Updated 6:24 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 25
MOBILE, Ala. — It was a beautiful day at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Wednesday. Here are PFW's observations from the third day of Senior Bowl practices.
South practice observations from senior editor Mike Wilkening:
• Illinois OT Jeff Allen got a few reps at guard and appeared to fare well in a pair of one-on-one matchups with Texas A&M DL Tony Jerod-Eddie.
• Georgia OL Ben Jones acquitted himself in one-on-one drills, showing good hand use.
• Florida State OT Zebrie Sanders had trouble with North Carolina DE Quinton Coples' strength, and South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram bull-rushed him with great success, getting low and knocking him over. And in the first play of the scrimmage, Alabama DE-OLB Courtney Upshaw, rushing against Sanders, collapsed the pocket.
• Alabama C William Vlachos started one-on-one drills well, anchoring well against Texas A&M DL Tony Jerod-Eddie, but there were multiple other instances where he was pushed back too easily.
• Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller beat well-regarded North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins in a one-on-one drill, getting good separation. Fuller was one of the South's standouts Wednesday, according to an evaluator.
• Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward's physicality is strength. He seems well-suited for a scheme where he can get an initial jam on the opposition. In a one-on-one matchup with Florida's Chris Rainey, Hayward used his hands well; keeping the receiver close, but Rainey spurted away. The play highlighted skills that each player needs to hone. Hayward will need to cover for extended stretches to succeed, and Rainey will need to fight off the attempts to neutralize him with might at the line.
• Alabama DE-OLB Courtney Upshaw has respect for the effort of the South's offensive tackles. "They don't really have too many guys," Upshaw said. "Some guys have to go back-to-back plays. Every end out here is going at them hard." Upshaw said that Georgia OT-OG Cordy Glenn has particularly impressed him this week.
South practice observations from associate editor Kevin Fishbain:
• North Carolina DE Quinton Coples looks the part and had some plays where he easily powered his way into the backfield. He even took time to take a bow after a "sack" in 11-on-11 drills (he touched the quarterback, though the play continued as if a sack was not made). Coples got into it for a moment after a play with Illinois OT Jeff Allen, the first real chippy, extra-curricular activities I've seen this week. It didn't last long, though.
• Coples' college teammate, LB Zach Brown, made a nice play shooting the gap from his linebacker position, untouched, to make a play on the running back in the backfield. I asked the speedy Brown what he expects to run in the 40-yard dash. He responded: "4.3." He doesn't lack confidence.
• The cornerbacks again looked significantly better than the wide receivers on the South squad. Georgia's Brandon Boykin made a couple nice plays and Janoris Jenkins continued to look as good as advertised. All of the corners were very physical and won more often than not in red-zone drills. The North receivers will have a tough time — even with the cushion they will get — in the Senior Bowl game on Saturday.
• South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram played with his hand in the ground as well as at linebacker today. He made a couple nice spin moves, but will need to continue to be fast with power to succeed against big tackles in the NFL, as he measured at a little less than 6-foot-2.
• The offense seemed to have a few issues with players moving early. One one play, the left tackle, fullback and wide receiver all moved and the other eight players stood still. Clearly, it's not easy to be on the same page in just a couple days with a new group of players, but the South had multiple false starts.
• The two new running backs, Alfred Morris of Florida Atlantic and Louisiana Tech's Lennon Creer, both flashed plenty of speed once they got into the open field on a few plays, making their mark on a squad with high-profile backs like Chris Rainey, Vick Ballard and Terrance Ganaway.
North practice observations from associate editor Kevin Fishbain:
• Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins continued to impress. I thought he looked better on Wednesday than Tuesday on his throws. He also showed a little mobility when the pocket collapsed and he had to get outside and decided to take off.
• Wisconsin's Russell Wilson made a real nice throw on the run. With a defender coming at him, Wilson threw a strike to Ohio State WR Devier Posey. Wilson said after the practice that one of the things he is working on this week is his feet, though he maintained that he has no problem staying in the pocket, despite his lack of height, to make the throws. He also made a nice throw running to his left.
• During the offensive line drills, it was impossible to ignore that Ohio State OT Mike Adams is clearly the biggest tackle on the North squad and he showed well. Washington OL Senio Kelemete received lots of praise from the coach for his work in the drill and his ability to finish the play.
• A pair of running backs stood out running routes — Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead and Ohio State's Dan Herron. Both backs made crisp routes against the North's linebackers and defensive backs. Boise State RB Doug Martin again showed a great burst, htiting the holes hard.
• Connecticut DL Kendall Reyes made a nice inside move to record a tackle for loss, blowing up a running play in the 11-on-11 drills.
• I spoke with both Boise State S George Iloka and Penn State DB D'Anton Lynn after practice. In this new era of explosive tight ends, both have the size teams want at safety to counter it and discussed how their physical play will help in covering the Rob Gronkowskis and Jimmy Grahams of the NFL.
North practice observations from senior editor Mike Wilkening:
• I wasn't watching the North quarterbacks closely this morning, but Wisconsin's Russell Wilson nonetheless caught my eye. He showed excellent touch and accuracy when he hit Boise State RB Doug Martin on a wheel route. There was nothing that N.C. State LB Audie Cole, who was covering Martin, could have done. Later, I looked to my right just in time to see a defender leaping in vain as a Martin pass sailed over him and into the arms of Arizona State WR Gerell Robinson.
• Virginia LB Cam Johnson was fast off the edge in pass-rush drills and held his own matched up against well-regarded Ohio State OLT Mike Adams. The 6-4, 270-pound Johnson stayed low on the taller Adams, a good technique for him to hone if he's going to be rushing against taller tackles in the pros.
• Boise State DL Shea McClellin earned praise from Vikings LB coach Mike Singletary coach as he went through individual drills this morning. Singletary told McClellin — whom he referred to as "Boise" in a later drill — that he had showed improvement Wednesday. "I like that," Singletary said to him.
• Penn State DL Jack Crawford won the leverage battle on Iowa State OT Senio Kelemete and bowled him over in a one-on-one drill. I haven't watched Crawford enough to know if the bull rush is something he frequently utilizes but he definitely showed some power and good technique in that particular instance.
• I liked the playing temperament of California (Pa.) C Rishaw Johnson, a late addition to the roster. I thought he played aggressively and worked to finish his blocks, and I liked his energy. Johnson, however, was beaten by Michigan DT Mike Martin in a one-on-one drill.