Senior Bowl: Monday's Top Five Performers

Who were the best players on the field? We have the answers in this exclusive feature. Leading the way is one of this year's most touted prospects, USC safety Taylor Mays.

Practice for Saturday's Senior Bowl began on Monday, with the North and South teams practicing in shells (shoulder pads, helmets, shorts). Here are the five standouts:

Taylor Mays, S, USC: The standout of the day was the hulking 6-foot-3, 231-pound safety. During a bump-and-run drill, Mays dominated matchup after matchup with opposing wide receivers. He consistently used his hands to disrupt routes and then used his speed to shadow the receivers. Of course, his calling card with the Trojans was his hitting ability, and he demonstrated that a little bit in this noncontact practice. When receiver Andre Roberts of The Citadel tried to make a diving catch, there was Mays to hit him and knock the ball loose.

Riley Cooper, WR, Florida: The first day of these all-star games is notoriously bad for quarterbacks, who are learning a system and trying to get their timing down with their receivers. So, Cooper wasn't a dominant player, but it's easy to see why the scouts like him. At 6-foot-3 1/2 with long arms and big hands, Cooper is going to be a tough matchup in the NFL. He caught all of the catchable balls and showed enough speed to separate from jam coverage.

Daryl Washington, LB, TCU: Oregon running back Legarrette Blount will be seeing No. 41 in his dreams. Washington, the impact linebacker from the powerhouse Horned Frogs' defense, spent enough time in the backfield that he should have traded his blue defense jersey for the offense's white. The coaches put him in position to make plays by blitzing him, and Washington broke through again and again. He edges his North teammate, Missouri's superlative Sean Weatherspoon.

Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: As is the case for Cooper because of so-so quarterbacking, it wasn't the 11-on-11 work that will get Gilyard noticed. It's his work during drills. During a cone drill that tests a receiver's ability to get in and out of cuts and react quickly to balls, Gilyard was smooth in catching everything in his vicinity. The offense didn't accomplish much through the air during team drills, but most of the production came from the 6-foot Gilyard.

North cornerbacks: Not one of the corners had a jaw-dropping opening practice but there are plenty of promising prospects on display in a league starved for players who can cover. On the first play of a one-on-one drill, Boise State's Kyle Wilson practically ran the out route for the receiver and stepped in front of the pass for an interception. On the next play, Rutgers' Devin McCourty broke up a pass. Later, Wilson had great coverage again, this time on a deep route. Cal's Syd'Quan Thompson also broke up a pass, and Virginia's Chris Cook showed impressive open-field tackling drills while being matched up one-on-one against a receiver.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at

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