Senior Bowl notebook: Tuesday

Posted Jan. 24, 2012 @ 3:20 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Updated at 6:46 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Jan. 24

MOBILE, Ala. — With the second day of practices at the Senior Bowl in the book, here are some of our observations:

South practice observations from associate editor Kevin Fishbain

• During the running back vs. linebacker drills, the South's linebackers made some nice plays, especially the pair from Texas, Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Williams. UNC's Zach Brown, who is known for his speed, also made a couple nice plays on the ball. Acho's brother, Sam, was a media favorite here last year and had a pretty good rookie season with Arizona.

• Florida's Chris Rainey caught my eye throughout the South's practice — how could he not, considering his blazing speed? Rainey had great cuts on his routes in the running backs vs. linebackers drill and then lined up in the slot later on in 7-on-7 drills. Rainey also caught a long pass down the sideline, which was one of the longest plays of the day. Rainey could get some looks as a change-of-pace back, especially if he keeps having success as a receiver.

• Louisiana-Lafayette CB Dwight Bentley had some real nice plays on the ball and impressed Redskins DB coach Raheem Morris. Overall in the South practice, the defensive backs beat the receivers more often than not. With Janoris Jenkins and Brandon Boykin out there, the South's secondary should have an edge throughout the week. Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward also made some nice plays at corner. Morris, by the way, was far and away the most vocal and positive coach on the field today — no surprise there.

• Arizona WR Juron Criner made the play of the afternoon with a one-handed catch, attracting the biggest reaction from the audience.

 

South practice observations from senior editor Mike Wilkening

For Raheem Morris, staying in coaching was an easy decision.

"I am a coach, man," Morris, the Redskins' new secondary coach, said Tuesday. "There's no sitting out in my game."

Morris was fired as the Buccaneers' head coach in January after three seasons. He said the transition from head coach to position coach wasn't humbling.

"I think that the National Football League, whether you're a head coach, whether you're a secondary coach, whether you're a coordinator, it's only 32 of you. And when you get an opportunity to be one of 32, it's awesome," he said.

Morris' Washington connections have him excited about his new job.

"It's about the people that you know, the people that you deal with," he said. "Coach (Mike) Shanahan, you can't be with a better program, can't be with better guys. I know (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan, very close with those guys, very close with their management and (general manager and former Buccaneers GM) Bruce Allen. ... The stuff that (defensive coordinator Jim) Haslett's been doing for years, it's a very good defense that's worked for a long time with some of the 3-4 schemes."

Would Morris welcome the opportunity to get another shot as a head coach?

"Right now, I just want to do my job," he said. "I'll let that stuff play out the way it's supposed to play out."  Should another opportunity arise, "hopefully it will be a good one, hopefully I can take advantage of it," he said.

Additional South practice observations:

• One of the more memorable plays from South practice was when Florida RB Chris Rainey, lined up at wide receiver, sprinted by North Florida CB Janoris Jenkins, his former Gators technique. "I know his technique, so I just beat him in the technique," Rainey said afterwards.

• Alabama TE Brad Smelley had a sharp practice. He was quick, and he caught the ball well, with the highlight a diving snag.

• Three defensive backs who caught my eye: Georgia CB Brandon Boykin, Louisiana-Lafayette CB Dwight Bentley and Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward.

 

North practice observations from senior editor Mike Wilkening

• Ohio State C Mike Brewster was impressive in a pair of matchups with Michigan DT Mike Martin. Both reps were far more heated and intense than the typical one-on-one drills, which made for compelling viewing. Brewster showed finishing ability and a real tough streak Tuesday.

• I did not study Boise State QB Kellen Moore as closely as I did on Monday, but what I saw, I liked, relative to his Day One play. I saw him make several accurate throws with the necessary zip.

• Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead held his own in pass protection on Tuesday. "That's a drill that all running backs have to have in order to play this game, so I was looking forward to it," Pead said after practice. Pead said he would like to "bulk up" — "You don't really see too many 190-pound backs," he noted — but he was stout enough on Tuesday. I asked him about his lower-body strength, as he appears to have relatively skinny legs for a running back. "I'm a heavy squat guy back at school. I just can't show for it," he said, referring to his legs. "But I've got some strength behind me."

• Arkansas State LB Demario Davis caught my eye both on special teams, when he recovered a punt fumbled by N.C. State WR T.J. Graham; and in one-on-one passing drills, where his speed stood out. I asked him for his go-to pass-rushing move. "Speed to power," he said. "They think I'm all speed, and then I hit them with a power move and come back into 'em. They dive, jumping back, and I'm able to get there."

• Ohio State RB Dan Herron's pass protection will be an issue to watch. He did not fare well in position drills or in one-on-one matchups. Pass protection will be a vital skill for the 5-10, 205-pound Herron on the next level. Let's see if he makes some technical adjustments and shows improvement later in the week.

 

North practice observations from associate editor Kevin Fishbain

• The North quarterbacks might as well be the "all-intangibles" team. You will hear more about the lack of size of Russell Wilson and Kellen Moore but that they make up for it with leadership. On the field, you can see why teams would be nervous about drafting one of them too early — Moore at times looks like a slot receiver. But in Tuesday's practice, Wilson was very impressive. He was accurate, consistent and had the best zip on his ball of the three quarterbacks. Moore has a funky delivery, and his balls tended to float a little more. I was hoping to see a little more from Kirk Cousins, who is the best of the North group.

• Boise State's Doug Martin showed a good burst through the hole at running back, as well as on a kickoff return.

• A lot of people talked about California WR Marvin Jones on Monday, and I can see why. He is very quick on his routes and made a couple of nice catches. He may have the best speed among the North's receivers.

• The play of the morning practice went to Boise State S George Iloka, who made a diving interception in 11-on-11 drills. Iloka certainly looks the part (6-3, 216), and considering the priority of finding safeties to cover the emerging tight ends around the league, he can do a lot for his draft stock this week.

• Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland spent almost 20 minutes talking to a small group of media members after practice. One of his more striking comments: "We need a quarterback that can get us over the hump." That was far from a vote of confidence in Matt Moore and confirms that Miami will look to make a big move this offseason to get a quarterback. I'll have more on Ireland's comments this evening.