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2021 Senior Bowl

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Notebook: Observations from Day 1 at Senior Bowl


Both practices on Tuesday featured helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. Here's what I saw on tape:

National Team Practice

* Some of the smaller wide receivers proved very difficult to cover during 1-on-1 drills against the team's cornerbacks. Converted running back Demetric Felton (5-8, 189 pounds) didn't just get open on nearly all his reps, he created yards of separation. His ability to change direction, start and stop is exceptional.

* The only cornerback who was able to stay with Felton on one of his reps was Oklahoma's Tre Brown (5-9, 188), who broke up the pass. Brown also had tight coverage on Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace early in the 1-on-1s. He closed out the period with an interception over the middle after very physical coverage on a crossing pattern.

* Western Michigan's D'Wayne Eskridge (5-9, 188) was also impossible to cover. He showed off his speed and quickness to gain separation on different routes down and across the field. His most impressive route came on a play where he slipped at the top of his route, but managed to regain his feet and still make the catch.

* South Dakota State wide receiver Cade Johnson (5-10, 186) consistently won on a variety of different routes at all levels of the defense. He showed good ball-tracking and sharp route-running.

* Some of the bigger receivers who drew some notice were Nico Collins (6-4, 215) and Sage Surratt (6-2, 215). Surratt showed the ability to adjust to the deep ball when it is in the air, and Collins was able to separate on deep routes.

* Arizona State wide receiver Frank Darby and Louisville receiver Dez Fitzpatrick caught deep balls during the team portion.

* Alabama running back Najee Harris did not participate in any of the drills, where there was the potential for a lot of contact. His Crimson Tide teammates DeVonta Smith (hand) and guard Landon Dickerson (knee) did not take reps due to injury.

* One-on-one drills between linebackers and running backs are very tough for the defender but both North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt and Ohio State linebacker Justin Hilliard showed an ability to cover. Hilliard got some Big 10 bragging rights when he blanketed Michigan fullback Ben Mason, deflected a pass into the air and came up with the interception.

* UCLA's Osa Odighizuwa (the brother of former Giants DE Owa Odighizuwa) had a couple of tackles for a loss on running plays during team drills. He also beat Nebraska's Brenden Jaimes in 1-on-1 pass rush drills.

* Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike showed excellent burst off the line in 9-on-7 drills and won frequently in 1-on-1 drills. Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey was the only player able to block him well in 1-on-1 pass rush drills. Humphrey is projected by many analysts as a Day 2 pick.

* Notre Dame defensive end Daelin Hayes flashed a couple of times. He won in 1-on-1s with a savage pass rush against talented offensive tackle Spencer Brown, who was driven back into the lap of the quarterback. Hayes would later line up inside and beat teammate Aaron Banks with a quick spin move.

American Team Practice

* Clemson wide receiver Cornell Powell (6-0, 205) is a very smooth route runner who consistently gets away from defensive backs. He went undefeated in 1-on-1 until Georgia's DJ Daniel covered him well and broke up a pass toward the end of the drill. Daniel was one of the better cover corners in the period.

* Houston receiver Marquez Stevenson (5-10, 182) looked like one of the fastest players on the practice field, consistently running past defensive backs.

* South Carolina's Shi Smith (5-10, 186) looks like he can play the part of a NFL slot receiver perfectly. He was too quick for defensive backs during 1-on-1s with only Florida's Shawn Davis preventing a catch toward the end of the drill.

* Fellow slot receiver Clemson's Amari Rodgers (5-9, 211) was also able to get separation using his quickness and speed throughout 1-on-1s. He also won over the top with his deep speed.

* Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney (5-11. 189) displayed the skills to be a big-time NFL playmaker lining up inside or outside. He played bigger than his size and showed physicality in his route-running and the ability to win over the top.

* UAB's Austin Watkins (6-1, 207) has good size and flashed the ability to run away from defenders from bigger schools – he's worth keeping an eye on.

* Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu had an up-and-down day with two excellent reps, and two others where he had trouble staying with his receiver. He lined up three times against Florida's Trevon Grimes (6-3, 217) and was bested on two of those three matchups.

* Central Florida's Aaron Robinson looked comfortable playing very physical coverage and allowing little air-space between him and the receivers he was covering. He was one of the more consistent cornerbacks on the field. Georgia tight end Tre McKitty made the play of the day during 1-on-1s, making a one-handed catch on a back-shoulder throw where he had to spin his body and fully extend his arm to reach out and pluck the ball out of the air. McKitty also made a defender fall down on a deft route during 1-on-1s.

* Missouri safety Tyrie Gillespie picked off quarterback Jamie Newman in 1-on-1s, staying with and then undercutting Bowling Green tight end Quintin Morris near the sideline. Newman, who sat out the 2020 season, is an intriguing player to watch this week. He completed a deep seam route on a nice throw to Duke tight end Noah Gray during 7-on-7s. Gray showed the ability to separate from defenders during 1-on-1s.

* The team portion of the American practice was dominated by the defensive line. The right side of the offensive line had trouble protecting their quarterback, with sacks coming from Wake Forest's Carlos Basham, Baylor's William Bradley-King (who also had two tackles for a loss), Houston's Payton Turner, and Georgia's Malik Herring.

* Auburn linebacker KJ Britt was quick to come downhill and fill the hole in the run game.

* Alex Leatherwood, a likely Day 1 or 2 pick from Alabama, lined up at left tackle and gave up pressures during the 1-on-1s. He won his first rep against Miami's Quincy Roche, but lost to him on an outside rush toward the end of the session. He was also beaten outside and finally on a bull rush from Bradley-King. Bradley-King (6-3, 254) showed excellent athleticism and a variety of pass rush moves throughout the day.

* Payton Turner and Marvin Wilson earned sacks during 1-on-1s.

* Georgia guard Ben Cleveland acquitted himself well during 1-on-1s, holding up against speed and power rushers. Texas A&M offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. flashed a strong punch. Tennessee guard Trey Smith (6-5. 331) was very difficult to move.

View photos of players to accept an invite to the 2021 Senior Bowl.


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