The talk of the Senior Bowl so far has been Western Michigan wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge. Unfortunately, he is questionable for the game on Saturday and missed practice on Thursday for the National Team (Miami Dolphins).
Eskridge wasn’t the only receiver to miss practice: Notre Dame’s Ben Skowronek, Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt, and Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace missed practice and are questionable. North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt, Sage’s brother, also missed practice.
Several key Senior Bowl attendees did not practice on Thursday for the National (Miami) Team. The event’s largest riser out of Western Michigan, D’Wayne Eskridge, was held out of practice and is questionable for the game. Fellow wide receivers Ben Skowronek (Notre Dame), Sage Surratt (Wake Forest), and Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) also didn’t practice. Linebacker Chaz Surratt (North Carolina), Sage’s brother, was also held out of practice.
The first team period showed intense situational football; the offense was down by eight in a two-minute drill. Mac Jones started the drill but was stepped on by one of his offensive linemen, so Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond came in to lead the offense. Mond overthrew two or three deep passes to Florida’s Kadarius Toney and Clemson’s Amari Rodgers.
It wasn’t looking great for Mond until he found Georgia tight end Tre McKitty on a nice dig route and then UAB’s Austin Watkins up the seam where Watkins lost his helmet but scored a touchdown (Mond ended up having another rushing touchdown in the next team period). Everyone then heard Carolina head coach Matt Rhule screaming for the two-point conversion. A quick play-action rollout to the left where Mond found Ragin Cajun RB Elijah Mitchell for the conversion.
Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman went to run the same drill but had far less success than Mond. Newman would have been sacked several times through the drill-- his protection wasn’t good, but neither was his decision making. Newman threw a nine route that was picked off by a safety coming down.
As far as defenders go, Richie Grant was in position as a safety and when he was covering Rodgers in the slot. The UCF safety has had an excellent week, similar to his teammate CB Aaron Robinson. Florida State EDGE Janarius Robinson was winning as a pass rusher in team periods and could have had two sacks against Mond.
Kansas State EDGE Wyatt Hubert won two consecutive reps against Alaric Jackson in team periods and would have sacked Jamie Newman both times--one time Newman put the ball on the ground. Also saw the UAB EDGE rusher Jordan Smith was looking solid as a pass rusher too.
In the seven on seven drills, Mac Jones continued to look very good. He hit Duke tight end Noah Gray with excellent timing on an out route. The ball placement was right where it needed to be with the exact velocity it needed. Again, Mac Jones continues to have an excellent showing in Mobile.
Jones also looked decisive in the second team period; he found Marquez Stevenson against off coverage quickly for a 15 yard gain. The second team period was red zone drills that started on the 20-yard line.
Duke tight end Noah Gray made a nice one-handed catch down to the one-yard line, showing excellent body control and concentration, but the play would have been a sack by Tulane’s Cameron Sample against Tennessee’s Tre Smith. Mond ended up scoring on the drive with a zone-read. Mond showed good athletic ability all drive.
Houston linebacker Grant Stuard was all over the field in the team periods. He is undersized but figures to be a special teams ace in the NFL. Stuard puts himself into a very good position and flies to the football.
Richie Grant continued to flash against Jamie Newman; he undercut a Kadarius Toney slant route and picked Newman off. Missouri RB Larry Rountree III looked very good as a runner and as a receiver. Took an inside run for what could have been a 12-yard touchdown if he finished through contact at the one-yard line (not full hitting in practice).
Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen held up in tight coverage near the goal line. His versatility can’t be understated, and he would be very interesting in Patrick Graham’s system. The defense stepped up big towards the end of the second team period, but the dominant offensive line ended up punching in an inside DUO run to Mitchell.
The defensive backs shut down the wide receivers in the second period. Grant, Nasirildeen, Robinson, and the rest of the guys forced Mond and Newman to second guess themselves the entire game. The pocket would hold up for several seconds, but the quarterbacks couldn’t find anyone.
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One on Ones: CB vs. WR (on 5-yard line)
Austin Watkins from UAB is not being talked about, but he’s been so good running routes and using his body to shield the catch point. He has a thick build and is showing a solid ability to separate. He defeated North Carolina Central’s Bryan Mills with his body and had another excellent route to separate in the middle of the field.
Clemson’s Amari Rodgers beat Missouri safety Tyree Gillespie twice: once breaking inside on a slant, and another on a quick out route where Rodgers just won at the line of scrimmage, and the ball placement from Jones was very good.
Clemson’s Cornell Powell hasn’t been as quick or effective as Rodgers; he was covered very well by Richie Grant on a poco (post-corner) route and didn’t have the same type of “shake,” albeit Grant has been excellent.
Georgia’s DJ Daniel had his best day on Thursday. He has been a bit up and down all week, but he shut down Powell and Houston’s Marquez Stevenson on a pivot and fade, respectively. Jones also found quality route runner Trevon Grimes on a fade route. The pass had excellent touch to the Florida receiver.
Shi Smith has been very good this week and continued to show his ability to shake and bake. He didn’t secure the passes in this drill, but he was getting open and having success creating separation in confined areas. Smith is yet another very intriguing wide receiving threat at this game.
One on Ones: DL vs. OL
Cam Sample continues to be a very good option as an interior pass rusher; he defeated Kentucky center Drake Jackson with speed to power conversion, which would have led to an easy sack. Sample also destroyed Carson Green of Texas A&M. Green has not had a good week of practice, even though he had one nice rep against Quincy Roche.
Carlos Basham of Wake Forest continued to do well as an interior pass rusher. He is very versatile, can line up all over the defensive front, and flashes very quick hands to disengage. Basham beat Grambling State’s David Moore, but Moore came back and defeated Iowa’s Gholston.
Basham did end up losing a rep to Tre Smith, who had a very good drills period. Smith has slow feet but was being worked as a tackle. His heavy hands and raw functional strength are very impressive. The other Texas A&M tackle, Dan Moore Jr., held his own well and stood up Florida State’s Janarius Robinson.
Ole Miss offensive lineman Royce Newman was being used all up and down the line. He hasn’t had a great week. He lost to Iowa’s Gholston, despite Gholston popping straight up out of his stance.
Gholston still pulled Newman’s inside shoulder down and just slipped right through his inside shoulder. Hulking offensive guard out of Alabama Deonte Brown had up well versus USC’s Marlon Tuipulotu, who has shown a nice chop/rip combination--it didn’t work when lined up against Brown.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book had his best practice of the week and vastly outplayed Texas’ Sam Ehlinger and Arkansas’ Feleipe Franks. The latter two QBs both held onto the football way too long, and Franks missed tight end Kenny Yeboah in the back of the end zone on an easy touchdown on the five-yard line.
Book, however, was incredibly decisive with his decision-making process, showed very good touch, and used his athletic ability to create explosive plays. Book found Yeboah in the back of the end zone with a beautiful touch pass on a seven route. He also found WR Frank Darby on a quick slant through traffic. Darby took advantage of the absent wide receivers and made the most of his opportunity. Darby had a very good week.
Running backs Michael Carter out of North Carolina and Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert were both excellent on Thursday. Carter has exceptional burst and one-cut ability, which he continues to show on each day.
Herbert was solid in pass protection on Wednesday’s practice and showed great vision on Thursday. He made an impressive jump cut to the backside on an outside zone run - very good feel for where to go when he’s running. Herbert also found the hole on another outside zone run where he burst through the hole in a decisive manner.
Derrick Barnes, the Purdue linebacker, continues to show quick feet and put himself into an advantageous position during team periods. Barnes and Ohio State LB Baron Browning have been solid all week, and they both do very well in team periods.
Minnesota safety Benjamin St. Juste did a good job breaking up a fade route against the talented Louisville receiver Dez Fitzpatrick. The ball placement was very good, but Fitzpatrick could have caught it, but St. Juste was all over him and made the contested catch opportunity more difficult than usual.
One on Ones: CB vs. WR (on 5-yard line)
Frank Darby was showing quickness in and out of breaks and was just excellent on Thursday. He consistently won at the line of scrimmage with his release and quick twitch. The one-rep he didn’t win at the line of scrimmage was against Michigan’s Ambry Thomas. The Wolverine was patient with his hips and turned well with Darby outside, but Darby created separation in tight spaces by looping around Darby and breaking open near the goal post for a touchdown.
Michigan WR Nico Collins continued to show exceptional body control, hands, and ability to use his athleticism and size in conjunction to win. Collins opted out in 2020, and he’s reminding people how talented he can be at the next level. Collins had a good win over the top of Oregon’s Thomas Graham near the back pylon.
Graham also lost a rep against Louisville WR Dez Fitzpatrick, who was very smooth with his release off the line; Graham attempted to jam Fitzpatrick - he missed - and Fitzpatrick took advantage, creating incredible separation in a very confined area. Fitzpatrick also had a nice back-shoulder catch.
SDST WR Cade Johnson also continued his week of success; he beat two corners, one being Norwood from Oklahoma, on seven routes to the back pylon. Johnson may be undersized, but he’s consistently shown the ability to create separation and win up his stem. UCLA running back Demetric Felton also beat Washington’s Keith Taylor on a beautifully run route. Felton is listed as an RB, but he’s shown his ability to run routes.
One on Ones: DL vs. OL
Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz continues to have a very impressive week. His strength and athletic ability hold up against top Power-5 conference players, and his Division III experience doesn’t seem to hurt him in one-on-ones. He’s impressive and could join the list of Ali Marpet and Ben Bartch as effective NFL players from smaller programs.
Texas’ Ta'Quan Smith, who measured incredibly during weigh-ins, finally popped a bit on film. He defeated Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey by getting to his half-man and pulling his upper-body downwards to gain an edge. He also used his hands well against another offensive lineman and disengaged well.
UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa continued to have success in team and one on one periods. His quick first step, active hands, and ability to get to the half-man and counter have led to a successful week. Ohio State’s Jonathan Cooper used a very nice strong inside arm over to rip through a tackle and shed. I felt he’s been quiet this week, so it was good to see him put some nice reps together.
A player that isn’t generating a lot of buzz, but is having a good week, is Northern Iowa pass rusher Elerson Smith. He’s quick, long, and has good burst/dip ability. He beat Cincinnati tackle James Hudson around the edge and then was stopped by NDSU’s Dillon Radunz, who anchored well against Smith, who couldn't get to his counter move in time. Radunz's last two practices were much better than his first.
Coastal Carolina’s Terron Jackson has been somewhat quiet all week and looks a bit undersized (6’2, 240) for an EDGE guy, but he put together a very nice chop/dip against Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks. Cincinnati tackle James Hudson continued to show his quick feet and natural athletic ability; the former EDGE had a solid week in Mobile and could be a very nice value pick if he lands on the third day.
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