Shrine Game: West Practice: Day 2

Unfortunately the East practice was moved inside to the pavilion in the team hotel thanks to rain, though I personally didn’t think it was bad enough to warrant moving the practice indoors and consequently turning a valuable day of practice into a walk-through. As a result of this all of the scouts and evaluators will only have two days of practice to get notes on the players on the East before most of them ship out. However, the West practice was in full pads today which was good to see, and despite a slow start once we got into the meat of the practice there was plenty to glean from it. Here are my thoughts:

Quarterbacks

I wasn’t focusing on quarterbacks today, but Keith Wenning is the top guy on the West squad and it’s not even close in my opinion. Based on my opinions coming in as well as what I have seen in practice Wenning is the only QB on the West roster with a shot at being drafted. Keith Price and Tommy Rees both don’t have the arm strength of Wenning and that showed today when the wind picked up.

Wide Receivers

I was focusing on the trenches today, but Chandler Jones and John Brown both stood out to me. Jones didn’t have as good a day as he did on Monday, but I still maintain that he’s a draftable player who may not be the biggest, the strongest or the fastest but he has very reliable hands and he’s ran pretty good routes when I’ve seen him so far. Brown stuck out to me because he’s very quick and has run good routes as well. I really wish the corners were allowed to press, because I’d love to see how both Jones and Brown handled that against some bigger, more physical corners.

Offensive Linemen

This was where my focus was today, and I was impressed with Dakota Dozier, Jeremiah Sirles, and Austin Wentworth. Dozier is a player who has moved inside to guard this week (which I think is his better position at the next level) and he showed the ability to anchor and redirect in 1 on 1′s as well as during the inside session.

He’s not the biggest player at 6’4″, 312 pounds but he was bigger than his listed weight and it’s showing. He had a strong first day of padded practice, and may be emerging as the top offensive lineman here. Sirles didn’t have a perfect day of practice, but he did show that he has the athleticism and length to stick at tackle at the next level.

He got beat badly by a spin move inside by Colorado’s Chidera Uzo-Diribe, but he forced him wide the snap before and took away the edge again on the next rep. I’m not sure he can stay at left tackle at the next level, but he looks like he will stick in the NFL as back-up tackle that might find his way into a starting role as a right tackle eventually.

Wentworth had some nice battles up front today, and looks comfortable inside at guard. Kevin Graf had a solid day at right tackle, and you can tell he’s a strong guy, but he looks a bit stiff and doesn’t look like a starter caliber player at the next level. Gabe Ikard had a tough day at Center as Justin Ellis was too much for him in 1 on 1′s, inside drills and during the team sessions today.

Ikard is an athletic player who projects very well to a zone blocking scheme, but he’s not a player you can rely on to take a defensive tackle on 1 on 1 and neutralize him in the NFL (especially a nose tackle as big and strong as Ellis). The other centers didn’t have much better days than Ikard though, as Khalil Wilkes consistently got overwhelmed at the point of attack when I saw him.

Defensive Linemen

Justin Ellis really impressed me today, and I am definitely going to need to go back and watch more of him. He is very quick despite weighing in at 351 pounds and plays with good leverage, power and even flashed a spin move in 1 on 1′s.

He overwhelmed Ikard as I mentioned earlier, and not many offensive linemen here are up to the task of neutralizing him 1 on 1. He may be playing himself into top 100 consideration if he wasn’t there already.

Chidera Uzo-Diribe and Larry Webster both had their moments today, but they both look like they need to gain weight and get stronger if they are going to find their way on the field at the next level. Webster still looks very skinny like a basketball player, and while Uzo-Diribe was able to win with speed and quickness he struggled when guys got their hands on him and when he was trying to bull rush.

They are both impressive athletes, but they need to fill out so they don’t get pushed wide so easily when rushing the passer. I would love to see both of these guys standing up this week, but unfortunately there isn’t a “3-4″ roster to get a look at players in that defense.

Linebackers

I didn’t focus on this group, but both Prince Shembo and Devon Kennard impressed me today. I remember thinking they were both stiff when I have watched them previously, but they surprised me at how well they were moving in linebacker drills. Kennard gained weight to be a rush linebacker this year, but he is a former linebacker so he knows the drill.

However, I remember him being more “straight-linish” than he showed today and he seemed to be a very vocal leader as he tried to set the tempo for the defense. Shembo didn’t look as stiff as I expected either, and has been better in coverage than I expected, and both players really look the part too.

Cornerbacks

Once again the top guy was Shaquille Richardson, who is having a strong start to the week. He weighed in at 6’0″, 194 pounds but has long arms and plays the ball well, plus he is an impressive athlete. He closes well, has quality ball skills, and had a very nice pass break-up against Chandler Jones during the team session today as he drove on the ball and disrupted Jones at the catch point cleanly.

  • Joe Mathis

    good to see your article Tom. Especially liked that you liked what you are seeing from Ellis there so far. i am also pretty high on him from what I have seen on film: NC State and Southern Miss games. looking forward to more reports from you