CARSON, Calif. -- It was the first day of practice for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and I have to say the facilities at the Home Depot Center, home to the L.A. Galaxy of the MSL, are phenomenal. It's as good a situation as you can get. The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., has a perfect setup. The East/West Shrine Game suffers a little from not having a permanent home.
The talent here isn't as strong as the Senior Bowl's yet, but with this stadium and this venue it could get there. And it's well run.
On this first day, both coaching staffs were excellent. The Nationals, coached by Dick Vermeil, practiced first. The American, coached by ESPN's Herm Edwards, had the afternoon session. I've been to hundreds of these practices and sometimes you have players with different unis and equipment that doesn't fit and all sorts of issues. But this was as smoothly run as I've seen. The NFLPA worked closely with NFL scouts, who know what they're looking for and what's best for the players to showcase their skills.
It's only their second year, but they do an incredible job running it.
Crist Looks the Part
As for the players, let's start with the Nationals first, and let's start with the quarterbacks.
Of the three QBs, Dayne Crist (6-4, 239) had the best day. He was formerly of Notre Dame, and he went to the Jayhawks when he followed Charlie Weis. He has average to above-average arm strength and he looks the part physically: He's a big, strong QB. He shows flashes at times -- both in person and on tape -- in which he makes some great throws ... and he keeps you coming back and hoping for more.
But he needs to develop his ability to anticipate throws and become more consistent with his accuracy. He's also had durability issues in his career. But he looks the part. Jeff Tuel of Washington State and Fordham's Ryan Higgins also participated.
Moving to the defensive backs, one who stood out was Rutgers' Duron Harmon. He has quick feet and showed that in the drills. He also showed much quicker feet than the other safeties. He was also better at diagnosing things earlier than others and was aggressive. He came up and stuck a guy.
Of all the wide receivers, no one in the group really stood out. The one who had the best day from Trey Hiller from Sam Houston State. A couple of times, the ball got into his body and I thought he was a body catcher, but over the rest of practice, Hiller made several catches away from his frame. He also had the best catch of any wide receiver in the two practices when he had to extend to get the ball on a corner route. He doesn't have great speed, but that was the best catch of the day.
Little Brother Plays Well
As for the American team, in the 48 hours leading up to the first practice, we studied all six quarterbacks, and of the six, the one who stood out for me was Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers, brother of Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Jordan is only 6-foot-1 and he doesn't have great arm strength, but he has smooth, quick release and a nice throwing motion. He might be slightly quicker and more athletic than his brother. And he has the maneuverability.
What we saw today was that he can make accurate throws when the pocket is clean, but what impressed me was his ability to make a throw with someone in his face. Everything was coming easier to him. He wasn't panicked or worried. It was the first day, and he wasn't perfect, but what we saw today in practice was that there was a confidence about him. The more I study him, the more I like him.
The one other player who jumped out today was Jakar Hamilton from South Carolina. Originally, he was at Georgia and pushed for a starting job against Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams, both of whom will wind up being drafted in the first four rounds.
Hamilton had some character baggage, and we'll see how big of detractor that is. But from a skills standpoint, he stacks up against the guys you'd see at the Senior Bowl. He's quick for a safety, with great natural instincts. He knows the depths of his drops and how far he could push it. He did well reading the quarterback's eyes. From the individual drills, it appears he has very good ball skill, has good hands and was plucking the ball out of the air. Scouts will need to find out more about his character, but he'd make an intriguing Day 3 prospect.
-- Todd McShay
In the Trenches
A couple of players in the Nationals team group stood out among the offensive lineman. Washington offensive guard Drew Schafer. He's got a good frame, bends well at the knees and has a flexible lower body and is an above-average athlete. He did a good job all day, like when he pulled, he located the target, adjusted on the move and went hard to the second level. He also did well in the one-on-ones. He had good balance; he has some issues with his lateral movement, but he caught himself and recovered.
From the American team, Ryan Seymour of Vanderbilt stood out. He was a late addition to this game and he piqued my interest with his second effort on the field today. He's got that aggressive, mean streak that good offensive linemen have. I didn't know much about him, but the effort he gave in practice was impressive. It's a little thing, but he was the first at every drill. He'd be the first offensive lineman jogging down the field. He played both right and left tackle at the practice, and while he's not an exceptional athlete, he's adequate enough. He's got good feet and pop in the upper body. He did well in the one-on-one in which he got down and sank the anchor to protect the outside edge.
He's a late-round prospect or could be a high-priority free agent.
For the National team, there were two defensive linemen who stood out. One was Kenchelle Harris of Virginia Union. He's raw, but he has some tools to work with -- especially his measurables. He plays with leverage and he consistently set the edge in the run game and used his hands well to disengage. He needs to polish his technique to keep offensive lineman from getting into his frame. He flashed some ability to switch from speed to power, but he needs to improve using his hands. It'll be interesting to see how he develops over the week.
From the American team, two linebackers stood out Herman Lathers from Tennessee, who I saw play four times in person this year. He diagnoses the ball well. I like the way he goes downhill with good aggression. He's not the greatest athlete, but he's good enough in space.
Then there's Jordan Campbell, who transferred from USC to New Mexico Highlands, who had the most energy of any defensive player on the field. He was real enthusiastic. He had a good closing burst and good punch at the point of attack. You could tell the talent was there.
-- Kevin Weidl
One Final Thought