Roster update: Joe Looney, OL from Wake Forest, just added to the North roster this morning and in his first workout, hurt his foot in practice and is out. He'll be replaced by Rishaw Johnson of California Univ. of Pa.
Here are my observations from watching the South team practice this afternoon:
Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and his staff sent the South team through their first full-padded practice this afternoon at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The South squad has arguably the higher-graded prospects, with several defensive linemen meriting first-round consideration.
Defensive end Quinton Coples of North Carolina is a consensus Top 10 pick by most evaluators. Coples is a sculpted athlete, measuring 6-5, 281 pounds. Described as a "poor man's Julius Peppers", he flashes a nice blend of quickness and explosion. Burst is good, but not exceptional, Coples is experienced and knows how to use his hands. He toyed with the offensive tackles for the most part, winning all of his one-on-one's, with the exception of a matchup with Florida State's Zebrie Sanders.
Fellow defensive end Melvin Ingram is short and stout at 6-1, 276 pounds, with short arms. However, he displayed excellent burst and quickness off the snap along with an ability to use his leverage to stay low. Scouts are mixed on whether he stays outside or is best suited to move to the interior but he's been unblockable and has a high motor.
DL Jaye Howard of Florida came in unsung but starred during the one-on-one drills. The former Gator demonstrated a nice blend of quickness and mobility, getting penetration and easily beating his man. Howard (6-3, 292) appeared on the slender side and could use some more bulk but his effort was impressive. His could be a name worth remembering as the draft heads into the middle rounds.
Alabama's Courtney Upshaw continues to perform well. A linebacker for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, Upshaw worked with the defensive line group and didn't appear to be out of place. He won all of his one-on-one battles, showing an explosive first step, good hand use and a strong bull rush. Upshaw's flexibility to play with his hand in the dirt or outside in a 3-4 scheme increases his value to NFL teams. He's certainly made the most of the opportunity thus far. Upshaw is a player to watch as far as the Bears are concerned. He's projected as a top 20 pick and could be too good to pass up if he's still on the board when Chicago's turn comes at 19th overall.
Positional changes are one of the more interesting things to watch this week. Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette (6-4, 264) was moved to linebacker. Bequette is a high-energy player who needs time to acclimate himself to the position. He plays the run well but needs to improve his change of direction skills.
Diminutive running back Chris Rainey (5-8, 178) from Florida, went through one-on-one drills as a receiver. His speed is intoxicating and he made a nice grab on one throw, beating former Gator teammate Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama. Rainey shifted to running back in the full-team portion of the workout.
Offensive lineman Cordy Glenn of Georgia and Florida State's Zebrie Sanders held up pretty well against stellar competition. Glenn is a 6-5, 346-pound wide-body who can anchor and has surprising mobility. His long arms and hand punch mean business. Glenn was beat by Coples in a one-on-one drill but came back to win the rest of his battles. Sanders (6-5, 308) is also experienced and held up well. He displayed good setup and balance.
Keep an eye out for Louisiana Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green. At 6-5, 237 pounds, the first team All-Sun Belt performer flashed excellent hands and natural ability. A former receiver, he proved to be an inviting target and appeared smooth in his route running. If the Bears want to add a receiving dimension to the tight end position, Green could be a gem in the third round -- remember, the Bears have an extra pick in the third as part of the Greg Olsen trade.
The catch of the day went to Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner, who pulled in a one-handed reception on an off-target ball. Criner is well-sized at 6-2, 220 pounds, and though not a speed guy, he's deceptively fast. He demonstrated an ability to get open against defenders. Criner is a player who could bring value as a mid-round selection.
Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller suffered through a miserable outing. He possesses the size (6-4, 217) and college production, but had trouble beating the jam off the line and dropped several passes. Fuller didn't appear to have the quickness needed to separate. His stock is falling.
Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams is smallish at 5-10, 174 pounds, but his speed easily earned him separation. A couple of throws were off target but Adams appears to have the playmaking ability teams covet. His hands are above average.
North Carolina wideout Dwight Jones is another tall receiver (6-3, 226) who made a favorable impression. He appears smooth in his routes and showed good hands.
Two corners merited some attention on Tuesday for the South. Louisiana Lafayette's Dwight "Ben" Bentley is only 5-9, 176 pounds but he's a confident and aggressive corner who enjoys press coverage -- think Tim Jennings of the Bears only without the 10-yard cushion. Bentley showed in one-on-ones he isn't afraid to lay a lick on the receivers. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins also had a solid showing. He possesses the measurables but is also undersized (5-9, 191). Nevertheless, Jenkins is smooth and fluid in his backpedal and possesses good instincts for the position.
Quarterback play was solid, if unspectacular. Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State demonstrated his maturity and poise, though he was constantly under pressure during team drills. Arizona's Nick Foles is long and lanky, but had a few hiccups in running the offense.
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.