Today was the first chance I got to see a full North practice, but I again came away underwhelmed. Glennon looks to be the cream of the North class, he has the strongest arm, and the most consistent ball placement. Ryan Nassib looked decent throwing on the run, but struggled from under center, and had trouble reading from the pocket.
There wasn’t an offensive lineman more impressive to me than Eric Fisher today. He impressed me every time I watched him this year and he certainly has impressed thus far when I’ve watched him. He has good hand placement, surprisingly good lower body strength and recovers well even when beaten initially. Okafor got him off balance at one point in 1 on 1 drills and seemingly had Fisher beaten as he was about to dart back inside but Fisher’s hand placement and quick feet allowed him to mirror and sustain his block. He was awfully impressive today even though Datone Jones did beat him with an inside move in 1 on 1’s followed up by getting under his pads and driving him back. Jones was the only player I saw successfully bull rush Fisher today which shouldn’t surprise you, Jones is an impressive physical specimen himself. Fisher is definitely a top 2 tackle in this class and may end up the #1 overall tackle on my board after I go back and review his tape along with Joeckel.
I already knew what Fisher brought to the table, but the player that stuck out most to me on the offensive line today was Hugh Thornton from Illinois. He was lining up at guard (though got a rep or two at right tackle because Kyle Long wasn’t out there) and he was mauling people. Kawann Short is the only player he didn’t punish when I watched him today, and he got a couple pancake blocks. He was generating quality push in the run game and anchoring well in pass protection. He mirrored well in pass protection as well and handled Sylvester Williams in 1 on 1’s which was impressive.
Justin Pugh looked good today at tackle as well. I am more than a little concerned about his arm length but he has the athleticism to play left tackle and showed good hand usage today. It’s going to be interesting to see if his lack of length hinders him the rest of the week.
Braxston Cave and Joe Madsen both have shorter arms than you would like (30 3/8 and 29 1/8 inches, respectively) but they also struggled to anchor in 1 on 1 drills and were consistently walked back into the theoretical quarterback when asked to block defensive tackles 1 on 1.
David Quessenberry had a solid day today but he has a tackle frame, not a guard frame. Weighing in at 294 pounds made me wonder how much power he had, but he certainly doesn’t have the lower body strength I prefer in interior offensive linemen. He has good length and does a good job in pass protection but I haven’t seen him generate much push in the run game.
Brian Winters disappointed me when I saw him today. He doesn’t look comfortable in his stance to me and he was telegraphing when he was going to pull with how much weight/pressure he was putting on his hand when he was in his stance. He doesn’t look comfortable pulling and struggled at times blocking 1 on 1. I heard he had a good day yesterday so I’ll definitely keep an eye on him the rest of the week, but he had a tough day today.
Alex Okafor isn’t the most explosive athlete but he did a good job playing with good pad level and shows that he has the potential to bull rush effectively. I think he projects better to the left end spot I think but he definitely looked good to me today.
I didn’t see much of Datone Jones in team but he definitely stuck out because he was the only defensive lineman who beat Eric Fisher in 1 on 1 drills as I mentioned above. He’s an extremely impressive athlete and I think he can play defensive end in a 4-3 and then shift inside to defensive tackle in obvious pass rush situations. He’s really fun to watch.
Margus Hunt has a lot of upside because of his size and athleticism but he was still standing straight up out of his stance too much and it really negated any of the power he has in his lower half.
Kawann Short is a guy I graded out as a Day 2 guy at defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense but I had concerns about his motor and conditioning level. I haven’t been able to evaluate that much so far this week but he has been very tough to move off the ball without a double team and he has been able to bull rush any offensive lineman he’s gone up against in 1 on 1’s when I’ve seen him. He’s definitely an intriguing defensive tackle.
Sylvester Williams is a player I really like because he’s a former Tar Heel but he is still so raw that if he doesn’t beat you off the snap and get you off balance or beat you with an initial move he struggles to create much havoc. That’s because his hand usage isn’t where it needs to be yet and that’s what I saw again today. He’s got a lot of upside and if he takes to coaching well then he could really end up being a stud, but he’s not there yet.
Brandon Williams is a short, squatty defensive tackle who has impressive strength but he wasn’t able to offer much beyond a bull rush when I saw him today and he got pancaked at least once by Hugh Thornton early in practice.
On Day Two of North team practices, a couple of linemen stood out once again. While Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher generally took on all comers in one on one drills, one player managed to give him some trouble – UCLA defensive end Datone Jones. Jones impressed those in attendance at weigh-ins yesterday and followed that up with a solid Monday afternoon. Today he was an absolute monster, beating Fisher – easily the best offensive lineman on the North roster – on back-to-back plays with a swim move and then a bull rush. In team drills, Jones flew around, at one point appearing out of nowhere to make a stop at the line of scrimmage. He is making a case for consideration in the top half of the first round in April.
North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon continued to outplay the other North quarterbacks, at one point connecting with Kansas State wide receiver Chris Harper on a nice throw, catch and run in traffic. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib connected on a few nice passes, including one along the sideline to college teammate Alec Lemon, but botched a snap near the goal line that resulted in a fumble recovery touchdown for the defense. He also left a deep sideline throw intended for Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin short, forcing the Goodwin to come back for the ball. Zac Dysert of Miami Ohio continued to struggle. He sailed some throws high, got picked off by Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz on a deep throw, and left a sideline route short, resulting in a tipped ball by Oregon State corner Jordan Poyer. It is unclear just what has been troubling Dysert so far, but he does appear to be battling some nerves. He did recover a bit late in practice, rolling to his right, throwing on the move and connecting with Goodwin along the sideline. It was easily Dysert’s best throw this week and demonstrated one of his strengths – delivering with accuracy on the run.
Linebacker Ty Powell of Division II Harding University opened some eyes with his performance this morning. He gave running backs fits during a blitz pickup drill, and followed that with a strong showing in team drills, getting in on a number of run stops near the line of scrimmage. Powell was originally slated for the Shrine Game last week, but ended up being a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster. He has been one of the early pleasant surprises this week, and will surely send a few people scrambling to find game footage of him.
Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette let a pass slip right through his hands early in the day. In the same drill, Michigan’s Denard Robinson was able to adjust to a pass behind him, but it wasn’t clear if he got both feet in bounds. He followed that with a drop of his own.
Later, Robinson beat Utah State cornerback Will Davis on a deep pass and hauled it in for a score.
Marshall receiver Aaron Dobson demonstrated his ability to adjust, and his excellent body control while bringing down a deep pass along the sideline.
Harvard H-back Kyle Juszczyk was up and down in blitz pick up drills. His strength appears to be as a receiver, however he fumbled near the sideline at the end of a catch-and-run.
Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner continued to have a solid week, repeatedly shutting down SMU’s Margus Hunt. However, Wagner was beaten on a couple of plays later by Texas defensive end Alex Okafor.
Illinois guard Hugh Thornton performed admirably today. While he did get pushed back on a few plays, he was able to hold his ground and stay in front of the defenders.
San Jose State offensive lineman David Quessenberry has struggled while lined up at tackle, and appears to be best suited to move inside to guard.
Illinois defensive end Michael Buchanan was a step slow getting off the snap on a few occasions Tuesday morning.
Nevada safety Duke Williams had some trouble in early drills turning his hips and changing direction.
Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien continued his strong play coming across the field to break up a deep pass intended for Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton.
Punt returners appeared to be struggling with the wind Tuesday. Boise State’s Jamar Taylor muffed one punt, and Poyer followed by running up to field one only to have it bounce at his feet and kick away.
Connecticut’s Trevardo Williams sat out today with an ankle injury.
Former Heisman Trophy contender Tyrann Mathieu was mingling on the sidelines.
Benjamin Allbright, Tom Melton and Justin Higdon contributed to this report.