The South linebackers are really starting to flash as the week progresses and it's tough to tell which is more impressive. Plus, plenty of other notes and observations from Wednesday's South practice.
The South's linebackers were the dominant force on the field.
During a 9-on-9 run-game drill, Alabama
's Nico Johnson
was a one-man wrecking crew. At one point, Cal's Brian Schwenke
pulled and tried to block Johnson. Instead, Johnson shed Schwenke and dropped running back Mike Gillislee
at the line of scrimmage.
In 11-on-11, Texas A&M
's Sean Porter
running back Mike James
. Later, Porter showed off his athletic ability when he leaped high in zone coverage to knock down a pass intended for a target behind him.
's Zaviar Gooden
stuffed Gillislee, dropped deep into coverage to make an exceptional pass breakup and added an interception off a deflection on a pass from E.J. Manuel
's Vince Williams
put a punishing tackle on James during 9-on-9 and stuffed a draw play in the full scrimmage.
Johnson is an excellent run defender, but he's not going to be a three-down player in the NFL. He was beaten badly on a corner route by Cal tight end Mychal Rivera
The ball explodes off the foot of Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins. He made 5 of 6 field goals, including a 53-yarder. His one miss was a bad hook from 46.
Florida State quarterback Manuel has a rifle of a right arm. He showed some nice touch on a few passes, as well, including a pretty out to Georgia's Tavarres King that floated over a defender.
Schwenke unofficially went 7-1 during a one-on-one pass-blocking drill. At 6-foot-3 and 307 pounds, he's not the biggest guy – he called himself "undersized" – but he's tenacious and has a bit of a mean streak.
Schwenke is giving away almost 60 pounds to Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins – 300 pounds to nearly 360 pounds – but Schwenke did an admirable job holding back a first-round defensive lineman and other sparkplugs during one-on-ones.
Sort of lost in the shuffle of the excellence of Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson has had an excellent week, as well. He went 4-0 in the pass-blocking drill.
BYU defensive end Ezekial Ansah had a dominant stretch during 11-on-11. On three consecutive plays, he was in the backfield on a passing play. One would have been a sack had he not pulled up, the second probably would have been a sack and he forced a hurried pass on the third.
It's hard to say what was more impressive: The sliding catch by Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton or the outstanding block he made on a cornerback to turn a nice catch by Rivera into a long gainer up the sideline. Patton has been impressive all week and is making a case for himself to be considered a late first-round selection in front of receivers that were more highly touted entering the week.
Alabama safety Robert Lester is one of the higher rated defensive backs at the Senior Bowl, but he might need to show better range if he wants to be a second-round pick. He was a little slow in trying to keep up with some of the receivers Wednesday.
Florida State defensive lineman Everett Dawkins mixed it up a couple of times during one-on-one drills, looking to scrap with the offensive linemen after the whistle.
The biggest upset for Saturday's game will be if South defensive line coach Kris Kocurek from the Detroit Lions still has a voice. All week long, Kocurek has been has been barking at the defensive linemen as a hyperactive ball of energy.
As was pointed out yesterday, the South scrimmages were not run efficiently. During a 10-play span of the North practice, the offense got off a play every 28 seconds. The South offense ran a play every 38 seconds. Faster tempo means more snaps, and more snaps means more chances to impress and more film for scouts to watch.
Kentucky guard Larry Warford had another solid day, getting the best of most of the defensive linemen Kocurek and company sent his way during one-on-one work.