MOBILE, Ala. -- As we depart from this year's Senior Bowl, I wanted to take a closer look at the South team's Wednesday afternoon practice from Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
- When the South team came together for their Wednesday practice, I was interested in seeing how defensive ends Chris Smith and Dee Ford were going to come out for the day.
Both of these players were guys that I had studied before I made the trip to Mobile and to be honest, I wasn't totally thrilled with how each had played on tape. Smith has more size to him, while Ford showed more quickness.
I thought both did a much better job today handling blocks and getting off them. Where these guys got in trouble during the season was getting off those blocks. There was no doubt in my mind that each could rush the passer -- and that was good. But how they played the run was going to be a large factor as well.
Where both these guys have an advantage is when they play on the move, but today they showed the ability to fire their hands inside and control blockers while playing head up. There were several times where they had to deal with blockers one-on-one, play with power and get in on the play.
If you gave me a choice between the two players in what I had seen on tape, and then at these practices, I would like to have Ford and try to put more weight on him. There just appears to be more to his game and ways to develop that.
- I have to say that I really didn't have a great feel for Texas receiver Mike Davis before I traveled to Mobile, but there were times over the last three days where I thought he flashed some nice things.
His routes looked smooth, and against the press, he showed some quickness to release off the jam. Davis caught the ball well, didn't look like he was fighting it or double catching any of the balls thrown his way.
The biggest surprise about his game was the willingness and toughness that he showed as a blocker. In the one-on-one work with the defensive backs, he was outstanding.
It didn't matter who he was facing -- he stepped up and took on the challenge.
- I was really looking forward to focusing on Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins, who like Davis had flashed at times during the practice sessions.
Watkins, who is the brother of receiver Sammy Watkins of Clemson, might not have the talent of his All-American brother, but he has some very interesting traits for a cornerback. Watkins injured his right foot during the middle of the practice and was done for the day.
Before he was injured, I have to say I was impressed. He is a square-built player who moves with a great deal of ease and flow. There is no wasted movement in his pedal, and when he comes out of his break, he can really cover some ground.
I thought he did a really nice job when he had to take the slant, and when Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews went inside, he was right there in position to make the play. He is aggressive in the way he plays and he is physical when he has to deal with blockers.
He will head butt the blocker, then puts his hands inside to shed the blockers. He is a wrap-up tackler and is not afraid to mix it up when he gets the chance. I would not be surprised to see Watkins be able to help in the slot as well. Solid looking player overall.
- The player that I am most looking forward to studying when I arrived back in Dallas is North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner.
I understand this club has not had a great history of drafting small school offensive linemen, but this player might be different. During the week, he lined up at left tackle, but he also got some work at guard as well.
I believe I would play him at right tackle and let him go to work from that position. The jump in competition did not look too much for him and his play was consistent throughout. He played with nice power in the running game and was able to get some good push off the snap. He showed good quickness, and once engaged, he worked to finish.
He was good on his cut off and reach blocks. His pass sets were good, but there were some reps where he needed to be a little quicker to get to the outside and get set up.
I think the quickness and speed of these defensive ends and linebackers surprised him a bit. The more reps he took, the better he played. It was good to see him get a look at guard and I am sure that is where he will get a look in Saturday's game as well.
At 6-5, 318, there is no doubt he has the size but just not the background. But this will be a great experience for him to have played in this game.