MOBILE, Ala. -- With five players on the North roster, it should come as no surprise when Ohio State players have good days at this year's Senior Bowl. That was the case on Day 1 of practices on Tuesday with a couple of Ohio State's big names standing out in front of throngs of NFL scouts and personnel people.
One of the bigger attractions on the day was Braxton Miller, the quarterback turned wide receiver. Pressed about the position switch on Tuesday, Miller declared his quarterback days are "in the past" and that he's a receiver now. As he's switched to wide receiver, Miller said he closely studies Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots and Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers.
On the field, Miller displayed many of the same skills Cobb does. He runs crisp routes, has quickness and really impressive body control. Miller looked like a natural returning punts as well. He's the type of multi-talented player who can fill two roster spots for a team.
Side note: Miller said he never considered transferring to Alabama before last season, despite some reports to the contrary.
Another Ohio State player who stood out on Day 1 was defensive tackle Adolphus Washington. He's the total package as an interior defensive lineman. He used his speed to work past blockers and his power to push them around. After practices concluded, a couple scouts were quick to meet with Washington and set up future meetings. (Random things you learn hearing a scout interview a player: Washington was only subleasing his apartment and is figuring out his living arrangements. Scouts ask weird questions.)
Washington moved from nose tackle to the three-technique defensive tackle role for Ohio State last season. Washington said he prefers the new position. He said teams have spoken to him about staying at that position as a pro.
"I like three-technique because it lets me use my quickness," Washington said. "(Three-technique) lets me get to the quarterback faster."
Quarterbacks quiet on Day 1
Things are a little different for the quarterbacks at this year's Senior Bowl. In previous years, each team had three quarterbacks. This year it's four per team. That means fewer snaps for each. Because of that, it was hard to get a gauge on them because real consistency couldn't be developed.
The headliner, of course, is Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. His day started optimally at weigh-ins where he came in at 6'5 1/4 and 233 pounds. His hand measurement of 10 inches also caused a stir. The belief has always been that larger hands mean a better grip, so there should be no questions for Wentz in that regard. On the field, though, a few of his passes were off. During one string, he threw the ball at his receiver's feet, threw it over the receiver's head on the next play, and finished the series by overthrowing on an outside pass. Wentz's passes had a lot of zip, and his timing with a new group of receivers was impressive. But over the next couple of days it would be nice to see his accuracy on point.
Still, Wentz looked like the best quarterback in this year's game. Alabama's Jake Coker threw a few solid deep outside passes. Dak Prescott of Mississippi State showed good placement on a few plays, and the ability to move out of the pocket when there's pressure. The other quarterbacks in attendance really did nothing else of note.
Spence stands out on the South roster
Eastern Kentucky pass rusher Noah Spence lived up to the hype on Tuesday. Spence moved around effortlessly in drills, tossing blocking dummies to the side with ease. Some of the drill work can be overblown, but it does show functional traits to help project a player to the next level.
Spence's aggression was utilized on sentient beings as well. In one-on-one drills against offensive linemen, Spence's mean streak showed. Following one play against John Theus, Spence had to be physically removed from the Georgia blocker. At 6'2 5/8 and 254 pounds, Spence looks the part. On Tuesday he played like it.
Dadi Nicolas of Virginia Tech didn't have an especially impressive first day. His hand technique looked sloppy and the pass rusher allowed blockers to get underneath his pads. Baylor's Spencer Drango gave Nicolas trouble on two consecutive plays. On the first one, Drango got underneath Nicolas and then popped him in the head. Nicolas complained to get another shot and proceeded to get thrown around by the Baylor tackle.
Clemson defensive tackle D.J. Reader is as powerful as you'd expect at a blocky 340 pounds. On one play he drove an offensive lineman back like he was nothing. On another play he powered Missouri guard Connor McGovern to the ground.
One of the noteworthy takeaways from weigh-ins was LSU linebacker Deion Jones weighing just 219 pounds. When he got on the field a few hours later, it didn't matter. Jones moved around more fluidly than any other linebacker on the South and never appeared to get overpowered. Fellow South linebacker Kentrell Brothers also looked good on Tuesday. He moved around better than expected for a 249-pounder.
Baylor wide receiver Jay Lee had a good day of practice. He can gain easy separation on deeper routes with simple fakes and showed good hands. Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan got after Lee for getting beat at the top of a comeback route, but that was the only critique sent his way. Sullivan also spent a fair amount of time working with Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard on his footwork to hasten his short routes.
Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair is among the best players in Mobile, and it showed Tuesday. He's a powerful and effortless blocker. He played tackle last season, but will be a guard in the NFL.
Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins looked really good. He plays a lot like Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, but that's not to compare the two. Hopefully more to come on Rankins in the next day or two.
Temple has three players on the North roster, and two of them stood out on Tuesday. Cornerback Tavon Young looks like a solid nickel cornerback because of his quickness and ability to close ground in a hurry. Defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis destroyed Western Michigan offensive lineman Willie Beavers so thoroughly on one play that his teammates screamed and sprayed water bottles in approval.
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