Senior Bowl: South Practice Report
Wednesday's South squad practice was marked by a fantastic catch by South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel, physical play that left one defender with his jersey torn and tattered and a blowing rain that at times made its way through the doors and openings of South Alabama's new indoor field house.
The wind and weather, however, didn't impact the passing game with West Virginia quarterback Will Grier throwing two notable deep balls, the first to teammate David Sills during 7-on-7 drills and the second to Samuel during the 11-on-11 session.
Samuel wasn't quite as prolific as he was during Tuesday's practice, but he made the play of the day on a double move down the right sideline when going against Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. The coverage was good but Samuel saw the ball first, stopped and leaped toward the sideline for a diving catch of approximately 35 yards.
"He's a big guy, you can see it, he's got some power to his game," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of Samuel when practice ended. "I'm excited to watch the tape and see how physical he is."
As far as the quarterbacks, Grier was first in the rotation, followed by Washington State's Gardner Minshew, Auburn's Jarrett Stidham and Buffalo's Tyree Jackson. Most were content to throw short and intermediate passes -- running backs and tights ends were targeted the most -- although Jackson hit San Jose State tight end Josh Oliver for a big gain down the right side when the cornerback and safety got tangled. Another deep pass to Samuel, this time from Jackson, was knocked away by Ya Sin who was flagged on the play.
Another West Virginia receiver, David Long, made a leaping catch in traffic in the middle of the field on a throw from Minshew.
As was the case Tuesday, Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat was prominent throughout the practice. On the pass play to Long, Sweat got around big right tackle Oli Udoh from Elon. Later in the session, the offense tried an outside run to Sweat's side. He stayed on his feet and helped bottle up the running back behind the line of scrimmage. Sweat is dealing with a jammed thumb, but it didn't seem to slow him on Wednesday.
Though Udoh allowed a quarterback pressure by Sweat, he continued to look like he belonged as he stonewalled Wyoming pass rusher Carl Granderson on a couple of pass plays. Both Sweat and Granderson saw time at the so-called LEO defensive end position, which is the primary pass rusher in the 49ers' system.
Another defensive standout was Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter, who seemed to be around the action whenever he was on the field. He was particularly prominent during a physical 9-on-7 session devoted to running plays. By the end of the practice, Ledbetter's No. 13 jersey had been nearly torn from his torso.
The practice was generally more physical than it was on Tuesday, largely because of the run session. There were no fights, but some after-the-play shoving between Alabama State offensive lineman Tytus Howard and Florida State defensive lineman Demarcus Christmas and later between Old Dominion wide receiver Travis Fulgham and Clemson cornerback Mark Fields.
Among the running backs, Slippery Rock's Wes Hills easily was the most prominent, beginning in one-on-one drills when he caught several passes. That continued during the 11-on-11 session. He also had a long run to the outside left.
Other notes: The newest addition to the South team roster, BYU's Sione Takitaki, played outside linebacker on Wednesday. … The session ended with several field-goal strikes from LSU's Cole Tracy, including a 58 yarder to end the practice. … Among the notables watching practice: Alabama head coach Nick Saban (he left early), Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Giants coach Pat Shurmur, Washington's Doug Williams, Seattle's John Schneider and Bill Polian.