This is Charlie Campbell's Tuesday 2018 Senior Bowl Practice Report for the South Team. Charlie is reporting live from Mobile, Ala., and he'll describe what he sees at practice and whom certain prospects talk to all week.
The South team took the field of Ladd-Peebles Stadium for their first practice of the Senior Bowl. The Houston Texans coaching staff ran the practice and will coach them all week. The Texans staff had the players practicing in shells: helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. Here is a run down of the noteworthy players.
Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn had a strong first practice of the week. He was getting a lot of movement in the ground game with the power to push defensive linemen out of their gaps. He blasted LSU defensive tackle Christian LaCouture out his gap to open a big hole. Wynn had a very impressive rep in the pass-rushing one-on-ones, riding Alabama defensive end Da'Shawn Hand around the pocket before pushing Hand into the turf.
Wynn was the starter at left tackle with the Bulldogs, but for the NFL, he projects as a guard because of a lack of length. However, Wynn is a nasty run blocker who has quickness and athleticism in pass protection. Wynn (6-2, 308) could be an excellent guard in the NFL, and he might surprise as an overachiever who stays at tackle, similarly to Kelvin Beachum.
Ole Miss edge rusher Marquis Haynes had an interesting first session of the week. While Haynes is undersized, he showed a strong frame at the weigh-in, and he obviously is a dedicated patron of the weight room. That strength translates to the field, as there are plays where Haynes uses some power to get the better of offensive tackles who typically weigh around 70 pounds more than he does. In the run scrimmage one-on-ones, Haynes had an impressive rep where he held his ground and wasn't moved out of his gap by North Carolina A&T offensive tackle Brandon Parker. That was seen on a few other reps in the early going.
However, the offensive linemen seemed to wear Haynes down as they started having success pushing him out of his gap. Humboldt State's Alex Cappa and TCU's Joe Noteboom were able to get a push on Haynes to bull him out of his gap. Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was giving Haynes some one-on-one pointers, but these plays illustrated that Haynes is a situational pass-rusher for the pros. He has some functional strength in the pass rush, but he can't hold up on an every down basis. His best fit would come as a 3-4 outside linebacker who is a designated pass-rusher. Sources have also said that they have some concerns about Haynes ability to learn, so he could easily be a pick on the last day of the draft, but he does offer a potentially big bang for the buck, as he could be a dangerous quarterback hunter in a situational role.
The South quarterbacks were underwhelming on Tuesday, and they had terrible ball-security issues. Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert had a fumbled a snap under center and in shotgun. Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White was even worse with a number of fumbled snaps from under center. Both Benkert and White need to show big improvement to take a snap from under center over the practices to come.
Southern Miss running back Ito Smith had a fumble that he recovered after a hard hit. Smith did have some nice runs with fancy cutting at the second level to pick up more yards. He also got the better of linebackers in the receiving one-on-ones. Smith had a good practice, and showing better ball security without fumbles will help him in the sessions to come.
The South team saw some defenders laying the wood. Auburn linebacker Tre' Williams had the hardest hit of the day, as he fired his gap to make a bone-rattling hit to force a fumble in the team scrimmage. Virginia safety Quin Blanding also had a good run fill with some hard contact. USC edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu also burned Humboldt State offensive tackle Alex Cappa with a speed rush to get a sack in the team scrimmage. On that play, Nwosu had the quarterback dead to rites. In the Senior Bowl game, it will be interesting to see if the physicality of the South squad will be able to overcome the quarterback advantage that the North squad possesses.