The North squad, coached by the Oakland Raiders staff, looked far from game ready in their first official practice on Monday.
Some of the players who caught my eye — both positively and negatively — during the 90-minute workout included USC's Sam Baker who looked very much at home at the left offensive tackle position. I really liked his kick/slide skills and both the depth and width he was able to maintain. He had good hand placement, although he did not show a great deal of punch.
Carl Nicks of Nebraska, another player who worked primarily on the left side, also showed well in his first outing. He is very physical and strong (heavy handed). I really liked his punching power and was impressed with his playing range. He showed a tendency to overextend some with his punch, and will need to develop and become more patient in this area.
Mike Pollak from Arizona State was a pleasant surprise in the short time I watched him. I don't think he is a particularly strong individual and would highly question his effectiveness at the point of attack. But he is smart and appeared to have a good understanding of the position. He will have some problem with big people inside. He seems to have a good understanding of angles, plays on his feet — good knee bender — and has good overall athletic skills. I would not rule out possibly drafting this player in a late round or signing him as a free agent, based on what I viewed today.
Ray Schuening had his moments, but will need to show more consistency during the remainder of the practice week, in my opinion. He appears to be a good technician who can mirror effectively on pass protection, but does not appear to be explosive within the running game.
I expected a great deal more from Notre Dame's John Sullivan and Northern Iowa's Chad Rinehart, but will give the two the benefit of the doubt and a few additional practice sessions before deciding their fate. Rinehart did show some intensity (competes very hard), but did too much leaning on pass protection (didn't bring his feet with him). He also appeared somewhat soft-looking physically.
Ohio State's Kirk Barton has been well-coached and is a good technician, but is strictly a right tackle prospect in my opinion.
Boston College's Gosder Cherilus may have as much physical ability as any offensive lineman in the group, but has a ways to go in terms of technique. He is a very physical player (will cuff you in a New York second), but didn't look entirely comfortable in his sets on the right side.
Drew Radovich of USC is a physical player who showed some punching power and toughness, but I was a little disappointed in his ability to slide and he didn't appear to be a particularly good knee-bender. I also didn't think he got good fits on his blocks (hand placement within the frame).
California Bears receiver Lavelle Hawkins surprisingly looked like the class of the North squad receiving grouping. He appeared to be a good route runner with firm hands. He's not a big speed-guy and appeared acutely undersized, but looked like a dependable third-down sub-package type of receiver.
Eddie Royal, another undersized prospect from Virginia Tech, is both quick and nifty, but didn't appear to be a natural confident catcher. He seems to want the football close to his body whenever possible.
Dorien Bryant, the third in a group of receivers that looked more like Tito, Jackie, and Jermaine Jackson than that of football players, had an up-and-down senior season. It appears he has the necessary juice you're looking for on the outside, but I haven't seen enough in the way of pure catching skills at this juncture to make a determination as to his potential.
Marcus Smith did not look like a natural route-runner (stiff in his upper body) nor does he have the top end separation speed to get me very excited.
Jordy Nelson of Kansas State is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of receiver. He appeared to catch the ball well in the under zones, showing good dexterity. But again, I didn't think he showed much in the way of a burst.
Monday's big Senior Bowl question was, "What's up with Oklahoma State WR Adarius Bowman?"
The player who many consider the very best senior collegiate receiver in the country looked both stiff and slow and had a very difficult time getting in and out of his routes. When finally given an opportunity to make a play, Adarius had a very difficult time securing the ball.
Joe Flacco, the 6-foot-6 QB from the University of Delaware threw the football extremely well and was clearly the class of a group that included USC's John David Booty and Michigan's Chad Henne. I particularly liked the way he was able to stick the football into a tight seam.
Both tight end prospects, Missouri's Reggie Rucker, Fred Davis and Michigan State's underachieving Kellen Davis all appeared to catch the ball well, but showed little that would lead me to believe they are going to contribute much to the running game.
All three running backs — Dantrell Savage from Oklahoma State, California's Justin Forsett, and to a lesser extent East Carolina's Chris Johnson — showed well in their first practice session. But remember, all of them are little guys, and little guys eventually get hurt.