Posted: 8:43 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, 2014
By Dan Kadar
Seantrel Henderson of Miami and Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald stood out for the North team while Texas wide receiver Mike Davis impressed for the South.
Mobile, Ala.: The redemption of Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson began on the first day of Senior Bowl practices Monday.
A top high school recruit for the Hurricanes, Henderson's play was inconsistent. He was suspended three times for violations of team rules. He was also hit by injuries, including a concussion suffered in a car accident and back troubles.
On the North team at the Senior Bowl, Henderson is under the tutelage of Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice. In one-on-one drills, Tice liked to try and get the players to jump offsides and he got Henderson on more than one occasion. But those negatives were offset by Henderson's power moves. He stonewalled West Virginia's Will Clarke and North Carolina's Kareem Martin several times.
Another North standout was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He was practically unblockable in one-on-one drills. In full team drills the offense had to use multiple blockers on him. Donald's first move, for a 288-pounder, is incredible. He'll get knocked because of his size, but Donald is going to make an impact at the next level. Donald was often lined up against Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, who is susceptible to quicker players. Hopefully Donald will line up against Michigan's Michael Schofield who looked natural after moving inside from offensive tackle.
Other notables for the North squad on Monday were Ohio State offensive tackle Jack Mewhort, Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Justin Ellis and Louisville's Marcus Smith. Switching from defensive end to outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, Smith looked natural in coverage. He was fluid in man situations during team drills when he covered Wisconsin tight end Jake Pedersen in the flat. He looked a little lost dropping in space, but Smith didn't look lost at linebacker.
Ellis, who starred at the Shrine Game before getting called up to the Senior Bowl this week, looked good. He moves well for a defensive tackle who is more than 340 pounds. During the North's practice period, Mewhort lined up at right tackle after playing left tackle for the Buckeyes. There's not a lot of flash in Mewhort's game, but he was hard to move when he set in his stance.
The South's practices were highlighted by spirited play between the cornerbacks and wide receivers. Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan was coaching his wide receivers hard. When Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders got busy with his eyes trying to fake a corner, Sullivan scolded him. Saunders didn't do it again. When Texas wide receiver Mike Davis delayed his break down on a comeback route, Sullivan scolded him. Davis didn't do it again.
In fact, it was Davis who stood out the most among the South's receivers. That's saying something considering the group also features Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews and BYU's Cody Hoffman. Davis was deliberate in his moves, quick and sharp in his cuts. He wasn't beating the jam as well as Matthews, but he looks like a better athlete.
Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood struggled in the drills. He was getting jammed at the line of scrimmage and was too slow to get his head around to locate the ball.
"When I'm talking, I'm talking right to you," Sullivan shouted at Norwood at one point.
"Turn (your head) around. You look like you're going to fall asleep out there," Sullivan said to Norwood shortly after.
While Sullivan was working the receivers over, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was intently watching the South cornerbacks. Utah's Keith McGill showed he could jam at the line but also turn and run with receivers.
The South's best quarterback on Monday was clearly Derek Carr of Fresno State. He was getting the ball out quickly and throwing with good velocity. On one play, Carr rolled out to his right and effortlessly hit his target on the move. Carr needs to have a good week of practice, and he started it Monday.
North Dakota State offensive lineman Billy Turner fit right in with his FBS competition. Turner is a powerful blocker and it showed. He lined up at multiple positions and was as effective at guard as he was at tackle.
A notable player who struggled for the South on Monday was Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers. He was pushed around by Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard several times and gets too high to be a factor inside. While McCullers struggled, Princeton's Caraun Reid stood out. Reid is a compactly built tackle who excelled when he could get under linemen and use his hands. Reid is an active player and showed good lateral movement.