Hundreds of scouts assembled in the Houston Texans' practice bubble at Reliant Stadium on Tuesday morning for the second practice by the East Team in preparation for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game. The West team practiced later Tuesday.
Many of the scouts arrived Monday night or Tuesday morning, as Monday's practices are generally reserved for initial walk-throughs.
Scouts were treated to a festive practice session Tuesday morning, complete with big plays, small school stars stealing the spotlight and even coaches being knocked down due to the aggressive play.
Here is the report on the offensive skill players and the defensive backs attempting to cover them.
The quarterback position was highlighted by addition of Idaho State's Matt Gutierrez. The Michigan transfer has great size and threw a very catchable ball all morning long. He demonstrated surprising fundamentals and has the required arm strength for the next level.
Tulane's Lester Ricard also has a legitimate NFL arm and was at his best throwing deep. His accuracy shorter, however, was inconsistent.
Iowa's Drew Tate also was a bit inconsistent, though he was at his usual gutty, instinctive self, choosing to tuck the ball away and run when the defense limited his downfield passing options.
Most scouts focused on big-name receivers like Michigan's Steve Breaston and South Carolina athlete Syvelle Newton early.
Breaston was among the steadiest players at the position. He caught the ball cleanly, showed good deep speed and has nimble feet. On several occasions he caught passes along the sideline, dragging both feet to make the effective reception despite tight, physical coverage.
Newton, on the other hand, struggled Tuesday morning. Scouts were quick to acknowledge that Newton has spent a great deal of his career with the Gamecocks at quarterback, and his athleticism and prototypical frame are obvious. However, he dropped the ball several times and when he did catch it, he often allowed the ball into his chest.
The most impressive offensive player Tuesday morning was Lane wideout Jacoby Jones. Jones, listed at 6-feet-4, 210 pounds, is a very fluid athlete and caught the ball nicely. He showed impressive foot quickness getting in and out of his breaks and the burst to turn upfield after catching the ball. Last year, it was noted in this very same space how a small school receiver named Marques Colston caught the ball cleanly regardless of where the pass was thrown. To compare Jones to Colston is certainly premature, but Jones left that kind of immediate impression upon scouts.
New Hampshire wideout David Ball also had a solid practice. Questions remain about his deep speed, but Ball showed just enough quickness to consistently get open and has vacuum hands.
Tennessee wideout Jayson Swain was enjoying a solid practice early, but went down with a twisted ankle midway through. He was re-taped and tried to come back, but was unable to finish practice.
Two small school defensive backs were also among the most impressive defenders. Hampton's Travarous Bain, a Miami transfer, was the best cover corner on the field. Bain has quick feet, a smooth hip turn and legitimate late acceleration as the ball is in the air. He defended every pass thrown his way effectively and broke better than the receiver (Jayson Swain) on one route midway through practice, snatching an interception and easily returning it for a touchdown.
Another small school defensive back that impressed was Maine safety Daren Stone. Listed at 6-3, 216 pounds Stone showed surprising fluidity for such a big player and was quick to react to the action. Playing alongside safeties from Ohio State (Brandon Mitchell), Michigan (Willis Barringer) and LSU (Jesse Daniels), Stone was the most impressive.
Georgia Tech's Kenny Scott flashed ability, but was a bit inconsistent. Listed at 6-2, 185 pounds, Scott has a smoother hip turn than most corners of his size, but didn't always show the break on the ball that characterized much of his play at Georgia Tech. He was solid and made a few impressive plays, including a nice breakup of a Tate pass, but didn't stand out overall.
Another corner who didn't stand out was Alabama State's Michael Coe. That said, when you are coming to the Shrine Game from Alabama State, playing well enough to not stand out can be quite an accomplishment. Coe never made the big play, but didn't surrender any either, showing good form and legitimate quickness throughout the day. Former LSU cornerback Daniel Francis wasn't so lucky, as he was routinely beaten throughout the day.
A few defensive linemen were too disruptive this morning not to notice. Central Michigan Daniel Bazuin routinely pressured from the outside.
Michigan State defensive tackle Clifton Ryan made several big plays from the middle, showing impressive burst off the snap. He also read a screen, intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown. On one memorable play, Ryan broke through the line immediately and slapped at the quarterback for a sack (QBs were wearing protective red jerseys).
Northern Illinois offensive tackle Doug Free, who was beaten on the play, took exception, giving Ryan a late push that sent him hurtling into the players waiting to get on the field. Also among those players were Shrine coaches, one of whom was knocked to the ground. Florida's Steven Harris and Alabama's Jeremy Clark also stood out.
Small-School WR Impressive at East's Practice
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