Today was a morning focused primarily on the linemen and linebackers, as they were in pads and quickly got to the hitting.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from McGill had a very nice morning. The right tackle has natural flexibility in his knees and ankles, and he’s got very big hands. He knows how to use those hands too; his punch isn’t great but he can latch on with those big mitts and fend off rip or cut moves. West Virginia DE Will Clarke tried an inside spin but the Canadian stayed engaged and low in his stance, easily fending him off.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed his play:
T Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (McGill) #CIS is having an outstanding practice today. Doing great in OL/DL
— Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan) January 15, 2014
On the opposite side, both figuratively and literally, was Texas left tackle Donald Hawkins. My notes are littered with technical issues on his part: waist-bending, shoulders and hips not square, short-stepping on run blocks. He looked like he was trying too hard.
One of the beneficiaries of Hawkins’ poor play was West Texas A&M end Ethan Westbrooks. On one rep he flew around Hawkins completely untouched. He’s got a very nice first step and showed he could also swim inside with a good countermove. Westbrooks has long legs and strides, so it was difficult for him to flatten off the edge. That also cost him when the run was right at him in team drills, as he was unable to get to speed. He looks like a pass rushing specialist with enough size/speed at 6’3” and 263 pounds to play 3-4 rush backer. ON a side note, he’s got an interesting tattoo under his left eye.
Purdue DT Bruce Gaston tore apart the weaker competition inside. He’s got a nice array of moves and very quick hands. I was watching with a group of NFL scouts and one said, and I quote, “love his rips, hips and lips”, as Gaston is not shy about celebrating triumph. What I really liked was his ability to keep leverage and keep his chest clean.
My friend and colleague Eric Galko also was impressed:
A few DL impressing today.Most surprising has been Purdue's Bruce Gaston. Holding POA well, adjusting shoulders/dipping to finish rush moves
— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) January 15, 2014
It’s worth noting that he was facing off against completely overmatched Youngstown State center Chris Elkins (bounced three snaps and sorely lacks sand in the pants) a lot. Gaston did fare well against Penn State’s John Urschel, a one man holding machine, albeit a rangy one from RG.
Toledo center Zac Kerin made the notes for sitting nicely in his stance and for quickly peeling off his initial punch and getting to the second level. However, he has a tendency to arch his back and twist when his man goes to a side instead of shuffling his feet in tandem.
Delaware DT Zach Kerr had some positive reps. He’s very big and not quick, but the team that drafts him will use him as a one-gap 0 or 1 technique. He’ll be fine in that capacity. Like Gaston, he’s been well-schooled on preventing blockers from squaring him up. He showed a nose for the ball in team drills too.
Syracuse DL Jay Bromley is a tough evaluation. He’s got the nonstop motor teams covet, and he’s got good eyes and very good power…when he plays at end. He doesn’t have anchor strength inside, but he’s also not quick enough and plays too high up to handle being an end. I liked him pursuing a stretch run across the formation, and when he stays low he can be a real handful in the B gap. But it’s inconsistent.
Richmond Spiders DE Kerry Wynn has very little creativity to his game. There’s not a lot of lateral wiggle either, but he did two things very well today. First, he made a great quick read on an inside handoff and shot inside to make the play before Bellhaven tackle Matt Hall could touch him. And on a team drill rep he was quickly blocked but kept his eyes on the QB and swatted down the pass.
East Carolina LB Derrell Johnson got a chance to play some rush end, and that’s clearly his best role going forward. He’s thickly built and has good power in both upper and lower body. He was a real handful for tight ends, and both Crockett Gilmore and Blake Jackson are pretty good blocking TEs. When he was playing SAM, he quickly sniffed out a play but ran right past it, unable to stop his momentum. He was a hot commodity after practice, meeting with the Jets, Chargers, and Cardinals–all 3-4 front teams.
Johnny Millard from Cal Poly had a very rough practice. There’s just not NFL requisite quickness, speed, or power there. Sorry. He’s going to have nightmares of Blake Jackson blocking him or trying to chase after Jeremy Gallon in coverage.
Away from the lines, I did watch a little more of Jimmy Garoppolo today. After I tweeted this,
Garoppolo sails a throw from one foot. Fell away from his target. Ugh. #shrinegame
I was quite impressed with the rest of his practice. He delivered a strike to a crossing Jeremy Gallon (uncoverable from the slot) on the dead run, picture perfect delivery and accuracy. He was patient and moved nicely in the pocket on a couple other reps.
North Carolina safety Tre Boston wins Mr. Congeniality. He’s always got a smile on his face and is always making noise. Sometimes (see Sean Weatherspoon or Cam Thomas) that drives teammates nuts but Boston’s act is well-received. Oh yeah, he can ball too. He showed great burst in breaking up a pass to Gallon, reaching around the Michigan wideout to break up the pass. Gallon did not attack the ball, and Boston took advantage.
The aforementioned Blake Jackson continues to mystify with inconsistency. For every great block, and they’re grrrreat, he’ll drop a nice throw from Garoppolo or run the wrong route and crowd the receiver.
Just before practice ended, word got out that Bengals DC Mike Zimmer was hired as the new Vikings coach. I was standing with Bengals scouting consultant and former Ohio State coach John Cooper and he had nothing but positives to say about Zimmer. Coop, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, believes Zimmer’s no-nonsense presence will reinvigorate the veterans in Minnesota.
Tags: Blake Jackson, Bruce Gaston, Chris Elkins, Derrell Johnson, Donald Hawkins, East West Shrine Game, Ethan Westbrooks, Jay Bromley, Jeremy Gallon, Jimmy Garoppolo, John Urschel, Johnny Millard, Kerry Wynn, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Shrine Game, Tre Boston, Zac Kerin, Zach Kerr