From Mobile, Alabama
It was a busy day for all parties involved in the first full day of Senior Bowl week.
It started in a convention center ballroom for size and weight. Next was the practice field, like the photo left of former Chiefs TE Jonathan Hayes, now TE coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, working with a pair of North squad tight ends. By the end of the day, the players were enjoying an evening of food at the U.S.S. Alabama.
It all started with the annual weigh-in, or an exercise that easily could be called “Mr. Universe-Senior Bowl.” The ballroom in the Mobile Convention Center of is full of NFL types sitting in chairs, some with laptops and others with clipboards.
From one corner of the room parade all 104 players taking part in Senior Bowl week. They walk in wearing only a pair of workout tights, in essence underwear. No shoes, no shirt, no hats, no pants.
They walk to a stage, where one person measures them and yells out the height. From there, they move to another spot on the stage where they step on a scale. Once their weight comes up, another person yells it out for all in the room to hear. The player then steps down from the stage and walks down the middle aisle of the audience, with several hundred people watching.
It all seems so silly, evoking a cattle call and beauty pageant at the same time.
“It’s not intimidating or anything, but it was kind of weird,” said Oregon LB Casey Matthews. “I’m sure they want to make sure we aren’t hunchbacks and have all our limbs, but I think they can get that information with a lot less fanfare.
“It’s all part of the process, so it’s no big deal.”
This is how the NFL gets eyeballs on these guys and collects information on height and weight that’s not been filtered by the coaching staff or pr staff on campus. Sometimes, the difference can be striking. West Virginia running back Noel Devine was listed by his school as 5-8, 180 pounds.
But after he walked across the Mobile stage, he’s now listed by NFL teams as 5-7, 160 pounds. An inch shorter and 20 pounds lighter wouldn’t cause much of a reaction among big offensive lineman types. Not so with running backs, who are already considered on the small side.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” said Devine. “It’s about playing and they can see the tape and they can see me this week in practice and see if I can play.”
Devine was the smallest of the 104 players in the room. The tallest player was Colorado OT Nate Solder, who was measured at 6-8ΒΌ. The heaviest player was Baylor DL Phil Taylor, who tipped the scales at 337 pounds. There were 23 players that weighed 300 pounds or more.
There were a lot of big-time bodies that walked through the room. One of the most impressive was Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi, considered a top 10 talent. He came in at 6-7, 315 pounds and there did not appear to be an ounce of fat on him.
We’ll have the accurate height and weights posted in a few days.
In the afternoon, the teams had their first practices of the week. It’s also the only day they practice at the same time. Our decision was to go with the North squad as they went to Ladd-Pebbles Stadium. They worked inside the stadium on artificial turf and with the threat of rain.
Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis and his coaching staff put the North squad through a 90-minute practice in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. Here’s a bit of what we saw.
OFFENSIVE LINE β There are nine blockers on this team and they were mixed and matched at numerous spots during practice. NFL coaches love this, because they can see what type of versatility the player may bring to their offense. What appeared to be the No. 1 offensive line had LT Nate Solder (Colorado) LG Gave Carimi (Wisconsin), C John Moffitt (Wisconsin), RG Stephen Schilling (Michigan) and RT Anthony Castonzo (Boston College).
Eventually, Solder played both tackle spots, Carimi played left guard and left tackle, Moffitt worked at center and right guard, Schilling was at left guard and right guard, with Castonzo at right guard and right tackle. James Brewer (Indiana) worked at right guard and tackle. Jason Pinkston (Pitt) had snaps at left and right tackle. Working at center were Moffitt, Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock) and Kevin Kowalski (Toledo).
QUARTERBACKS β Jake Locker (Washington) was the most polished of the three QBs and showed good mobility and accuracy. Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) showed nice touch on short throws, but had trouble throwing deep with any accuracy of length. Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) looked like he was trying to knock over every receiver he threw the ball too. He needs to dial down the heat.
WIDE RECEIVERS β Vincent Brown (San Diego State) and Dwayne Harris (East Carolina) were the catchers that caught the eye of coaches and scouts. Titus Young (Boise State) was effective on an end-around run.
RUNNING BACKS β Always hard to judge the runners in these type of practices, but all three Big 12 Conference backs ripped off nice runs: DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Roy Helu (Nebraska) and Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State). By the way, Hunter came in at 5-7ΒΌ, 199 pounds.
TIGHT ENDS β They didn’t get much of a chance to flash, but Lance Kendricks (Wisconsin) looked like the best combination of catcher and blocker.
DEFENSIVE LINE β In one-on-one pass rushing drills, a couple of the DE really jumped out, led by Cameron Jordan (California). He showed good quickness and power and also displayed some second and third moves. A lot of college pass rushers can get by with one move. Also Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue) came off the edge and caused some problems. Inside the spark on Monday came from a pair of PAC-10 Conference tackles β Stephen Paea (Oregon State) and Sione Fua (Stanford). Christian Ballard (Iowa) delivered a couple of physical blows on the pass rush.
LINEBACKERS β Filling the running lanes was something this group got done in Monday’s practice. ILB Greg Jones (Michigan State) took on a block and still got penetration and forced the back to go sideways. Matthews blew up several run plays.
DEFENSIVE BACKS β There were no secondary guys that jumped to the front in the workout. Kendric Burney (North Carolina) broke up one pass play, throwing his 5-9, 181-pound frame high in the air. CB Curtis Marsh out of Utah State was out of practice and did not work.
PUNT RETURNS β There were three players used during the practice: Da’Norris Searcy (North Carolina), Titus Young (Boise State) and Dwayne Harris (East Carolina).
Both the North and South teams will practice on Tuesday and we’ll have more practice reports on the North defense and the South offense.