The defensive line proved to be the pride of the South team at Monday's Senior Bowl practice, but there were plenty of players making impressions – some good and some dropping the ball.
The pride of the South, at least when it comes to the South squad at this year's Senior Bowl, is the defensive line.
That was the position of strength at Monday's South practice in Mobile, Ala., and topping the charts was Georgia
DT John Jenkins
, who had the best practice of defensive linemen.
The 358-pound nose tackle routinely took on double teams and still made an impact, even against all-star caliber offensive linemen. At one point he tossed Kentucky
's Larry Warford
, a 343-pound offensive lineman, aside and made a one-handed tackle on the running back trying to squeeze through a shrinking gap.
Jenkins is simply so big and strong. He admitted that he needs to shed some weight, but he's got a lot to prove this week after a great start in both passing the look test and dominating one-on-ones.
Along with Jenkins, Everett Dawkins
, Ezekial Ansah and Malliciah Goodman
each impressed on several occasions during team drills.
BYU defensive end Ezekial Ansah had a nice scrimmage. On one play he extended his arms, got underneath a tight end, and drove him off his feet and on his back. A few plays later he batted down a pass.
The offensive and defensive linemen had a one-on-one session for about 15 minutes. Offensive tackle Oday Aboushi (Virginia) more than held his own. In fact, he defeated the highly touted BYU defensive end Ezekial Ansah on consecutive reps.
The best catch of the day was one of the first ones. Former Baylor receiver Terrance Williams created just enough separation with his defender on a go route and made a diving catch about 40 yards down the left sideline during one-on-one drills. Oklahoma alumnus Landry Jones delivered the strike.
Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope dropped two passes that should have been easy catches.
Williams will garner the most wide receiver headlines, but Tavarres King's (Georgia) shiftiness and quickness after the catch and Quinton Patton's (Louisiana Tech) strong hands and route-running made them the top wideouts on the first day. Each seemingly didn't lose a rep all afternoon.
Both Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson looked sharp in Monday's practice, with each showing enough arm strength and accuracy to play in the NFL. Florida State's E.J. Manuel, the third QB on the South squad, struggled with accuracy and didn't step into his passes consistently enough.
Jones was more impressive in the early portion, then Wilson closed the gap as practice progressed. Manuel was clearly a step behind the other two today in terms of consistency and timeliness with the ball.
One of the big plays in the team scrimmage was Jones connecting with Patton. Jones threw a dart to Patton on an outside route. From there, Patton took over, running by the secondary and down the sideline for a score.
Mike Gillislee broke off several long runs during the scrimmage, showing vision to find daylight and a great burst of speed to blow by the defense.
Andre Ellington – see Gillislee.
Stanford running back Stepfon Taylor is a compact, thick running back that caught the ball nicely out of the backfield.
Alabama LB Nico Johnson was good all day, no matter the drill or station. He was good in the box, disciplined as always after diagnosing the play, and he was better against the pass than usually credited. Johnson got to his drops quicker than most and seemed comfortable no matter his role on a given play.
San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden came away with an early interception when his receiver slipped on an out route and McFadden stayed with the ball. He also knocked away a pass from Jones later in practice. McFadden was a standout among the cornerbacks because of his instincts with the ball in the air. He seemed to always be around it on Day One.
Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox had an interception toward the end of practice.
Tennessee-Martin defensive lineman Montori Hughes didn't practice Monday and had his left foot in a boot. He was limited to an observer.
As has become an annual tradition, Alabama head coach Nick Saban rode onto the track at Fairhope Stadium in an SUV and was quickly surrounded by media for a five-minute interview, espousing the talents of his former Crimson Tide players that are participating in the Senior Bowl. Alabama has six players in the all-star game this year.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was also in attendance.
C.J. Leak is a former big-time quarterback prospect from Charlotte, N.C. that played at Wake Forest and Tennessee. He is now a scout with the Buffalo Bills.
Players arrived in Mobile on Sunday, but Monday was the first day of practices, with the South squad practicing from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at Fairhope Stadium and the North squad from 2:30-4:30 at Ladd Peebles Stadium. On Tuesday and Wednesday, both teams will practice at Ladd Peebles (where Saturday's game will be held), with the North practicing in the morning and South in the afternoon.
Tim Yotter, John Garcia and Jamie Newberg all contributed to this report.