Day 3 North QB Notes:
The big story today was Justin Pugh kicking inside to guard. I believe that is his NFL position because as athletic as he is he’s not going to be able to stick on the outside with 31.5” arms. He just won’t match up with the length that NFL defensive ends have. In any event, Pugh showed a little nastiness today which I love to see from offensive lineman (particularly guards) and while he doesn’t have a ton of lower body strength he actually drove Kawann Short off the ball when he was down blocking once today. He’s got the athleticism to pull in my opinion, but obviously there isn’t much footage of him at guard so it’s not a perfect projection. But in a zone blocking scheme I think he has value as a guard.
Unfortunately I think Braxston Cave and Joe Madsen are going to be late day 3 draft picks if not undrafted free agents. Neither has impressed me and their lack of arm length is concerning even for a center.
Eric Fisher is a stud left tackle but he got beat a couple times again today. Alex Okafor was able to successfully bull rush him today and while it’s easy to focus on the few times he’s beaten he does have to compensate for being so tall by playing with better pad level at times and while he has a good anchor he could stand to get stronger in that regard. He’s not a perfect prospect, but he’s still a potential top 10 pick in my book.
Kyle Long hasn’t been out at practice and I was told he is out with the flu. It’s too bad that he can’t be out there because it would have been nice to see how he looked both inside at guard and outside at tackle.
David Quessenberry has tackle height but I think he’s got to slide inside to guard at the next level. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a successful drive blocker but he is athletic and I think he could be a fit in a zone blocking scheme. He lacks power in his lower half and there’s only so much you can do when you weigh in at 294 here, but he has some value day 3 as a ZBS type player in my opinion.
Hugh Thornton had another strong day today in my opinion. He’s had a good week when I’ve been able to see him and I think he’s a top 100 pick as a guard. He has played almost exclusively at right guard and I think that may speak to how the staff feels about him pulling. He is better when you let him road grade and he has the lower body strength to anchor against anybody here in Mobile.
Ricky Wagner hasn’t blown me away this week. I think he still has a shot at the top 100 but he’s not going to be a road grading right tackle and he has struggled with speed here in Mobile. He’s a right tackle only though because he doesn’t pass protect well enough to play on the left side, and that’s what I was afraid of coming into the week. He’s not a good enough pass blocker to stick on the left side and he’s not a good enough drive blocker to play on the right side. I think he could be a serviceable starter at right tackle, but I don’t think he has a lot of upside there or inside at guard. If you want a solid but not dominant starter at right tackle then Wagner could be your guy, especially if you have a good offensive line coach, but if you’re looking for dominant run blocking or great pass protection Wagner is going to leave you wanting more.
Brian Winters has had an up and down week as he’s transitioned to guard but he absolutely has the blue collar, nasty mentality you want in a guard and I’ve seen that this week. He’s still tipping off when he is pulling or trying to reach block by not putting any weight or pressure on his hand when he’s in his stance, but that is coachable and should be fixed in time. He’s clearly not an experienced puller and doesn’t look very natural doing it in my opinion, so I think he’s more of a right guard in my opinion but that’s just me. He struggled with Brandon Williams today both with his power and with Williams’ speed which surprised and concerned me. I’m not sure Winters is a quick enough player to mirror quicker defensive linemen so that is something I’ll have to look into more. I think he can be a NFL starter at guard, but he still has some work to do.
Michael Buchanan hasn’t had a good week in my opinion but he flashed some of his upside today, especially when he absolutely dominated David Quessenberry with a spin move when Quessenberry was lined up at right tackle. He’s got the speed to be a 4-3 DE in my opinion but he just hasn’t lived up to some of the hype he was getting coming into the week in my opinion.
Sylvester Williams continues to reaffirm my opinion that if he doesn’t beat you off the snap with his great quickness he’s not going to beat you at all. He needs considerable work regarding hand usage and pass rush moves. That shouldn’t be surprising because he is raw and was only at UNC for 2 years and is still learning the position, but it’s frustrating to not see more progression from him. If you are drafting him in the top 64 you need to have a good defensive line coach that is really going to help him develop, and I don’t think he’s going to make a big impact as a rookie for this reason.
As I mentioned earlier Brandon Williams had a good day today, particularly when he was matched up against Brian Winters. He’s got some speed for a squatty nose tackle and he plays with natural leverage which gives him an advantage. He doesn’t have an abundance of length, but he’s worth at least a day 3 pick as a nose tackle in my opinion.
Alex Okafor had his strongest day today in my opinion as he was able to beat Eric Fisher twice when I watched him and he looked effective getting after the passer. He’s not going to beat you like you stole something with his explosiveness and his speed, but he’s going to be a reliable player that projects to a left end in my opinion. I still like what he brings to the table.
Datone Jones is a really intriguing player. He has been extremely difficult to block when he’s rushed the passer from the defensive tackle position and I think that is where he has the most upside as a pass rusher. I think he could be a Justin Tuck type of player that can play left end and play the run well and slide inside to defensive tackle and overwhelm guards with his impressive combination of speed and strength. I really like him and I think he could end up in the 1st round.
Margus Hunt looks the part but I still can’t get over the fact that he plays way too tall and stands up out of his stance too much for my liking.
Jordan Hill lacks elite size but he showed very active hands when I saw him today and a good motor and effort level. He’s going to contribute positively to a defensive tackle rotation in a 4-3 defense.
At Wednesday’s North practice all three quarterbacks looked sharp early throwing against air. Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib looked the sharpest in terms of anticipation, and later delivered a pretty deep throw to Harvard H-back Kyle Juszczyk. During early drills, North Carolina State QB Mike Glennon threw behind Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton, who adjusted nicely to make the catch. Miami Ohio’s Zac Dysert looked more comfortable today than he had all week, and made a couple of strong deep throws during drills, including one to Oregon running back Kenjon Barner. Unfortunately, later in the practice Dysert held the ball too long and attempted to scramble, and followed that up by losing a fumble under pressure. Glennon also fumbled in team drills, but not one of the three QBs threw an interception all morning. They appear to have finally developed some chemistry with their receivers.
In line drills, Texas defensive end Alex Okafor continued his strong week. At one point he got into Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher’s chest and drove him back several yards, drawing “ooohs” from onlookers. Later, Fisher had to tackle Okafor to keep him from getting by. Okafor also proved to be a nightmare matchup for Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner. In fact, there hasn’t been a lineman down here who has been able to handle Okafor consistently. On the offensive side, Notre Dame center Braxston Cave has been unable to block any defender all week long. He is constantly grabbing after being beaten off the snap.
Syracuse tackle Justin Pugh practiced at guard. At weigh-ins Monday he had surprisingly short arms, so a permanent move inside may be in the cards. However, at one point while lined up at left tackle, Pugh did a nice job staying in front of SMU’s Margus Hunt.
Illinois defensive end Michael Buchanan showed some strength today and beat San Jose State’s David Quessenberry with an inside spin move. Quessenberry is another tackle who has spent much of the week practicing at guard.
Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin opened eyes by getting good separation all day, but looked awkward catching the ball. However he did make one very nice diving grab, and left Nevada safety Duke Williams in his wake while hauling in a deep TD pass.
Barner easily beat Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene on a flare to the sideline. Barner will be a huge mismatch in the passing game due to his speed.
Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz was beaten deep by Kansas State wide receiver Chris Harper, who isn’t exactly a burner.
At one point Harper shoved a defensive back to the ground to make a catch on a pass from Glennon.
During team drills, Wheaton made a beautiful adjustment to catch a pass thrown behind him by Nassib.
Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson had a ball glance off his fingertips down the sideline.
Utah State cornerback Will Davis appeared to have rebounded early in practice, but later got torched deep by Glennon and Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette.