Senior Bowl Report: Monday's North Practice
Written by John Clifford on 01/19/2009
The first afternoon of practices presented the choice of attending the North squad’s at Ladd-Peebles or the South’s at Fairhope Stadium about 8 miles away at the exact same time. Besides being closer, I opted for the North because it’s a larger collection of less familiar names to most people.
But before perhaps the most interesting tidbits of Monday came before leaving the hotel – first, seeing Todd McShay, hopefully I’ll catch him later in the week and second, the entire Patriots scouting staff and before they split up to cover both practices, standing and sitting around me, discussing a number of topics:
They have a strong interest in “2 kids from Cincinnati” and have interviews set up. One scout to another confirming that information, referencing the same needing to be done about “the West Virginia kid” and asking, “What was that theft about;” further commenting that he’d discuss that particular issue, once the “Xs and Os” were done.
Two different scouts debated the strength and weight training of Connecticut, one scout making the case that we’d see it show up in a negative way on the field. A senior- member of the staff commented on Larry English of Northern Illinois as having a “great pass rush,” but he’s “not sold on OLB.” He referenced another person’s comments – “he’s just 6’ 2” and a great pass rusher” and made further comparisons to LaMarr Woodley’s game and physical strength and body type.
Lastly, one scout questioned Ron Brace as a prospect over B.J. Raji at the next level – the answer emphatically and with unanimity was Raji.
On to Ladd-Peebles for the North Practice…
After the warm-ups, the offense ran a few quick reps with a complete 11-man rotation. Virginia RB Cedric Peerman was the first player to see meaningful touches and make a visual impact, and his burst of speed accomplished both.
When positional units broke out, Peerman’s footwork and speed held up, but that might be more a function of the less than elite group. Most of the North backs carry power, if now size, component to their running, Purdue’s Kory Sheets showed his speed and footwork is not hampered by that the way it seems to have with the other prospects.
The RBs and TEs ran passing routes against LBs and DBs and the immediate standout was Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew. He presents himself to a QB as an enormous target, pulling in a high throw rendering the defender useless on the first play of the drill. Kory Sheets’ speed beat a slow-looking Scott McKillop (Pitt/LB), and in carbon copy form Peerman did the same to Ohio State LB Marcus Freeman – both showing good receiving skills and burst after the catch, and speed to get to the outside. Pettigrew made one of the more impressive moves to this point of the practice getting off the line against South Florida LB Mike McKenzie, making him look like a rag doll, making sure another ball coming his way didn’t hit the turf. Sheets, once again against McKillop, took him to the outside and used his speed to beat him to the corner – and on this play McKillop looked more than slow, but uncomfortable in coverage.
With WRs and CBs in 1-on-1s, North Carolina’s Brooks Foster was clearly frustrated by a drop up against Cincy DB DeAngelo Smith. UConn Darius Butler had a nice break up on a pass to Penn State WR Derrick Williams. A beautiful Rhett Bomar deep ball to Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie might’ve touched all ten of his fingertips on the way to the turf…ugly. Foster redeemed himself against Smith on a nice cut route. Oregon State’s Keenan Lewis gave up a completion on an out route, must’ve been 7 yards off, maybe even 10. Oklahoma WR Juaquin Inglesias had a ball bounce off his hands on a curl route. After not connecting deep on his prior rep, Robiskie beat Mickens on a curl to the sideline with a well-timed and nicely thrown ball from Central Arkansas QB Nathan Brown.
Just as I thought that all 3 QBs have looked solid to this point, Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell hits Brooks Foster deep beautifully, followed up by Bomar deep to Washington State’s Brandon Gibson (possibly injured himself on the play).
Derrick Williams wrapped up the drill with a spectacular catch having to comeback for a ball and getting it at its highest point, in addition to having Darius Butler interfere on the play and land on top of him and still hold on. Meanwhile, Butler on a number of plays, this being the latest, has shown a problem with body control.
QBs running 5-wide has Harrell on a quick and sharp throw hits Robiskie out of the slot – like Manning to Gonzalez (and how many scouts just saw and wondered about what a great draft pick that was for the Colts?). Nathan Brown with a quick release to Pettigrew – this is my day one practice radar find – Brown did nothing but help himself and Pettigrew appears to be an unstoppable beast. Harrell hit Robiskie lined up wide from the opposite hash (a Matt Ryan NFL throw). Brown finds his favorite target Pettigrew – again – with the same consistent throw from release to spiral.
The North squad moved to 11-on-11 and right away a couple of players that have already jumped out in ways to help their case, do it again – Nathan Brown, looking comfortable in the pocket, quickly checks down, dumps it to Kory Sheets, shows good hands and speed to space. Should he continue to demonstrate his versatility in the passing game this week, he could immediately contribute the way of a Leon Washington at the next level, as part of a rotation within the offense, perhaps just not between the tackles that often.
Oklahoma’s Inglesias doesn’t help himself by putting the ball on the ground without being hit after the catch. Sheets heading to the sideline with the QB on a rollout, makes the corner and flies down the sideline – his speed is standout. Brooks Foster’s play over the deep middle has been solid, if not impressive, making his own earlier demonstration of frustration over a dropped ball more understandable – no other receiver has shown the inclination to make plays in that traffic, much less the ability, this afternoon.
Sheets’ attempt to go between the tackles completely stuffed. I immediately think back to my memories in Mobile of the contrast between J.J. Arrington and Darren Sproles hitting the hole and running in traffic and contact. We’ll see what Sheets can do this week.
Last Edited: 04/05/2009