One southeast NFC area scout was particularly low on Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard (5-10/217). "I watched four games and his longest run was of 12 yards," the scout told me. "For 220 pounds, he goes down on first contact almost every time. (Ballard has) zero running skills, but has looked more comfortable catching the ball this week.” I felt obligated to mention Ballard’s bowl game, in which he broke off two long runs. “I heard that from another scout, too," the NFC evaluator said with a chuckle. "I'm not sure he can do anything to change my mind. (Louisiana Tech's) Lennon Creer (6-0/222) may be the best back on that team, and he’s average. He’s at least shown something. Just a guy, though.” I wished Tennessee's Tauren Poole had been called up from the Shrine Game. He at least flashed limited, two-down starting potential and would have had a chance to be the South's top running back.
This was a perfect setting for Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead (5-10/193), and he maximized the opportunity. Pead has phone-booth shiftiness and is a versatile playmaker that can be lined up in the slot for mismatches. Though "breaking tackles" was virtually impossible due to controlled contact, Pead looked willing to be physical when pass protecting. He still runs too high, but my previous concern about Pead's acceleration cutting in small spaces seems to be a non-issue.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
During the aforementioned conversation, the same NFC scout asked the general question, “Do you know who has let me down the most?” I responded with Appalachian State WR Brian Quick (6-4/222), and apparently it was the correct answer. “Man I gave that guy a good grade and he has not shown up." Quick's routes looked smoother as the week progressed, but his hands were a major issue, failing to secure more than half of the passes thrown in his direction, even when open. Quick didn't use his size as an asset. He didn't shield cornerbacks or use his long arms to stretch out.
Even as raw as he is, it's reasonable to wonder if Quick regressed a bit this week. “He’s a good kid and I was afraid this might happen much later," the scout said. "Like when he gets to a training camp. He is very self-aware, down to earth, and understands his limitations. So let's say he winds up with the Packers and walks in that first day and is in awe of Charles Woodson. That could affect his play until he gets comfortable. But it shouldn’t be happening here.”
Quick is an extraordinary young man and was one of the few players willing to interview for two full hours at a media-only event. He was one of the first to arrive each day and always the last to leave, jogging to catch the bus. I think Quick has a bright future, but he picked a tough week to struggle.
The week leading up to the Senior Bowl was a busy one for me, with Shrine Game coverage and a long drive to Mobile. Admittedly, because of late additions, I did not get a chance to watch California WR Marvin Jones (6-2/198) on tape before Monday’s practice. Now, I wish I had. Jones' game is explosive in every area, but in a very controlled way, effortlessly planting to break off routes or incorporating subtle head movements to fool defenders vertically. In the limited Cal game film I've seen since, Jones was rarely featured as the first option in progressions. He worked primarily as a bailout second or third read. At the Senior Bowl, Jones consistently created separation at every distance and let very few throws touch the ground after hitting his hands. Non-west area scouts shared my opinion, “He’s certainly a player a ton of teams will be cross checking as soon as they get out of here," one scout said. "Maybe the first on that list. He’s been impressive.”
Georgia G/T Cordy Glenn (6-5/346) was consistently the best lineman on either roster, but not solely at guard as I anticipated. Glenn rotated reps at both tackle spots, as well as guard, and flashed success at each. Amazingly, this is all despite terrible technique. For those familiar with Chargers LT Marcus McNeill, Glenn uses the same hunched posture. He bends at the waist and even ducks his head at times, but uses a massive reach while readjusting his feet to mirror pass rushers. Like McNeill, some teams may consider it a matter of time before Glenn starts losing because of the sloppy technique. I just find it hard to argue with his production.
No player at any position disappointed me more in Mobile than Florida State LT Zebrie Sanders (6-5/308). His feet are incredibly slow, like they are stuck in quicksand, and Sanders' initial punch is far too wide. Sanders’ heavy feet led to losses in almost every one-on-one protection drill. He could not keep up inside or out with Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram, or Courtney Upshaw. Not only does the first step beat Sanders, but if somehow his initial positioning is balanced, the rusher's counter move usually gets him beat because of Sanders' lack of recovery quickness. He stays too high instead of bending at the knees to anchor. I may end up looking at every one of Sanders' games this season, but from this performance he looks like he needs to add quite a bit of strength to even become a right tackle. Sanders is much too heavy-footed for the blind side.
Ohio State's Mike Adams (6-7/323) is another player that let me down but in an expected way: Inconsistency. Adams looks great one snap, stoning the pass rusher's upfield momentum and readjusting hand placement to stay balanced. On the next, Adams will get completely overmatched, either with a quick inside rush or by losing leverage on a counter move. Adams has truly been a conundrum with inconsistent posture and contact. For a big body, Adams is quite soft. He has been tried across the line without a glaring fit, which may worry teams (e.g. Chris Williams of the Bears).
While Adams' performance was unpredictable from one snap to the next, Cal OT Mitchell Schwartz (6-5/317) emerged as the top outside lineman on the North. Schwartz does not play as long as his measurements indicate, but shows the same toughness his brother Geoff possesses with the Panthers. Mitchell learns quickly, remembering how he was beaten in a previous rep and adjusting his feet/hands/posture accordingly. Schwartz is not flashy, but should at least carve out a career as a rotational, utility lineman.