Senior Bowl: North practice notes

MOBILE, Ala. — News, notes and observations from day one at the 2010 Senior Bowl.

Size doesn’t matter

I was a bit alarmed when Boston College center Matt Tennant tipped the scales at only 290 pounds at Monday morning’s weigh-in. But after watching him in practice later, he quickly made it clear he can anchor inside. Tennant is a flexible, technically sound kid who’s consistently able to get his hands under defenders on contact, sit into his stance and win as the low man. He’s a real Velcro player once he gets his hands on a defender and was one of the few offensive linemen to hold up inside.

Size does matter

Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati’s combination of length, power and athleticism makes him nearly impossible to disengage from once he gets his hands on you. He does a great job extending those 35-inch arms, sliding his feet through contact and staying on blocks in space. If there is a knock on Iupati, it’s that he still looks a bit sluggish off the snap when asked to get out of a three-point stance and will allow explosive defensive tackles to get under his frame. However, he’s simply too good an athlete not to improve quickly in that area. He just needs a little time to get used to playing with his hand on the ground.

Windy conditions don’t help

It quickly became obvious any time Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield was asked to throw the football outside the numbers that he lacks the arm strength needed to consistently stick some necessary NFL throws. Canfield routinely one-hopped passes to his wide receivers throughout practice and struggled to spin the football through the winds at Ladd Peebles Stadium. Now, if you need a quarterback to throw the football accurately and on time inside the numbers, Canfield is your man. The guy was brilliant throwing to tight ends underneath. However, he looks really limited from a scheme standpoint at the next level. This wasn’t a promising first impression for Canfield.

Tough cover

One guy who really looks capable of separating consistently at the next level is Oregon tight end Ed Dickson. Dickson was really effective when asked to beat man-to-man coverage all day Monday. He does a great job dropping his pad level and accelerating out of his breaks underneath for such a big guy and couldn’t be covered at times in practice. Dickson has a tendency to put the ball on the ground, but he’s one guy who knows how to create for himself in the pass game.

Get out of first gear

One guy who again failed to impress me was Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander, who struggles getting off the line and into his routes with any kind of explosion. To his credit, Alexander does build speed as he goes and can be a tough cover down the field once he gets his wheels turning. But he wasn’t able to generate much separation Monday vs. off coverage, and I think he’s going to struggle even more today when asked to beat press.

He’s got a second, third and fourth gear

The most impressive wideout on the North side was Clemson standout Jacoby Ford, who consistently was able to generate separation all afternoon. Ford is a former track star with elite explosion and vertical speed and does a great job eating up cushion off the snap and driving cornerbacks off his routes. He was the one guy who really seemed to intimidate opposing corners in coverage and consistently was able to find the football quickly and adjust to the throw. Ford looks capable of creating big plays for himself any time he’s on the field and has the makings of a legitimate slot threat.

Up to the task

If there was one guy who was able to keep pace with Ford down the field it was Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson. Wilson was brilliant, showcasing impressive fluidity when asked to turn and run, good patience and balance in his drop and was impressive any time he was asked to change directions and close on the ball. He was the one player who stood out at practice in the defensive secondary and has the type of athleticism and footwork needed to grade out as a potential starting-caliber corner early in his career.

The good with the bad

There’s no denying that Louisiana Tech defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith has the initial get-off burst and lateral quickness to beat blocks inside, and he was able to dominate at times in one-on-one drills. However, during 11v11, where he doesn’t have as much space to operate, he isn’t nearly as effective and tends to be content to be blocked any time he sees the double team. He did a nice job on one occasion getting a good push on his bull-rush and finding the football behind the line, but for the most part, Smith has a tough time making plays when asked to work in tight areas.

Ugly start for the Golden Domers

Notre Dame offensive linemen Sam Young and C Eric Olsen both had days worth forgetting. Young looked heavy-footed and stiff off the edge and really struggled to keep his base down when asked to anchor on contact. Olsen, meanwhile, was slow to get his hands up and punch off the snap and simply lacked the type of lateral mobility to slide and mirror in space. I don’t want to crush either kid too hard this early in the week, but I can confidently say I thought there were more talented prospects at last week’s East-West Shrine Game than either has shown so far.

Follow me on Twitter: @WesBunting

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