The East team took to the practice field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday afternoon. The East team is coached by former Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers head coach Bobby Ross. A number of other experienced coaches worked with the prospects. Overall, the East team did not have the talent of the West squad, but there were some players who started the week strong. The East squad did not wear pads on Monday, while the West team was padded up.
Ole Miss offensive tackle Bradley Sowell (6-6, 316) and Rutgers guard Desmond Wynn (6-5, 305) had the best bodies for the NFL among the linemen. The coaching staff played Sowell at right tackle after he was the starter at left tackle the past few years for Ole Miss. Wynn did well in the one-on-one session and in the team scrimmage. He combines some quality strength and athleticism.
Sowell had some losses and some impressive wins in the one-on-ones with defensive linemen. In one rep, Sowell rocked Virginia defensive end Matt Conrath to his knees and finished the play by blasting him flat on the ground. An ugly play for Sowell came when West Virginia defensive end Julian Miller raced by him on a speed rush. Sowell came back to push Miller into the turf on a sprint around the edge.
Miller was one of the most impressive defensive ends in the East practice, but he had a disappointing weigh in. At West Virginia, Miller (6-3) was listed in the 260s but he weighed in at 256. Considering he was that light, it makes no sense that West Virginia was playing him inside at defensive tackle in 2011. Miller has some speed off the edge that put the East offensive tackles on their heels. With his position flexibility and at his current measurements, Miller could interest teams as a 3-4 linebacker.
Two defensive tackles stood out with good practices. South Carolina defensive tackle Travian Robertson destroyed a lot of the interior linemen in the one-on-one reps. It made one wonder where was that speed and pass rushing during the 2011 season. Robertson did well against Mississippi State center Quinton Saulsberry with a speed and rip rush up the middle. Saulsberry had a disappointing practice.
The other defensive tackle that had a superb day was Baylor's Nick Jean-Baptiste. In the NFL, Jean-Baptiste (6-1, 335) could be a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. He is a heavy load with some quickness. All of the offensive linemen struggled with Jean-Baptiste. He whipped South Florida offensive tackle Jeremiah Warren. Jean-Baptiste has a sloppy body though. He needs to make strides in redistributing some fat into muscle. Still, he cold be a quality nose tackle in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense in the NFL. Warren had a rough practice and was beat regularly.
The small-school standout of the East practice was guard Rishaw Johnson from California University of Pennsylvania. The 6-foot-3, 309-pounder carries his weight well, but he really stood out with his blocking. Johnson is a fighter who plays with a mean streak. He gives great effort and plays with passion. He has some quick feet and scraps with linemen. Johnson could use some more power, however. Going against the better competition he definitely held his own. There was a play or two or where he was beat, but he had a lot of wins. If Johnson can finish out the week strong, he would be a good sleeper guard for the mid-rounds.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers had an eventful practice, and there were some players that definitely hurt their draft stock. Among them was Miami wide receiver LaRon Byrd. He had at least four dropped passes, and was really struggling. Miami tight end Chase Ford had a rough practice with multiple false starts that got him yelled at by the coaches. He made a tough catch down the seam in the team scrimmage, but may have fumbled the ball as he went to the ground.
The two most impressive receivers was Illinois' A.J. Jenkins and Tennessee Tech's Tim Benford. Jenkins was polished in his route-running, had good hands and showed more speed than the other wideouts. Many of the passes were off the mark and Jenkins (6-0, 192) made some nice adjustments to inaccurate passes. Benford is a speedster who was stretching the field and burning through cushions. Benford also made some quality hands catches. Benford (5-11, 193) had a lot of scouts approach him after practice, and according to sources, he has really impressed the Carolina Panthers.
Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham is well coached and looks polished, but he had a bad dropped pass on a slant. In the team scrimmage, Cunningham bobbled a pass and it was snatched out of the air by Merrimack College linebacker Shawn Loiseau. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound Cunningham does not get much separation from defensive backs, so if he doesn't catch a pass cleanly the defense is in position to take advantage.
Of the East quarterbacks, Sourthern Miss produce Austin Davis looks like the best prospect. He can throw accurate passes with some arm strength. Florida quarterback John Brantley (6-2, 219) has a good arm and mechanics, but he is thin. At the next level, Brantley could have injury issues and may be brittle. Tennessee-Chattanooga signal caller B.J. Coleman looks the part at 6-foot-3, 234 pounds. He may not have the arm strength, as his deep outs floated and fell short of the target at times. Coleman needs to improve his accuracy as well. Davis looks like a mid-rounder while the other two are late picks or undrafted free agents.
Temple tight end Evan Rodriguez was one another standout from the East. He made a nice acrobatic catch down the middle. He made another good reception beating Penn State's Nick Sukay going toward the sideline on an out. Rodriguez (6-1, 242) looks and plays bigger. He is a sleeper prospect who impressed a number of observers on Monday.
There were a few other notables from the East squad. South Florida safety Jerrell Young had a strong first showing. Tennessee running back Tauren Poole (5-9, 206) looks smaller than his listed measurements. Sukay has been moved from his collegiate position of linebacker to safety.
Here is a run down of some of the post-practice interviews between the player and team that was spending some time talking to the prospect:
Denver - West Virginia linebacker Najee Goode
Tampa Bay - Tennessee Tech wide receiver Tim Benford and Duke safety Matt Daniels