Senior Bowl, Day 1: North Squad Practice Notes


Day one of Senior Bowl practices are complete and there was a lot to see from the North squad. They were the only team to practice today at Ladd Peebles Stadium — the South practiced at Fairhope Stadium. With both practices being conducted at the same time, I was only able to catch the North.

Below are some highlights and lowlights of the practice:

-Practice started out with some special teams work. Stanford fullback Owen Marecic was responsible for making the calls for the punt team during the first team reps. Across the field, Wisconsin’s John Moffitt, Toledo offensive lineman Kevin Kowalski and Brandon Fusco of Slippery Rock received work at center with the North quarterbacks. Throughout practice, the North squad saw some rapid rotation at offensive line. The North offensive line really seemed to have a nasty streak to them. There wasn’t a single guy on the unit who was not going in for the kill and finishing off blocks.

-Fusco seemed to be nervous at times. During blocking drills he snapped back multiple off target balls in order to get his block. The rushed snaps were due to Fusco trying to get a quick first step. After practice Fusco said in the hotel lobby, “I am just trying to adjust to the speed out there.”

– Early in practice it was evident that Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi has a cannon for an arm. With his huge arm and big voice — which works wonders for the hard count — Stanzi has the look of an NFL quarterback, but his accuracy was horribly inconsistent all day. Stanzi threw the ball high on almost every pass attempt and he failed to locate the wide open receivers during 11-on-11 drills. His lack of touch is a major cause for concern.

– Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick showed deceptive speed on the field. His long strides will make you think that he is going for a light jog, but you quickly notice him blowing by defenders and before you know it he is down the field. One area Kaepernick needs to improve on is his drop back. The former Wolfpack standout found himself constantly being reminded to bend his knees and make his footwork more fluent while stepping out from under center. Kaepernick also has to work on his elongated delivery that seems to make an appearance on occasion.

Jake Locker of Washington was the only quarterback to throw a pick at today’s practice. He was inconsistent with his throws and was really sailing the ball in 7-on-7 drills. It may be due to early week jitters, but it will be something to watch as the week goes on. Locker … definitely did not look like a first round quarterback.

-Nebraska wideout Niles Paul is a very physical guy on the outside. Unfortunately for him, he has extremely small hands — they measure 8 5/8″. Compare that to the hands of WVU’s Noel Devine (8 1/2″) who is half a foot shorter and sixty-five pounds lighter and you can see where the small hands are a concern. However, Paul — 6-foot-7/8-inch and 225-pounds — is thicker than all eight running backs participating in this year’s game.

— San Diego State wide receiver Vincent Brown was very impressive making big catches all over the field. He was not afraid to fully extend for his passes. Brown plays a lot bigger than his recorded measurements — 5-foot-11, 184-pounds. He has the second longest arms at his position, second only to 6-foot-4 South Alabama receiver Courtney Smith.

-Offensive lineman Jason Pinkston of Pittsburgh has a really solid base and moves well for his size. While you may not be able to tell much from stretches, Pinkston appeared to be one of the more flexible players among the offensive line. Pinkston came in a little shorter than expected (6-foot-3 3/8), but his 34 1/2 inch arms and agility are more important than height. With his long arms and agility, Pinkston will be able to stay at tackle at the next level an also be able to bump into guard if need be.

Casey Matthews of Oregon — the brother of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews — was a standout at today’s practice. There was never a play that he was not moving at full speed and he showed some real explosiveness. Matthews is a hard-working player that had a nose for the ball in practice. He was always quickly reading the plays and clogging up the rushing lanes.

Titus Young looked good early in the practice. He showed a lot of quickness and was making spectacular grabs, but something seemed to happen mid-practice — perhaps a loss of focus. Young got a case of the dropsies and began giving up on plays. He had to be reminded on several occasions by the Cincinnati Bengals staff to finish off the play.

–In the pit, offensive and defensive linemen squared off. Cameron Jordan was incredibly impressive. He showed quick hands and at one point had his way with one of the top offensive linemen in this year’s draft class, Anthony Costanzo. Jordan also showed that he is not a one-trick pony as he bull rushed Costanzo into the backfield on the very next rep. Costanzo redeemed himself later in the practice by stoning Jeremy Beal of Oklahoma. Iowa’s Christian Ballard was the next most impressive player along the defensive lineman. He and Jordan won virtually every snap.

-One defensive lineman who really struggled was Pierre Allen from Nebraska, which came after his impressive weigh-in. Allen was getting controlled by the offensive lineman on every rep. As soon as he engaged, he would be get pushed out of the play as he was unable to get any separation. The same can be said for Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan who disappointed at the weigh-in with his weight, coming in at only 255-pounds. However, Kerrigan looked chiseled and had an impressive physique. As a testament, do not put too much stock into the weigh-in.

– In the secondary, Nebraska’s Eric Hagg and Joe Lefeged of Rutgers had very rough days. Lefeged was unimpressive and had very uncoordinated feet. He was constantly tripping over his own feet and falling off balance. Hagg was also too high in and out of his breaks and was another guy who showed some poor footwork in the secondary.

For extended coverage of the Senior Bowl, be sure to follow Senior Bowl Coverage by Football Alliance on Facebook with additional coverage with Mike Margittai.