Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
It was a beautiful sunny day 80 degrees with no real breeze. I did not see a lot of NFL personnel other than scouts and a handful of Directors of Collegiate Scouting and a couple of GMs. I saw two Lions scouts but no coaches or personnel people. That doesn’t mean they’re not here but I didn’t see them.
Stars of the Day:
Auburn WR Emory Blake, who consistently caught everything thrown near him with great hands well away from his body. He made an inside-out double move that completely spun NC State safety Earl Wolff into the ground as if Allen Iverson just crossed him over. It was a filthy move that drew lots of oohs and aahs. Better yet Blake made the catch to finish the play.
Rutgers TE DC Jefferson, who is a very big target at 6’6” and a stout 250 with very long arms. He made several nice catches and showed the ability to plant and cut quickly on an out pattern. In the 11s drill he bulldogged Princeton DE Matt Catapano backwards to clear a hole for Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy.
Collin Klein, Kansas State: The hitch in his delivery is even more evident in person; the ball and his arm literally stop as he cocks it before thrusting forward. His accuracy was scattershot and two balls slipped out of his hands. He threw two simply awful INTs as well; one he stared to his spot and was very slow to deliver the ball, and the other was one of those that left us wondering to whom and where he was throwing it.
Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech: Showed a more live arm than film showed, and he has improved the quickness of his release as well. Other than one short throw where he led Temple RB Montel Harris a steo too far, Cameron showed good accuracy as well. He zipped a great throw into Emory Blake on a clear-out crossing route, whistling the ball just behind the helmet of the departing defender.
Nathan Stanley, SE Louisiana: The thing that stood out about Stanley was his physicality. He is tall and carries himself tall. He has the most velocity on his throws of the group and he uses a wider base when he sets up. His deeper throws had much less trajectory on them than Klein’s, whose balls hung and fluttered beyond about 15 yards. He launched a great deep throw that hit Virginia Tech WR Corey Fuller in stride crossing the back of the end zone.
Two of the highest rated players entering the week were James Madison G Earl Watford and Arkansas Pine Bluff T Terron Armstead. Armstead stymied South Carolina DE Devin Taylor with a long arm extension that caught Taylor upright, then finished the block well. He has quicker feet than I expected and very much looks the part of a NFL LT. Physically he reminds me of Jason Peters.
Watford did not disappoint. He really fires off the snap with violent hands and quickness. He gets up field very well and is light on his feet. However, he is almost too zealous to get out in the open, as on one rep he ran right past a block on New Hampshire LB Matt Evans to engage the safety instead. Evans just held a count for Watford to pass and then made the tackle. Or should I say would have made the tackle as they were only in shoulder pads, helmets & shorts today.
One guy who stood out was Memphis tackle Jordan Devey. He’s not at physically imposing as some here, but he showed good technique and quick hands. He locked out Taylor once, and on the next set of reps blasted Scott Vallone backwards like he was a tackling dummy. He’s not overly athletic but had a nice showing in practice today.
Minnesota-Duluth G Garth Heikkinen is quite obviously the shortest lineman on the squad, and judging from today’s practice he’s also the slowest. That is not a good combination. Very heavy-legged and methodical, though once he got locked on Maryland DT Joe Vellano and rocked him backwards.
Glenville State G Mark Jackson got better as the practice went on. He looked tentative at first but realized “hey I can play with these guys” and really excelled in run blocking in the 11s drill.
Marcus Davis vs. Rodney Smith: The two marquee big-boy wideouts will be waging a battle all week for who is the better prospect. The tale of the first day tape went to Smith, who is longer and also quicker off the snap. Smith was actually quite skinny; the 6’6” 219 pound listing seems crazy as I’m 6’5” 205 and much thicker than Smith. He showed the ability to cut crisply and really extend to try and catch a bad throw. Davis wasn’t bad in his own right, and he got a nice highlight when he and North Carolina WR Erik Highsmith were lined up beside one another and both ran fly patterns. Davis beat him to the end zone by a good five yards, and Davis made a nice sliding catch at the end of the play.
Both those guys were upstaged by Davis’ Virginia Tech teammate Corey Fuller, who showed a real smoothness to his game. He set up an outside move nicely that torched Miami CB Brandon McGee, who was expecting him to go inside and overplayed it. Fuller also streaked past a flat-footed Brandan Bishop (safety from NC State) on a crossing route.
Just a general observation, but the LB prospects here had better hope that the trend towards smaller, lighter linebackers continues in force. The biggest LB on the East is South Florida’s Sam Barrington at 6’2” and 238 pounds, and he’s built like former NBA shooting guard Allan Houston. Richmond safety Cooper Taylor was visibly more built than any of the LBs at 6’4” and 230.
Army WR Trent Steelman has the coolest helmet here with the camouflage. He looks really small at just 6 feet.
I didn’t focus a lot on the RBs but it is very evident that Pittsburgh’s Ray Graham is the best one on the roster. It was not a good day for Vandy’s Zac Stacy, who rounded on his cuts and slipped when trying to make a sharp one. Graham made an excellent jump cut outside a nice seal block by Mark Jackson and galloped into open space. Both RBs are painfully short however, looking smaller than their 5’9” listings.
Arkansas P Dylan Breeding did not have a good afternoon, struggling to get the ball to turn over. He was barely topping 45 yards on punts with no rush.
Georgia Tech CB Rod Sweeting showed a nice low center of gravity and fluidity in breaking from his backpedal. I didn’t watch the DBs a lot but he caught my eye.
Richmond safety Cooper Taylor, one of the players I believe the Lions may target as written here, made a very good INT of Klein by reading Klein’s eyes and breaking to the spot as soon as Klein started his windup. He undercut the receiver and at full speed caught what would be an easy pick-six.
South Florida CB Kayvon Webster had a genuine Rahim Moore-in-crunch-time moment mistiming a jump on a potential INT and not getting enough depth on his drop. He fell to the ground empty handed as the receiver made a catch a couple yards behind him. Webster did not have a good day, as he also appears to take an extra step to change direction.
Clemson safety Rashard Hall made a great read on a screen and would have caught the INT if not for pass interference by Stacy, who knew he was beaten to the ball.