2018 Senior Bowl: Day 1 North/South Practice Notes

by Eric Galko

With Day 1 of the Senior Bowl including weigh-ins, media day, and both practices, our Practice Notes for both the North and the South are combined here.

Winners from today include Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage, Oklahoma State WR James Washington, Colorado State WR Michael Gallup, UTEP OG Will Hernandez, Alabama OC Bradley Bozeman, and North Carolina CB MJ Stewart.

Reports from Eric Galko, Christian Page, Derrik Klassen, Dan Matney, Filip Prus, and Parker Henry.

-Baker Mayfield made some nice throws today but didn’t look completely comfortable from under center. He had trouble with his three-step drop and wouldn’t completely finish before releasing the ball in one on ones. He muscled a few throws but displayed accuracy and zip on a majority of his throws. It’s only the first day but his comfort in three and five-step drops needs to continue to be monitored the rest of the week.  

-With plenty of buzz around the other signal-callers, the biggest name in Mobile struggled out of the gate. Josh Allen continued to display trouble consistently hitting his target and had some bad misses on layups throws in one on ones. While he continues to display tremendous arm strength, he missed too many easy throws, both vs. pressure and without pressure, on Day 1 and will need to have a strong showing the rest of the week if he wants to solidify himself as a top 10 pick. 

-Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert had a nice day. He was showing plenty of spin and accuracy on short-intermediate throws. He displayed many of the traits that made him successful during his senior year at Virginia and a strong first day has created buzz throughout Mobile. 

-Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers showed off his strong arm today. He was accurate at all levels of the field and threw a beautiful 30-yard throw to the end zone that receiver Marcel Ateman was unable to haul in. He delivers a pretty clean ball and tight spiral and had a solid overall day. 

-Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White really struggled in the first practice. He wasn’t showing the same velocity and spin he has throughout the season. He really struggled with his accuracy on easy throws underneath and also had two fumbled snaps. It was a tough overall day for him but, given what he displayed on film this season, there is still hope that he comes out and has a strong showing in tomorrow’s practice. 

-One of the biggest concerns about Washington State’s Luke Falk coming into the week was about leaving his college system that often aids quarterback decision making. In practice, Falk looked hesitant more often than his peers, working to place passes too often, which led to erratically missed throws on Day 1. Still, his quick feet are evident in practice reps, and trait/mental make-up wise, there’s a lot to like

-The quickest release of the quarterbacks is clearly Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, who’s compares to Jimmy Garoppolo likely won’t stop during practices. He had some misfires today, and the lack of high-end arms strength showed on perimeter and out-route throws. But he, along with all of the South quarterbacks, will look for a better Day 2.

-Tanner Lee displayed exceptional arm strength and put a majority of his throws on a rope while maintaining a tight spiral. He displayed accuracy on short and some intermediate throws, but his long ball continues to plague him. He has all the arm in the world to make the throws, but his touch and accuracy pushing the ball vertical remain an issue that he can’t seem to shake. 

Running Backs

-Southern Miss RB Ito Smith was deliberate in maneuvering inside tight spaces and did well to sliver through the most marginal of holes in the first day of practice. His elusiveness and ability to run crisp routes out of the backfield makes him an intriguing air back option at the next level.

-The biggest running back standout today was Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage on the North Side. Ballage ran the ball with patience and exhibited terrific vision breaking a long run to the left without even getting touched until he was well on his way to scoring in the second level. Ballage (6021 222lbs) looked like a Latavius Murray clone at weigh-ins this morning but what was most impressive today was his ability to create separation and catch the football out of the backfield. At one point, Ballage put Citadel LB Myles Pierce in a blender after a quick shoulder feint and slant into open space.

Wide Receivers
-Oklahoma State receiver James Washington was the best receiver on the South team on Day 1. He was able to win his reps in 1 on 1 in a variety of ways and displayed exceptional strength at the catch point. Though his height at weight ins was underwhelming (5017), Washington plays bigger than his size and is a player to watch for the rest of the week. 

-Colorado State’s Michael Gallup was unguardable today. He displayed tremendous quickness going vertical and was able to separate with relative ease. He continues to display quickness in and out of his breaks and has reliable hands when the ball comes in his area. 

-Cedrick Wilson of Boise State product was very impressive during the North team practice. Wilson did a vey good job of using his hands and reducing his pad level to quickly get down the field against press coverage. Wilson ran very crisp routes, utilizing head fakes to make defenders stop their feet, so he could create separation. Down the field Wilson also displayed nice body control by being able to go up and high point the football on the sideline and keeping his feet in bounds.

Offensive Line 
-Playing on the edge and in the interior, Isaiah Wynn of Georgia thrived early in practice. He showed easy movements skills in guard drills when exploding out of his stance and then easily transitioning to the second level. Wynn particularly had one rep in which he drove Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand off the edge nearly into the fence of the back of the endzone. He continued to show off his strong upper body throughout the day.

-One of the more consistent days, overall, belonged to Bradley Bozeman of Alabama. He continued to win at the point of attack showing off balance and explosiveness. Bozeman consistently showed strong tight hand placement inside driving defenders off the ball and creating plenty of running lanes on the 11 on 11 play reps.

-Right guard prospect Cole Madison out of Washington State showed plenty of pop at the snap on one on one drills. He packed a punch with heavy and explosive hands. His placement was somewhat sporadic but still managed to keep his matchup in front of him at the beginning of practice. Madison was overwhelmed by speed and quickness when he failed to latch onto the defender first. He started the day off better than he finished by getting beaten on a consistent basis.

-Will Hernandez of UTEP was one of the more consistent performers out of all offensive linemen on Day 1 in Mobile. Packing a punch with incredible hand strength, Hernandez constantly drove defenders off the ball showing a trend of winning at the point of attack. He would occasionally get beat inside but remained calm and would reset without losing balance. Weighing in at 340 pounds this morning, Hernandez backed that up by carrying his weight well and continuing to overwhelm linemen with elite-level power.

Defensive Line
-Marcus Davenport of UTSA didn’t show out as expected on Day 1. He showed a theme of getting pushed off his base questioning his overall balance and strength. He still managed to display his powerful punch showing off his violence in one on one drills.

-Catching attention early in the athletic bag drills, pass rusher Kylie Fitts of Utah had a strong day. He continued to bend the edge when operating on the outside shoulder of the tackle. Fitts looked to be one of the more athletic defensive linemen on the South squad showing plenty of lower body flexibility and savvy as a speed edge rusher. Fitts showed flexibility when showcasing a shoulder dip off the edge after consistently firing off the snap.

-One of the most dominant days, regardless of team, goes to Harrison Phillips. The Stanford defensive tackle won nearly every rep on one versus one drills. He played with elite balance and power striking defenders constantly at the point of attack. Not only winning with power, Phillips showed off quick rip through moves along with other techniques to consistently frazzle his matchup.

-Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma, put together an inconsistent day filled with high moments and underwhelming moments. Okoronkwo went to a reliable up and under move to fluster the outside shoulder of the tackle. Okoronkwo lined up on the left and right sides to rush the passer. He won with quickness when bending the edge on 11 versus 11 showing elite flexibility. If live play, the Oklahoma pass rusher would have come up with two sacks. One of his pressures resulted in an interception. He looked to be doing too much in some of the one on one reps not being able to successfully execute a couple of spin moves losing balance and control more times than most would like to see.


-There was one audible pop during South practice, and that was produced by Auburn ILB Tre’ Williams when he nearly decapitated Heisman Finalist Rashaad Penny and forced a fumble. Williams was impressive in diagnosing coverage and did well to suffocate space after keying on his assignments and was a missile shooting gaps today against the run in 11v11s. Williams has a good chance of making himself some money if he can stack together some good practices this week.

-Lining up closer to the LOS throughout practice, national champion Shaquem Griffin looked smooth and fluid flipping his hips and dropping into the flats in coverage as well adding consistent pressure when asked to blitz of the edge. Griffin continues to show an arsenal of skills and looked like the most natural athlete of the LB bunch in COD and agility drills. In an interview, Griffin stated he met at length with the Jaguars and already has a second formal meeting scheduled this week.

Defensive Backs
-Alabama's Levi Wallace had an impressive practice, particularly during one on ones, In press coverage Wallace showed quick feet mirroring receivers releases giving receivers a hard time getting off the ball every rep. Wallace was in position to make a play on every rep of one and ones. 

-North Carolina's MJ Stewart was one of the more physical corners during practice, using his hands effectively to hinder receivers releases in press situations, deeper into the route Stewart showed fluid hips when opening to run with the receiver, Stewart did a nice job of locating the ball in the once turning his head helping him break up passes. 

-Siran Neal of Jacksonville State had a great showing during practice. During one on ones Neal was physical at the line of scrimmage showing strong hands as well as quality hand placement striking receivers in their chests on their releases. Neal also showed well during team periods triggering quickly in the run game and using his linebacker background to shed blocks on the perimeter. 

-Weber State's Taron Johnson, the FCS corner from Weber State showed stood out today particularly with his play in the slot. Johnson has very quick feet and does a good job staying square in both press and off coverage. Johnson was explosive out of his breaks quickly closing space between him and the receiver to make a play on the ball. 

-Armani Watts of Texas A&M  stood out at the safety position today. In one on ones vs tight ends Watts showed he can play press and be physical against bigger tight ends and maintain position throughout routes, Watts also played well in off coverage staying square in his back pedal allowing him to use his quickness and acceleration out of his breaks to break up multiple passes during one on ones. Watts made a great break on the ball during team period where he was able to pick off Nebraska product Tanner Lee. 

-Christian Campbell of Penn State exceled in press coverage today where he was able to use his long arms to bother receivers on their releases. Campbell also showed speed down the field able to run stride for stride with every receiver who ran verticals on him 

Special Teams

-While JK Scott was impressive in the weigh-ins checking in above 6’5, the Alabama Punter’s hang time consistently came in under 4 seconds and his distance and placement was erratic for most of his kicks.

-Seeing Florida’s Johnny Townsend punt for the North team following JK Scott was night and day. Townsend was routinely booming kicks and placing them inside the five, one of which traveling well over 57 yards in the air. Townsend also showed off his directional punting ability, routinely placing balls out of bounds inside the 10 at the conclusion of practice.