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Senior Bowl Day 1, National Team: Risers from the first practice

Who stood out at Tuesday’s practice for the National Team?

Florida v LSU
Ricky Pearsall
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl practices started in the sun of Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday. The National Team, where New York Giants’ quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney is the offensive coordinator, was the first to practice

Tierney receives an up-close and personal look at quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), Bo Nix (Oregon), and Sam Hartman (Notre Dame), as well as plenty of talented offensive linemen and skilled position players. Here are several players who impressed on Day 1:

Ricky Pearsall, WR, Florida

Pearsall had one of the craziest catches during the college football season:

Pearsall excelled on the first day of practice at the Senior Bowl. Pearsall displayed the ability to defeat press coverage, contested catch ability, and his natural route-running prowess at practice on Tuesday. He slipped on a few early routes in practice but made several impact plays throughout the day. Here are some highlights:

Pearsall caught 65 of 88 targets for 963 yards with four touchdowns in 2024. Pearsall started his college career at Arizona State - he was from Phoneix and stayed in the valley. He transferred to Gainesville after the 2021 season. He finished his college career with 160 catches on 234 targets for 2,426 yards with 14 touchdowns. He’s an older prospect, who will be 24 years old on Week 1 of his rookie season.

Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan

Wilson did not disappoint on his first day of practice, fresh off a National Championship victory. Wilson caught 48 of 67 targets for 789 yards with 12 touchdowns for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines this season. He finished his college career with 107 catches on 157 yards targets for 1,707 yards with 20 touchdowns.

Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman found Wilson for this touchdown on a great route that widened the outside cornerback, and, when combined with Hartman’s head fake, created the avenue for Wilson to run up the seam and away from the safety. Hartman also had a good day of practice. Here are other Wilson highlights:

The Hawaii native understands how to run routes, how to get open, and how to create space. This draft class has a lot of talent, and, like many recent draft classes, the wide receiver position is full of proven players. Wilson reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash with a 37-inch vertical and a 4.09 shuttle as a four-star recruit in high school.

Another notable WR on the National Team who performed well at practice was Devontez ‘Tez’ Walker of UNC.

Jackson Powers-Johnson, IOL, Oregon

The Oregon Ducks center had several impact blocks in the one-on-one drills. He displayed an elite anchor and was arguably the biggest star of the practice. According to Pro Football Focus, Powers-Johnson surrendered four pressures in his entire college career with no sacks allowed. However, he did have nine penalties in 2024 and 14 total in his college career.

Clemson defensive lineman Tyler Davis was stopped in his tracks by the former Duck. Powers-Johnson does such a great job manipulating Davis’ leverage and taking advantage of the Clemson Tiger’s high rush. I love how the center re-sank his hips, sat back, and then used his wrestling background to dominate Davis and win the rep with authority.

Powers-Johnson had these two reps against his former Duck teammate, Brandon Dorlus. The first rep was beautiful by Powers-Johnson. I can’t see who the initial defender at nose was, but the center blocked, quickly passed off, and intercepted Dorlus in pursuit. This was a good first practice for Powers-Johnson.

Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

Mitchell was a ball-magnet over the last two seasons in college. He only had one interception in 2023, but had five in the previous season. He did, however, have 14 passes defended in 2023, and 13 last season. He allowed just a 43.5% catch rate last year and a 38.6% catch rate in 2022. His overall catch rate allowed in college was just 44.7%, while only allowing 897 yards receiving and five touchdowns over 1,264 coverage snaps.

Pro Football Focus graded him as the best cornerback in college football with the second-best coverage score. He was the sixth-highest-graded overall defender. Here are some highlights from practice:

Talkin’ Giants Justin Penik does a good job narrating this play on these two reps. The first clip showed patience and understanding of basic route concepts. The running back leaked outside for eye candy that didn’t distract Mitchell, who side-shuffled to match the receiver. Once the receiver sank his hips, Mitchell drove down on the route, maintained positive control on the hip, and then got his frontside arm into the catch point to come away with the pass defended.

The RB entered Mitchell’s side as the third eligible receiver at the snap, for it was a wider aligned stack that Mitchell had to decipher through, with the wide receiver he defended originally off the line of scrimmage. Excellent zone discipline/eyes and a beautifully defended play by the Toledo cornerback.

Here is a different angle of the second clip in Penik’s tweet. Good job by Mitchell to avoid contact on the rub route and stay right in the hip of Rice’s Luke McCaffrey. Here are two more clips from the stands:

Mitchell was a smaller school college athlete who dominated. He received questions before the event on how he would perform against the power-five competition, which was quickly answered on day one of practice.

Rasheen Ali, RB, Marshall

The Thundering Herd back had several good reps throughout the practice period. Ali rushed for 1,127 yards on 210 carries (5.4 YPC) with 15 touchdowns in 2023. He also fumbled the football five times and had six fumbles prior to 2023 in his college career.

He finished his time in Huntington, West Virginia, with 2,811 yards on the ground (5.5 YPA) with 39 rushing touchdowns. He was also a capable receiver with 561 yards receiving and three receiving touchdowns on 75 catches throughout his college career. Here are some highlights from practice:

Fastest players

Zebra GPS technology released their fastest players from day one of practice for the National team. Here is the list:

  1. Devontez Walker, WR, UNC - 21.18 MPH
  2. Max Melton, DB, Rutgers - 20.96 MPH
  3. Kalen King, DB, Penn State - 20.57 MPH
  4. Dylan Laube, RB, New Hampshire - 20.44 MPH
  5. Sione Vaki, DB, Utah - 20.32 MPH

For reference, Jalin Hyatt’s fastest time in 2023 was 21.4 MPH; Darius Slayton was 20.8 MPH; Saquon Barkley was 20.4 MPH; and Tyreek Hill was 22.0 MPH.

End of practice

It’s becoming a tradition for two of the top players to represent their side of the football at the end of practice. If the defense wins, then the offense will be “punished,” and vice-versa. Kentucky’s Darrian Kennard - now with the Chiefs - faced Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson - now with the Jets - in 2022. Possible top-15 pick, Laiatu Latu, out of UCLA faced BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia this season. They split reps; here they are: