Wednesday at the Rose Bowl was met with a beautiful, perfect weather day, a big turnout of scouts, agents, & media and some good football on the field as coaches try to get a team up and running in a week… no small task. I am told that credential requests this year were 4 times what they were the last time this event was open to media––which is great for this event that was something of a beneficiary of the Shrine Bowl’s change in schedule.
Notes on practice:
Safety Marquese Bell from Florida A&M with a nice coverage in one on ones. He is taller with good length and you can see why he was a 4-star recruit in 2017. He appears to be a piece you can move around the board. QB Cole Kelley from Southeastern Louisiana, terrific ball placement on the endzone fade on about 5 reps in a row. Yes, he is tall and instantly recognizable even without numbers. Also throws a pretty ball on these touch passes. QB Chris Oladokun from South Dakota State, who filled in aptly for the Jackrabbits when Freshman sensation Gronowski went down in the Spring season title game and then led the team right back to the semifinals in 2021 may not throw the most consistent spiral, but has a good feel for placement. Looked good today from the get-go. Central Michigan WR Kalil Pimpleton was the standout of the Red Zone drill. Nice quick route running from the WR who was targeted deep more often than any other 2022 prospect. Not all about the deep speed! Star of the show so far. Illinois QB Brandon Peters looks the part and has poise, maybe not quite as accurate. His reputation is more “gamer” than practice guy, but he has good size and doesn’t look out of place in a good QB group here. DB Tre Swilling from Georgia Tech with good coverage on the Pitt wide receiver Taysir Mack. Had a pick of Kelley in Red Zone drill later.
UCLA CB Qwauntrezz Knight flashed a couple of times in coverage drills. Was also doing a good job of communicating to his teammates before and after plays. Cole Kelley doesn’t connect with Pimpleton in a 11-on-111 Red Zone drill, but it’s because he was looking for a back shoulder, whereas the receiver had used his arm to get back in front of the defender. They had a good conversation afterward about what each saw and expected vs what they should do going forward. This is what new teammates do. Pitt WR Taysir Mack with a nice fade route, but didn’t have the awareness to keep his feet in. Also didn’t high point the ball, which might have helped keep his momentum inbounds. He did some good things today but also left some meat on the bone. App State’s WR Corey Sutton didn’t look for the ball in his rep against CB Gregory Junior of Ouchita Baptist.
Well, Jalil Pimpelton from Central Michigan put Trenton Thompson on the wrong end of a Twitter highlight. Pimpelton gave the defender a hard fake to the inside and then stopped cold while Thompson could do nothing but twist himself into a knot and fall to the turf. The crowd approved.
— NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated (@NFLDraftBible) January 27, 2022
RB Julius Chestnut from Sacred Heart––someone I had on the short list before I arrived here–– with some nice burst to get through a narrow hole in a 11-on-11 vs 1st D. TE Curtis Hodges (actually the one guy here taller than Cole Kelley) with a nice route in the end zone drill. I think he’s from Arizona State but I wasn’t previously familiar with him. Seems to be a good target in the passing game. Good placement from Olakodun again, that’s a nice showing for him. Tre Swilling from Georgia Tech, also with good communication. Nice. Alerted the LB: “Seam is inside defender!”. I like that. Marquese Bell now playing what looks like free safety; he’s single high in the middle but this has turned into primarily a running drill. Somebody in there caused the fumble on the run drill might have been Safety Kolby Harvell-Peel from Oklahoma State and/or DL Samuel Williams from Ole Miss. One of several Ole Miss players standing out here. Corey Sutton with a nice snag on a slant that was put up in a good spot by Peters. Now Cole Kelley in at QB. Had to go down to his third or fourth read and then incomplete, looked like he thought the receiver was held down from jumping for a ball purposely thrown high. No call. Next rep, pretty touchdown pass from the 20. Kelly anticipated an out-breaking receiver, threw the ball before the break into the corner of the end zone for an easy TD.
Qwauntrezz Knight with some nice communication to his safety. “Watch the crossing route.” Reminds me of Hawkins the safety from Cal I saw here two years ago who was big about the communication, now in the league and starting. Oladokun at QB. He takes off and outruns the defense from 15 yards out. Pretty impressive, even in a non-tackling drill or non-tackling to the ground drill. They didn’t lay a finger on him.
STs session. 90 from Mississippi again, that’s Samuel Williams, who’s starting to become hard not to notice, not only for creating some havoc but also for the outgoing personality. He’s lined up here as the upback on Kick Return. He turns to the KR Pimpelton and says, “Follow me!”. He’s a big dude. So if he tells you to follow him, I think I might. Williams now seriously asking the coach: “Do I catch it and run if it comes to me?” with a gleam in his eye. Coach killed his dream a little by saying, “If you have to go forward, catch it. If not––if you have to back up over your head––don’t catch it..” Williams took it in stride.
Braylon Sanders misses his block on Chestnut, then has a conversation with the coach. “Don’t read it. No matter where the ball goes, you get that guy.” I don’t often get to be on the field for ST drills/practice, but it does seem like every STs coach runs things a little differently, so not the easiest to show up at an All-Star game and play STs with like 15 minutes total practicing it. Keep it simple.
Back to 11-on-11s. Beautiful throw from Kelley to the corner that time. Nfl throw. Nice deep ball from Oladokun, dropped in a bucket about 40 plus yards downfield (altough it was aided by a deep safety who didn’t seem to beleive the throw would get that far downfield), and then a nice corner route to the opposite side from Brandon Peters. Lighting it up against fairly good coverage but it’s nice to have 6’2″ 205 Montana State WR Lance McCutcheon and Jalil Pimpelton on your side.
Kelley with some beautiful tight-window throws in 7-on-7s. A good day for him and Oladokun overall.
Marquese Bell looked comfortable in red zone one on one wide coverage with WR Corey Sutton. Looks like he could play some corner or man coverage in certain looks.
LB Oluwasegun Olubi from San Diego State with a tremendous stop in 7-on-7 closer to the goal line. Came downhill from the hash and stopped a RB in the flat with an aggressive open-field tackle. But. On the next play, he missed the signal from the defender lined up outside him (S Cory Rahman from Tennessee State) that should have let him know he had the flat coverage. Offensive play was a nice design, with the tight end coming inside on a drag route and the RB out of the backfield running a wheel. LB got stuck looking inside and left Coastal Carolina’s RB Shermari Jones wide open for a TD.
Tre Swilling again with the PBU on a corner route to finish the session.
Interesting. QB Zerrick Cooper of Jacksonville State (the former 4-star recruit) is just watching the offense run on on air reps with QB Aqeel Glass of Alabama A&M. But he pointed one incorrect alignment and then later an incorrect route to coaches/receivers. Impressive on day two and shows he’s actively participating even when not taking reps. Glass has an impressive QB build. 100% looks the part, and just listening to him do an interview or talk with coaches, you can imagine him as someone who is unusually calm under pressure. He has a certain demeanor. that should suit him well.
Next drill, receiverson air. Running sluggo-fades, both Nicholls State’s WR Dejan Dixon and Sam Houston’s Jaquez Ezzard very detailed in the route the way they ran it, but both failed to catch the ball at the last second. Coach let them hear it. “We’re not getting too many reps out here. Guys got to bring the ball in!”. The drops were an anomaly, especially for Ezzard, who makes everything look easy, even at 3/4 speed. He’s not the biggest but he can really play and has immense confidence. Baller. Tight end Austin Allen from Nebraska went up with one hand to get a tough ball, brought it in, took two steps, got a lot of oohs and ahs, and then dropped the ball to a groan. The crowd giveth, the crowd taketh away.
WR Braylon Sanders of Mississippi made a nice diving catch in one on ones. Allen with another nice catch on an off-target throw to the flat. QB Zerrick Cooper a little bit late and high on a speed out. Cooper a little off target again on a slant. Ezzard makes a bad throw look easy. The only issue I’ve seen at all––being picky-––he does seem to be a little late to get his head around. Life comes at you fast in the NFL and you have to be ready to receive. ‘Head turned, hands above the waist. RB Greg Bell of San Diego State beats Okie State LB Malcolm Rodriguez cleanly on a route up the seam. Maybe it’s because Bell is wearing number 17 but it looked like a slot receiver beating a LB.
Sanders with a nice grab again, this time in seven on 7s. Deep ball on the left sideline. Allen the tight end made a nice defensive play over the top, knocking a sure interception away from a defender who had good position. your QB thanks you. Sanders also caught a deep post and took it to the house. Good seven on sevens drill for him so far. He looks smooth and, at least for one day, he wins the “honorary Marquez Callaway smooth operator NFLPA practice award”.
11 on 11, now Aqeel Glass. The offensive line ran a play they were walking through about forty-five minutes ago. It’s a tackle pull to the inside, leading an inside run, and they cleared out a huge hole. USC OT Jalen McKenzie, I think, was the one that went through the hole. Big guy can move. I;m sure as an ILB you have no desire to see that big a guy suddenly appear in the holw, leading the way. Next, Glass faked a reverse to Ezzard, who then ran a wheel route and was wide open for the catch. The LB in zone finally caught up to him, and Ezzard gave him a quick little in and out move. The linebacker fell on his butt. Didn’t even look like Ezzard was giving him the Grade-A move, just the stock shake n bake off the shelf. Nice. Good Read by Glass, though. You can see Glass is big and toolsy. His play can be uneven but there is a lot to like. At times he plays a little bit mechanically–– kind of a one-read guy and he’ll throw it quickly whether it’s the ideal outcome or not, even though he has great movement skills and could make himself more time and space (this is more from tape than what is going on in practice here). Just now made a throw to a WR who is not really breaking open, letting it go on a timing route without really reading the defense, it was intercepted by a defender who was in position the whole way.
Zerrick Cooper now taking over. He resets the pocket a little to his left and throws under pressure over the middle of the field short to the tight end. Definitely one of those players that maybe looks better under live fire than practicing vs air. Think it was Daniel Hardy, the ‘other’ LB from Montana State who had coverage on at a running back in the flat and let up from hitting him in the backfield because it’s practice rules. But he came from a long way away to cover that play.
OL vs DL 1-on-1 notes:
DL Tre Williams from Arkansas with the swim move over South Dakota State OT Aron Johnson. Really nice rep. They go again but this time Johnson beats him to the outside, on a quick set, then when the defender counters back to the inside, Johnson buries Williams into the ground. Williams gives him a tap on the helmet on the way back to the defensive side.
Chauncey Manac, Louisiana LB–OL Caleb Jones Indiana Nice burst around the edge from 58, dips under the corner for a clean win. They go again and this time the OT gets better pad level and stalls the rush
Aron Johnson vs -Daniel Hardy Montana State These guys just played each other like 3 weeks ago. 51 goes to the ground while trying the corner… I might have called that a hold on Johnson but it was hard to tell since Hardy lost his footing.
Orlando Umana Ole Miss C/G vs Tariqious Tisdale of Ole Miss 99 tries a few things, nothing works. I get the feeling these two have seen each other before. They go again, same result. Impressive hands and anchor for the IOL. Teammates shout “Let’s go, Orlando!” His name was buzzed about in the stands all day.
Penn State OL Eric Wilson vs Jayden Peevy TAMU Rusher gets hand up in the face of 68. 68 doesn’t like it. Asks official if that would be a penalty, official says, “yep.”
OL Isaiah Edwards from Indiana State vs Eric Johnson Missouri State Hines gets his hands outside, still can’t really stop the rush. They go again, 52 gets better hand placement and locks him out
Tre Williams Arkansas DL vs Anthony Acuri Michigan State OT Two reps, both times Acuri wins hand fight, pushes Williams around arc. Solid reps for the OT from Michigan State
Jalen McKenzie vs T. D. Mouldry, Auburn LB. USC OT is quick to reset his feet. Extremely quick out of his stance. 55 seems like a rusher with a ton of energy, meaning he might not win every rep but he’s going to wear you down. But, in both reps here, 70 is just too quick to get out of his stance and beat Mouldry to the edge. Impressed.
Eric Johnson vs Eric Wilson one rep before the session ended. 68 gets great low position and knocks down the hands. Johnson falls forward.
As you can tell from the notes, it was easy to pick out the standouts on Wednesday:
QBs Cole Kelley & Chris Oladokun
OL Jalen McKenzie, Orlando Umana, & Anthony Acuri
WRs Lance McCutcheon, Jaquez Ezzard, Jalil Pimpelton, & Braylon Sanders
DBs Quantrezz Knight, Tre Swilling, & Marquese Bell
EDGE Samuel Williams, Chauncey Manac
LBs Oluwasegun Olubi
Thursday’s practice notes coming soon.A1