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2021 Senior Bowl National Team Thursday practice report

Who continues to stand out for the National Team?

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Several key Senior Bowl attendees did not practice on Thursday for the National (Miami) Team. The event’s largest riser out of Western Michigan, D’Wayne Eskrdige, was held out of practice and is questionable for the game. Fellow wide receivers Ben Skowronek (Notre Dame), Sage Surratt (Wake Forest), and Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) also didn’t practice. Linebacker Chaz Surratt (North Carolina), Sage’s brother, was also held out of practice.

1-on-1 drills

Defensive line vs. offensive line

UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa continues to flash in one on ones and have reps during team periods; he’s quick off the snap, gets to the half-man, and uses his hands well to shed. He’s also getting push interior pressure in team periods with good lower leg drive.

Coastal Carolina’s Terron Jackson has been somewhat quiet all week and looks a bit undersized (6-foot-2, 240) for an EDGE guy, but he put together a very nice chop/dip against Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks. Ohio State’s Jonathan Cooper used a very nice strong inside arm ove to rip through a tackle and shed. He’s been quiet this week, so it was good to see him put some nice reps together.

Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, who has been good all week, was defeated by Texas’ Ta’Quan Graham who measured tremendously but has had a modest week on the field. On Graham’s next rep, he used his heavy 10 ⅝” hands to disengage and swim over the top of a blocker. Western Michigan OT Jaylon Moore has also had a very good week and continued to show that he belongs in today’s practice.

Northern Iowa defensive lineman Elerson Smith has had a good week. He’s quick, long, and has good burst/dip ability. He beat Cincinnati tackle James Hudson around the edge and then was stopped by NDSU’s Dillon Radunz, who anchored well against Smith who couldn’t get to his counter move in time.

Speaking of anchoring, Hudson sunk his hips and sat on a Shaka Toney bull rush attempt. The Penn State EDGE couldn’t get off the anchor of Hudson, and the initial punch from Hudson was able to force Toney inside; Hudson shifted his weight, moved his feet well, and Toney’s lateral bull-rush was stopped about a yard into the pocket.

Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz continues to have a very impressive week. He’s holding up athletically, with his strength, and is doing a solid job in team periods as well. California offensive lineman Jake Curhan hasn’t been as sturdy and has had arguably the worst week of all the National Team offensive lineman.

Cornerbacks vs. wide receivers (on 5-yard line)

An opportunity presented itself in Mobile with several National Team wide receivers missing practice. The biggest beneficiary was Arizona State’s Frank Darby who was winning at the line of scrimmage, adjusting his routes well, and showing fluidity, shiftiness, and an ability to create separation in tight spaces.

Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas was patient at the line of scrimmage and did a good job initially through the rep, but Darby was able to shake him near the goal post for a touchdown. The Arizona State product also defeated Cal’s Cameron Bynum with his release - Bynum has had a solid week as well. Darby hasn’t drawn the buzz that D’Wayne Eskridge has, but he’s had a good week.

SDST WR Cade Johnson also continues his week of success; he beat two corners, one being Norwood from Oklahoma, on seven routes to the back pylon. Johnson may be undersized, but he’s consistently shown the ability to create separation and win up his stem. UCLA running back Demetric Felton also beat Washington’s Keith Taylor on a beautifully run route. Felton is listed as a running back, but he’s shown his ability to run routes.

Louisville wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick had a beautiful release against Oregon’s Thomas Graham. Graham got aggressive, tried to jam, and Fitzpatrick released outside, dipped his inside shoulder, and created so much space in a confined area. Graham also lost to Michigan’s Nico Collins who is just dominant with his body control and size. Collins also had a nice catch over the top of Pitt safety Damar Hamlin who has been sneaky good all week.

Team periods

The first team period was situational football (down and distance); the second was in the red zone. In both cases, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was the much better signal-caller. Book had three consecutive plays in the red zone portion where he showed impressive decision making and touch. Book found Darby on a quick slant off an RPO action against Bynum; he had to throw in a tight window due to underneath coverage almost knocking the ball down.

Book ran for a touchdown, found Yeboah in the back of the end zone on a beautiful pass over Notre Dame’s Daelin Hayes, and he hit a tight end on a quick out route that picked up several yards. Book is athletic, and just needs to show more consistency with ball placement and decision making - he showed those on Thursday’s practice.

Fellow QBs Sam Ehlinger (Texas) and Felipe Franks (Arkansas) weren’t as consistent. Ehlinger holds onto the football way too long and is indecisive. Franks needs to do a better job getting off his first read; he missed Yeboah in the back of the end zone on a move the pocket type of throw.

RB Michael Carter out of North Carolina continued to show one cut ability, explosiveness, and was used all over the field; he was used as a receiver and had a designed screen to him as well. He reads his blocks so well and his vision is very good. Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert made an impressive jump cut to the backside on an outside zone run - very good feel for where to go when he’s running. Herbert also found the hole on another outside zone run where he burst through the hole in a decisive manner.

Minnesota safety Benjamin St. Juste did a good job breaking up a fade route against the talented Louisville receiver Dez Fitzpatrick. The ball placement was off, but Fitzpatrick could have caught it, but St. Juste was all over him and made the contested catch opportunity more difficult than usual. Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes also continues to do well in team periods; he puts himself in a good position, scrapes well, and moves fluidly. Barnes and Ohio State’s Baron Browning continue to show up well as linebackers on the National Team.