South QB notes:
Lane Johnson was the most impressive offensive lineman on the day in my opinion. He still needs to get stronger particularly in his lower body but he has all the athleticism you could want to play left tackle, he uses his length well, has good feet, recovers and anchors as well as he can given his relative lack of lower body strength and finishes blocks better than I expected and has a little nastiness to him in my opinion. He looks the part of a 1st round tackle and may end up being my #3 OT after I go back and study him more.
Larry Warford really impressed me again today. He’s not perfect and he probably isn’t a great puller but he has a lot of power, he’s strong and he mirrors pretty well in pass protection. He struggles a little bit with quicker defensive tackles but he still did a good job against Cory Grissom today. He has worked his way into the top 40 discussion in my opinion and I think he would fit in very well in a man blocking scheme.
Oday Aboushi has the ability to play left tackle and he shows that, but he hasn’t been as consistent as I want him to be every snap. He got beat inside by Cornelius Washington in 1 on 1’s and seems more comfortable at left tackle than at right tackle to me. He’s not a very good run blocker and he will bend at the waist at times when he is drive blocking. I am still on board with him at left tackle at the end of the 1st or any time in the 2nd round but I’d like to see some more consistency from him.
Brian Schwenke didn’t look particularly good on Monday but he really impressed me today. He wasn’t great, but he was certainly better than yesterday and he showed a better anchor and plenty of toughness throughout practice. He can play center and guard and while he isn’t a mauler he is one of those blue collar players that is going to have a long NFL career despite not having elite size or athleticism. I’m going to have to go back and watch more of him, but I liked what I saw from him today.
Garrett Gilkey has the size you look for at just under 6’6”, 314 pounds but you can tell he is new to playing at guard. He really struggled with his hand placement today and he consistently had his hands out on the defensive lineman’s shoulder pads in 1 on 1’s as soon as he made contact and literally tackled John Jenkins on one snap for the most obvious holding penalty ever. He’s got tools to work with but he needs serious work on his hand placement.
Dalton Freeman isn’t my favorite player here but he is athletic and moves well (which he should since he only weighs 286 pounds) but almost by magic he found a way to anchor against John Jenkins in 1 on 1 drills today. He’s my #2 center in Mobile so far this week behind Schwenke and he’s probably not a good fit in a man scheme but he could stick in a zone blocking scheme because of his athleticism.
Dallas Thomas wasn’t out there today which was disappointing, I really wish they made these injury updates more readily available.
Jordan Mills (Louisiana Tech) must have been a late addition because he was out there and not many knew who he was. He has the size to stick at tackle but he had an up and down day and bent at the waist a couple of times when I watched him. He was here on short notice though so I’m going to take a longer look at him tomorrow. From what I saw today he looked like a day 3 pick though.
More than anyone Cornelius Washington caught my eye today. I never thought he was anything more than a 4-6 round pick when I watched Georgia this year but he has looked fast and quick with a good bend this week and I think he could be challenging for a top 100 selection by the end of the week. He’s definitely a player I need to take a closer look at and he certainly seems to be comfortable with his hand in the dirt at defensive end.
Ezekiel Ansah continues to be solid but not spectacular in my opinion. I still like him at left end but I don’t see the explosion to be a top pass rusher at defensive end. I could see him at end in a 4-3 or in a 3-4 if you bulked him up, but I’m not sold on him being a stud pass rusher right now.
Lavar Edwards has had flashes of quality play but so far he has underwhelmed me this week. I had high hopes coming in but he has seemed to be pressing a bit and playing a little out of control. Hopefully he settles down a bit and plays better tomorrow.
Malliciah Goodman hasn’t really threatened the edge this week but I still like him as a solid left end prospect. He’s not going to be a stud pass rusher but I think he can be a reliable 4-3 end for someone.
John Jenkins continues to be a baffling prospect to me. He’s got the 3-4 NT size teams crave and he moves well for a big man but he just has some head scratching moments when I watch him. Yesterday it was jumping offsides two reps in a row when lined up in the A-gap and today it was using his speed off the ball to beat Freeman with an arm over move and then getting stoned by Freeman’s anchor on the next play despite outweighing him by about 70-80 pounds. I’m not a big fan and I think he’s got some bust potential to him but I haven’t gotten to speak with him so maybe I’m off on that.
Day Two of the South team’s practice started out broken into positional groups, with running backs doing some footwork drills. It was largely uneventful until Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor tripped over one of the pads. Taylor recovered to have a terrific day running the ball, displaying excellent vision and burst through the holes in breaking a couple of long runs. His South teammate, Florida’s Mike Gillislee had a strong day as well, cutting on a dime to break a big gainer. Both backs caught the ball well in drills and have three down, starting running back potential at the NFL level.
South coaches spent a great deal of time drilling receivers on sideline routes and getting both feet in bounds. Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton excelled in this exercise, showing steady hands and terrific field awareness. Baylor’s Terrance Williams did a nice job tapping his toe to haul one in just a few plays after dropping a pass on his way out of bounds. Georgia’s Tavarres King was also able to get his feet down regularly, and later showed off his vertical in getting to a high throw from Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson. Unfortunately for King, he wound up fumbling the ball.
In one-on-ones between the lines, the South offensive linemen got off to a slow start. However, many of them were able to rebound and turn in solid performances. Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson got beat by an inside move from Lavar Edwards, but recovered on the next play to completely pancake the LSU defensive end. Johnson showed off a nasty streak that had people in the seats buzzing, and he appears to have solidified himself as a legitimate first round prospect.
On the defensive side, much of the focus was on Ezekiel Ansah. The BYU defensive lineman had some problems getting around the edge, but absolutely embarrassed Virginia tackle Oday Aboushi with a spin move to the inside. Ansah has talent, but he is not the outside pass rushing prospect some folks want him to be. Conversely, Georgia defensive end Cornelius Washington looked terrific in drills displaying speed and power on his pass rushes that surprised many onlookers. While Washington’s production was way down in 2012, he showed glimpses of potential the year before. In practice today he looked closer to the 2011 version of himself.
Lastly, Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel looked at home in the All-Star game setting. He was fairly sharp when going to his first (and typically only) read, and looked comfortable when he had plenty of time to throw. But Manuel remains an enigma – a fact best summed up by consecutive plays about midway through practice. On the first, Manuel threw a beautiful touch pass to the sideline where Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton had the ball glance off his fingers. Then, on the very next play, Manuel rolled to his right and short-armed a pass into the turf. Manuel may convince some team this week that he is worthy of a first or second round pick, but that team would be taking a huge risk.
Offensive linemen Larry Warford of Kentucky and Brian Schwenke of Cal were gritty in one-on-ones, both displaying a mean streak and ability to anchor. Schwenke also did a nice job helping on a double team and then passing his man off to get to the second level.
Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins and Clemson center Dalton Freeman took turns besting each other. Curiously, Freeman was able to hold his ground against the much larger Jenkins.
Linebackers Nico Johnson of Alabama and Vince Williams of Florida State had trouble covering running backs out of the backfield on passing downs.
Cal defensive back Marc Anthony had a strong day in coverage, breaking up several passes including a late throw by Wilson that resulted in an interception by Williams.
San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden broke up a pass from Oklahoma QB Landry Jones late in practice, and he and Anthony also tracked the ball well in early drills.
Wilson picked up a botched snap, rolled to his left, and completed a long pass to Tennessee tight end Mychal Rivera. Later Wilson connected with Patton on a deep post about 20 yards or so downfield, but the QB likely would have taken a huge hit if not for practice restrictions.
On the final play in team drills, Washington would have easily pummeled Jones for a sack, but instead had to pull up and let the QB get rid of the ball.
Benjamin Allbright, Tom Melton and Justin Higdon contributed to this report.