Senior Bowl: Day 1 observations

Bear Report correspondent Jeff Curts compiles his notebook from the first day of practice from the Senior Bowl, including a handful of interviews with players and coaches participating in Mobile.

Day One Practice Impressions (North Squad)

-Michigan State's Kirk Cousins looked the part of an NFL Quarterback, especially in comparsion to the smallish sized duo of Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Boise State's Kellen Moore. Cousins checked in at Monday's weigh in at a solid 6'2, 209, while Wilson stood 5'10 and Moore 5'11. Cousins demonstrated excellent arm strength and command.

-The players were decked out in shells, but there was plenty of pad popping. Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and his staff worked the players hard through a series of one on one drills, as well as 9 on 7 and 11 on 11 sessions.

-In the matchup between wide receivers and defenders, Arizona State's Gerrell Robinson, a 6-3, 223 lanky strider and Appalachian State's Brian Quick, a big target with intriguing potential at 6-4, 209, both showed a case of nerves dropping on the money throws.

-Boston College cornerback Donnie Fletcher, who entered the season as a top prospect but then struggled through an up and down year, struggled in the one on one matchups. Fletcher looked tight in the hips and failed to show the quick twitch skills necessary to blanket big-time playmakers.

-Nebraska's Alfonso Dennard was beaten by Iowa's Marvin McNutt, another huge target (6'2, 216) who could grow on evaluators quickly throughout the course of the week. McNutt is productive, sneaky fast and possesses good hands.

-In the trenches, a pair of Big Ten prospects enjoyed a mixed bag. In the one on one pass rush drills pitted against defensive lineman, both Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler (6-3, 315) and Ohio State's Mike Adams (6-7, 323) struggled. Zeitler's fundamentals and footwork were a little sloppy. He would have been whistled for holding on one occasion. Zeitler redeemed himself in run drills, overpowering a strong group of defenders.

Adams is a huge man but could use added bulk and strength. His frame reminds me of last year's Bears first-rounder Gabe Carimi. Adams does possess a long wingspan though, and his footwork looked good.

-Defensively, a pair of big safeties could interest the Bears. Boise State's George Iloka measured in at 6-3, 222 pounds and has the versatility to play corner or safety. He actually played corner the last four contests and in the Broncos Las Vegas Bowl game win. Iloka displays good range and ball skills. Notre Dame's Harrison Smith looks like a football player. He's big, 6-1, 212 pounds, tough, and instinctive.

-Marshall's Vinny Curry impressed with his non-stop motor and relentless play. The 6-3, 265 pound defensive end flashed an explosive first step and proved nearly impossible to block on day one. Good quickness off the ball.

-Virginia DE Cam Johnson is another edge rusher to keep an eye on. Well-sized at 6-3, 267, Johnson exhibits a quick first step and could become a solid bookend at the pro level. He's very physical and showed up big on day one. Worth watching throughout the week and a personal favorite of mine from watching him make plays during the college season.

SHORT INTERVIEWS

Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana Lafayete: 1st team All-Sun Belt selection, 6-5, 237

On participating in the game:
"I've watched this game many times, probably seven or eight times in my lifetime," said Green, a native of nearby Pensacola, Florida who was among the more than 60 players arriving in town Saturday, a day ahead of schedule, in preparation for the upcoming week of activities. "So I'm real excited to be here. It's a dream come true. You grow up watching all these great players come through here and (I was) one of those kids who said, 'I want to do that.' Now I have the opportunity."

"It means I get a chance to show that great players are at small schools too," he said. "I want to be able to show my ability and what I can do along with the other great players who will be here."

Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas, 5-11, 174

On what he does best:
"I'm a playmaker. I catch the ball well. I'm a good returner also. I want to show that I can be a great receiver."

On how the first practice went:
"I think I had a real good day. The SEC prepared me well for the next stage, the NFL."

On where he can improve:
"I need to improve on my route-running. That's the biggest thing, to be crisper and execute beter."

On what he knows about the Bears:
"They have a great Quarterback in Jay Cutler. I saw a couple of their games and I liked how he made plays, got the ball to his playmakers."

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State, 6-3, 219

On his age (28):
"I hope to use it to my advantage. I hope teams see it as a guy who's experienced and mature."

On playing in the game:
"I follow all these guys. I'm a big-time college football fan. If I'm not playing, after our game or before our game, I'm watching other games. To line up on the same field with these guys -- I played against a lot of these guys from the Big 12, so it will be kind of fun to be on the same team. There may be a little trash talk going back and forth, but it will be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to it and it should be a fun week."

North head coach (and former Bear) Leslie Frazier

On his message to the team:
Speaking from a former player's perspective, he told the team, "I'm not going to let the little things slide by. Why? Because this is my future."

Frazier plans to do more than motivate, hoping his up-close look at the roster - which might include several first-round picks - will pay dividends for the Vikings, who are expected to have 10 picks in April's draft, including compensatory picks.

"The fact we get a chance to work hands-on with players, we get to talk with them, spend time with them, eat in the cafeteria with them, talk about their lifestyle – it's immeasurable."


Jeff Curts has written for the Bleacher Report, Examiner.com, NFL Draft Dog and published The Slant...NFL Draft Newsletter. Curts is a graduate of Sports Management Worldwide, having completed the Scout & General Manager course under the direction of former NFL scout and current Sporting News draft expert Russ Lande. Jeff is founder and publisher of the Web site Bears Claws and hosts the program "Bears Claws" on BlogtalkRadio. He is a regular contributor to BearReport.com.

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