2024 Senior Bowl: Tuesday’s National Team Practice Report

Michael Penix

The National team had their first practice of Senior Bowl week on Tuesday morning. The players wore shells: helmet, shoulder, pads, and gym shorts. The full pad practices are held on Wednesday and Thursday.

Perhaps the most scrutinized players in Mobile this week will be Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Of the two, Nix is the higher-rated signal-caller for the 2024 NFL Draft, with multiple team sources having said they see Nix having first-round potential. Sources from a number of NFL teams, meanwhile, told WalterFootball.com they had Penix projected to the second day of the 2024 NFL Draft.

The first practice of Senior Bowl is typically a bit sloppy for quarterbacks, as they are working with new centers and wide receivers. That was evident as usual, but Nix still showed strong fundamentals in his opening session of the week.

Nix jumps out as having good footwork and mechanics. He lines up his feet in the old-school way, with his right foot forward on shotgun snaps, and that is the starting off point for him to be an accurate quarterback. Nix did well in the wide receiver-versus-cornerback one-on-ones, throwing passes on time and lofting in very catchable balls. The one thing missing from Nix is special arm talent. That could be seen in the team scrimmage, when he had Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson running open on a deep out and the pass was underthrown for an incompletion. Nix’s arm is good enough to start in the NFL, but he will have to be an effective player via his accuracy, decision-making, and athletic ability.

Penix did not blow the doors off the practice, but it was not a terrible showing either. He has a quality arm to make all the throws, but his footwork and fundamentals need work. The inconsistenues in those latter two areas lead to inaccuracy and streakiness as a passer. Penix also needs to gain weight for the NFL. He looked skinny and underdeveloped. The lower mass gives some answers as to why he struggled to stay healthy in college. Penix is known to not be a devoted patron of the weight room, and that is going to need to change at the pro level.

Roman Wilson had a nice session on Tuesday, getting open in the team-scrimmage session via quickness and slippery route-running. He burned Penn State cornerback Kalen King and Utah safety Sione Vaki down the seam for a long touchdown. Wilson may not post great workout numbers, but he could be a nice rotational receiver at the pro level.

King really struggled on Tuesday, which wasn’t good coming off his disastrous 2023 season. In 2022, King was phenomenal for the Nittany Lions, but his play dropped off the cliff this past season, when he really struggled to prevent separation. At Senior Bowl, King looked like the 2023 version of himself, getting beaten constantly. He badly needs to turn things around on Wednesday and Thursday.

The other wideout who had an impressive start to the week is Florida’s Ricky Pearsall. He consistently generated separation from cornerbacks in the one-on-one session. Pearsall is a smooth route-runner who has a burst out of the break to get open. Utilizing suddenness and quick feet, Pearsall is difficult for corners to run with. The 6-foot, 193-pound Pearsall has versatile size to line up on the outside or inside at the pro level. Given the strength and depth of the wide receiver class for the 2024 NFL Draft, Pearsall could offer some team a second-day steal.

Some members of the media have projected North Carolina wide receiver Tez Walker as a first-round pick for the 2024 NFL Deraft, but he did not look like one on Tuesday. Walker made some nice plays, including a one-on-one win on which he juked Kalen King off the ball to get open on a slant, but Walker also had plays where he couldn’t separate and dropped some passes. Some teams have Walker graded in the mid-rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft, and he looked like that caliber of player on Tuesday.

One of the cornerbacks who covered Walker well was Notre Dame’s Cam Hart. Hart had a strong opening practice, showing the potential to be a starting outside corner. In the one-on-ones Central Florida’s, Javon Baker got away with a late push off downfield, but on Hart’s next rep, he withstood a push-off attempt from Walker before ducking underneath the Tar Heels receiver to get an interception.

Hart showed nice versatility to play zone coverage or press man. At 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, Hart is a big cornerback who could be a nice value pick on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft. If he works out well and runs fast at the combine, however, he could possibly rise.

Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell was another cornerback who got his week off to a good start. In the team scrimmage portion of practice, Mitchell was seemingly glued to his receivers. Mitchell did a nice job of breaking on a short route to eat up ground in a hurry and then slap the pass away. Shortly later, the offense tested him with a deep ball, but he ran stride-for-stride with Rice’s Luke McCaffrey to force an incompletion. Mitchell is likely to go in the back half of the first round in the 2024 NFL Draft, and this practice validated that projection.

Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. had a strong opening practice of the week. He was impressive in the one-on-ones, showing a serious burst off the line and speed to close in the pocket. Hall used a lightning-fast spin move to beat Michigan’s Trevor Keegan on one rep. On the next rep, Hall got open field with a speed rush.

Hall clearly has a first-round skill set with quality size alongside excellent speed and athleticism at the point of attack. However, he has major character concerns, as we documented in the Hot Press on Monday. The team interviews this week are more important for Hall than the practices because he must ease the character concerns that could weigh down his rating on draft boards.

Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau had a good opening session to the week. He showed athleticism in coverage with speed and fluidity to eat up ground. Liufau was instinctive and displayed impressive route recognition. On top of being smooth in coverage, Liufau also is a dangerous blitzer. He could end up being a very nice value pick who turns into a tough NFL starter.

To close practice, there were some interesting one-on-one reps between two future pro starters in UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu and BYU offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia. On the first rep, Suamataia held up Latu on a speed rush and kept him away from the quarterback. The next rep saw Latu destroy Suamataia via a swim move to the inside. Latu looks like a safe first-round pick for the 2024 NFL Draft after back-to-back seasons of productivley hunting quarterbacks. Suamataia needs to interview well with teams, as they have concerns about his work ethic and makeup.