Senior Bowl notebook: Thursday
Posted By Kevin Fishbain
Updated Jan. 27, 2011 @ 6:11 p.m. ET
MOBILE, Ala. — The South squad's Thursday practice was, like the North's, without pads and ended a half hour early. There were only a handful of plays to work off when watching because, as the Bills' staff has done all week, most of the practice involved position drills.
The biggest news from the South's practice involved who was not on the field — Texas A&M OLB and Butkus Award winner Von Miller, the best prospect here in Mobile. Reports are that he was under the weather but should be ready to play on Saturday.
Associate editor Kevin Fishbain's observations from the South's Thursday practice:
- The best play of the practice came on a throw from Florida State QB Christian Ponder to Hawaii WR Greg Salas. Salas was running a drag across the back of the endzone, and Ponder placed it perfectly above the outstretched arms of Clemson DB Marcus Gilchrist for the score.
- As good as Salas has looked at times, he had two drops today, both in the endzone, and both came on easy balls.
- Arizona LB Brooks Reed has looked very good as an edge rusher in drills. He has been playing with his hand on the ground, as well as on the outside in the Bills' 3-4, this week and has been very impressive getting past tackles.
- Today was the first chance I had to really watch Miami (Fla.) DE Allen Bailey. The first word I think of when I watch him is "explosive." He has a great burst off the line, but that hasn't resulted in him getting into the backfield that often this week.
- During lineman drills, Texas DE Sam Acho, who could be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the pros, made a great inside move on Alabama OT James Carpenter, the best move I saw by a D-lineman today.
- Tennessee TE Luke Stocker, who has been getting some notice here as the best tight end of the group, made a nice diving grab.
Senior editor Mike Wilkening's observations from Thursday's South practice:
- Baylor OG-OT Danny Watkins, whom I profiled for ProFootballWeekly.com on Thursday, got some post-practice tutorting at center from Bills OL coach Joe D'Alessandris. Watkins, a left tackle at Baylor, has played both guard spots this week. The more versatility he can show, the better, especially if he's a backup to begin his career, as the ability to play multiple positions along the line can be the difference between a player being active or inactive on game day. D'Alessandris called Watkins "conscientious" and praised his work this week.
- Alabama QB Greg McElroy wasn't as sharp Thursday as he had been earlier in the week, with his accuracy leaving something to be desired. To wit: Twice, South Alabama WR Courtney Smith had to adjust to catch the ball.
- Florida State OG Rodney Hudson said he took a couple of reps at center today. There are some who believe center could be his position in the pros, but this was the first work he had at the position all week.
- Smith had a better day of practice today after struggling the last two days.
- USC WR Ronald Johnson looks like he has some legit run-after-the-catch ability. He's had a good week.
- Drops were also an issue for Salas on Tuesday. Personally, I believe he's had a positive week overall; he looks like he plays fast and knows how to get open. Obviously, he's going to need to be sure-handed to make it on the next level.
- LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard, who caught my eye with his edge-rushing ability Wednesday, said his power is his best asset as a pass rusher. "I try to get really low to the ground," he said. I'll be interested to see how Sheppard is used in the pros, as he has played both inside and outside linebacker.
The North team practiced without pads on a sunny Thursday morning here in Mobile as many of the scouts have begun to file out. We got some good looks at the teams in the red zone and the two-minute drill.
Associate editor Kevin Fishbain's observations from Thursday's North practice:
- The drills in the red zone had a lot of plays involving the QBs tossing lobs to the corner of the endzone for their receivers. Nebraska WR Niles Paul made a nice leaping grab on a throw from Washington QB Jake Locker, and Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher made a one-handed grab.
- Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi continued his struggles. In a red-zone drill, he was picked off by Oregon LB Casey Matthews. Then, in 7-on-7 drills, Stanzi threw into coverage, getting picked off for at least the fourth time this week (I've personally seen him throw four interceptions in the last three days).
- Locker also showed some accuracy struggles, something that is a big knock on him. He missed badly on a couple of red-zone plays. With him and Stanzi struggling to hit receivers, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick looked like the best QB on the field this morning.
- Boise State WR Titus Young has gotten a lot of praise here in Mobile. He made the catch of the day in the corner of the endzone. But on the next play, he dropped a bullet on a post route in the endzone. The throw had some velocity, but it was a ball that should have been caught. I'm still very impressed with his speed and hope to see him get some chances in the open field on Saturday.
- My favorite play of the morning came near the end of practice in the two-minute drill. The line collapsed (that term is used loosely, as they were playing without pads) and Kaepernick was forced to roll to his right. He made a perfect throw on the run to Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks, who made a nice grab near the sideline.
- I talked to Colorado CB Jalil Brown after practice, and he is one of my favorite interviews so far this week. He was more than willing to discuss his strengths and weaknesses, going into detail, and clearly wants people to know he's ready for the pros. I asked him about his game against Georgia WR A.J. Green in 2010. Green had 7-119-2 receiving in that game, including a highlight-reel one-handed grab in the endzone. "I myself made some plays, too," Brown reminded me. "I got a nice interception and finished with nine tackles. He made a couple plays, I made a couple plays, too." Brown did say Green was definitely the best receiver he faced his senior year, with Dez Bryant being the best he faced in his career.
Thursday North practice observations from senior editor Mike Wilkening:
- North Carolina CB Kendric Burney had a pair of interceptions in Thursday's practice and said he should have had a third. Burney's ball skills and ability to adjust to the ball have impressed. "That's the baseball in me," said Burney, who played on the Tar Heels' baseball team as a freshman, of his body control. The 5-9, 181-pound Burney said he has tried to prove that he shouldn't be considered just a zone corner. "I feel like I've raised a lot of eyebrows and showed that I can definitely play more than just a cover-2 corner," he said. "That was the biggest thing. Everybody came in saying, 'You're too small and too everything,' and with me, that's a challenge for me. And every time I get a challenge, I love it, and I stand up for it."
- Kaepernick had the best practice of the North's passers, throwing with accuracy and pace on deeper passes and showing a little bit of the touch Bengals QB coach Ken Zampese has wanted to see from him on the play Kevin mentioned, when Kapernick rolled out and floated an on-target throw to Kendricks, who was well-covered. And when Kaepernick has to get the ball there in a hurry, he can do that, too. He throws the "out" patterns very well.
- Stanzi appeared to be off-target early in practice, but he improved late in the session.
- Locker had an up-and-down day. Obviously, the talent is there, but I saw a couple of rather off-target throws — one a bouncer short of the target, another well overthrown.
- Nebraska P Alex Henery struggled to get the necessary hangtime on his punts Thursday, although I did see him strike at least one pro-quality punt. Specialists don't get all that many opportunities to kick in practice here, and they may be working on new techniques, so I try to keep that in mind when assessing the punters and kickers — and all of the players here, for that matter.
- Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray caught my eye Thursday when he noticeably quickened to gain separation from a defender in a passing drill. The 6-0, 214-pound Murray has good size for the position.
- Matthews got another chance to work as a pass rusher today, getting two reps, and he showed improvement from Wednesday, when he had no chance one-on-one with Colorado's Nate Solder.
- Like Matthews, Boston College LB Mark Herzlich got a little work in pass-rush drills today.
- Michigan State LB Greg Jones got some personal instruction from Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, a former All-Big Sky linebacker at Idaho State and LB coach for the Steelers from 1992-95.