Day Two East
Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
I spent the first portion of practice watching the defensive back drills, then moved to the offensive line drills. I also got some good looks at a few select others, and took some notes on what teams were talking to what players after practice.
Cooper Taylor, Richmond–As mentioned yesterday, Taylor’s size really stands out. Even so, he is still one of the more explosive DBs out of breaks. His knees have a very natural bend, and he showed good hips and fluid athleticism when he broke across the middle with a receiver. Taylor also demonstrated keen zone awareness, knowing where he was and keeping track of the receiver while looking back at the QB. He’s definitely the best safety on the East roster.
Brandan Bishop, NC State–He showed strong burst when asked to go out of his backpedal. In 7s drills he got caught playing too deep on a cross, and then on the next rep he overcorrected and was too shallow. You’ll notice that as a recurring theme in these notes.
Earl Wolff, NC State–The safety showed good spatial recognition in zone coverage. In 11s drills he correctly read the TE breaking out and undercut the route nicely. Later he closed quickly on an underneath completion, approaching with controlled speed and good balance.
Rashard Hall, Clemson–Not a good day. Hall jumped in too early and allowed the receiver to get behind him on a post move. On the next rep he held back too long and surrendered an easy catch and allowed the receiver to turn up the field with the ball after the catch. In early drills he caught every single ball with his shoulder pads.
Trey Wilson, Vanderbilt–Wilson has high, choppy feet in his backpedal, and while he can burst out of it he occasionally gets caught a half-step slow. In man coverage he ran stride for stride with Navy WR Brandon Turner and nicely used his hips to shade Turner to the sideline. On another rep he showed good ball awareness and fought to break up the pass to UNC WR Erik Highsmith.
Rod Sweeting, Georgia Tech–Sweeting struggled with the loose wet turf early, face-planting when breaking from his backpedal. He rebounded nicely in the change-of-direction portion, showing very quick and loose hips. He stayed very low in his stance in zone coverage and showed he could redirect the receiver without holding or interfering.
Brandon McGee, Miami–McGee had a nice practice. He was definitely one of the quickest and most fluid in agility drills and also flashed excellent hands. That paid off when he got a pick in a later drill, showing good zone awareness and the ability to hghpoint the ball over Rutgers TE D.C. Jefferson.
Josh Johnson, Purdue–He didn’t do much for me on Monday, but Tuesday was a better day. Johnson showed a good low backpedal and the ability to turn his hips quickly and get to top speed. He was good in zone coverage, quickly recognizing his responsibility. He closed quickly from playing inside technique to a sideline route and forced the receiver out of bounds as the ball arrived.
Melvin White, UL-Lafayette–White is the tallest corner here at 6’3” and he carries himself like a taller man. It got him in trouble in drills, however; White was summarily ordered to “keep your ass down” by the position coach. In cover three zone in 11s drill he was lost in space, though he did nicely to break up an underthrown sideline pass from Colby Cameron.
Kayvon Webster, USF–In the footwork drills Webster’s quickness really jumped out. He has very fast feet and is very balanced and coordinated. Once receivers got involved, Webster’s day went downhill. He really struggled getting the correct depth in zone drills and let the receiver get outside him for a sideline catch in 11s. VaTech WR Marcus Davis easily controlled him on a perimeter block.
I missed the OL-vs.-DL portion but zeroed in up close on the straight positional drill. The goal was to show punch and drive blocking ability.
Monday’s OL surprise Jordan Devey from Memphis again stood out. He embraced the coaching direction to “make his lungs collapse” on punching, really showing good force and hand location. I hadn’t seen much of Devey heading here but he is really looking solid.
Terron Armstead also fared well, though his hands kept getting too high for the coach’s liking. He really sinks his hips well and drives with good balance and pad level in the drive blocking. His hands did get wide and grabby a couple of times, however.
South Carolina’s TJ Johnson probably showed the strongest, most consistent punch, and he really rocked it on one rep, nearly knocking Armstead to the ground. Drive blocking was not his forte, as he consistently bent at the waist and lunged out too far.
Glenville State’s Mark Jackson showed his technical rawness. His feet were too far apart and his hands too close together on his punch. He was also too upright in drive blocking and had visibly slower feet than most others.
This drill did not go well for JMU’s Earl Watford. As I tweeted during the drill, I cannot stress how poorly he performed or how disappointed the coaches were with him. He was continually admonished to “act like you want to hit him” and his hand placement was all over the place. He also struggled to get close enough to his target. In the drive blocking his natural inclination was to grab the bottom of the shoulder pad and push up, which is an easy holding call in the NFL and the coaches let him know it.
Penn State C Matt Stankewitch had a similar problem to Watford with trying to punch from too far away. His lack of base power showed in drive drills, though to his credit his feet are very fast and choppy (that’s a good thing).
R.J. Dill from Rutgers is very upright in his stance and generated little power with his punch; it was all lower arm strength, no shoulder or hips behind it. When engaged in drive blocking Dill is visibly taller in his stance than anyone else.
Garth Heikkinen also struggled. The UMD guard is always slew-footed and never square to his target, and his feet are really slow. It also takes him a step to gather his strength once he’s engaged. I had high hopes for Heikkinen headed here but haven’t seen much to like thus far. He couldn’t get off the field and to the team bus fast enough after practice as well.
I wasn’t specifically watching him but Missouri Western DE David Bass continues to jump out. His quickness off the snap and ability to get off blocks are far above and beyond anyone else on the East. Pitt RB Ray Graham–clearly the best RB here on either roster–made a good pass protect pick-up on him but Bass leapt in the air high enough that his crotch was in Graham’s face. On one rep in 11s he embarrassed Nick Speller with a quick swim move and blew up a rollout.
Georgia Tech DT Izaan Cross made an excellent play to shoot the “A” gap between Stankeiwtch and Heikkinen and met the ball carrier at the moment of getting the ball.
Princeton DE Matt Catapano played very well in 11s drills. He ran a nice twist where he really showed the ability to knife inside and quickly close on the QB. In live action it would have produced a safety. He also beat a heavy-footed Matt Sewell around the edge with a quick first step and a quick flatten tack.
Maryland DT A.J. Francis has one goal on every snap in 11s: get upfield as far and as fast as possible. RJ Dill nicely used that against him and steered him well past the QB. UMass OL Nick Speller did the same on a run play to his side that opened up a big hole. To Francis’ credit he does get off the ball and up the field quickly.
The other Maryland DL here is Joe Vellano, and he made a splash play on a goal-line read option situation. He completely enveloped Vandy RB Zac Stacy as soon has Stacy made his break, taking away the option and leaving Kansas State QB Collin Klein as the only runner. Alas, both the LB and safety were too wide and deep and Klein scampered into the end zone.
New Hampshire LB Matt Evans got coaching criticism for going under blocks and taking poor angles on two separate reps in 11s.
Army WR Trent Steelman took some reps as a Wildcat QB and showed decent vision. He also made a very nice sliding catch earlier.
Florida State LB Nick Moody blew up a read option, showing good patience in waiting to see the ball leave the QB’s hand before exploding to the RB and darn near picking off the pitch.
Seen chatting after the game:
The Broncos and David Bass
The Falcons and D.C. Jefferson
The Browns and Melvin White
The Giants and both Joe Vellano and T.J. Johnson
The Bills and Chris Pantale
Several teams were queued around Ray Graham
Tags: A.J. Francis, Brandan Bishop, Brandon McGee, Cooper Taylor, David Bass, Earl Wolff, Garth Heikkinen, Izaan Cross, Jordan Devey, Josh Johnson, Kayvon Webster, Mark Jackson, Matt Catapano, Matt Stankewitch, Melvin White, Nick Moody, Nick Speller, Rashard Hall, Ray Graham, RJ Dill, Shrine Game, T.J. Johnson, Terron Armstead, Trey Wilson