Greetings from southern Alabama, where the shrimp is fresh, the footballs are flying and the breezes off the Gulf of Mexico are a tad nippy.
Day 1 of Senior Bowl week is in the books, and one can’t blame the players on both the North and South squads if they were thankful for finally stepping onto the practice fields and getting to work. It’s the famously hyper-competitive practices under the watch of hundreds of scouts and coaches that help make this week one of the more important junctions along the road to the NFL Draft. The players came to display their wares on the field, to work within the framework of hastily assembled teams and impress onlookers as unique individuals.
Yet at 10:45 a.m. Monday morning, the players were less individuals and more like commodities.
The annual weigh-in here in Mobile witnesses approximately 500 scouts and coaches crowded into a convention-center ballroom, with each player’s height and weight called out in carnival-barker style. Each of the 100 players stands on the stage to have his measurements taken, then walks down a path in the middle of the room, not unlike a model on a runway.
All this in their underwear.
For the more modest among the collection of rookies-to-be, sweatpants were in order. Most, though, were walking advertisements for game sponsor UnderArmour’s collection of briefs.
With each announcement of height and weight, hundreds of scouts’ heads glanced downward at the paper on which they wrote the measurements. Such figures — particularly weight — will doubtless provide for valuable analysis when compared with those that will be taken at the National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis a month from now.
But you can’t make everything out of initial appearances. The late Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly often used the description “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” to describe those whose output didn’t exactly match up to a Johnny Weismuller-like physique.
Sometimes, though, the opposite is true, and Maryland’s Dre’ Moore would stand as an example.
The 6-foot-4, 307-pounder’s frame stood in contrast to many of his teammates. He wasn’t exactly lean, and admittedly I had him pegged at about 315 or 317 pounds before his actual weight was announced. But when he practiced a few hours later, the man was mean, crashing into offensive linemen with the force of a thunderclap and frequently pushing them back several yards with nothing more complex than a straight-on bull rush.
It just shows that even the most revealing picture of a draft prospect isn’t necessarily the most illuminating one.
Some brief thoughts from the South team’s practice, during which I mostly took pictures and roamed from station to station:
… I never judge based on the first day. Defense is almost always ahead of offense, and that was the case in this session, as timing was an issue for quarterbacks Colt Brennan, Andre Woodson and Erik Ainge, who took their repetitions in that order …
… Oklahoma defensive back D.J. Wolfe had some success in one-on-one drills, breaking up a pair of passes, including one that saw him slam into Houston’s Donnie Avery with perfect timing; he arrived in perfect time with the football to ensure an incompletion …
… All of the linebackers lapped up the advice from Hall of Famer and current 49ers linebackers coach Mike Singletary, but the one who seemed to most rapidly apply the legendary ex-Chicago Bear’s counsel was South Florida’s Ben Moffitt …
… Alabama’s Simeon Castille is the son of former Bronco Jeremiah Castille — who has arguably the most important forced fumble in Denver annals — and seemed to be a coach on the field, helping his fellow defenders find their spots on the field before the snaps during team drills …
I’ll be finishing up a notebook over on the main site shortly, focusing on LSU back Jacob Hester. I simply write “back” when referencing his position because few seem certain of whether the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder is a fullback or tailback. What I am certain about is his stature; when he stepped onto the Mobile Convention Center stage for his weigh-in, he looked cut from iron, like Rocky Balboa after he’d finished training for his bout with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
Until Tuesday from Mobile, vaya con Dios.