2011 Senior Bowl
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Updated Jan. 26, 2011 @ 8:15 p.m. ET
MOBILE, Ala. — The following are senior editor Mike Wilkening's notes, quotes and observations from Wednesday's South practice:
• The South's offensive line collectively impressed, with the O-linemen consistently winning against the South's defensive linemen. The standouts included Florida State OG Rodney Hudson and Baylor OG Danny Watkins. Watkins' backstory is very interesting; more on that Thursday on ProFootballWeekly.com. Hudson, meanwhile, might be a center on the NFL level, but he's played guard all week, and with Thursday the final practice in front of NFL coaches and evaluators, you have to wonder if he's going to get any extended work at the position.
Bills OL coach Joe D'Alessandris sees the South's offensive linemen getting more comfortable.
"I think what's happened is, this is our third day, they've learned a playbook, they've learned new terminology, a new language in offensive-line play, and I think they're feeling more comfortable with it. And today, I think they're starting to see things, be able to communicate with each other, and then the execution," he said.
• Clemson DL Jarvis Jenkins, who's played well the last two days, beat Hudson badly in a one-on-one drill, but on the next play, Hudson held his ground and won the battle.
• Texas A&M OLB Von Miller showed some of the skills that have made him such a highly regarded pass-rush prospect. Miller is fast off the edge, boasts a very good spin move and knows how to use his hands. He was simply too much for most of the running backs trying to block him in pass-protection drills. The exception was Louisville RB Bilal Powell, who engaged Miller and pushed him back.
• One of the more intriguing players I saw today was LSU ILB Kelvin Sheppard, who was simply too physical for the running backs trying to block him in one-on-one drills. Sheppard had just five sacks in college (four as a senior), but he appears to have some potential as a blitzer and could even merit a look as an edge rusher in a two-point stance.
• One of the better blocks I saw today: Alabama OT James Carpenter pancaking speedy Arizona DE Brooks Reed.
• Southern Arkansas DL Cedric Thornton has flashed potential the last two days. He's spent some time in the opposing backfield.
• South Alabama WR Courtney Smith hasn't been happy with his play the last two days. His primary concern: catching the ball better. 'I'm trying to make a move before I tuck the ball in, (and) it's coming out," he said. The 6-4, 220-pound Smith said he's been happy with his blocking and is trying to keep a positive attitude.
South practice observations from associate editor Kevin Fishbain
• One part of the transition from college to pros that sometimes gets forgotten is the fact that kickoffs are now from the 30-yard line. Neither of the North kickers got much distance on their kickoffs, but LSU's Josh Jasper had a couple of really nice boots for the South.
• As colleague Mike Wilkening noted above, the South's offensive line looked great in Wednesday's practice. During individual drills, where the five linemen line up but just one player blocks a defensive lineman on the snap, only a handful of times did the O-lineman break down and lose the battle. Hudson, Watkins, Georgia OL Clint Boling and USC OL Kristofer O'Dowd stood out to me in the individual drills.
• It wasn't a great practice for the South's defensive linemen, but two stood out to me on plays. Thornton, who impressed me yesterday as well, was able to have his way with Boling, pushing him into the backfield. The other D-lineman that caught my eye (and several others, judging by the crowd around him after practice) was Baylor DL Phil Taylor, who was one of the only guys to get through the stout O-line multiple times during individual drills.
• I asked Florida State QB Christian Ponder how many times he's been asked about his elbow. "Thousands," he replied, and then clarified that it was more his forearm than his elbow that nagged him during his senior year. He is clearly still frustrated over how his college career ended and looking to make up for it this week.
North practice observations from senior editor Mike Wilkening
• Oregon ILB Casey Matthews got two pass-rush reps against Colorado OT Nate Solder, who has a 7½-inch height advantage and 82 pounds on the Ducks star. This was a mismatch. Solder was simply too big and strong for Matthews.
• Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo stood out in one-on-one pass-rush drills. He simply did not give up a lot of ground. He fared well in individual matchups against Notre Dame DL Ian Williams and Nebraska DL Pierre Allen.
• Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan's speed off the edge is very apparent. He was simply too fast for Indiana OT James Brewer in one drill and also gave Solder, expected to be a first-round pick, a lot of trouble.
• For his part, Brewer did much better against California DL Cameron Jordan in one-on-one drills.
• Michigan OL Stephen Schilling quietly had a nice practice, I thought. Of note: He did a nice job against well-regarded Iowa DL Christian Ballard.
• I wrote at length about Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick for a ProFootballWeekly.com story that went up earlier today, so I didn't watch the quarterbacks as closely as I did Tuesday, but I did notice Kaepernick make a tough, skilled play against pressure, throwing with someone in his face but with power and with accuracy to his intended target. If a plays breaks down, he has the natural talent to make something out of nothing.
• Easily the most entertaining player I've interviewed here was Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi, who oozes confidence and chided me for asking him for his impression of the defensive linemen he's faced this week. On the field, Carimi has had a solid week, too.
North practice observations from associate editor Kevin Fishbain
• I wanted to keep a closer eye on Kaepernick's release today, because it's clearly the most unique one of the six quarterbacks here. His arm slot is higher and his release takes longer. He cocks his arm as if he is throwing a baseball (he was a pitcher in high school). With that said, when you watch his form, you don't expect the tight spiral to come out with good velocity and accuracy; I'm sure NFL teams are going to be skeptical about it.
• Boise State WR Titus Young has been getting some attention this week, and he made a great leaping grab over the middle today, as well as showing a great burst of speed.
• Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter could be the best prospect here at his position, and he was really impressing Bengals coaches in a blocking drill. In one of the first plays of 11-on-11, Hunter took a handoff and made a great cutback in the backfield for a big gain.
• Kerrigan and Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal both took part in linebacker drills, as some project them to be 3-4 OLBs in the pros. Kerrigan's speed might work on the line, but he'll need more of it in coverage as a linebacker. When both of them returned to the line drills, they each had a shot at Solder. Kerrigan used a quick first step and got right around Solder into the backfield. Beal tried to go into Solder, and that plan backfired, resulting in Beal on his back.
• Carimi continues to impress me. One play I noticed came on an off-tackle run to his side. He pushed Jordan, who was the talk of Tuesday's practice, back with ease, then picked up Michigan State LB Greg Jones on the second level, staying engaged with Jordan.
• Carimi, Solder and Castonzo are three of the best OT prospects here, with the next one being Georgia OT Clint Boling. The Bengals' staff has been rotating them, with Castonzo and Carimi taking some shots at guard. Solder has seen a lot of time at right tackle.
Follow our weeklong coverage of the Senior Bowl, with daily reports on practices, analysis, features and columns from our reporters in Mobile, Ala., along with videos, and concluding with a game story Saturday evening.