The weather and temperature was really nice at today's South team practice at Ladd Stadium in Mobile. I caught up with a few people including the Draftguys and they are here interviewing players. Check them out it is a must see site for all draftniks because they don't cover the first- and second-round guys. They do most of their work with the smaller-school and less-heralded prospects and I really applaud them for that. On to the practice today:
One quick note is Manuel Johnson from Oklahoma was a late add and Brooks Foster from UNC has been scratched for the week. Corner Morgan Trent from Michigan replaced Mike Mickens. More on Trent in tonight's blog. Andrew Whitworth from the Bengals was in attendance and he seemed to be giving advice to the O-linemen from time to time.
Going into the week I was looking forward to watching kicker Louie Sakoda of Utah, but he didn't show much power early in the morning. However, he was accurate and didn't miss anything from what I saw out from 40-plus.
Phil Loadholt has a lot of buzz this week with great practices on Monday and Tuesday, but in footwork drills I felt he gets too high in his stance.
A receiver who is really making an impression is Buckeye Brian Robiskie. He is catching everything this week and has been a tough corner for the defensive backs because he knows how to sell his routes. His lack of separation and speed still really worries me, but some people in attendance have been very impressed this week, including myself. He drew high praise from Bengals receiving coach Mike Sheppard for his physicality and competitiveness on the line of scrimmage.
Ramses Barden proved to me today he is definitely a project at the next level. It was the second day in a row I saw sluggish footwork in his route running, and he doesn't look very coordinated out on the field. My advice is to not buy into the hype.
I was in the minority when I said Derrick Williams looked pitiful yesterday, but today he really turned it on. By far, he is the fastest receiver here and has so much explosion. I saw some good hands and competitiveness, but he isn't impressing the special teams coaches by dropping so many balls on punts and kickoff returns. This is a clear example of why I am adamantly not sold on his ball skills.
My MVP for the morning practice has to be Brandon Gibson. He was simply dominating early in the day and he just completely abused several defensive backs. By far, Gibson is the best route runner I have seen out here and no one in attendance has any idea where he is going because he doesn't give anything away. He sinks his hips, sells the stutter step, then gets out of his break.
On more than one occasion he gained a lot of separation against Louis Delmas, who is one of the better players here. On one play he had to adjust to the football which came low and away on the far sideline on an out route. Gibson went down for the football and made a great grab. He lated pulled his hamstring and he had ice on it at the end of practice. I asked him what was up and he told me it was just a little sore. Hopefully, he is here tomorrow for practice and doesn't drop out because he is just simply abusing the competition and making it look easy.
Michigan corner Morgan Trent is really big for his position and displayed soft hands on lob drills this morning.
Signal caller Nathan Brown displayed a quick release today, but he struggles in putting zip on the ball and I was less than impressed with his touch. He threw a beautiful ball to Juaquin Iglesias on a go route to the left pylon. It was about a 45-yard throw, but on this one, he had a nice spiral.
Speaking of Iglesias, he has really generated a lot of buzz from most of the draft experts I have spoken with. His route running and consistent hands really stood out this morning and receivers coach Mike Wallace told him he was taking "good angles."
David Bruton flashed some big hitting ability, but I think he will be relegated to strong safety in the NFL. He is slow and high coming out of his backpedal and doesn't have much range on the field.
Oregon State product Keenan Lewis continues to flash playmaking ability, and I saw a nice interception and pass breakup on the day. His ball skills are somewhat underrated and I am sure the defensive back coaches in attendance have taken a liking to him.
The defensive line group for the North team continues to draw some buzz. B.J. Raji continued to impress today and seems to be really picking up the scheme in 11v11s. Connor Barwin had a great day after being moved from tight end to defensive end and was very fluid in dummy drills. He exploded past Xavier Fulton who didn't kickstep and he showed a lack of awareness. Tim Jamison really lacks short-area quickness, but his play against the run today impressed me.
Louis Delmas had an average practice, but he displayed much leadership as he yelled at DeAngelo Smith, "Get deep! Get deep! Get deep!!!" I like to see this kind of direction and leadership as the quarterback of the defensive backfield.
Purdue defensive tackle Alex Magee was a late add this week. I have been impressed with his lateral agility and quickness off the ball, but he lacked power and got mauled by Alex Mack on more than one occasion.
Kory Sheets continues to show a little flash, but he hasn't exactly won me over. On some runs, he really explodes and displays a second gear, then on others he displays bad vision and doesn't identify cutback lanes.
Brandon Pettigrew absolutely looks the part in a uniform and he is one of the better route runners of all the receivers in practice today - not just tight ends, but receivers too. He was fluid out of his breaks and didn't give anything away when facing Nic Harris in zone coverage. Pettigrew ran a solid post and gained a few yards of separation despite lacking explosive speed.
Overall, I would say the receiving corps really stepped up their game to another level today with the exception of Barden. The defensive linemen continue to be the buzz of the week, and the defensive backs have a lot of ground to make up on Wednesday's practice.