MOBILE, Ala. -- The first practices of Under Armour Senior Bowl week are the only chances I get to sit and watch the players with no preconceived notion about them. It's an intersting way to begin the evaluation process.
I can let the players' athletic ability, skills and performance during practice impress me, and discover who jumps out and forces me to keep watching them because of how they flash in the drills.
I finished up the first North practice on Monday and followed it up with the second practice on Tuesday, allowing me to double-check my first impressions. Here are some players that jumped out at me early in the week.
Vladimir Ducasse, LT, UMass
Ducasse is the most interesting left tackle prospect on the North squad and possibly at the Senior Bowl. He makes it look easy. He has the feet to handle the athletic speed rushers and the technique to engage power. He works from a good stance and competes on every play. In some ways, Ducasse reminds me a little of Broncos OT Ryan Clady when he came out of Boise State. But Ducasse can get too eager to get his hands on the rusher, extend too much and occasionally find himself on the ground. This kid is no sleeper anymore.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
The first thing that jumps out about Weatherspoon is his size and range. He really moves well for a big man. Weatherspoon can make plays in the run game from sideline to sideline, drops with ease into coverage and can really close on pass plays away from his zone. He leads with his hands against run blockers and can shed. He missed two tackles in practice on Monday when he dropped his head and lost his base. The coaches spoke to him about it and Weatherspoon made the effort to correct himself, which is really good to see at practices like these.
Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
Iupati has power and excellent balance. He rarely struggled with one-on-one blocks, quickly squaring up the defensive tackle and neutralizing his rush. He is quick to get out of his stance and into the run-blocking game. Iupati showed the ability to torque a defender and put him on the ground. I want to see more when he pulls, but this guy can play.
Brandon Graham, OLB/DE, Michigan
Graham has been rushing with his hand on the ground but he told me most teams talking to him see him as a weakside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He rushed with a good combination of speed and power and, at 263 pounds, could be a strongside OLB. Some compare him to Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley, but when I asked him about the comparison he was clearly his own guy. He is a solid, fundamental player who takes the game very seriously.
!(http://www.nfl.com/seniorbowl)NFL Network has complete coverage of the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl week, starting with Monday's first practice session and going through Saturday, when the network will televise the game starting at 4 p.m. ET. **More ...**
Matt Tennant, C, Boston College
Tennant may be a bit undersized but he has a very competive side to him and the balance to win. He reminds me of former B.C. center Tom Nalen, who came to the Senior Bowl and impressed coaches the same way Tennant is doing. He handled the nose tackles he went against on Monday and came back again Tuesday with another solid practice. Tennant will be a key guy in a draft class very weak at the center position.
Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
I watched game tapes of Odrick on the plane ride down to Mobile with a personnel director and I was not impressed. His practice performance on Monday left a better impression on me. He moves well for a big man and works hard all the time. Odrick could play with a better pad level but he is worthy of more study.
Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Wilson is one of those corners that always seems in position to make a play on the ball. He never looked like he had to close on a receiver because he was beat by speed, and he has a knack for getting a hand on the ball. I liked his ability to get a hand on the receiver to redirect his release and run with controlled speed while "feeling" the route.