Hoge’s Day 2 Senior Bowl Notebook: Top Players Start To Separate From Pack
By Adam Hoge-
MOBILE, Ala. (CBS) — Senior Bowl veterans will tell you that Day 2 is always cleaner than Day 1.
The reality of college all-star games is that players are working with unfamiliar teammates under the direction of unfamiliar coaches who are using unfamiliar terminology. It’s not like the priority is scheming to win Saturday’s game, but there’s enough of a learning curve that players need a couple days to get comfortable, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
As that happens, the best players tend to separate themselves from the rest and that started to occur Tuesday. Here’s a look at who stood out in Day 2 and who struggled:
QB Derek Carr, Fresno State – Carr was on this list yesterday and I’m keeping him here because he’s one of the guys who showed some separate from the rest of his position group Tuesday. Carr and Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are the two best quarterbacks in Mobile, but Carr’s arm is just a little stronger and he’s more polished, having faced tougher competition. He showed an obvious edge over San Jose State’s David Fales when the two threw out-patterns side-by-side. Carr is a first-rounder in my opinion and an early favorite to win the Senior Bowl MVP award Saturday.
DE Chris Smith, Arkansas – Smith was on this list yesterday too, but he was even more impressive Tuesday. After wowing scouts with a ferocious punch Monday, he caught the attention of the crowd Tuesday with a quick spin move on North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner. At just 6-1 1/8, 266 pounds, Smith looks like an 3-4 outside linebacker, but he’s been rushing with his hand on the ground and has stood out doing so. There wasn’t a single offensive lineman Tuesday who looked comfortable blocking him.
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska – The Richard Sherman comparisons have begun because, well, mainly just because Sherman is the hot topic this week and Jean-Baptiste made a similar position switch from wide receiver to cornerback in college. That switch has paid off. At 6-2 3/8, 215, Jean-Baptiste has the size to play press coverage and he’s shown the ability to do it here in Mobile. Scouts say he needs to post a good 40-time at the NFL Combine next month to prove that he can run with receivers in man-coverage. Jean-Baptiste has met with the Bears, Rams, 49ers and Saints, among others this week, although that’s standard practice so don’t read into it too much.
WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt – The 6-2 5/8 wide receiver has separated himself as the top wide receiver at the Senior Bowl. He’s attacking the football and showing the ability to adjust. A quick, fluid hip turn Tuesday allowed him to catch a back-shoulder throw while falling out of bounds.
LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU – I wasn’t overly impressed with Van Noy Monday, but he looked better Tuesday. At 6-3 1/4, 244, Van Noy is a big linebacker who got the chance to rush offensive tackles from a two-point stance Tuesday. He beat Nevada offensive tackle Joel Bitonio on one of those rushes, but I tend to think Van Noy will be best suited as an inside backer in a 3-4. He’s strong against the run, but also looks like he’ll be productive blitzing.
DE Trent Murphy, Stanford – Yes, Murphy was on my “Five Up” list Monday, but scouts are worried that he showed up at 252 pounds. He appears to be committing himself to being an outside rush backer instead of trying to add weight and show what he can do as a 4-3 defensive end. That doesn’t mean Murphy won’t impress a team enough to go in the first-round, but it does limit his options.
CB Pierre Desir, Lindenwood – I’m always intrigued by good athletes who come from lesser known schools and I had Desir targeted before I arrived in Mobile. So far, I’ve been underwhelmed. Despite weighing in at 6-1 1/8, 195, Desir hasn’t been physical in press coverage and has been beat down the sideline too much. He may just be adjusting to the tougher competition, but he doesn’t look comfortable.
DT Will Sutton, Arizona State – Sutton probably hears about his weight all the time, but it’s a real issue. He looks out of shape and his 315 pound weigh-in backed that up. Sutton was playing about 30 pounds lighter during his dominant junior season and getting heavier as a senior didn’t help. He was inconsistent this season and looked stiff Tuesday. At one point, he was flattened by North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner right off the snap.
QB David Fales, San Jose State – I’d love to see Fales next to the North quarterbacks, but next to Carr and Garoppolo on the South squad, there’s a pretty significant drop-off. His passes flutter more and his arm isn’t as strong. I’m not giving up on him yet, but he doesn’t look like anything more than a mid-round pick at this point.
OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami – At 6-6 7/8, 331, Henderson is a physical beast, but for the most part, he’s been more hype and less production since he was a five-star recruit in high school. He lost some weight coming into Mobile, which should help his footwork, but technique is still an issue. Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice has been all over Henderson for his technique the last two days.
– Texas wide receiver Mike Davis looks the part and has made some big catches, but he needs to show an ability to attack the ball its highest point. He dropped a long touchdown Tuesday when he waited for the ball to come to him instead of going up and getting it.
– The hit of the day went to Northern Illinois safety Jimmy Ward who leveled Northwestern wide receiver Kain Colter near the sideline during special teams drills. Colter was the gunner and Ward came from the middle to whack him out of bounds.
– Two small running backs have stood out. Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon is only 5-9, 209, but he showed an explosive burst Tuesday, accelerating through gaps. Wisconsin running back James White, who is 5-9, 206, has also looked good. He has great balance and has always shown break away speed. Both players could provide value as pass-catching third-down backs, but they need to show they can be reliable special teamers too.
– There was a tough moment in Tuesday’s South practice when Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin tore his ACL. Colvin could have been a second-round draft pick and might go undrafted now. Meanwhile, Tennessee offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee), Fresno State tight end Marcel Jensen (groin) and Alabama defensive end Ed Stinson (groin) all bowed out for the week with injuries.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.