The afternoon practice had many in attendance, as people were eager to see the South team perform after missing out on them yesterday as they practiced at Fairhope Stadium. Many draftniks I have been talking to were extremely excited to see Michael Oher in 1v1 drills, the USC linebacking corps, and super-sleeper Rashad Jennings. Needless to say, it was a very intense atmosphere on the practice field and I am getting a better read for some prospects I didn't get much film on this football season. The only familiar face in the audience was Redskins head coach Jim Zorn. Let's get right to the practice:
The quarterbacks this afternoon were just absolutely pitiful. How do we get all of these 4- and 5-star prospects from Rivals.com every year, yet finding decent arms is so hard? John Parker Wilson really struggled today with his accuracy and footwork, and he didn't put good touch on the football. Pat White displayed decent accuracy and touch, but his arm strength is pretty minimal and he really struggled in footwork drills. Being left-handed and six-foot even doesn't help. Cullen Harper really looks undraftable at times and his junior season is like that 27-point game you had in middle school basketball. It's fun to talk about, but unfortunately, what have you done for me lately? The answer is nothing. Quarterbacks coach Mike Shula was really dogging him because of his lackadaisical footwork. Harper had to stop the drill three times in a row because he just wasn't focusing. His confidence is completely shot. I kind of feel sorry for him, but scouts sure don't.
I didn't get a chance to see the South team yesterday, so I was very excited to see Michael Oher, whom I interviewed the night before. In fact, my MVP for Tuesday's afternoon practice was Big Mike. He simply made it look easy and he only got beat once from what I saw in 1v1s against Hawaii end David Veikune. Oher was manhandling him for most of the day, displaying phenomenal footwork and hands. At one point, Oher flashed some serious attitude and got nasty, throwing Veikune to the ground as Oher's helmet came off. This received a bunch of cheers from the audience and an NFC East scout to my right raised his eyebrows and seemed very impressed. Veikune then got under Oher on a bull rush and put him on the ground. Next time in 1v1s, Oher countered Veikune and kept his hips low to the ground and displayed great attitude by not getting down on himself. Oher has really stepped up his game this week and displayed a very competitive attitude. I already think he is too good to fall out of the top 10, but he is making a very strong case to be a top-five pick. If he continues to flash that nasty attitude, the NFL scouts are going to have a tough time keeping down on him.
We all know Todd McShay's No. 1 pick last summer was Fili Moala, so I wanted to see how good Todd's top dog was this week. Moala has been pretty inconsistent. At times he flashes real athleticism and quickness, but sometimes on film he's softer than the Pillsbury Doughboy. He stayed low to the ground against Tyrone Green and exploded right past him with a dominant rip move. All in all, I am far from sold because he is just so inconsistent in games. I'll have my eye on him for the rest of the week because he flashed some real potential today.
One of the defensive ends whom I feel is among the most underrated in the country is Robert Ayers, and today he flashed some real talent. He and Troy Kropog battled on more than one occasion. They both had their wins and losses, but Ayers flashed great technique, and one time completely destroyed Kropog on a spin move.
The 382-pounder, Herman Johnson, was the talk of the day yesterday. Nearly all the draftniks I talked to had high expectations today after how in shape he looked. Unfortunately, he simply looked awful in 1v1s. His feet are very sluggish and he just looked lethargic. Lawrence Sidbury beat him with speed on more than one occasion and Johnson overextended. I am personally worried he just lacks the quickness to be taken in the second round. Losing weight isn't going to help him in my opinion. I am rooting for him because I want him to prove me wrong, but yesterday's effort isn't going to cut it.
Antoine Caldwell had some nice battles today and displayed good hands. However, there was one battle that drew a lot of cheers from the crowd. Kyle Moore devastated him with a spin move off the edge, and then on the very next play, he countered with a bull rush and put Caldwell on his back.
Eric Wood is a really tough guy and I was sold on him on Tuesday night during the press conference. He has a great head on his shoulders and is a very articulate speaker. He told me he watches a lot of tape of Olin Kreutz and admires his nasty demeanor on the field. It's pretty easy to see why.
One player who has a ton of buzz this week among all the scouts from what I have been told is Ole Miss DT Peria Jerry. He is so extremely quick, stays low to the ground, and uses great technique. I have been very impressed with him, and after the Senior Bowl it wouldn't shock me if everyone has him in their first round of their mock. He's been that good and has really balled.
Richmond defensive end Lawrence Sidbury is a player I have been curious to see because, well, I don't get many Richmond games on ESPN. He really lacks explosive athleticism, but he showed a nice dip against Jason Watkins and blew right by him. That win was more Watkins' loss rather than Sidbury's gain. Sidbury needs to flash more plays tomorrow to get that buzz generated among the NFL scouts.
Corner Coye Francies had a huge hit today on receiver Kenny McKinley that you could hear from outside the stadium. I like what I have seen in Francies' instincts this week, and I will focus more on the defensive backs tomorrow.
A common criticism of Rey Maualuga is that he is overaggressive. I caught him taking a terrible angle today when the offense ran a burst over the left guard. He has looked like, by far, the most fluid linebacker in individual drills today, but he needs to flash the top-10 talent he has. Being a disappointment at the weigh-in isn't good, and then following that up with a mediocre practice has me worried. All this said, at least he is out here. USC players don't wuss out.
The hit of the day goes to Brian Cushing, as he completely lit up Liberty tailback Rashad Jennings. Cushing was very solid all day long when I had my eyes on him, and I'm starting to think he might be able to play weakside in the pros because of his great range.
One player who has a lot of potential in the first round I feel like is Alabama safety Rashad Johnson. He displayed great instincts today and some range. I won't be shocked if he comes up with two or three interceptions tomorrow because he seems to be getting a better feel for the Jaguars practices. I talked with an Alabama beat writer for the Tuscaloosa News, and he absolutely raved about Johnson, telling me he is extremely smart, a great leader, and well spoken. He says Johnson is going to do great in interviews. I am going to get an interview with Johnson after practice tomorrow.
After practices, the positional coaches and scouts go around interviewing players. This doesn't mean they really love a player, but they just want to get a better feel for them. Remember, hundreds of interviews are being conducted every day at the hotel, and it wouldn't shock me if every team tries to interview every player. Are some teams targeting certain positions over others? Here is the list of my record of which teams interviewed which players:
Cleveland: Troy Kropog, Chip Vaughn, Fili Moala, Michael Hamlin, Arian Foster, Peria Jerry, Derek Pegues, Arian Foster, Tyrone Greene, William Beatty, Marcus Freeman, Louis Delmas, Tim Jamison, Ty McKenzie, Brian Robiskie
Kansas City: Max Unger, Nathan Brown, Rey Maualuga
New England: Clay Matthews, Moise Fokou
Tampa Bay: Phil Loadholt, Ramses Barden, Clay Matthews
San Diego: Arian Foster, Robert Ayers, Peria Jerry, Shawn Nelson, Quan Cosby
Baltimore: Ramses Barden, Evander Hood, Fili Moala, Arian Foster, Corvey Irvin
NY Giants: Scott McKillop
New Orleans: Thomas Morstead, Pat McAfee, Will Davis, Derrick Williams, Connor Barwin, John Phillips, Louis Delmas