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Senior Bowl Day 2 Standouts: Offense

There aren’t many big names among the quarterbacks, but some of them proved they have a chance and so did some of their receivers who were consistently beating the defensive backs. We assess the tight ends, running backs and line, too.

Quarterbacks

Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs may have answered any questions about his arm strength. Dobbs was showing good zip on his deep out routes without having to muscle up on the ball.

An indicator of how the game has changed, Dobbs ran a lot of zone reads with his running backs to take advantage of his mobility. It’s a system he’s comfortable with, having run for 831 yards and 12 touchdowns last year for the Vols.

There has never been a question about his athleticism. The questions around Dobbs are with his consistency as a passer. He had 27 touchdowns and a whopping 12 interceptions. A touchdown-to-interception ratio of just over 2-1 is a concern, but the raw ability of Dobbs is tantalizing.

Antonio Pipkin of Division II Tiffin is in a similar mold as Dobbs, but just under 6-foot-1 and he lacks the more preferable height that Dobbs has at 6-3¼. Pipkin ran for more than 900 yards and seven touchdowns while passing for over 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Pipkin has a smooth, quick release, and while he missed a few passes on Wednesday, overall, he threw with accuracy.

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Cal’s Davis Webb is a different sort of quarterback. Webb measured 6-4 5/8, and he stands so tall in the pocket, he looks considerably bigger. He doesn’t have the arm of a prototypical NFL pocket passer, but he threw with pinpoint accuracy on Wednesday.

For the North, the wind helped put some separation between the quarterbacks. Physically, Pittsburgh’s Nate Peterman and Iowa’s C.J. Beathard a relatively indistinguishable. Peterman checked in at 6-2½ and 225 pounds while Beathard was 6-2 5/8 and 219 pounds.

Peterman looked to have the stronger arm of the two and was able to deal with the wind a bit better.

Colorado’s Sefo Liufau doesn’t have an arm on the same level as Peterman and Beathard, but as noted yesterday, he’s considerably more mobile.

Running backs

Toledo’s Kareem Hunt continues to prove that some small-school players have a place in NFL draft talk. At 6-foot-1, Hunt is the tallest back on the North squad, but he showed some wiggle to him in the first two days of practice and finds the running lanes in between the tackles. He has good balance and some nifty moves in the open field, but he can be taken down too easily if he doesn’t get his pads down upon contact. In the passing game, he showed a good feel for where to sit in the zone.

Wisconsin’s Corey Clement didn’t show great elusiveness and appears to be a bit stiff in his running style, but he proved his toughness by catching in traffic, taking a hit and hanging onto the ball.

Michigan’s De'Veon Smith is practically the same size as Clement (both 5-foot-10 and change and within a pound of 220), but Smith appears thicker and yet showed he has the speed to get to the edge and turn it up field. While the broad-shouldered Smith doesn’t have super quick feet, he has a decent jump cut to avoid traffic.  He was good catching the ball out of the backfield on swing passes, too. Hunt beat the coverage to the outside on one pass play, taking a swing pass to the end zone during full-team work.

North Carolina State’s Matt Dayes is a shorter back, but he showed strong ball security, keeping it close to his body as numerous defenders ripped at it on one play.  He’s quick to the running lane and can sift through the trash and get into his route quickly.

BYU’s Jamaal Williams is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, but he shows off a thick upper body and proved to be adept at chipping before quickly getting into his routes.

San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey doesn’t look like he would be big enough to hold up at the NFL level and he checked in even lighter than advertised. Originally listed at 180 pounds, he weighed in at 169, but he proved he isn’t afraid to take on the bigger boys. At one point, he stuck his nose right into an oncoming blitzer and was effective enough in holding him up. With his size (only 5-foot-8), he’d better have some good moves and he does, especially effective on the spin cycle.

Wide Receiver

The surprise of the first two days of practice thus far continues to be East Carolina receiver Zay Jones. Jones shows good burst out of his breaks, strength off the line of scrimmage to beat jams, solid hands, good change of direction, and speed after the catch. 

Amba Etta-Tawo followed up a good first day with another solid effort on Wednesday. At 6-1½,  he has good, but not great size, he has good but not great speed, but he does have great hands and body control. He gets open and catches nearly everything near him. Not bad qualities to have in a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. 

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Cooper Kupp also stood out on Wednesday. Much like Etta-Tawo, he is good while being guarded closely and looks to be a favorite target quickly off the line in slants, outs and stop patterns. Kupp was being used to field punts in a gusty wind and always looked comfortable. 

For the South side, the receivers had their way with the cornerbacks for the most part. With quarterbacks Josh Dobbs, Davis Webb, and Antonio Pipkin all throwing well, it was a day for the receivers to shine.

East Carolina’s Chad Williams was impressive again showing off his athleticism in his routes, after the catch and running with the ball out of the backfield.

The most improved from Day 1 to Day 2 award may have gone to LSU’s Travin Dural. Dural looked mechanical at times on Tuesday, but during Wednesday’s practice, he looked much more comfortable in all aspects of the game. He attacked the ball when it got near him, and he made several catches in tight coverage.

Mississippi State’s Fred Ross and Texas A&M’s Josh Reynolds weren’t mentioned in yesterday’s write-up, but they probably should have been. However, they were going to make sure they got talked about today.

At. 6-0½  and 203 pounds, Ross is built solidly and plays well in tight coverage and against press man.

Reynolds is 6-2½ and 186 pounds, and he plays bigger than that, because he elevates so well to high point a pass.

Clemson’s Artavis Scott and North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer also had success against the defensive backs with quick outs and slants.

Even Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor got in on the action with a one-handed grab on a slant route that was thrown a bit too far in front of him.

Tight Ends

We mentioned yesterday the interesting contrast between the tight ends on the North vs. the tight ends on the South. Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Ole Miss’ Evan Engram are terrific receivers, while Jeremy Sprinkle of Arkansas and Mike Roberts of Toledo thicker, bruising type of tight ends.

It’s Roberts through who might be the Goldilocks of the bunch. At 6-4 3/8 and 261 pounds, Roberts is a powerful blocker and shows good skills catching the ball. He has nearly 30 pounds on Engram, and while he’s not the fluid athlete that Howard is, he’s ahead of him in the blocking game.

Engram has also seen some time at H-back, lined up in the backfield in a split formation when the quarterback is in the shotgun. He said on Tuesday he wanted to prove his versatility and he’s getting that chance.

Offensive line

For the South, UCLA’s Conor McDermott was the standout tackle and continued to show well, playing mostly left tackle on Wednesday. If he gets his man on the ground, he likes to bury him and keep him out of the play. He works on keeping his hands inside and will ride a pass-rushing defensive wide to the outside.

The other offensive tackle that has looked good both days is Pittsburgh’s Adam Bisnowaty. He doesn’t have standout arm length, but it’s good enough and he’s effective using what he has. If defenders get into him, he can be overpowered on occasion, but he can bring a nasty streak of his own.

Kentucky guard/center Jon Toth built on a strong first day and looked very solid playing center and guard. He didn’t look as quick off the snap at center, getting beat once badly on a swim move, but at guard he was a pretty consistent presence, anchoring well and holding off the bull rushes. He is good sliding down the line to following the action and usually is in the right position, but there are occasions that a powerful defender can get into him and move him back.

Michigan guard Kyle Kalis also had a good day. Going against the North’s best pass rusher during one-on-ones, he locked onto Chris Wormley and won the battle. He has good hands to fight off some of the moves of quicker defenders. Kalis also proved worthy in the running game, opening one of the bigger holes for Clement on an intermediate gain.

USC’s Zach Banner took more reps at right tackle on Wednesday while Bisnowaty was the main left tackle and performed well there for the most part. While he handled the majority of the defensive linemen coming his way, he did prove vulnerable to the swim moves inside. With so much height, one of the challenges facing Banner will be to get a big push in the running game and that potential negative showed occasionally during team drills.

Tim Yotter contributed to this report.


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