A wet and rainy Day Two in Mobile, Alabama for the second set of practices among the National and American squads. Notes from today will be shorter – and wetter – thanks to a persistent rain that existed at Hancock Whitney Stadium Wednesday afternoon. On top of all that, we will not be able to view practice tomorrow. Due to weather, it will be moved to their indoor facility and media access will be limited to a select few groups which we, and general media at large, are not apart of.
The good news is we have a slew of player interviews conducted during the day to keep you, and us, busy. The type of conversations that are worth just as much as the tape for our draft profile knowledge.
Like we did yesterday, we broke things up into groups. Jonathan watched the linebackers, Tyler the quarterbacks, Jacob the OL/DL, and I took the receivers/corners. Our notes are broken up as such below.
– Couple quick Steelers’ notes. Lots of scouts scurrying to the dry, comfortable press box overlooking the field today so I didn’t pay much attention to which Steelers’ scouts were where. Imagine it’s largely the same crowd as yesterday. The coaches I saw on the field were Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, QBs Coach Mike Sullivan, and I believe OC Matt Canada.
– As our notes will show, Tomlin spent a good deal of time watching the defense early in sessions, again watching the d-line early on in practice (as shown in the header photo). Later in practice, Colbert and Sullivan stood side-by-side to watch the QBs, in particular UNC’s Sam Howell.
(Jonathan’s Notes – Linebacker)
Cincinnati LB Darrian Beavers
– Linebacker Darrian Beavers trying to cheat the drill again at the start of positional work anticipating where to go instead of reading and reacting when moving laterally in pass coverage.
– Trey McBride having a very tough time blocking Darrian Beavers in one-on-one tight end vs. linebacker drill.
Miami of Ohio LB/S Sterling Weatherford
– Weatherford doing a very good job at catching the ball in the rainy conditions while the other linebackers are dropping the passes. Can tell he has that defensive back background while lining up primarily at off-ball backer the last two days. Can tell Weatherford has extensive work at defensive back based off his footwork at position drills.
– Weatherford doing a good job recognizing the dump off to the running back in the flat on seven-on-seven, closing ground quickly and making a play on the ball.
– Weatherford got dominated on a run play in team session where the left tackle cleared him straight out of the running late for Jerome Ford to take to the end zone for the touchdown.
Wyoming LB Chad Muma
– Muma doing a good job of avoiding trash and evading blocks to make tackles in the team session.
– Muma and Beavers did a great job communicating assignments pre-snap of the football today.
Colorado State TE Trey McBride
– Trey McBride with a fantastic catch in team drills over top of the defender snagging it in the air and running for extra yards.
UCONN DL Travis Jones
– Coach Tomlin looking closely at Travis Jones for much of the position of work to start practice.
– Tomlins eyes are following defensive lineman Travis Jones and edge rusher Myjai Sanders for much of the opening period with the defensive line with the national team.
– Zion Johnson with the great one-on-one rep versus Travis Jones anchoring in and stalling his rush
– Travis Jones winds very next rep again Johnson with swim move over the shoulder but slips immediately after.
-Travis Jones with the long arm on Michigan’s Andrew Stueber, walking and back into the backfield.
Cincinnati EDGE Myjai Sanders
– EDGE Myjai Sanders doing very good in the hoop drill, doing a good band and being able to turn the corner and bend around the arc.
– Sanders showing off a little Azeez Ojulari with a jump cross chop move on one on one to get around the corner.
Nevada WR Romeo Doubs
– Romeo Doubs ditched the gloves with the rain today but still catching the ball very well with strong hands outside of his frame.
– CB Coby Bryant with a very nice break up on a pass to Romeo Doubs on the right sideline on one on one period, jarring the ball free out of Doubs’ hands with a strong punch.
– QB Carson Strong with a cover two hole shot to former teammate Romeo Doubs on the right sideline in between coverage for a nice gain and the first down in the team session. Could tell that chemistry was there.
Oklahoma DL Perrion Winfrey
– Winfrey cheering on his teammates from the sidelines trying to get them hyped up for the next play when he is getting a breather as the defense rotates in team session.
– Winfrey with the strip on the tackle that the defense recovered. Everyone on the defense get hyped up after he makes the play.
– Winfrey living in the backfield in today’s team session playing with a lot of energy and getting his teammates up and ready on defense, being an energizer bunny for the whole front seven.
UNI OT Trevor Penning
– Penning with a nasty pancake block on the Penn State’s Jesse Luketa on a run play in team session, burying him into the turf and staring him down afterwards.
Boston College IOL Zion Johnson
– Mafe getting the best of Zion Johnson on one-on-ones with Johnson failing to hit and replace in pass protection
– Zion Johnson with the great one-on-one rep versus Travis Jones anchoring in and stalling his rush
– Travis Jones winds very next rep again Johnson with swim move over the shoulder but slips immediately after.
(Alex’s Notes – Receiver/Corner)
– Rainy day certainly had an impact on the receivers from the get-go. Lot of drops in warmups on air. Almost everyone fell victim including Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, and Boise State’s Khalil Shakur. Shakir in particular struggled. Nevada’s Romeo Doubs is the only one who consistently caught the ball cleanly in this session, though he had a couple of drops and passes clank off his chest in 1v1s, which was surprising.
– Speaking of Doubs, just watching the receivers go through drills, Doubs is impressive and a cut above the rest. Ability to drop his hits and get out of his cuts is impressive and he’s well put together who has some shades of James Washington in build, profile, and personality.
Doubs has a heavy forward lean in his stance. Not saying that’s a good or bad thing but it doesn’t create a lot of surface area for corners to jam. He had one impressive rep in team, feeling the underneath flat defender and knowing he could get a little extra depth on his curl with the cornerback playing the deep-third. And Carson Strong hit him along the sideline for the completion. Doubs also shows nuance as a route-runner and the ability to get into the corner’s blindspot when he can make his break and create a ton of space.
– Rutgers’ Bo Melton did have a drop or two today but he’s a strong route runner who creates space at the top of his route or the breakpoint. Won on a double-move, a stop ‘n go, in 1v1 and consistently won vertically, stacking and beating Joshua Williams downfield on another rep. Melton isn’t a big guy at just under 5’11 and 191 pounds but he gives good effort as a blocker. In a very general sense, a similar skillset to Ray-Ray McCloud but he’s bigger, longer, and I think a little more explosive.
– Penn State CB Tariq Castro-Fields is a high-cut defender at 6003 but he has some of that classic stiffness those bigger corners tend to have. He played high and didn’t look comfortable in press, on his heels and catching as opposed to being able to initiate contact. He also has a tendency to punch with the wrong hand, making it hard for him to clear his hips and turn.
To his credit, he uses his length well when he shows good technique, diving and swatting an attempted dig away from against NDSU’s Watson. He again showed that ability later breaking up a deep throw intended for Melton.
– Watching Fayetteville State’s Joshua Williams a little more today (and we’ll have an interview with him posted in the near future, too). Lot of these bigger, small-school corners fill out their frame top-to-bottom well. In past years, I’ve seen taller and longer guys be total Gumbys, lanky players like Harlan Miller (6’0, 182 when he came out and I believe he was even lighter than that at the Senior Bowl) who had very thin ankles. Not guys like Williams. But he’s got a fluid turn, plants and drives downhill, and does a nice job getting his feet under him and coming to balance. Williams, Washington State’s Jaylen Watson, and Illinois’ Kerby Joseph were patience in press coverage drills early in practice.
– Christian Watson had one of the highlights of the day with a great falling catch deep down the left sideline working on Cincy corner Coby Bryant. Bryant caught up near the catch point but Watson, with his long frame, brought the ball to the ground on a pass from Pitt’s Kenny Pickett.
– Some other odds and ends from my notes today. National d-line brings a lot of energy and the Jets’ coaches are big on encouraging it. And this group responds well. Liked the hustle from Miami (OH)’s DL/EDGE Dominique Robinson on a reverse Melton took right sideline.
– Nevada QB Carson Strong looked poised and in command on the huddle. On a play where the tight ends weren’t sure which side to align, Strong reset the group calling out “Huddle Up!” and getting the group back into a huddle. To me, the intangibles and his arm overall isn’t a question. The health of his knee is really going to hurt him and it’s hard to see him on every team’s board considering how serious the medical red flags are.
– Up-and-down day for Boston College OL Zion Johnson. UCLA Otito Ogbonnia beat him on back-to-back reps in OL/DL, once winning with power and the second with a quick swim move off the line. But Johnson looked better in the day.
(Tyler’s Notes – Quarterback)
– Accuracy inconsistency really jumped out today. He has some throws where it’s pinpoint and the next rep it’s in the dirt.
– Got to see his deep ball a lot more today during WR/DB 1on1s than yesterday. It looks pretty coming off the hand, tight spiral, just not always the best placement. Thought his best throw of the day and the best throw from any of the QB’s in the first practice was from Ridder to Braylon Sanders during 1on1’s. Ridder let one go on a rope down and hit Sanders right in stride just over the defensive back. If he can tone that type of ball placement on a consistent basis look out. Just haven’t seen any sort of consistency in that aspect thus far in previously watched game film or in this week’s practice.
– Ridder looks most comfortable in his quick game out of shotgun. When he can catch, one step, set and throw in rhythm it’s dead accurate every time. If there’s any sort of hesitation, such as waiting for a receiver to get off press or a back to turn his head around, that’s when the off-target throws come from.
– He seemed to settle into the practice as it went on. By the time team sessions came around he was hitting throws at a higher clip.
– Matching what you see from him on tape, he has a great deep middle throw. Anything like posts, deep digs, or over routes he’s got nice zip to get it there and normally hits his receivers in the chest.
– Saw his ability to know when to take what was there and tuck and run today. One run on a roll out was being patient, pointing out to his lineman who to block, picked up first down.
– On play-action boot he had nice protection, didn’t continue to boot into pressure, set up shop around the numbers and found Khalil Shakur on a deep over. Looked calm and cool doing it.
– Had a Big Ben-esque pump fake in 7on7 after a linebacker took away the throwing lane. I did the the TV camera pump fake with my own eyes with how hard he pumped it. No idea how he held onto the ball, especially in those conditions. He then, moved right and threw off platform. Was a good ball but went right through Trey McBride’s hands. Great way to show off those 10” hands in the rain.
– A little nugget that has nothing to do with football. The way Ridder interacts with the media seems very genuine. He tries to fully answer everyone’s questions and doesn’t ever come off as annoyed or arrogant. It was raining a good bit today and for interviews the media hands their recorders and phones in to be set on a metal platform in front of the players. Ridder took out his QB towel and made the platform was dry before allowing the phones to be put down. Small but speaks to the type of guy he is.
– Kenny Two Gloves only wore one today in rainy, soggy practice. Thanks to Alex Kozora’s help using his binoculars we were able to confirm he switched to a leather palmed glove similar to what Ben Roethlisberger wore in cold / wet elements from his traditional tackier vapor jet type glove. This type of glove gets tacky when wet and sticks more to the ball where the slick vapor jet type gloves get uber slick when wet and actually make it harder to hold on to the ball.
– Everyone will talk about his hand size in accordance with todays’ practice. How I view today’s practice for Pickett is if you were going to make a thing about his hand size today will confirm all your beliefs. But the reality of the situation is every quarterback struggled with accuracy in conjunction with the today rain other than maybe Malik Willis. However, there were a few wobblers.
– Pickett had the worst throw of the 1on1 period on a go ball down the right sideline. It was around 5-8 yards short of the target where the receiver had to try to fight back through the cornerback to no avail.
– Other than that, it was a pretty normal day for him consistently hitting intermediate routes outside and inside the numbers alike.
– He always looks very calm in his drop backs. His footwork doesn’t or wrongly accelerated and out of wack when throwing the football under pressure.
– His best throw of the day came on a play-action where he was able to fit a ball into Trey McBride up the seam against tight coverage about 20 yards downfield. Was a great catch by McBride, but Pickett knows the job of a quarterback is to give his guys a chance.
Scrimmage time ⏰
— The Draft Network (@TheDraftNetwork) February 2, 2022
– There was a fumbled snap under center but was with Zion Johnson who has been working as a center for less than a week. Hard to assess the blame without the tape. More fodder for the narratives.
– In general, and throughout the week you can see Pickett has a swagger about him. At the 7 AM media breakfast he was the only guy I saw that walked in with a smile on his face ready to go.
– You can truly tell Strong prefers throwing to Doubs than anyone else here. Not saying he forces the ball to him, but when he does throw to him everything is on point and natural. If you’re going to invest early on Strong, not a bad idea to go get his favorite target too to make him feel more at home.
– It’s well known that Strong has a super strong arm on tape. And we saw glimpses of it when he airmailed a pass or two day one. Since, he’s really dialed it back and his deep balls seem to just hang in the air. They’re not necessarily off target but how high and looping they are if there’s any safety help in full 11on11 type football they’d seem troublesome. Haven’t seen him truly bullet any passes especially deep balls. Wanted to see one or two on a rope down the sidelines similar to what Ridder showed in 1on1’s.
– A few times in the pocket today where you saw his feet completely stop moving in the pocket and stood their static.
– On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, he didn’t scramble twice today for good yardage and honestly didn’t look terribly bad moving. One he scrambled through an interior gap and slid after picking up the first down. The other was around the right end on scramble where he ended up picking up five yards before going out of bounds.
– His best throw of the day was where he went through several reads before dropping a ball perfectly between two zones on the right side of the field by the numbers. Will be a play I’m excited to see what he was reading defensive wise when diving into the All-22.
– Strong did miss a possible touchdown on the day to Iowa States’ Charlie Kolar. He did a nice job using his eyes to manipulate the coverage in a way that created a seam for the stick-nod by Kolar, but he simply missed high. Definitely a throw he wished he had back.
Think he was trying to manipulate the defense with his eyes to create the space up the seam. Just missed high. Was understandably upset with himself after the play. pic.twitter.com/fv6fSEx6aT https://t.co/KMjjDQpuBS
— Tyler Wise (@TriggeredWise) February 2, 2022
(Jacob’s Notes – OL/DL)
The National Team offensive line did not have a good day overall. Day one standouts like Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning and Boston College’s Zion Johnson faced significant struggles throughout the day. That said, they were definitely the most productive members of the day under the New York Jets coaching staff.
Penning struggled mightily with setting his anchor in pass protection all day. He just couldn’t seem to drop his hips and settle against power rush moves. Still, he was dominant in run blocking per usual and won a fair share of reps against speed rushers. His body language told the story though. He’s not happy with his play through the first two days and it showed in post-play aggression.
Johnson lost his footing with the wet weather, especially in pass protection. In the second set of one on ones, Johnson was trying to sit down a pass rush and had his toes point outward just a bit and slid down to his knees. Like Penning though, Johnson created movement in the running game thanks to his accurate hand placement. He and Connecticut’s Travis Jones traded wins all day, which is the best compliment anyone could receive on a day like today.
Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele and Oklahoma’s Marquis Hayes settled somewhere in the middle. Faalele struggled with inside rushes, but did have a few wins in that space, one early against Miami of Ohio’s Dominique Robinson. He was mostly solid in the run game, but early in the first team period Faalele was planted on his back by Penn State’s Jesse Luketa. He also had some critical losses to Ohio State’s Tyreke Smith’s speed rushes both inside and out in the second set of one on ones.
As for Hayes, he struggled overall in one on ones, but found success in the team drills. In pass pro, he was caught lunging a few times, notably on his first one on one against Houston’s Logan Hall.
In the bottom was Michigan’s Andrew Steuber and Chattanooga’s Cole Strange. Steuber was handled easily by the energized defensive line across from him in every facet of the game. His hand placement was erratic and he seemed severely overwhelmed. Strange was also handled quite easily throughout the day. He had a tendency to be completely destroyed on his first rep and return with a stronger second effort. It was clear he was having a bad outing, so when he shut down a spin move from Hall, he jawed with the former Cougar and earned himself a third rep. Hall hit him with a swim move and left Strange at the line of scrimmage without being touched.
The National Team defensive line was an absolute force as a unit Wednesday. Leading the pack was Connecticut’s Travis Jones and Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey.
Jones draws eyes in everything he does. He was routinely in the backfield during scrimmages and dominated his one on ones. There were a couple of times in one on ones where he second guessed his next move after first contact, but it’s not enough to stop from marveling at the gifts he has as a prospect.
Winfrey was the energizer for his unit on day two. He seemed a bit stiff initially in individual drills, but when the competitions started he found ways to win. He wasn’t the most standout player in one on ones, but in the scrimmages he was a game changer as he caused turnovers, disrupted rushing lanes and pressured the passer.
The Penn State edge duo of Arnold Ebiketie and Jesse Luketa showed great bend and explosion in individual drills. Ebiketie had the best bend of any edge player I saw all day while Luketa was in the running for most explosive at the point of contact. Both players dished out some of the tackles worse losses as Ebiketie tortured Penning and Luketa was a problem for Faalele.
No one was bad in this group, so I’ll throw some praise to Kyron Johnson of Kansas for having a sweet get-off. I anticipated seeing Washington State’s Abraham Lucas having a good day, but Johnson blazed past him in their first matchup of one on ones.
Haskell Garrett of Ohio State is in an uphill battle because of his size (6’1”, 298lbs.) Still, he dips through the cracks in the trenches and blows up plays with regularity in scrimmages. He was Winfrey’s right-hand man throughout the team period.
(Jonathan’s Notes – Linebacker)
Michigan St. FB/TE Connor Heyward
– Heyward did a great job standing up Tindall on the initial one-on-one backs on backers drill.
– Conner Heyward did a very good job generating separation on the out route in one-on-ones versus Carpenter from Georgia Tech for a nice catch toward the right sideline.
Coastal Carolina TE Isaiah Likely
-Isaiah Likely finished the day with multiple long and catches and runs for touchdowns in the American team session, showing off the yards-after-catch ability he displayed on tape at Coastal Carolina.
Georgia LB Channing Tindall
– Tindall getting very grabby with UCLA tight end and one-on-one in pass coverage drills as he breaks out of his routes.
– Tindall plays with active feet and his past drops and is quick to react and drive on the football when the passes thrown. Closes ground well as a run defender as well as in pass coverage.
Nebraska LB JoJo Domann
– RB Dameon Pierce with a great catch along the sideline with JoJo Domann in coverage, holding onto the ball and staying in-bounds with Domann blanketing him.
– Little miscommunication between Damone Clark and Domann in a run session, allowing Pierce to rip off a big run into the second level
-Domann had a good rep in team session where he did a great job running down the back to the outside right sideline, getting the back out of bounds after closing ground in pursuit.
Georgia OL Justin Shaffer
– Justin Shaffer with a great climb to the second level to pick up the backer in sealed off the play for a big run in team session.
Ole Miss EDGE Sam Williams
– Sam Williams does a very good job getting off the snap of the football and pursuing the ball to put pressure on OTs in pass protection.
-Williams and Devonte Wyatt with good pursuit down the field through the echo of the whistle showing good effort.
(Alex’s Notes – Receivers/Corners)
– The American practice is generally a little lower-key compared to the National team, though they ended practices with intense, competitive, one-on-one sessions. But it’s a slower pace with more coaching between reps as opposed to getting in as many reps as possible like the other side does. So I have a little less here overall and again, the rain does not help my already illegible notes.
– Tennessee’s Alontae Taylor largely played on the outside in college but he moved around today at safety and slot corner. Good size at 6000, 196 pounds. The nickel is traditionally thought of a smaller, twitchier role but with so many big-slots, teams will need bigger guys to combat that. Taylor looked fluid and comfortable playing there in man-coverage in red zone work. In 7v7, he moved from his hook/curl zone to jump a throw inside and nearly pick it off.
– Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin is a small package at 5073, 173 pounds but he’s quick-twitch and eats up the corner’s cushion quickly. Smart, fun player to watch on tape. He ran a great post-corner/WASP route to beat his man. Tennessee’s Velus Jones ran a similar route and tracked the ball, getting depth on his final few yards, and making a falling catch into the end zone. Jones though struggled to catch the ball cleanly with two obvious drops.
– Like Joshua Williams, Sam Houston State’s Zyon McCollum is a big and impressive-looking corner (6020, 202). I wonder if some teams will view him more as a safety. Could come down to what he runs.
– Auburn’s Roger McCreary also played some in the slot today, he and Taylor getting work blitzing, though there won’t be much of that happening in Saturday’s game. Very basic, mundane coverages.
– Don’t know the extent but Clemson’s Mario Goodrich came up injured at the end of practice. Some sort of rib/oblique issue that’s worth watching going forward.
– Haven’t spent a lot of time on the safeties yet and the coverages are pretty basic and they can’t hit anyone. Receivers don’t fear the middle of the field. But Texas A&M’s Leon O’Neal takes good angles to the football, cutting a crosser Jones ran to force an overthrow while causing an incompletion on a deep shot in the end zone at the tail end of practice.
– Don’t have much in the way of other notes here. Up-and-down day for Texas kicker Cameron Dicker, who battled the wind and had his kicks consistently pull to the right. But he did nail a 52-yarder from the closed end of the stadium where wind was less of an issue. Not that the Steelers will be in the market for a kicker but I have to note special teams whenever I can.
– For what it’s worth, Nebraska LB JoJo Dorman sprained his wrist during Tuesday’s practice. Has it all wrapped up. Something to at least keep in mind when watching his play. Guys dealing with stuff you don’t always see or know. Not like there’s a Senior Bowl injury report.
(Tyler’s Notes – Quarterback)
– Willis was the best quarterback out of the six today, plain and simple. The American team did have half the practice without rain contrasting from the National but most if not all of the 11on11 segments were done in the same constant rain.
– Best play from Willis and maybe any quarterback on the day was on a designed play-action booting left. He was able to hit a TE on a deep over route right in stride on the sidelines ~ 20 yards downfield. Was a beautiful ball and drew a nice buzz from the crowd.
Malik Willis is ridiculous pic.twitter.com/50nG9xExr2
— Tyler Forness (@TheRealForno) February 2, 2022
– The tools have never been the topic in question for Willis. Day 1 of practice you could see his arm, his mobility, his explosiveness, but there was no where near the consistency to warrant the excitement, YET. Day 2 was a different story. Willis really honed in his footwork through the entire day of practice, in turn helping him be more accurate on a consistent basis.
– When Willis sets up with good footwork and throws it’s dot after dot. We were able to see that today from routes vs air to the team segments. Need to see that more going forward. The problem has always been fixable, but seeing it today helps see the light a bit more than yesterday.
– His mobility was put more on display today as well as Willis settled in. You can tell he’s doing his best to be a pass first guy, but he took off a few times during the team sessions up and out of the gaps in the pocket and you could see how explosive he is. Has rare acceleration and burst as a quarterback.
– Still has a tendency to throw off his back foot more than you’d like. Last play of practice he was pressured, retreated, and ended up throwing off his back foot. The ball was a bit inside but was 50 yards in the air to the end zone with a flick of the wrist.
– During the 2-minute drill you saw him throw away a pass after scrambling. Doesn’t seem like much but can see him in his college film taking too many bad sacks instead of just throwing the ball away and living to fight another down.
– Don’t want to make it seem like Willis was perfect today as he had some low throws, but when comparing him to the rest of the quarterbacks on the day, he was clearly the most accurate.
– I don’t think there’s a better quarterback during routes vs air than Howell. Everything from his footwork to his release, to his accuracy looks so in tune.
– He wasn’t at his best today accuracy wise compared to yesterday. He was missing low and high to guys during 1on1’s and team. Similar to Ridder, when things aren’t smooth rhythm throws it gets a bit jenky.
– His best throw of the day was in 1on1’s to Calvin Austin on a deep circus route. Austin ran a great route to create the separation from Mario Goodrich, but Howell put the throw on the money and the touchdown.
– One of my biggest things about Sam Howell’s senior tape is you rarely saw him throw on the run. That’s something I can still say in his two days down in Mobile. Today he attempted one scrambling right to a receiver on the sidelines, but it ended up behind him.
– Kevin Colbert and Mike Sullivan seemed to be describing Howell’s lower half throwing after he was letting passes go today in 1on1’s. They did it after 2 or 3 reps. Looked ot be a talk about his striding and his hips torquing but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what they were saying about his mechanics.
– Zappe certainly isn’t a bad quarterback. He just wasn’t gifted with the size or arm strength some of the other prospects in Mobile were.
– He can make your routine throws and you can see him routinely do some full field reads without looking unnatural.
– He sometimes can trust his arm too much, today he tried to fit a curl using his arm strength. Alontae Taylor from Tennessee kept him in place by almost picking off the pass.
– On a play-by-play basis he’s probably one of the most accurate quarterbacks in Mobile.
– His size is a concern in terms of how it would hold up to NFL contact. While he comes around the same size as Howell and Willis, he somehow looks noticeably smaller on the field with full pads on than his American team counterparts.
(Jacob’s Notes – OL/DL)
The American Team offensive line was able to have more of a back and forth battle in the trenches despite their practice session going from spurts of clear weather and the hardest rains of the day. The expected names were the top performers: Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard and both Georgia Bulldogs Justin Schaffer and Jamaree Salyer. Salyer closed the day by shutting down Florida’s Zachary Carter’s crisp spin move to large fanfare. He and Schaffer were equally dominant throughout the day, clearing rushing lanes and protecting against interior pass rush.
Kinnard rebounded off the embarrassing end to day one by having a relatively clean sheet. His continued battle with Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson had some back and forth but team period definitely went to the Kentucky product. Kinnard saw some time at right guard and tackle and appeared equally proficient at both spots.
Spencer Burford from UTSA caught my eye with his overall consistency. He wasn’t beaten handily at any point and held his own against each and every rusher he faced utilizing a strong punch, a firm anchor and buzzing feet.
Tulsa’s Chris Paul and Louisiana’s Max Mitchell were the two who struggled the most. Paul couldn’t handle the explosiveness of Devonte Wyatt or the quickness of Zachary Carter whatsoever. Mitchell had a difficult time handling Missouri State’s Eric Johnson and DeAngelo Malone of Western Kentucky.
The entire defensive line played rather well, but no one is currently on Georgia defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt’s level. Whether it’s splitting double teams, exploding through blockers to make plays in the backfield or manhandling the opposition in one on ones, there’s not much he can’t do without drawing a chuckle for his sheer ridiculousness.
The surprise of the day was Missouri State’s Eric Johnson. A late addition to the squad, he displayed a great motor and an array of speed moves. He hit a spin move on Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard in one on ones that was about as perfectly timed as it gets.
Much like the National Team, no one on the defensive line deserves a losing grade on day two, however I would like to see more out of Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis. Against the premiere interior blockers he did show a dynamic skill set in his pass rushing attack. In the run game he’s keeping separation from the opposition, but he’s leaning forward too much to do anything with his advantages.