Linebackers and linemen were of interest and importance at Wednesday's North squad practice at the Senior Bowl. A couple of standouts highlighted both lines, and different linebackers showed different skill sets.
The most impressive showing from the North squad Wednesday came from Notre Dame
offensive lineman Zack Martin
, who rotated between left tackle and left guard throughout the session. On the edge he showed quick feet and a strong punch. Inside, he showcased good leverage and immense power. Pro teams love a guy who can execute at multiple positions.
If Martin was performer 1A on the day, then Pittsburgh
DT Aaron Donald
was performer 1B. Donald continues to dominate in one-on-one drills. On one snap, he bull-rushed Miami
G Brandon Linder
5 yards into the backfield. On the next play, he quickly sidestepped Baylor
G Cyril Richardson
, leaving one of the top three interior offensive linemen in this year's draft with two handfuls of air.
During linebackers-vs.-running backs drills, Iowa's Chris Kirksey employed an impressive spin move off the edge to win one of his battles. In run drills, Kirksey was outstanding. On one play, he took Clemson T Brandon Thomas and drove him into the ground. On the next snap, Kirksey ran down the running back on a pitch play. That type of power/speed combination will go a long way in the eyes of NFL scouts.
Wisconsin LB Chris Borland seemed to be too easy for running backs to block trying to rush off the edge. That part of his game certainly didn't appear to be a forte of his, and he lost contain once against the run. Borland was tight in coverage during one-on-one work and knocked away one pass nicely with his lead arm. He had an interception late in practice when he diagnosed an in-cutting route and picked off the pass from QB Logan Thomas. The instincts are there, but the measurables and athleticism are still question marks.
Borland said on Tuesday he wasn't asked to drop into coverage much during his collegiate career.
Thomas certainly has a strong arm, as evidenced by an accurate pass that sailed through the hands of Oregon WR Josh Huff. Thomas also made an intelligent read on one play in the red zone when he saw the defenders' backs turned to the ball and pulled it down to run for the touchdown.
Missouri OLB Michael Sam had another strong practice. He was nearly unblockable in blitz drills, showcasing an outside speed rush, a quick inside cut and an extremely fast spin move. He'll be a force as a pass rusher in a 3-4 system in the NFL. However, he looked slowed in coverage in several instances and appeared to lose the ball carrier when sifting through traffic, but he displayed a powerful club move when blitzing.
Minnesota DT Ra'shede Hageman was overpowered a couple times by combination blocks and said after practice he wasn't proud to admit it, but he got pancaked a couple times. Still, Hageman is relatively inexperienced on the defensive line and has a lot of potential.
Wisconsin RB James White showed good balance and feet handling charging linebackers on blitz drills.
UCLA LB Jordan Zumwalt showed he has the attitude to be a middle linebacker. He loves to talk, much of it trash to the offense, but also is vocal in setting up the defensive call for his teammates. He also does a good job of reading of the quarterback's eyes on pass plays.
Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir, who measured in at 6-foot-1, had a solid practice, but there were times when he didn't turn to locate the ball even when he was in the right position.
Two defensive linemen on the North squad met the running back as soon as he took a handoff. Credit North Carolina DE Kareem Martin and Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald with quick read-and-react plays during full-team work.
The North quarterbacks – Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Virginia Tech's Thomas and Miami's Stephen Morris – looked better today during positional drills but the team portions showed a trio of signal callers with very little anticipation. All three were late on their throws, continually waiting for receivers to get open instead of throwing them open.
UCLA WR Shaquelle Evans continues to perform well during one-on-one drills, today adding a leaping touchdown grab to an already-impressive week of practice.
Wisconsin TE Jacob Peterson has the ability to absorb contact as a pass catcher and hauled in a touchdown during red zone drills. Yet he must be more consistent as a blocker, particularly in the run game.
Nebraska CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste was physical in one-on-one drills and finished practice with a PBU on an end zone fade route, which was reminiscent of Richard Sherman's play to seal the NFC Championship for the Seattle Seahawks.
During one-on-one drills, Northwestern WR Kain Colter used a double move, cutting outside before breaking inside on a slant that left the defender in his wake. Later during team drills, he had the catch of the day, a diving grab on a go route in the end zone.
Ohio State OT Jack Mewhort rotated at right tackle and right guard, looking very good inside. During one-on-one drills, he took Hageman and buried him on his back, which was very impressive.
On at least three occasions Miami OT Seantrel Henderson received a big pat on the back from Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice for his performance on the field.