Lance Zierlein

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Senior Bowl Notes: Wednesday

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Note from Josh Norris: Rotoworld is happy to partner with The Sideline View's Lance ZierleinJohn Harris, and James MacPherson for Senior Bowl week. Each will focus on certain positional groups during practice and share their daily observations. If I have anything to add, a clear distinction will be made.

Be sure to visit The Sideline View, as they have extended reports on many of these prospects on their site.

North Practice Notes

Wyoming WR Robert Herron showed he has the hands to go with the quicks and burst.  He made a one hand catch on goal line 1-on-1 drills that had people buzzing down in the end zone.

Wake Forest WR Michael Campanaro is steady, consistent and continues to make one catch after another.  He hasn’t wowed the scouts with speed or acrobatic catches, but he snags everything thrown his way.

Wisconsin LB Chris Borland epitomizes the words “football player”.  I told people around me to just watch the ball and No. 44 would be there.  Wednesday morning’s practice proved just that.  He had a pick during team drills and, as he was at Wisconsin, always around the ball.

Northwestern do-it-all offensive weapon (playing WR this week in Mobile) Kain Colter impressed throughout the Wednesday morning practice.  Many expect Colter to play in the slot and eventually be a tremendous slot receiver at the next level, but he showed that he can get downfield AND make a play.  During team drills, he beat one of the North team corners on a go route and laid out for a catch in the end zone.  Quite impressive for a guy that hasn’t played but 30% of his snaps (or less) at receiver and is targeted to be more of a slot WR in the future.

Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir got a little lazy with his technique during Tuesday’s practice and got beat badly on a double move by Wyoming WR Robert Herron.  But, Wednesday was a different story.  He made at least two plays, knocking away a pass and another forcing the QB to hold the ball and not make a throw.  He was a bit unknown by the general draft populace having played at Lindenwood, but he made an impression during East-West Shrine and made a few heads turn today.

NIU S Jimmie Ward threw a blanket over tight ends in 1-on-1 coverage today which was no surprise.  He’s lived up to every expectation this week in Mobile and that’s with added pressure playing in his hometown on such an important stage.  In half field coverage drills, he showed the ability to get off his hash playing a half field safety.  He showed the range to get to the back corner of the end zone for deep corner routes, in addition to his solid 1-on-1 coverage.

We sat in the stands talking to agents and scouts debating the 2014 running back draft class and, as expected, there was no clear consensus as to the No. 1 back in this draft.  The hard part is that the top juniors are not here, but one senior that is and continues to make an impression is West Virginia RB Charles Sims.  Pass protection.  Check.  Vision.  Check.  Burst to and through the hole.  Check.  Toughness.  Check.  I heard the words “Matt Forte” and it makes sense.  Forte was a relative unknown heading to Mobile after his senior year.  After that week, Forte seemingly got more and more attention until the day he was a second round selection by the Chicago Bears.  Sims may have played his senior year in a more well-known conference but I gather that people still don’t truly understand how versatile and productive he has been and will continue to be at the next level.  Although I like what Wisconsin’s James White has done, Sims is clearly the best RB in Mobile and making money each and every practice.

Miami OG Brandon Linder really struggled with being able to hold off bull rushers as UConn DT Shemar Stephen and Pitt DT Aaron Donald gut under Linder's pads and pushed him deep into the pocket on one on one drills.  I want to believe that Linder just needs better technique, but his core strength has to be examined closely on tape.

It's a tale of two practices for Baylor's Cyril Richardson as the mammoth guard had issues again on one on one drills, but was dominant as a run blocker in the team portion of practice.  Interestingly enough, one of Richardson's victims was Pitt's Donald who has caused Richardson so many problems in one on ones.  Richardson's power and run blocking ability definitely popped today and it's obvious that game tape is the must better measure for Richardson than Senior Bowl one-on-one drills.

One of the players who has really grown on me throughout the first three practices is Colorado State C Weston Richburg.  Richburg has been one of the steadiest centers at the Senior Bowl and rarely lets his body get out of control.  He's a decent athlete with better strength than you expect when challenged at the point of attack.

Penn State DT DaQuan Jones and UConn's Shemar Stephen continued to get good push in bull rush reps while La.Tech's Justin Ellis wasn't quite as successful on Wednesday.

Missouri's Michael Sam continues to get reps as a DE and 4-3 OLB.  Sam showed good turn around the corner in pass rush drills, but takes a little wider run of the arc than you would like from an edge rusher.

Tennessee State OG Kadeem Edwards isn't going to win any awards for "best looking in the uniform", but he has really stepped his game up over the last two days.  He doesn't show as much strength in his hands as he needs, but he's been getting blocked.

Michigan OT/OG Michael Schofield was substantially better today than yesterday showing much more functional strength and tenacity against most everyone he faced in one on one drills including Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman who got pancaked by Schofield in one on ones.

Stanford DE/OLB Trent Murphy was a non-factor in drills and scrimmage.  While he has been one of the most productive DEs in college over the last two years, the lack of burst off the edge that scouts had whispered about before the Senior Bowl could be an issue moving forward in our analysis of Murphy who we have been high on.

Pitt's Aaron Donald continued his strong week with another consistent and productive effort on Wednesday.  I spoke with one NFL defensive line coach who told me that Donald's size would definitely be a concern for teams in draft meetings but added that  "there are just too many guys who don't have prototype bodies or size around the NFL who continue to produce on the defensive line" and that "teams have got to just look at how this kid plays - it's that simple.... his game tape is good."

The North offensive line is just substantially better than what I see with the South and that includes players like Ohio State tackle Jack Mewhort and Clemson's Brandon Thomas who have offensive line coaches excited with their strength and ability to finish.  I haven't spoken with a single team who hasn't had something positive to say about Thomas who I think has played himself into no worse than the 2nd round.

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Lance Zierlein is sports talk show host on KMBE 790 AM in Houston, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @lancezierlein.
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