Senior Bowl Day 2: Speedy Lockett gets noticed; line talent stands out
MOBILE, Ala. -- Even though he's in full South team uniform and carrying his Kansas State helmet, it can take a couple minutes to find Tyler Lockett on the field after practice. The 5-foot-9 receiver is easily hidden amongst the towering linemen and receivers holding court with reporters, scouts and prospective agents.
Wednesday's action was another story, as Lockett made himself omnipresent in passing drills.
His most eye-popping highlights came during one-on-one matchups between the South's receivers and cornerbacks. Lockett first snagged a pass off a sharp in route, then beat separate defenders -- intriguing Northwestern State prospect Imoan Claiborne and ex-Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall -- for two straight deep touchdowns.
Lockett used a nifty stop-and-go move to blow past Marshall (as he probably should, given Marshall's recent transition back to the secondary). His grab against Claiborne was even better. Claiborne ran stride for stride with Lockett up the sideline for about 30 yards, hand-fighting all the way, but Lockett cleared a tiny pocket of space for himself just in time to make the grab.
The size discussion will follow Lockett (5-9, 181 lbs.) up through the draft. He's proving in Mobile, though, that his 249 career catches and more than 6,500 total yards as a receiver/returner were legit.
"I describe my game as just real fundamental. Very technique sound," Lockett said, with a Baltimore Ravens scout standing by to chat him up. "I'm not really a flashy guy. The biggest thing is I'm all technique sound, I'm a great route-runner, working to get off the ball better.
The Jaguars' coaching staff, which is in charge of Team South this week, will feature Lockett in a variety of ways, if practices are any indication. On top of lining him up out wide and in the slot, the South has worked on an end-around for Lockett. He also brought home the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year award in 2014, so Lockett could drop back to field a kick or punt on Saturday.
"If [teams see me] a third-down guy," Lockett said, "I'm going to be a third-down guy; an option guy, I'm going to be an option guy; if I'm a deep threat, I'm going to be a deep threat.
"I want to be able to be versatile in every situation."
Lockett's father, Kevin, set several Kansas State receiving records -- many later broken either by Tyler or Kevin's brother, Aaron. Kevin Lockett was a Round 2 pick of Kansas City in 1997, en route to 233 career catches split over four teams.
Tyler Lockett, though three inches shorter, could reset the family standards yet again if what we've seen from him is any indication.
Believe the La'el Collins hype
LSU's offensive lineman landed at No. 18 in our most recent Mock Draft. That might have been selling him short.
Collins weighed in Tuesday at 308 pounds, down 13 from his listed weight at LSU. The sleeker physique does not appear to have cost him any power. Just ask the South's defensive players, who repeatedly found themselves at his mercy on Wednesday.
Mississippi State defensive end Preston Smith and Georgia linebacker Anthony Herrera, both familiar with Collins from their SEC clashes, took the worst of it. Collins pancaked Smith during one-on-one drills, then kicked out to bury Herrera on a screen pass once the South shifted into 11-on-11 work.
It wasn't all flawless: Louisville's Lorenzo Mauldin beat Collins clean in a heads-up meeting, and Collins false started in the 11-on-11 portion. But he spent most of the day pushing defenders around, both from tackle and guard alignments.
There's legitimate safety talent here
While Alabama's Landon Collins may still stand alone as the 2015 class' top safety prospect, a few guys in Mobile are doing what they can to bolster the position's overall strength. Both Utah's Eric Rowe and UCLA's Anthony Jefferson, the latter a late roster addition, have shown ample range in pass coverage.
Jefferson's previous experience playing cornerback is obvious during drills, too -- he's smooth in and out of his breaks and aggressive on the ball.
Samford's Jaquiski Tartt was someone I'd mentioned as a possible sleeper this week, and he's been solid. Ole Miss' Cody Prewitt and Michigan State's Kurtis Drummond are two more to keep in mind, Drummond especially if your team needs an in-the-box hammer.
Welcoming Bryan Bennett
Marshall's permanent(?) move to cornerback left the South one quarterback short this week. Enter SE Louisiana signal-caller Bryan Bennett, who transferred out of Oregon after losing the gig there to Marcus Mariota.
"I talked to my agent (Tuesday) morning and he said it could be something where I might get the opportunity to get out here," Bennett said. "I wasn't expecting to get that call (Tuesday) afternoon."
As the Senior Bowl quarterbacks scuffled through a second uneven day, Bennett at the very least held his own. In fact, Bennett may well be the best quarterback on the South roster, surpassing Sims and Grayson. He showed off his athleticism on a couple of scrambles late in practice and can zip the ball when he sets.
Less encouraging was Bennett's poor timing on a number of throws, which is a problematic issue for any NFL quarterback hopeful. One of his first passes Wednesday, an out route to Phillip Dorsett, was several beats late.
The battles in the trenches are must-see
Perhaps the most entertaining duel Wednesday involved Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright and Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio. The college rivals nearly came to blows after Wright beat Kouandjio on back-to-back rushes; Kouandjio answered in Round 3, stuffing Wright's charge.
Also highly entertaining on Day 2 of practice was the battle between Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton and Duke guard Laken Tomlinson. That's about 700 pounds worth of beef colliding.
The offensive tackles and edge rushers deservedly will earn a ton of air time during Saturday's game. Don't overlook the interior showdowns.
Those pass-rushers ...
Speaking of the edge defenders, there is no shortage of talent. Arkansas' Trey Flowers got to the quarterback multiple times during one-on-one drills, and his South teammate Markus Golden continued to show potential as a three-down defender. The South roster also features Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who can make the speed-to-power conversion in a heartbeat up front.
For the North, Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson has opened the week with gusto. During drills on Wednesday, the Titans' coaching staff was pleading with the North D-linemen to be more aggressive with their hands. Anderson responded immediately, much to the coaches' delight, punching his way through a double-team.
Clive Walford's big day
Assuming Minnesota's Maxx Williams is the first tight end off the board in April, who comes next at that position? Miami's Clive Walford put forth an argument Wednesday with a brilliant pass-catching display.
The 6-4, 254-pounder made a pair of sprawling catches, then later snatched what was arguably Sims' best pass of the day for a touchdown. Walford created a gap between the second and third levels before taking off for the goal line.