MOBILE, Ala. — La'el Collins could have easily skipped out on the Senior Bowl. It's not abnormal for top players to turn down the invitation. Collins accepted the challenge and he's showing why he's a highly regarded player.
During Day 2 of the Senior Bowl South practices at Ladd Peebles Stadium, Collins showed off a complete game. In drills against defensive linemen, Collins used his power to stop Mississippi State's Preston Smith with ease. On a screen drill, he pancaked Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera in space. On another he was lined up as a left guard – which some consider his best position in the NFL – and he looked good.
Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton could have skipped on the event as well, especially after he started landing high in the first round in prominent mock drafts (if there is such a thing).
Shelton has largely been unblockable on both days. Even against multiple blockers Shelton can get a push. Coaches worked with Shelton some on Wednesday to shed blocks better. But he was pushing linemen back so far it wasn't an issue because he was creating disruption.
Watching Shelton has is reminiscent of watching Aaron Donald at the Senior Bowl last year. You knew what Donald could do and he showed it off. They have very different playing styles and abilities, but Shelton is being successful by playing to his strengths.
Bennett makes Senior Bowl debut
A new quarterback was at the Senior Bowl Tuesday in Southeastern Louisiana's Bryan Bennett. Bennett's play was similar to other quarterbacks in Mobile. There were glimpses from Bennett. He can throw a good deep ball. He seems to have a strong arm. His short passing game was often on point. But he was inconsistent. His deeper passes were often overthrown and his timing needs to be built up.
Teams will be wondering if they should take a late-round flier on Bennett or use a higher pick on other Senior Bowl quarterbacks like Bryce Petty of Baylor, Sean Mannion of Oregon State or Garrett Grayson of Colorado State. None of those three did anything to distinguish themselves on Wednesday. You can tell watching Petty he's not comfortable dropping back while going through his progressions and reading the defense.
Grayson showed more of the same as Tuesday. He had some positive moments, but couldn't maintain accuracy throughout practice.
Linebackers stand out
There’s something to like about every linebacker in Mobile. It when one of them shows off two or three really good traits that you take notice. That was the case with Clemson’s Stephone Anthony on Wednesday. Anthony consistently looked good in space. That’s known about him. The extra thing he showed was great closing speed. There was one play where a wide receiver caught a short swing pass and Anthony closed with incredible speed. If it were a game, the hit would have been the stuff of .gif legend.
Missouri’s Markus Golden had a nice series of back-to-back plays on Wednesday. On one play he beat Oklahoma right tackle to the edge and got what would have been a sack in a game. Golden showed his skill to get low and dip the corner. On the next play, he used an inside move to beat Alabama’s Austin Shepherd. That variety was nice to see.
On the North team, Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha stood out in a full-team session for his speed chasing down the ball carrier. Kikaha closes better than most players at this year’s event.
Need to step up on Thursday
With just one more day of practices, here are few players who need to close strong:
Colorado State offensive tackle had another shaky day. Some of the defenders on the South team were overpowering him in individual drills. During the most competitive part of the scrimmage, Sambrailo was playing more right tackle. It’s starting to look like that could be his more natural spot on the line.
East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy is a great route runner. He doesn’t waste steps and is smooth. Passes bounced off his hands too often on Wednesday, though. For a wide receiver who isn’t known for his size or speed, Hardy has to consistently catch the ball, especially when it hits his hands.
There wasn’t a lot to note with Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. One of the better players at this year’s game hasn’t had many splash plays and struggled some in pass protection.
While Miami’s Clive Walford was the story of the day, South tight end teammate C.J. Uzomah looked decent. He’s not fast and sort of plods when he gets up the field, but he gets open. Perhaps more importantly, he looked good in blocking drills. Uzomah isn’t going to get drafted highly, but he has the type of skill set at tight end to last a long time in the NFL.
Want a fun leftover note from Tuesday? The first night of practices the media has a dinner with players (it was fish) and it's a nice way to sit down with players for a casual extended interview period. Among the players I spoke with were Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith and Doran Grant. We'll have more with them, but I wanted to ask about quarterback Cardale Jones who announced during a ballyhooed news conference was going back to OSU. Smith admitted he had no idea what Jones would do. Grant thought he'd enter the draft. In other words, everyone's guess about Jones last week was as valid as anyone at Ohio State who could have inside information.
Shelton has been great for the North team. That much is obvious. But Duke guard Laken Tomlinson had his number on a couple of plays. Maybe more noteworthy was Ali Marpet handling himself fine against Shelton. Don't know Marpet? That's because he went to Hobart College. Marpet is taking advantage of the opportunity to make a name for himself at the Senior Bowl.
Shelton isn't the only defensive lineman for the North getting attention. Carl Davis of Iowa has put in back-to-back good days. He should be in that 25-40 range in the draft. Stanford's Henry Anderson is out of his element playing in a 4-3, but he's held his own and put some good plays on film.