Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
The sun gave way to some clouds and a noticeable breeze for the afternoon session. I spent the vast majority of practice watching the offensive and defensive line contests after focusing on the defensive backs and wide receivers in individual drills.
I was very happy that Georgia DT John Jenkins and Kentucky G Larry Warford got to face off in just about every rep. They are the two best players on the roster at those respective positions and they brought the intensity. My tale of the tape has Warford winning a split decision but strong rounds from both corners. Warford has outstanding base strength and he can really sink his hips and drive. His pad level is consistently very good, though I caught him leaning a couple of times. So did Jenkins, who has a very nice shuffle step as he breaks forward that allows him to attack one shoulder instead of getting hit squarely. It’s a savvy move that Jay Ratliff made a killing with in the NFL. Warford showed the brute power to rebuff the very hefty Jenkins without help. In fact, on one rep where he had Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson to his left, Jenkins split them and Warford overextended and fell forward as if he was expecting Johnson to do more of the dirty work. Jenkins did win once with a good bull rush where he got his arms into Warford’s pads and really drove his feet nicely, but he followed that up by jumping offsides on the next rep and was angrily dismissed.
Tackle Ryan Mills from Louisiana Tech showed that they were more than just a one-man team with Quinton Patton; this guy can play. Mills did a nice job of extending his arms with strength and natural knee bend. But two other things impressed me. First, there was one rep where FSU DE Everette Dawkins got into him and started to push him backwards. Mills showed a very innate sense of recovery blocking and did a good job keeping the QB clean. That’s a skill which Lions fans will note Gosder Cherilus has dramatically improved throughout his career, and it’s one that NFL coaches really appreciate. Guys are going to get beat at times, and how they handle it and react in the play is critical. Secondly with Mills, he plays with genuinely chippy intentions. He was the epicenter of several near-fights and appeared to like it. If he played hockey he would be the 3rd line right winger with 200 penalty minutes.
Cal center Brian Schwenke is not overly athletic and doesn’t jump out, but he is a very fundamentally sound player with a good football IQ. He is aggressive to fire out and try to dictate action even when he knows the defender can overpower him. On one rep he threw a strong shoulder into the DT before peeling out and walling off the linebacker at the second level to clear a hole. He’s not a guy you want to leave solo against a good pass rushing defensive tackle, as he struggles against power. He reminds me some of John Sullivan with more vinegar in his veins.
Oklahoma T Lane Johnson is one of the clear winners for the week. He was outstanding in the pass rush drills, shooing away defenders with excellent hand placement, good square hips, and very quick feet. For someone fairly new to the position he has very sound technique, as if he never learned any bad habits. His frame has room for a little more muscle which would make him even better. I would be very surprised if he falls out of the first round.
I was also impressed by Virginia T Oday Aboushi. In their first four reps against one another, Aboushi stonewalled BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah with almost effortless ease. As he showed at UVA, Aboushi is very adept at letting a defender beat himself. One rep Ansah tried to do a shoulder fake and inside dash, but Aboushi didn’t take the bait and just waited for Ansah to waste that precious half a second and then stood him straight up. Aboushi struggled quite a bit when asked to play guard, a move that totally plays against his strengths.
For his part, Ansah is a lot greener than the man he’s frequently compared, Jason Pierre Paul when he came out of USF. Ansah is not nearly as strong in the lower body as JPP and he has no real plan of attack. I’d like to comment on his pass rush moves but I didn’t see any other than running really fast into the blocker or tacking wide around him. Ansah missed a few reps after being poked in the eye and was invisible in 11s other than one nice imitation of JJ Watt batting a pass with his long arms high in the air. He’s going to be drafted a lot higher than he should in terms of immediate contribution, and if the position coach isn’t very good and doesn’t click with Ansah quickly we’re looking at a colossal bust.
I liked what I saw from Arkansas-Pine Bluff tackle Terron Armstead last week during Shrine Game and he handled the emergency call-up to Mobile pretty well. It took him a couple of reps to get used to the increase in speed but once he got acclimated he was very effective with his punch and at locking his shoulders square to his target. He definitely has some Duane Brown to his game.
The first thing noticeable about LSU DE Lavar Edwards is his long arms. If he can learn to use them more consistently he is someone who could blossom. Edwards showed a very strong rip move to beat Aboushi and had a rep in 11s where he fired out his arms and quickly disengaged to peel out and get to the ballcarrier. At other times he was just a guy and he jumped offsides twice. There is a lot of that with the South defensive ends; guys like Malliciah Goodman and Cornelius Washington will have a random success here and there but are largely not difference makers or impact players.
I mentioned it last week when watching him at the Shrine Game, but Mississippi State DT Josh Boyd is the rare lineman who gets too low too often. Normally you want good pad level and leverage, but Boyd starts out very low from his stance and doesn’t always fire up high enough. On one rep Chadron State G Garrett Gilkey just simply slammed his hands onto the top of Boyd’s pads and sent him into the turf, and on another Gilkey pulled the chair as Boyd leaned forward and fell on his face. When Boyd gets his weight up and over his feet he has a very effective bull rush with excellent leg drive, and he gets after it on every rep. Rod Marinelli would love him.
Finally, Tennessee-Martin DT Montori Hughes showed a lot to me today with his power and aggression. He has a well-developed push-and-shed power move that bested both Schwenke and Aboushi inside, and he has a good sense of locating the ball. He knifed through the line and rocked the runner for a tackle for loss in 11s. Martin is vociferous and surly even when he’s not involved in a rep.
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Tags: Brian Schwenke, Ezekiel Ansah, John Jenkins, Josh Boyd, Lane Johnson, Larry Warford, Lavar Edwards, Montori Hughes, Oday Aboushi, Ryan Mills, Senior Bowl, Terron Armstead, Vince Williams, Zaviar Gooden