MOBILE, Ala. – Two days into Senior Bowl week here in Mobile, the players are starting to settle in with their teammates and coaches. Here are my observations from Ladd-Peebles Stadium on the second practice for the North and South teams, coached by the Cowboys and Jaguars, respectively:
- I thought it was a nice day for the defensive backs on the North side during the one-on-one period. Minnesota cornerback Eric Murray was outstanding when he was matched up against Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller. There were several snaps where Miller tried to hit him with double moves and Murray was right there with him. Temple cornerback Tavon Young and Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson were also on their games during this period as well.
- I continue to be impressed with Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon and what he is able to do out of the backfield catching the ball. It really is an easy adjustment for him, whether he is going to his left or right -- he doesn't fight it at all. There is a smoothness with which he is able to make those types of plays.
- Was a little disappointed during the practice -- especially when the defensive line was facing the offensive line in one-on-ones. My disappointment centered on Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson and the lack of activity with which he rushed the passer. This was one of the strengths of his college tape. His pass rush moves and penetrations are big things I observed, and I was looking forward to seeing that on display -- but it wasn't the case. His game was generally strength and power but right down the middle of the blocker. If he is going to play that way, he would be of no use to a Dallas defense that is looking for more from that spot.
- Every time that I want to like UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, something happens where he lets me down. Sharpe injured his hamstring during the morning practice and will miss Thursday's practice as well as the game on Saturday. It's a tough break for him and his availability to be evaluated by the clubs. Just from the tape, I had him in the third round with the idea that I could raise him with a nice week of practice after I got to see him on a live look. In light of the injury, I will most likely leave him where he is on my board and see if there are others that I like more ahead of him.
- I like what the Dallas coaches did in working Virginia cornerback Maurice Canady at safety some in practice. I have my concerns about the ball going down the field on him as a corner, but as a safety he can play center field and drive on routes underneath. He has a rangy enough build to consider him there and might be a position that really is best suited for his talents.
- LSU linebacker Deion Jones put on a turnover show in the afternoon practice session. Jones tipped a ball that was intercepted by Middle Tennessee safety Kevin Byard and caused a fumble on a scramble by Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, knocking the ball out of his hands. If there is one thing that Jones can do for his size, it is run -- and that puts him in position to make these types of plays.
- I was disappointed in the way North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw the ball during practice. His accuracy was all over the place and he had little control of the ball. The arm strength and talent is there, but he is going to need to dial it in better before the game on Saturday or scouts will have more questions than answers.
- I have to say that I had no idea who Virginia Tech defensive end Dadi Nicolas was before my trip to Mobile, but I need to find out more. Much of the attention this week has been on Eastern Kentucky Noah Spence, but Nicolas was able to grab a little of that spotlight away with some quality edge rushes. Nicolas was able to capture the corner several times and one of those times was against Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango -- who had been giving defensive ends some problems. Nicolas is listed at 6-3, 235 and likely a better fit for a 3-4 scheme playing as an outside linebacker and rusher.