PASADENA - National head coach Marvin Lewis ran an elongated practice session, which lasted approximately 150 minutes with an emphasis on teaching technique by each of his positional coaches.
The weather was a gorgeous sunny 70-degree day and set the tone for a solid first day of practice. Below are three standout players who stood out on day one:
# | Player | School | Height | Weight | Hands | Arm | Wingspan
#97 DE Zach VanValkenburg, Iowa, 6040, 264, 0948, 3238, 7938
Put some dynamite on the train tracks and you still might not be able to stop this locomotive, as VanValkenburg possesses a non-stop motor and contagious energy level. He has made noticeable strides each season for the Hawkeyes, as evidenced by his 15 tackles for loss this past season, including five and a half sacks. He continued to impress going through the bag drills during the first day of practice and noticeably stood out above the others. While VanValkenburg isn’t expected to wow scouts in the testing department, his understanding of fundamentals, relentless mentality, football instincts and leadership intangibles make him worth a late-round investment.
#95 DE Damarcus Mitchell, Purdue, 6027, 256, 1018, 3238, 7978
A twitchy, athletic pass-rusher, Mitchell possesses a quick first step and plays with a tenacious demeanor. Thus far, the most impressive trait has been his heavy hands, which he uses to gain leverage and knock opponents off balance. The JUCO transfer from Louisiana has played the LEO position for the Boilermakers during the past two seasons, ending his college career on a high note, registering four tackles (two for loss/one sack) and two forced fumbles. Teams vary as to whether he should remain at defensive end or move to outside linebacker at the next level but his bend, get-off and ability to convert speed-to-power makes him an appealing prospect.
#82 WR Brandon Johnson, Central Florida, 6021, 199, 0978, 3268, 8058
One of the more polished players was Johnson, who ran sharp routes, flashed the ability to contort his body and adjust to off-target throws, while consistently plucking the ball out of the air. Most impressive is the length he possesses, as Johnson proved to be an ultimate red zone mismatch, scoring 11 touchdowns in 2021. A former four-star recruit, he played 46 games (15 starts) at Tennessee before finishing up his collegiate career as a graduate transfer at UCF. The size, pedigree and movement skills make him a tantalizing prospect.
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- Reese’s Senior Bowl – February 6th, 2022 (Mobile, AL)
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