The morning practice for the North team had the most beautiful weather of the week. Not a cloud in the sky and slightly warm while the sun shined on the future of the National Football League. Today's attendance for practice was about 20 percent of what it was earlier in the week. The players were in shells and shorts, but there was still some valuable scouting to be done:
Tip: don't even watch the quarterbacks this Saturday during the game. Every quarterback here took a slight hit to their draft stock. No one has been accurate. No one has been consistent in a positive way. The defensive backs had a field day as balls were thrown like cupcakes on deep routes in skeleton drills. Nathan Brown showed poor touch on the ball again and really struggled. He threw a ball eight yards over Manuel Johnson's head on a drag route, which just disgusted everyone who saw it. Rhett Bomar showed little zip and floated balls too much. Graham Harrell's arm gets weaker every time I see it, but he is doing the best job of picking up the playbook and getting the ball out before receivers break their routes. None of these quarterbacks are draftable within the first four rounds, that's for sure.
Receiver Derrick Williams of Penn State ran horrendous routes earlier in the day, as he struggled to take the proper angle to catch the ball in the back of the end zone on a skinny post and had no chance to make the catch. Later on, he drew some praise from offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski for running tighter routes. Lots of inconsistencies this week as Williams is becoming a tougher evaluation.
Jeremiah Johnson, RB of Oregon, looked really smooth catching the ball today and he displayed natural, consistent hands. Johnson has had a solid week here and I think he could find a niche in the league with a team in the mid rounds.
One receiver who has had a really solid week is Oklahoma wideout Manuel Johnson. Johnson was a late add, but he has displayed sure hands, confidence, and decent separation.
I have two co-MVPs for the day on the offensive side of the ball and both were receivers. Buckeye Brian Robiskie and Sooner Juaquin Iglesias were catching everything in sight. Robiskie displayed amazing body control and focus. On one play, he sold a double move as he wanted corner DeAngelo Smith to think he was running a speed route to the right sideline as he slowed down, then he planted his foot in the ground, drove upfield and made a diving catch on an overthrown ball by Bomar. Iglesias gained a lot of separation today with his route running and didn't drop any passes when I watched him. However, he definitely doesn't have the second gear to stretch the field and corners will recover against him in the NFL.
I heard Virginia Tech corner Macho Harris struggled earlier in the day in 1v1s, but I thought he had a very good practice today, making it as my defensive MVP. He picked off a few balls in red zone drills. Against Manuel Johnson, he was very instinctive in reading Johnson's routes as he allowed extremely little separation on outs and curls. He had a nice pass break up against Derrick Williams and displayed impressive anticipation.
Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English was involved with the linebackers earlier in the day as they went up against the tight ends in 1v1s. English showed impressive hips and stayed with his man most of the time. He was physical with Cincinnati TE/DE Connor Barwin at the line of scrimmage and broke up a pass over the middle. No doubt in my mind after today, English can make the transition to the 3-4.
Second day in a row Purdue defensive tackle Alex Magee flashed some athleticism. He's been one of the tougher linemen to block this week in 1v1s.
Connecticut corner Darius Butler showed great speed today and made a very nice pass breakup. It is hard for me to give these corners credit for their great play because the quarterbacks didn't put any mustard on the ball, but I can't take away their effort on the field.
Cal Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden told a Baltimore scout today he banged his head against the ground yesterday, and that is why he didn't participate in practice. He said he probably could have played physically, but he didn't want to take the chance. Barden will be playing in the Senior Bowl this Saturday.
Overall, Robiskie, Iglesias, and Harris, I felt, were the best players of the day when I watched them. I am about to head out to the afternoon practice, which will be my last here in Mobile.