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Senior Bowl Day 1 South Team Practice Report

Steve Shoup

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Quarterbacks:

Justin Herbert:

Herbert was the top quarterback on either squad today, and showed a clear gap between him and the next tier of quarterbacks. Despite being a new offense and working with brand new receivers, Herbert was routinely on target, with plus ball placement. On a number of his throws he would lead his receiver and allow him to catch it in stride. The zip on his throws was also noticeable and allowed him to fit in a couple tighter window passes. On one deep pass down the sideline Herbert hit Austin Mack on a near perfect throw.

Though there were a few throws where he was a little off target, Herbert showed the accuracy, rhythm and arm talent scouts were hoping for. It was one of the better first day of Senior Bowl practices that we’ve seen in recent years. Herbert is off to a strong start this week, and if it continues he should be a lock for a top 10 pick and potentially top 5.

Jalen Hurts:

Hurts started out practice a bit out of sync when he was throwing vs air and 1-on-1 drills. Multiple passes were rushed with inconsistent footwork, which led to questionable velocity and ball placement. As practice wore on Hurts seemed to get into more of a rhythm and looked better in 7-on-7 drills and full team drills. In those sessions you saw him quickly go throw his reads and find the open receiver and his accuracy seemed a little better as well. Hurts also was able to show off his athleticism as a weapon, both in his ability to keep plays alive and to pick up yardage on the ground.

While there were some negative moments and the practice showed a clear gap between him and Herbert, today was probably a net positive for Hurts. He was the 3rd best QB down here between the two squads and showed enough playmaking ability that someone should take a shot on developing him.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Collin Johnson:

Watched some of Johnson’s footwork drills at the start of practice and came away impressed. For a bigger receiver he turned the corner really well and got in and out of his breaks smoothly. During 1-on-1 drills it was a mixed bag for him, as he had a couple nice reps where he got open and made the catch, and then he had a couple where he couldn’t separate or double caught the ball. I thought he looked his best in full team drills. He used his size to win a couple of times and showed what his upside could be if it all clicks for him. It was a positive first day for the former Longhorn and something he can build upon the rest of the week.

Van Jefferson:

Jefferson had a great first practice for the South Squad as he was the best route runner on the team and possibly on either squad. His ability to change direction was so smooth that it created easy separation throughout the day. He was basically uncoverable in 1-on-1’s and continued to get open and make catches in 7-on-7 and team drills. It’s a strong group of receivers in Mobile this year, but so far Jefferson is a clear winner.

Jauan Jennings:

Jennings came into the practice session with a lot of buzz and he lived up to it in practice today. In footwork drills he showed impressive fluidity in getting in and out of his breaks and was praised by the coaching staff multiple times. Jennings really shined in 1-on-1 drills where he used his physicality to make a big catch down the field and then routinely beat press coverage. Jennings showed decent route running, good speed, athleticism and physicality throughout all drills. This was a very positive first practice for Jennings and he continues to show why he’s been getting so much buzz.

Austin Mack:

Mack was a late add to the Senior Bowl roster, but he made the most of his opportunity. Though buried on Ohio State’s depth chart for much of his career, Mack showed some natural abilities to get open and make plays. The coaching staff praised him multiple times throughout drills, and his performance backed it up. The highlight of the day was the deep ball from Herbert, but he also made a couple other really nice catches throughout the practice session.

Harrison Bryant:

Wasn’t a great overall day for Tight ends on either squad, but Bryant was the notable exception. He made a number o nice catches in 1-on-1’s and 7-on-7 drills. He was extremely tough to cover for both linebackers and safeties and showed some downfield ability. In what looks like a down TE class, Bryant has the chance to really boost his draft stock this week and ensure a top 50 draft spot.

Offensive linemen:

Ben Bartch:

-Bartch had one of the best days of any prospect and that is a bit more impressive coming from playing at Saint John’s. Bartch not only held his own in practice versus numerous top 100 and 150 defensive line prospects, but he dominated a number of reps as well. Bartch showed really strong footwork in practice and played with a lot of power as well. Bartch also helped himself at the weigh-in coming in over 300 lbs at 308. That is a good size for him and he carries it well.

John Simpson:

Simpson had a really good day, showcasing his excellent power and hand usage. He did lose a couple reps to Kinlaw (which should be expected), but otherwise he was a stonewall out there. Simpson really showed a nasty streak in run blocker where he could bully defenders off the line.

Lloyd Cushenberry III:

-Cushenberry came in as one of the higher rated offensive linemen down here, and he didn’t do anything to disappoint. He held up well in 1-on-1 drills, which is something that can be particularly tough for centers. He continued his strong performance in full team drills as well, as he was a excellent as a pass blocker and opened up some holes as a run blocker.

 

Defensive Line:

Terrell Lewis:

It was an up-and-down day for Lewis, as he looked great on some reps and disappeared on others. When Lewis won though it was pretty notable. Since players can’t sack the QB or the coach who is filling in for the QB during 1-on-1’s, it can be tough at times to determine whether a “win” in the drill would be a sack or just a pressure. For Lewis it was pretty easy to determine, as some of his reps he won so quickly that it would have been a guaranteed sack. Lewis also notably gave Bartch the most issues on the edge as well. Lewis didn’t play as well versus the run and there were other passing reps where he was easily blocked out of the play, but this practice showed his upside and why he could end up a first round pick.

Marlon Davidson:

-Davidson was the 2nd most dominate defensive lineman on either squad during the first day of practice. He showed a great balance of power and speed with his pass rush moves and was a headache in both 1-on-1’s and team drills. With a deep defensive line group down here, Davidson definitely helped separate himself from the pack in the first practice.

Javon Kinlaw:

By far the most dominate defensive lineman down here today was Kinlaw. He was unblockable for much of practice and even on reps that he “lost” he was able to gain ground and push the pocket. They might not have been considered true pressures, but if the QB felt the need to step up from outside pressure he wouldn’t have had much space to work with. Kinlaw’s quickness and power were on display throughout the day, and he now should be considered a top 15 lock and could go top 10.

 

Defensive backs:

Kindle Vildor:

Vildor had a couple issues early in 1-on-1 drills where he gave up too much separation. What was impressive was how he battled back and played a lot better in full team drills as practice wore on. He was much better in coverage and sticking with his man. He also made one of the defensive plays of the day coming down with a tough interception down the field. On that play Vildor got position, tracked the ball and went up to take it away from the receiver. For someone coming from a smaller school, Vildor held his own today and will look to clean up some mistakes in the remaining practices.

Dane Jackson:

-Jackson was top corner on the South Squad today in man-to-man coverage drills. While he had a few reps where receivers got the best on him, he generally was the tightest in coverage and it was even more noticeable in team drills where he was rarely challenged since he had his man locked down. Really strong start to the week for the Pitt corner who has a real chance to improve his stock and fly up draft boards.

Darnay Holmes:

Holmes was flying all over the field today making plays in coverage. He got a little too aggressive at times for how the coaches wanted the practice to be run, but that will just earn him points for scouts in attendance. Holmes was pretty decent in coverage, holding his own in the 1-on-1 drills (which isn’t easy), and making a number of plays in team drills.

 

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