Players weighed in on Monday morning with approximately 150 NFL scouts in attendance and then took to the field. Today’s practices were held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on natural grass, which got choppy as the day wore on. The weather was very un-California-like, with a downpour of rain the for most of both practice sessions. The temperature was in the low 50’s, with wind gusts over 10mph.
The National Team, led by headman Mike Tice, wasted no time getting into contact drills and practicing in pads. Here are some highlights from the first day of practice:
Washington QB Jake Browning (6015/206) looked to be the best signal-caller of the group, showing sound mechanics and proper footwork. He struggled with the wet ball at times and his size was underwhelming. He appears to be a priority free agent at this time.
Slippery Rock RB Wes Hills (6002, 213) is a strider who showed some nice wiggle out there with several change of direction cuts and a very impressive spin move. He’s a player worth monitoring throughout the week and as the draft process continues—his size/speed combo is appealing.
Arkansas OL Hjalte Froholdt (6044/306) has a chance to be the highest player drafted from this event. He passed the eye test during weigh-ins and then proceeded to take on all comers during the practice session. While Froholdt has experience playing center during his time with the Razorbacks, he practiced strictly at guard.
California ILB Jordan Kunaszyk (6027/230) is an instinctual linebacker with a solid frame and great upper body strength. Known for his leadership, Kunaszyk displayed above average athleticism and could project as a Day 3 selection if his forty-time holds up when testing time rolls around.
New Mexico CB Jalin Burrell (5113/195) was one of the better performers during one-on-ones, as he kept stride with receivers that were faster and taller than him. His man coverage skills and fluid backpedal/footwork helped raise his profile amongst evaluators.
Head Coach Chuck Pagano, recently hired as the Bears defensive coordinator, had his squad practice with just helmets, no pads, as several notable players stood out:
Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur (6040, 224), a late addition to the game, demonstrated a fluid, compact throwing motion, nice zip and no problem handling a soaked football. The son of a head coach (Pat Shurmur), he is one of the more underrated quarterback prospects in this year’s class. He’ll get a good hard look by someone in training camp.
North Dakota RB John Santiago (5091, 183) measured in as one of the smallest players in attendance but made a bigger splash than most with a few flashy runs, showcasing the speed and burst that made him an all-purpose standout for the Fighting Hawks. The slasher back and return man compares to a Darren Sproles type of player.
Wake Forest OG Phil Haynes (6036, 322) was a winner at weigh-ins with his great physique for a man of his size. In fact, he grew up as a basketball player and began playing football as a senior in high school. While he is still learning the nuances of the position, he possesses tremendous upside!
Texas A&M Commerce DE Mike Onuoha (6053, 249) was flying around the field with his hair on fire. This is an intriguing player, as his frame is lean with plenty of room to fill out and while his technique is a bit raw, scouts will like the set of tools he has to work with.
UAB DE Jamell Garcia-Williams (6072, 249) didn’t get off to a fast start but he was a hot commodity during team interviews and can really elevate his draft stock with a strong week of practice. He had 15.5 tackles for loss this past season, including nine and a half sacks.
NEWS & NOTES
While unable to participant in the festivities due to injury, Stanford WR Trenton Irwin and California RB Patrick Laird were in attendance.
Irwin, who suffered a grade three MCL tear during the final game of the regular season, said he met with about 10 teams and would be cleared to workout in April.
Laird, who suffered a shoulder injury during the Golden Bears’ bowl game, said as a team captain, he had no regrets about playing in the bowl game and that he would be able to participate in the Cal pro day workout on March 22nd.
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