It was a chilly and windy scene over Ladd-Peebles Stadium at the start of the South team practice. A light rain ensuing did not stop prospects from bringing the juice on the field. With the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff overseeing practice, general manager John Lynch made frequent stops beside every position to get a closer look at some of the talent milling on the field.
There were plenty of headliner names in the practice, and they did not disappoint. Even though it was an overcast sky, the stars shined brightly and rose to the occasion during to kickoff the 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Many high-end prospects are hesitant to accept their Senior Bowl invitations and compete. That was far from the case with Sweat. From the weigh-in, where he measured 6’6″ and 252 lbs, to the time he stepped foot on the practice field, he dominated the first day in Mobile. During the 1-on-1 pass rush session where he competed against the opposing offensive linemen, he showed just why many consider him to be a first-round prospect.
Montez Sweat hesi bull 👀 pic.twitter.com/5TaW3ULvNx
— Ty Wurth (@lostyhighway) January 22, 2019
His length and violence at the point of attack were immediately apparent. Just like you would expect a potential high draft pick to separate themselves from the pack, Sweat dominated during the first day. Leaving many coaches and general managers floored with his stature and then carrying it over into practice, he has only helped his draft stock.
One of the biggest winners from the first day was the former South Carolina receiver. During the designed 30-minute press conference before practices, Samuel made sure to stay and give insightful answers to every media member that was present at his podium station. Each answer was transparent and truthful.
Deebo Samuel is known for his versatility playing on the outside and in the slot. I asked the former South Carolina WR what was his favorite route to run. pic.twitter.com/BzCAsqfZ9y
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) January 22, 2019
From the first drill to the 20-minute special teams period that concluded practice, Samuel put on an absolute show. He showed quickness in and out of his cuts, a competitive nature, and he seemed to be catching everything with his hands. He fully embraced the moment and was just happy to be with many of the best players from around the country.
Another important and somewhat overlooked factor about his impressive day is that he was easily handling sky-high punts in swirling winds. Known for his versatility and special teams value, Samuel is showing that he could handle the weather conditions was another box that he checked in his draft profile.
Building off his momentum from the East-West Shrine Game from a week ago, Mack continued to flash his brute strength and immovable body in both A gaps. A true run-stuffing nose tackle, he flashed some ability to rush the passer during the team portion of practice.
Mack’s bull-rush down the mid-line of interior offensive linemen throughout the day was jaw-dropping. His natural power was evident, and no one had an answer for it all day. Mack’s size (6’1″, 327) may scare some teams, but he has plenty of value on the interior on early downs. Proving that he can be a consistent pass rush presence will be something he needs to do. If so, his draft stock and outlook will only improve heading into April.
Jenkins wasn’t a headliner name coming into the week, but enough evaluators knew about him. That quickly went out the window. Jenkins looked like the best interior offensive lineman in Mobile on day one. The former bulldog showed terrific hand usage, balance, and an anchor that gave every defender trouble that he was matched up against.
Elgton Jenkins was one of the best iOL during Day 1 in Mobile. 26 starts the past 2 seasons at center, he has a chance to be a solid Day 2 selection for some team. https://t.co/VjMdu8bFVS
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) January 23, 2019
Playing mostly center during the early portions of practice, he transitioned to guard during the back end of practice. This will do Jenkins justice because he’s showing that he’s not just locked into playing just one position. He has the versatility to play center or guard.
Oli Udoh, OL, Elon
A huge surprise during the day was the success of Udoh. A massive prospect but labeled as raw coming into the week, he held his own against some of the nation’s best. The biggest worry about small school prospects is how they will adjust to the speed of the game and the strength of other prospects, but Udoh passed the test with flying colors.
Already possessing a very thick lower half and trunk, he was consistently able to anchor against rushers. On other occasions, when there were attempts to bend the arc against him, his arm length disabled rushers of reaching the corner against him. He is a solid prospect that has a high level of upside if he’s able to continue the upward trend in his development throughout the week.
To no one’s surprise, all Renfrow did was get open during practice. He is lightning quick, and seeing him in person confirmed that. Jackrabbit-like quickness at the line of scrimmage as soon as the ball was snapped, he zipped past defensive backs. It was nearly impossible to get hands on him to slow him down.
The most impressive part about him, though, was his start-stop ability. His top-end speed isn’t great, but he’s able to change gears and directions in the blink of an eye. Running a curl route against Rock Ya-Sin during the 1-on-1 portion of practice, he was able to motor down and stop his route on a dime after just reaching top speed. Traits like that aren’t teachable. His understanding of routes and angles is top-notch.
Extra Practice Notes
All of the South team quarterbacks seemed to struggle at some points during practice. Will Grier struggled mightily with his footwork, which led to many of his passes sailing high over the heads of intended targets. Tyree Jackson is a massive project, who is a long way away from being ready to be a contributor. From his throwing mechanics to field awareness, he showed just how raw he is during the first day.
After an impressive weigh-in where his measurables were 6’4″ and 308 lbs, Andre Dillard left a lot to be desired following the opening practice. Even though he weighed more than what many evaluators expected, he still showed that he needs to gain strength and add mass to his frame to hold up at the point of attack. His pass sets are fluid, but at the moment of truth, he constantly got pushed around. Dillard may be a prospect that improves as the week progresses, but his flaws were exposed today.
Washington State LT Andre Dillard
*Hand usage improvements from Jr. to Sr. year
*More traditional pass sets
*What he's working on in the run game (3 point stance, footwork)@RussNFLDraft @ErikJTurner #ManFree pic.twitter.com/AUibPbQOg0
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) January 23, 2019
The wide receiver play overall was stellar. David Sills, Tyre Brady, and Anthony Johnson made some standout catches and crossed off some concerns that teams initially had with them. All proved to be polished route runners who didn’t have elite levels of speed, but they understood the nuances of the position and how to win against man-to-man coverage.
Oshane Ximines looked to be much more comfortable rushing from a wide-nine technique or a stand-up position. This will lead many to think that he is best suited as a 3-4 edge rusher instead of a five-technique in a 4-3 scheme. A lot of eyes will be on him as the week continues.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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