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2021 Senior Bowl

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Notebook: Observations from Day 3 at Senior Bowl


Thursday was the third and final day of practice for the National and American teams before Saturday's game. Both teams were in full pads. In case you missed them, click here for Day 1 and Day 2 observations.

Here's what I saw on Day 3:

National Team Practice

* The National practice wasn't quite as long as it was on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wide receivers D'Wayne Eskridge, Tylan Wallace, and Sage Surratt sat out practice, as did cornerback Tre Brown and linebacker Chazz Surratt.

* Surratt (6-1, 227) was originally a quarterback recruit and played the position at North Carolina for two seasons before switching to linebacker. He led the team in tackles in his first year playing linebacker. He has the athleticism to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL.

* Justin Hilliard from Ohio State is the other linebacker who popped during the week of practice. He covered well, at times, and was not shy about filling the hole in the run game.

* The wide receivers and defensive backs got a lot of red zone work. Nico Collins continued to show off his size and body control, contorting his body to go up and catch a ball over his head on a corner-fade. No other player at the Senior Bowl has been able to match his unique combination of skills and physical attributes through three days of practice.

* Two other National receivers who hadn't been mentioned took advantage of their red zone opportunities. Arizona State's Frank Darby (6-0, 194) was smooth and precise in his route running and got open for a couple of catches during 1-on-1s. He also caught a slant and dived for a touchdown during team drills. Darby only played in two games as a senior due to injury and the pandemic but he showed some playmaking in this session. Louisville's Dez Fitzpatrick (6-2, 202) caught a touchdown and made some plays throughout the week as a bigger wide receiver.

* The National tight ends made the most of their opportunities. Boise State's John Bates caught a touchdown during team red zone drills, and another grab got the ball to the 5-yard line. Ole Miss tight end Kenny Yeboah (6-3, 247) also caught a touchdown. He has the desired tools, although he failed to come up with some catchable passes early in the week.

* Cincinnati tackle James Hudson (6-4, 302) hasn't been mentioned before, but the potential Day 2 pick flashed some very strong reps during the week of practice. He got beat once on an inside move from Northern Iowa's Elerson Smith. Smith had another good rush from defensive tackle later in 1-on-1s. and had a tackle for loss in the run game during team drills.

* Offensive line vs. defensive line 1-on-1s featured some good matchups. Rashad Weaver had a strong inside pass rush from defensive end. Quinn Meinerz and Creed Humphrey continued to block well at center. Dillon Radunz got some good reps at guard after spending most of his time at tackle earlier in the week.

* North Carolina's Michael Carter (5-7, 202) showed speed, acceleration, burst and the ability to change directions that could make him a weapon in the NFL. He also showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

* Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert also played well this week, and flashed an impressive spin move in the hole to avoid a defender during 9-on-7 drills.

Catch up on all the action with must-see photos from the 2021 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

American Team Practice

* D'Ante Smith, Robert Rochell, Marvin Wilson and Malik Herring sat out.

* Chris Evans (5-10, 219) caught passes out of the backfield, and his route running, change of direction and hands were impressive.

* Missouri's Larry Roundtree (5-10, 216) impressed as a runner. He showed good vision and balance and looks like he could be a force between the tackles.

* Coach Matt Rhule opened his practice with a two-minute session. Mac Jones continued his strong play on the first play of the drive with a short pass to Kadarius Toney. Toney turned a 10-yard catch into a long gain when he spun upfield and avoided the initial defender. Jones sat out the last portion of practice with a lower leg injury.

* Trey McKitty (6-4, 247) made a big catch during the two-minute session on a skinny post from Kellen Mond. He was used primarily as a blocker in his sole year at Georgia in 2020, catching only six passes for 108 pounds.

* UAB's Austin Watkins Jr. caught a touchdown pass from Mond to finish off his drive on a short post over the middle. As soon as Watkins caught the touchdown, Rhule was screaming from the sideline for his quarterback to remember the situation (they were told before the drive they were down eight) and to huddle up. They converted the two-point play on a bootleg pass to Elijah Mitchell.

* Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman got his chance on the third drive and was sacked (simulated with no contact) by Kansas State's Wyatt Hubert on the first play. Hubert and Baylor's William Bradley-King combined for a sack on the next play. On third-and-long, Newman launched a pass deep down the sideline, where his overthrow was picked off by Central Florida defensive back Richie Grant. Grant had a second interception on Newman on a great play later in the day, undercutting a slant intended for Toney in red zone team drills. Grant knocked down another in the final goal line session.

* The American defensive backs won more often than not in the red zone 1-on-1 drills with wide receivers. Watkins Jr. caught a pair of touchdowns, and Amari Rodgers caught a speed out for a score. Georgia's DJ Daniel had a couple of good coverage reps.

* Offensive and defensive line 1-on-1s featured some great matchups. Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood took every snap at left tackle this week and came on strong with some improved reps in 1-on-1s. Carlos Basham Jr. was dominant as an interior rusher throughout the period. Tennessee guard Trey Smith (6-5, 331) was dominant at guard and even had a good rep at left tackle against talented UAB pass rusher Jordan Smith. Florida State edge player Jamarius Robinson (6-5, 266 with 35.75-inch arms) continued to flash. Tulane defensive tackle Cam Sample (6-2, 274) also had some impressive inside pass rush moves.

* Duke tight end Noah Gray (6-3, 240) made a one-handed, leaping catch during red zone team drills toward the end of practice. It was an extremely physical period of practice that the defense won more often than not. The secondary did not allow much space against the receivers.

* Miami defensive end Quincy Roche (6-2, 243) showed some very strong play against the run during team goal line drills. He previously was also one of the squad's most consistent pass rushers.


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