FAIRHOPE, Ala. -- It was an intriguing start to Senior Bowl week with the weigh-in at the Mobile Convention Center, going all the way to the South's first practice at Fairhope Stadium, about a half an hour from downtown Mobile. Not only did we find the South team ready to go, but former LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu was at today's practice. He's in town in hopes of spending extra time meeting with NFL decision-makers.
As far as the practice, two of the better players on the debut day were on opposite sides of the ball.
Baylor WR Terrance Williams looked good. He has elite speed and tracked well over his shoulder to make a great catch during one-on-one drills. He can pluck the ball, and then gets up the field quickly after making the first defender miss. He's not a "wiggle" guy but has acceleration, open-field vision and is confident with the ball in his hands.
Williams is off to a fast start and stood out as the best WR during practice.
Countering the best player on offense was a defensive back as the best player on defense. San Diego State's Leon McFadden stood out. He jumped Tavarres King's out route and had a nice interception in one-on-ones. He stuck to receivers like glue, was balanced and under control. He didn't turn and run vertically much, but he has looked sharp defending short-to-intermediate routes on several one-on-one and seven-on-seven reps.
He's not as tall as you'd like (5-9¾), has smallish hands (8⅝) and average arm length (31¼), so top-end speed is an important piece of the puzzle in McFadden's final evaluation. We're interested to see if he can maintain the standard he set Monday throughout the week.
Another player who flashed skills was Tennessee TE Mychal Rivera. It was a great day for him to shine, and he took advantage. He's the tight end with the most suddenness at the Senior Bowl. He also made a nice adjustment on a pass thrown behind him during team drills. Rivera's slight frame will likely be more of an issue when the pads go on tomorrow.
Ambivalent about the quarterbacks
Oklahoma's Landry Jones has the best overall arm talent of the three South quarterbacks, but holds onto the ball too long. In seven-on-seven drills, he had a high throw on an in-route, but a strike to Rice TE Vance McDonald. In team drills, he had a nice throw on his comeback route while rolling to his left.
Florida State's E.J. Manuel was inconsistent with his accuracy, and is mechanical and not very natural. As he showed on tape, Manuel struggled mightily on throws that require anticipation and throwing to a spot.
Arkansas' Tyler Wilson has adequate arm strength, but not great. He can zip intermediate throws, but his deep ball can hang in the air as it did on an underthrown nine-route down the left sideline during one-on-one drills. He did make a couple of strong intermediate throws in the team session.
Nice day for the linebackers
Missouri OLB Zaviar Gooden did a great job of reading the quarterbacks and reading routes during seven-on-seven drills. He's active and runs well.
Texas A&M OLB Sean Porter has good closing burst when getting to the flat in coverage. He also has good patience and didn't guess waiting for RB Mike Gillislee to break during one-on-ones. Porter appears a little straight-line and has some problems limiting separation coming out of breaks. At 231 pounds he can get covered up by bigger blockers.
Florida State ILB Vince Williams showed good discipline and positioning in the underneath zone. He has limitations in man coverage but is physical. And he has better range than expected for someone his size (6-0.5 and 247 pounds).
Stanford OLB Chase Thomas doesn't appear to use his hands well when trying to jam the tight end. It's something to keep an eye on as the week progresses. Thomas reads quarterbacks well at times, jumps well and gets his hands up. He did a good job of breaking up a pass in the underneath zone. He's a one-gap run defender who can win with quickness but also get knocked off course by a strong punch.
Running backs have a mixed day
Clemson RB Andre Ellington had the best day of the running backs on Monday. He's an above-average route runner and did a nice job of attacking Florida State LB Vince Williams during one-on-one drills. Passes get to his frame at times, but he catches the ball well.
Florida's Mike Gillislee flashed good burst and appears healthy, but doesn't have a second gear. He's a mechanical route runner and was shoved to the ground during one-on-one passing drills.
Stanford's Stepfan Taylor makes routine catches look routine and struggles with tougher catches. He also had a tough time locating the ball, and dropped a pass thrown to his back shoulder in flat. He has good patience and vision, but is an average route runner with average burst.
Miscellaneous South practice notes
Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patten has good speed but not elite. Not as fast as King or Williams. He's solid in intermediate routes and was catching the ball well, but will let it into his body too often. He showed strong hands in traffic.
Rice TE Vance McDonald is a zone buster who found a seam behind the linebacker and in front of safety during team period. He also runs well enough to separate on drag routes. He's a physical route runner but didn't have a real change of speed to shake defenders. He extends and snatches for passes for the most part, but dropped one pass he got his hands on.
Georgia's Tavarres King had the ball get on him quickly on a couple occasions. I would like to see him get his head turned around a bit quicker out of his breaks to help locate the ball earlier.
It wasn't the best day to evaluate the trenches considering players were only wearing helmets, but Georgia DE Cornelius Washington stood out today. He has a quick first step. He beat Florida OT Xavier Nixon around the edge on one play, and with an outside-inside move on another play.
Clemson DE Malliciah Goodman didn't look fluid during position-specific bag work. On the other hand, his power and arm length stood out during team periods.
BYU's Ezekial Ansah elevated and tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage during team period.
Virginia OT Oday Aboushi flashed a strong punch and knocked Stanford OLB Chase Thomas off balance during team period.