. He is just so athletic and it shows as he runs downfield. He has these long strides and it takes him no time to get to a second gear. He is going to be a huge weapon down the seam for a team this season.
Jefferson balled out no matter who was throwing him the ball and he made a nice catch in traffic in between two defenders during the 11v11 portion.
Montez really failed to impress on day two, he was inaccurate and just out of touch. Threw a high pass to running back Antonio Gibson that bounced right off his hands.
Herbert looked the best out of the three quarterbacks, showing good amount of consistency, accuracy and ball placement. Hurts brought out the most emotion from the crowd, for both positive and negative reasons. Again, when he is on, it is a sight to see but when he is cold, it is colder than Tuesday’s practice which was extremely cold. And Montez was the worst of the three.
South Defense (Alex’s Report)
– Some Steelers’ housekeeping. Mentioned most of the coaches in attendance during yesterday’s practice. Spotted a couple more today: RBs coach Eddie Faulkner, DBs coach Tom Bradley, and strength & conditioning coach Garrett Giemont. So if you’re wondering if Bradley is still sticking around, even with Teryl Austin seemingly taking over that group, he is.
– Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of notes for the South team today and as of this writing, the All-22 tape has yet to get posted. So we’re a little limited from today.
– Hadn’t paid much attention to South Carolina LB DJ Wonnum, who is built more like an interior defensive linemen. Weighed in at 6’5 254. Showed some power and ability to get vertical in run blocking drills today. Teammate Javon Kinlaw has gotten the headlines but Wonnum is worth noting too.
– During team drills, NT Ole Miss Benito Jones was on the ground again. Same stuff I saw on tape. There’s some potential there but too much inconsistency in his game and being on the ground is the biggest sin a linemen can commit.
– Just a sloppy practice overall for the South. Not a lot of improvement from Day One, where jitters and pre-snap stuff are sorta expected. During the one team session, there were three flags in the first four plays.
– App State LB Akeem Davis-Gaither continues to impress. You find where his #26 jersey is at, you’ll find the ball. Blew up one run late in practice today.
– Couple of the Florida kids who are impressive. Really like Jonathan Greenard’s get-off. Threatens tackles outside and creates a soft shoulder for inside counters. Believe he beat injury call-up Calvin Throckmorton on an outside/inside move on one rep today.
– Bame linebacker Anfernee Jennings has a really strong pass rush plan. Able to read the tackle’s set and attack inside or out. Lots of fakes and bait to get the tackle to commit. Had good battles with South Carolina State OT Alex Taylor today. Each had their moments. Jennings played off-ball LB and OLB during team sessions today.
– Elsewhere, UCLA cornerback Darnay Holmes, who has impressed, worked inside and in the slot today.
– On the offensive side of the ball, ended up watching a lot of the OL drills, tough days for Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg, who was chided for getting too tall out of his stance and not playing with proper pad level. Working backside cutoff blocks, he struggled to get his right (outside) hand into the pads of the defender. Was told he was playing too conservatively.
Texas Tech’s Terence Steele, who struggled executing drills properly to the ire of coach Jim Turner.
Clemson’s John Simpson and LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry III were also reminded to stay flat-footed and not play on their toes. Turned praised Taylor, calling him coachable, and was impressed by the job St. Johns’ Ben Bartch (“Good job, Bartch!”) he called out after one rep.
North Offense (Daniel’s Report)
Welcome to the second day of practice for the 2020 Senior Bowl. North team opened up first today which means the Detroit Lions’ staff was out there. The Lions staff definitely would receive a first-round grade for their stretching habits and warmup drills as they made sure every single muscle on these guys were loose and ready.
Taking a close look at the North team’s wide receivers this afternoon.
The WRs start with some route running drills, first with working on their out routes towards the sideline. Every receiver except Chase Claypool caught their first attempt though the Notre Dame receiver made a nifty catch his second time around.
Next up was the corner route. It is hard not to notice just how quick and sudden SMU receiver James Proche is as he comes out of his cuts. Texas A&M receiver Quartney Davis is also very quick out of his cuts. Every receiver came down with a catch on their first attempt except Davis, though to no fault of his own. Bad throw on his target.
The receivers would be working on breaking towards the sideline next but emphasizing a swim move at the top of the route. All receivers looked great but USC receiver Michael Pittman had a drop after he attempted to reel one in with one hand. That drew shouting from the Lions’ staff, “Use two! Two hands,” someone shouted. Pittman was not wearing gloves before this drill but he opted to put on gloves after his drop.
Lions’ coaches really put a lot of emphasis on toe dragging during the next drill. All receivers did a favorable job here though Davis was told “no tapping” after one grab. Lots of toe drag swag in this one.
Caught a few of the quarterback to receiver drills and once again it was Proche showing off his strong hands early. Proche told me after practice that he believes he has the strongest hands here and it is hard to argue against him. Anthony Gordon also connected with Pittman on an out route. Good timing and delivery. Antonio Gandy-Golden had a drop during this drill and it would not be his only drop of the day.
The tight ends were working on their releases out of a three-point stance at this time and Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins look really quick coming out of his breaks. Unfortunately, the tight ends were done no favors as more than a few inaccurate passes came their away, one too low to Hopkins and one too high to Michigan tight end Sean McKeon stick out. McKeon attempted to make an acrobatic snag but came down really hard. One person in the stands remarked “I would have broke my arm on that”, that should tell you how much effort McKeon puts into his reps.
My favorite drill followed with the receivers and cornerbacks going one on one. Wake Forest cornerback Essang Bassey made a good pass break up on Gandy-Golden to open up the drills.
Gandy-Golden would make up for it on his next rep, outmuscling Nebraska’s Lamar Jackson for an inside release. Jackson more than held his own but in the end, Gandy-Golden was just too strong.
Davis got an outside release on Notre Dame’s Troy Pride on the next rep and had him beat down the sideline but unfortunately the pass was inaccurate.
The star of the day and of these drills was Baylor’s Denzel Mims who really flashed in a variety of ways. Mims showed that he could be physical when he had to and could be a vertical threat by locating the ball well. His best rep in the 1v1s came when he got a great release right off the snap and was able to locate a floating ball well over his shoulder for the catch. He impressed both on short and deep routes in the 1v1 portion of practice.
Proche also showcased his textbook quickness, especially on routes breaking towards the sideline. Gandy-Goldman had a really nice catch, going over the top and bringing it down. The last rep I caught saw Claypool come down with a diving snag over the middle of the field. He was able to use his size to get separation and extend over the middle for a diving catch.
The biggest loser from this drill was likely Pittman as he just did not flash the consistent ability to separate. He’s a bigger guy who relied on his contested catch ability at USC but he is going to have to work on his ability to separate.
The receivers then transitioned to their blocking drills and Mike Tomlin was watching this play from just a few feet away.
Pittman fell on his first rep while Gandy-Golden was called for a block in the back on his first rep. Gandy-Golden then responded with an improved rep the second time around. Really think Claypool showed the most consistency in this drill, though that is not surprising considering his size. As for the best rep, that goes to Mims who shoved Josh Metellus at least five yards downfield on one rep.
The tight ends and running backs were working on a catch and run drill over on the other side of the field. Baylor running back Jamycal Hasty was lightning quick after the catch as his elusiveness really shined through. He is tremendously difficult to square up on. The tight end who delivered the most noise in this drill was Dayton’s Adam Trautman who made two defenders whiff completely on two separate reps. Trautman is a small school guy but he has been talked about heavily since his inclusion.
Lions’ staff started working on special teams before diving into the team drills. Both Proche and Ohio State’s K.J. Hill were returning punts. Both Proche and Hill caught all five of their punt returns as a member of the Lions’ staff jabbed them with a padded stick. The only mistake came when Proche fumbled after being contacted by the return team, “Proche, come on baby!” someone from the Lions’ staff shouted.
Also going on at this point, the offensive linemen were working on passing off defenders, though they were just walking through the drill. Tomlin was standing right behind this though, keeping a close eye.
On to the first team drills now.
Pittman and Trautman both made some clutch catches over the middle of the field. Claypool also flashed a quick out pattern for a catch. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson unleashed a great ball down the sideline to Pittman but it was dropped. His next pass then went completely out of bounds. Inconsistent day from the Michigan quarterback.
Both TCU RB Darius Anderson and Hasty seemed very elusive and quick, showing a nifty jump cut on two separate occasions. Proche made a terrific catch in traffic over the middle of the field at one point. He flashed those strong hands here. Pittman was the victim of another incomplete pass after Pride knocked it out of his grasp. Tough day for him. Near the end of the first team drill, Patterson unleashed probably his best ball of the day but it was flat out dropped by Gandy-Golden. The Liberty receiver had a great release off the line of scrimmage and had his man beat over the top but the ball just simply bounced off his fingertips.
Onto the second team drills and Mims opened it up with a terrific catch down the left sideline. He really went up and grabbed this one, attacking the football mid air and catching it at its highest point. Monster day for him.
Pittman ended his day on a good note catching an absolute laser from Jordan Love over the middle of the field. Love had to fit this one into a tight window and he put it right on the money. Love really picked up steam during the last team session as he made more than a few great throws.
Was watching Proche in the slot during these drills and he completely swum over his man to get wide open in the middle of the field. No throw came his way but wow, impressive stuff from one of the more dangerous slot receivers in this year’s game.
Just a few more brief notes from the North team’s All-22 footage below.
Thought Darius Anderson showed some good ability to get skinny as he slipped between two members of the defense’s front seven on one rep.
Nick Harris did not have the best day, he fired off a high snap on one play and was bullied backwards on another.
Justin Herron and Jonah Jackson also climbed to the second level fairly quickly on two separate plays.
K.J. Hill made a nice play working from the slot as he used his arms to disengage, giving him the separation to break towards the sideline.
UCLA running back Joshua Kelly made a bad read on one rep, missing his cutback lane and instead running into a swarm of defenders.
The biggest winner from all of the North team’s offensive linemen had to be Houston’s Josh Jones. He showed incredible effort, finishing a block 10-15 yards downfield on one play. Jones was just a straight up mauler and made sure to finish every single rep he participated in.
Another player who continued to surprise was Temple offensive lineman Matt Hennessy, he rose to the challenge in the 1v1 drills and his best rep had to be when he completely handled NC State’s Larrell Murchison.
Biggest loser from the offensive line was Nick Harris who just had a very rough day. He was beaten pretty badly on more than a few occasions during the 1v1 drills.
North Defense (Alex’s Report)
– Spent quite a bit of time watching the LBs in drills today. Seeing how these guys take to NFL coaching. Working on their punch against the bags. Two punches then on the third and final rep, they’re supposed to finish the rep with a move through the bag and let the next guy take his turn. Utah’s Bradlee Anae forgot on the third rep and the Lions’ coach got on him for not finishing the drill.
“Come on! We already did this. Progress.” Had already gone through these drills yesterday and wanted them to carry it over today without having to be told again.
– Same coach having to spend plenty of time with Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes. Working on getting his hands tighter, keeping his thumbs up, and being comfortable with his stance. “Don’t be so bent over” he said, trying to get him in a loose, easy stance to explode upfield.
– I don’t think Syracuse EDGE Alton Robinson had a good day in drills, he’s been quiet too often, but he’s not someone coaches needed to coach. Did the drill as instructed most of the time.
– Utah’s Francis Bernard is an older player who took a long road to Utah (dismissed from BYU, went to a JUCO before joining the Utes) but a good communicator who can cover. Broke up dig intended for UCLA’s Josh Kelley in 1v1 drills.
– Cal’s Evan Weaver reminds me a lot of Vince Williams. Similar size (Weaver is 6’2 234, Williams was 6’0 233), with some hip stiffness but downhill thumpers who find the ball and fit the run well. On the first rep of team drills today, he wrong-armed the pulling guard, knifed underneath, and forced the back to bounce. Later, he filled the frontside A gap then followed the back to the backside A, stayed square, and made the stop. Probably a late round guy because his upside is limited and I doubt he tests well but there’s a role for him at the next level.
– Notre Dame DB’s have been impressive. CB Troy Pride Jr. and Jalen Elliott, the latter who played most of the post safety spot today. Alohi Gilman left with a lower leg/ankle injury suffered in team drills. Non-contact which is concerning but don’t know of his status going forward.
– North Carolina DL Jason Strowbridge isn’t a tremendous athlete but has active hands that work hard to stay clean with plenty of power and good ball awareness. Two passes batted down in the same team session.
– Coaches got on Anaee early in practice like I noted but he might’ve been the best player on the field today. Consistently win with the ability to attack inside/out and sets a physical edge in the run game, getting vertical and blowing TE Brycen Hopkins back on one rep.
– Becoming a big fan of Ohio State DT Davon Hamilton. Combination of athleticism, sideline agility to flow against zone schemes, with power. Always seems to be gaining ground and overwhelmed center Nick Harris today. Strong day with versatility. Can line up along the interior or as the 5T.
– Plenty of Michigan men in Mobile. Safety Khaleke Hudson might be the smartest of them all. Vocal player pre-snap, playing in the box and aligning the front seven against shifts and motions who understands route combinations and playing zone coverage.
– Couple offensive notes. Thought Jordan Love was the best QB today for either side. Denzel Mims carried over what he did at Baylor, showing the ability to sky and high point for the football. WR Quartney Davis has struggled to catch the ball cleanly but gets in and out of his breaks quickly and performed well as a gunner, outrunning jammers on two occasions. Something to take note of.
– Houston OT Josh Jones is a violent player who looks to finish his blocks, once driving a LB 10-15 yards downfield to finish out one play today with good size and base. Ben Bredeson and Matt Hennessy are just rock solid guys who don’t get too high or too low. Just steady, consistent play.
– Receivers having a strong week. I’ve also been impressed by the small-schoolers stepping up. Names like Ben Bartch, Akeem Davis-Gaither though Dayton’s Adam Trautman (and frankly, the entire TE group) has been quiet.
– Guys like Davon Hamilton, Ben Bredeson, and Matt Hennessy are starting to feel like guys who are going to be on the Steelers’ radar. We’ll see.
1) Houston OT Josh Jones is a dog. Finishes every rep and is going to make a team very happy with not only his skill but also with his effort.
2) Van Jefferson and Denzel Mims are likely at the top of the wide receiver food chain when it comes to their respective teams though both teams are insanely stacked. James Proche impressed today as did Collin Johnson.
3) Stephen Sullivan has such a high ceiling due to his athleticism. Just such a long frame and effortless strides down the field will make him a weapon over the middle.