The New York Giants are receiving an upfront and personal view of the National Team’s practice with quarterback coach Shea Tierney operating as the offensive coordinator. It was another good practice in the beautiful sunshine that the NFL was gifted this year in Mobile, Alabama. Here are some takeaways.
Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA
The 6-foot-4, 261-pound Latu had a long college career that seemingly ended after he suffered a neck injury at the University of Washington in 2019. Latu took two years away from football but returned as a UCLA Bruin in 2022, where he recorded 65 pressures and 10.5 sacks. He followed that fantastic campaign with a 62-pressure, 13-sack, year that earned him the Lombardi and Ted Hendricks Awards
Latu has just about everything you want in an edge defender. His hands, speed/quickness, bend, plan, and relentlessness are worthy of a top-five selection, but this class is loaded with talent, and Latu’s history injury history could affect how teams view him. Here are some clips of him winning at the Senior Bowl:
Laiatu Latu with a nice counter move vs Sataoa Lumea pic.twitter.com/G1hVQICCjU— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) January 31, 2024
Here is a clip of Latu’s movement skills during bag drills from yesterday’s practice:
Laiatu Latu moves different live.— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) January 30, 2024
Ridiculously fluid and smooth athlete. pic.twitter.com/w6HwRpnaLF
Every year, I love to look at the Senior Bowl roster and project who will be the first selected of the group. There are PLENTY of players to consider in this draft - Latu is among them.
Quinyon Mitchell and Roman Wilson
Two players in yesterday’s review of the first practice squared off at the end of practice after another great performance by both young men. Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell called out Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson, to which Wilson chose the slot as his place to operate (wise move from the WR). Mitchell stumbled out of his break against a great initial route by Wilson, who then also stumbled; Wilson then adjusted to an arrant throw behind him and secured the ball with one knee down in bounds. It was a great play by Wilson:
Pay attention to Wilson’s feet and the direction of his hips once he entered his stem off the line of scrimmage. One reason for Mitchell’s stumble was the changeup in tempo deployed by Wilson’s release. Mitchell attempted to adjust and lost his footing. Wilson then does a good job of widening his release to create space and sell the vertical.
Let’s say Mitchell didn’t stumble, side-shuffled, and got into the hip pocket of Wilson. The WR could, at that point, use the flipper technique to push off and work the sideline outside the numbers to create extra space, but he didn’t have to due to his successful win against a top cornerback prospect at the line of scrimmage.
As for Mitchell, he again had a phenomenal practice with an interception and quality coverage reps:
Quinyon Mitchell’s confidence is sky high right now. pic.twitter.com/nSR97BOMhN— Cory Yates (@CoryRAanalytics) January 31, 2024
Chau Smith-Wade, CB, Washington State
The 5-11, 187-pound cornerback got the most out of his short 29¾-inch arms on this rep to secure this interception:
Smith-Wade’s overall day wasn’t perfect, but he also had this physical rep, that some may argue is illegal contact after five yards, especially at the top of the break, albeit the contact seemed initiated by Florida WR Ricky Pearsall:
Didn't love this rep vs Washington State's Chau Smith-Wade tho— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) January 31, 2024
Lotta contact at the top, but it's a pretty erratic rep from Pearsall throughout pic.twitter.com/ozS7O9fbCS
The corner didn’t get his head around after displaying solid recovery to locate Pearsall after an impressive change of pace move from the former Gator.
Smith-Wade dealt with injuries throughout his college career; he only played over 500 snaps once in 2022. He recorded 16 passes defended and three interceptions in his college career, while only sporting a 52.7% catch surrendered rate. He only allowed 48.6% of through his 431 total snaps in 2023. He could be a developmental Day 3 option for the Giants.
Dominick Puni, OL, Kansas
Puni was 6-4, 323 pounds with 10-inch hands and 33¾-inch arms at weigh-ins, and he flashed throughout Wednesday's practice. Puni is a big physical lineman who played left tackle for the Jayhawks in 2023; he played 728 snaps at LT in 2023, and 849 at LG in 2022. Before his two years at Kansas, he played four seasons at Central Missouri and earned honorable mention All-Conference in 2019.
Two reps from @KU_Football OL Dominick Puni — one at center, one at guard. He is a strong dude. 6-4, 323 lbs. He has the power potential to be a interior starter at the next level pic.twitter.com/kwncycebD7— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) January 31, 2024
Peni has experience at both tackle and guard but projects better at guard, where he only allowed eight pressures and zero sacks in 2022, which, funny enough, was the same exact stat line he had in 2023 at LT.
Dylan Laube, RB, New Hampshire
The FCS CAA product has displayed competent receiving ability against his power-five opponents through two practices. Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy praised Laube before the event:
The @seniorbowl is looking live at New Hampshire vs. Stony Brook—first opportunity to see our Week 2 Player of Week, @UNH_Football RB Dylan Laube (5100v, 203v, 9 1/8 hand) up close.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) October 21, 2023
Seen some off-base comparisons to Christian McCaffrey out there and we won’t go that far because… pic.twitter.com/v3RWcK1iAg
Let’s show a rep of him defeating the aforementioned Chau Smith-Wade deep:
Laube is well built with a low center of gravity at just 5’9, 210 pounds. He rushed for 745 yards with nine touchdowns last year in only 195 snaps. He rushed for 1,205 yards with 15 touchdowns and in 2022. He finished his college career with 2,692 rushing yards - an average of five yards per carry - with 28 total touchdowns and seven fumbles.
Solid, but not exactly impressive for someone coming from a non-FBS program. However, his bread is buttered as a receiver, and that’s where he is doing his most damage at the Senior Bowl practices:
New Hampshire RB Dylan Laube is a do-it-all back, with impressive ability as a receiver and returner. He shows off his route running chops here pic.twitter.com/ufQnEUd9LH— Jack Brentnall (@Jack_Brentnall) January 31, 2024
New Hampshire’s Dylan Laube showing off his pass catching prowess at the Senior Bowl on a great ball from Sam Hartman. pic.twitter.com/dJmXIDpa3h— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) January 30, 2024
**from Tuesday’s practice
New Hampshire RB Dylan Laube with a nice grab: pic.twitter.com/Rw28m8xI7w— Lincoln Heimbach (@LincHeimbachTSP) January 31, 2024
Laube caught 68 of 88 passes for 708 yards with seven touchdowns in 2023. He finished his college career with 1,654 yards on 155 catches (197 targets) with 14 receiving touchdowns. Laube could be a day-three receiving option with special teams' upside.
Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington
Penix Jr. is one of the more notable prospects at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, who may likely be one of many quarterbacks selected in the first round. I wanted to discuss him in this article because he had some good throws, but I wouldn’t say he had a good practice, per se. For starters, the above throw to Wilson was from Penix inaccurate. He missed other throws in team period as well.
Penix Jr. started his college career in Indiana, where he played four seasons as a Hoosier before transferring to Washington for the last two years.
He only threw 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions across four seasons of sporadic play due to various injuries. His first year at Washington was dynamic; he threw for 4,641 yards with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He built on that season and led the Huskies to the National Championship Game with 4,906 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
Penix had two shoulder injuries on each side, and he tore his ACL twice. He will also turn 24 years old, about a week after the draft. These are issues that will certainly factor into his evaluation, but few players throw a prettier deep ball than Penix Jr., and his accuracy on display in Wednesday's practice:
Here is Penix’s best highlight from the National Team’s second practice: