MOBILE, Ala. – Senior Bowl practices got underway Tuesday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium with the South team, coached the the Cleveland Browns.
Here are observations from PFW's senior editors Arthur Arkush and Kevin Fishbain:
Let's get the obvious out of the way: Alabama TE O.J. Howard, a first-round lock and arguably as impressive as any player in Mobile this week, wasted zero time proving he's a man among boys.
He snared a pair of one-handed catches – the first in the flat during team drills shortly upon practice opening; the second on a deep slant in one-on-ones – and like his movement skills for someone checking in at 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, it appeared natural and effortless. Howard was beat as an in-line blocker for a tackle for loss, but it was the one red mark on an otherwise stellar day.
San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey starts off the draft process with a few disadvantages, namely his 5-foot-8, 169-pound frame and residence in what looks like a special RB crop. Yet, Pumphrey has his own special traits – including suddenness and burst – which he showcased on a few occasions when squirting through holes Tuesday.
Pumphrey is going to draw plenty of interest, and Darren Sproles comparisons, for teams looking to add a player on Day 2 or Day 3 who can exploit linebackers in space. Pumphrey's size suggests he's a niche player; his absurd production in college while handling a full workload says otherwise.
The South QBs were a mixed bag Tuesday – about the best we likely should expect to say for Josh Dobbs (Tennessee) and Davis Webb (California) following uneven college careers, and DII's Antonio Pipkin of Tiffin a relative unknown. But they each have desirable traits, with Dobbs boasting pedigree, Davis' size and Pipkin's athleticism, and South coach Hue Jackson said he was pleased with their start to the week. Jackson singled out Dobbs' "surprising" arm strength and clearly spent a lot of practice focusing on Davis' footwork and weight transfer.
The most entertaining one-on-one battle in the trenches, albeit on Day 1, in shorts and shells, came courtesy of Troy OL Antonio Garcia and Texas A&M's Daeshon Hall, who, after getting stalled by Garcia had a little extra after the whistle for his foe. Jackson had a ton of praise for Garcia, enthusiastically slapping his helmet after rushing to meet the winner.
Speaking of the trenches, the marquee name on the offensive side is Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp, who began working at left tackle but appeared more natural, and dominant, on the inside.
BYU inside linebacker Harvey Langi seemed to have a nice day, coming away with a run stuff in team drills and holding his own against Mississippi TE Evan Engram while covering downfield during an individual drill.
North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer was the quickest of the South team wideouts. The way he got in and out of his breaks on comeback routes was extremely impressive. He will have to answer questions throughout the draft process about his height, as he measured in at 5-foot-8 1/2 at Tuesday's weigh-in. His production in college, route running, and hands will help offset that.
The South QBs showed off strong arms, but not high accuracy. Cal's Davis Webb has a ton of zip on his passes but often overthrew his receivers. An NFL team will like his size and arm strength as a developmental prospect.
Some other flashes from the defense in practice: Texas A&M safety Justin Evans showed good range coming over from center field to break up a deep sideline pass. ... Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs threw a strike to O.J. Howard up the seam in 7-on-7 drills. ... Alabama's Dalvin Tomlinson used his strength to push back an O-lineman in 1-on-1 drills. ... Texas A&M's Daeshon Hall won back-to-back reps in the trenches, first with a quick inside move then using a spin.