The star of Monday's practice at Fairhope Stadium was USC safety Taylor Mays.
During one-one-one match-ups at the line of scrimmage, Mays made every wide receiver work hard to get past him. Using his upper body strength and good handwork at the snap, he engaged the receivers quickly and then used good leverage to divert their path as they attempted to move by him. More often than not, Mays was a bothersome shadow through the end of the sprint.
The 6-foot-3, 231-pound pass defender also patiently stalked receivers who ran deep routes, using impeccable timing to swoop in and disrupt the receivers as the ball arrived.
Mays delivered what was undoubtedly the biggest hit of the South Team's practice when he collided with Andre Roberts while the Citadel wide receiver was stretching out for a deep pass that was thrown just beyond his fingertips. To Roberts' credit, he hopped right up, but the blow really stirred-up the crowd that had assembled to watch the workouts.
With 96 tackles during his senior campaign, Mays was the first safety to lead USC in stops since Troy Polamalu in 2001. A four-year starter, he finished his collegiate career with 276 tackles and five interceptions.
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While Mays was roughing up receivers during the South Team's practice, Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard was turning the tables across town and making life difficult for the secondary of the North Team.
During a short-range passing drill, Gilyard caught everything thrown in his direction--even when the ball was tossed behind him. He repeatedly snatched the ball out of the air, leaving no doubt about the fact that he has some of the best hands among the receivers here in Mobile.
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound receiver was precise with his route-running and showed great quickness out of his breaks. And during special teams work, Gilyard caught every kickoff opportunity--despite some challenging wind-gusts while looking into the sun.
The University of Cincinnati's career leader in receiving touchdowns (25), receiving yards (2,962), all-purpose yards (5,697), kickoff returns (85), kickoff return for touchdowns (4), and kickoff return average(28.8) drew the attention of our Scout.com NFL analysts with a well-rounded performance out of the gate on Monday.
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