HBCU Bowl: East Practice Day 2

It’s Day Two of the HBCU Bowl and our first practice with pads. It started cool and in the mid-40’s when we got going around 9:00am but quickly warmed up to over 60 degrees. For those of you who may not know, this is typical Georgia weather in December (be jealous). Below are some notes from individual drills and then some notes from 11 on 11 and some individual player notes to close it out.

Individual Drills

Started off the morning watching the QB-OC exchange since it was such an issue yesterday. Particularly I wanted to see if Chris Walley could improve on an issue that plagued him yesterday. He looked better early, I only counted two fumbles on snaps from him all day which was an improvement on yesterday. He also spent some one on one time after practice working on it but I’ll have more on that later.

The most consistent snaps came from FAMU OC Shelley Anthony, listed at RG on the first depth chart, Shelley was putting good zip on his shotgun snaps and seemed to be very accurate with consistent placement. Natiel Curry wasn’t far behind him in terms of snaps, he worked with Walley a good bit and the two seemed to be at their best with that combination.

Walley looked like the best QB when it came to dropping back. He had a smooth drop and showed the ability to roll left and right. Michael Johnson seemed to struggle some when attempting to roll left and more than once appeared to roll the opposite direction of the other QB’s, not sure if this was an accident or by design. He also seemed to be off balance on more than one of his drops. His footwork was sloppy and will need some work but it’s nothing that isn’t correctable with coaching and reps.  Dominique Budd is by far the most athletic QB and was very quick on his roll out.

While the players were stretching I watched the kickers take a few kicks from deep range without a holder. I was quite impressed with the leg strength of Trevor Scott from FAMU he kicked consecutive 52 yard FG’s which would of easily been good from 60. I looked up his numbers and he was 13 of 16 on the year and has shown great hang time on his punts as well.

In the pass rush drill it was the DL who got the better of the OL for the most part. DT Charles Deas continued to be a dominant force with his bull rush and showed good explosion out of his stance one on one. Was able to bull rush the OG right into the QB on one his rushes and on another just dipped his shoulder and blasted through the B gap to get into the backfield.

Another guy who was really surprising was DL Ryan Davis from Bethune-Cookman. His speed off the snap is giving the interior lineman nightmares and his ability to change direction is among the best (if not the best) any DL on the east. On one rep he rushed up field quickly, got Curry to commit to that and then spun inside on him for a “sack”.

For the most part it looked like the OL was struggling to anchor against the east power moves. DL Stanley Porter got great push on such a move. One OL who I thought stood out in this drill was Julian Gray from NC Central. He was able to walk many of the speed rushers out of the play and did a good job staying low and getting under the DL pads on their power rush.

DL Coach Michael Sinclair is really coaching these guys up when it comes to their drills. He’s hammering them about using their hands effectively. He was really coaching up Norfolk DT Josh Turner trying to get him to be more effective with his hand placement. These DL are getting better by the rep and that’s a credit to Sinclair’s coaching.

The battle of the day in the pit was Brandon Curry v. Josh Turner, Turner tried to bull rush Curry who stood strong and got the stalemate. Curry also sat down on a Delano Johnson rush and was able to ride him out of the play. Johnson has been one of the most vocal players, pumping up his teammates and really getting after it. He has the most explosion of any of the DL and uses his hands well. Later in the drill though Curry failed to get proper depth on his kick step, got off balance and knocked over.

On the inside rush drills the tables were turned as the defensive front seven had issues with gap control and the OL was able to be effective with traps and pulls. Alternate player Zarry Sanders from Morgan State did do a good job staying home v. the zone read and making a would tackle when the QB kept the ball.

Really liked what I saw from Keith Newell when he was asked to pull. Seemed to move pretty effectively and located extremely well. He also showed up well later on in 11 on 11’s. He was quite possibly the most effective OL out there this morning.

After watching so much of the OL v. DL battles I moved down to the WR v. CB drills to see some of those guys. The first play I saw Michael Johnson had his WR beat the CB deep but he put too much air under the ball and let the CB recover and bat the pass away. Jamain Smith ran a really nice deep comeback after getting off press coverage at the line. He also made a really nice catch down the sideline later in the drill when he had to go to the ground to catch it.

Michael Johnson came back on his next set of reps and executed very well, showing off impressive touch on back to back bucket throws. He looked good out of the shotgun, read the route and delivered the ball right over the DB’s hands.

Antonio Dennard who made the biggest jump in competition coming into this game was listed as the top RCB on this morning depth chart and looked good in coverage. He doesn’t press extremely well but he can run. Dennard’s big issue is that he tends to open up his hips too soon and he was being coached up on that during the drills. As long as Dennar can keep the WR in front of him he can close quickly and should have had two INT’s in that drill.

After Kevin Elliot ran a somewhat disappointing time we were concerned about his ability to separate and it looks like a well-founded concern based on this drill. The two positives that Elliott did show off though were his ability to get physical off the line when facing the jam and his soft natural hands. He could find a nice role as a possession WR if he can continue to improve his routes.

11 on 11

This was the first time we saw these guy line up against each other and it didn’t disappoint. Chris Walley came out in his first set of reps and delivered a really nice throw that he dropped in between the CB and the S. Elliott continued to show off his hands as he made catches in traffic and when he had defenders draped on him.

The defense continued to over pursue on the zone read and play action passes. The backside contain was not there several times and that will need to be addressed before the game on Sunday. The OL also continued to show good protection when asked to slide and block. They almost look better blocking on the move than blocking in-line.

Ryan Davis continued to frustrate the interior of the offensive line with his penetration and first step. He was often two to three yards into the backfield before the QB even finished his drop of the hand-off.

Chris Walley threw the first and only interception on the day as Bethune DB Jean Fanor broke on his pass and made the easy pick. Walley got caught staring down his WR a bit on that play but for the most part didn’t give away his throws.

Two OT’s really stood out to me as Juavahr Nathan from South Carolina State and Keith Newell from Delaware State seemed to establish themselves during this drill. Nathan has a really nice kick out block on the zone read to spring the play. Newell was like a wall at LT not giving even an inch to Akeem Ward and then letting Stewart get off on his up field rush on a draw play. Delano Johnson would make the same mistake the next play and Coach Sinclair was all over him about retracing his steps and getting after the ball carrier.

Johnson took well to that coaching as he got great pressure on the next play and made a big play on a QB scramble by retracing his steps and pursuing the QB. When he was on one bookend with Pat Washington on the other it was a nightmare for East QB’s as the speed rush was far too much for the East OL to handle.

Newcomer Donovan Richard showed up today and made his presence felt in 11 on 11 with a good read and pop on a shovel pass. That hit was probably the biggest hit of the morning session.

Individual Notes:

Charles Deas is looking more and more like a potential 34 NT in the future who could kick outside and play DE as well. He is very strong at the point of attack and bull rushes with ferocity.

Chris Walley was taking extra reps after practice with Curry trying to figure out what the issue is with their exchange from under center. The OL coach was going so far as to lay on his back and watch the snap from the ground.

Antonio Dennard seems to be playing up to his competition level which is nice to see. His closing speed is quite evident and if his technique can continue to improve he could be a steal.

Keith Newell is quickly turning me into a believer about his ability to potentially play RT in the NFL. He had a good weigh-in, had long arms and does a good job once he’s engaged to stay engaged.

I’m off to the West Practices! I’ll have that report and hopefully a few videos to share later!

Tags: All Star Game, CIAA, HBCU Bowl, MEAC, NFL Draft

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