Shrine Game: East Practice Notes: Day 1
The East team practiced first this afternoon and they were in pads which was great to see. Here are my notes from their first practice:
Jeff Mathews stood out in this group, he had a number of impressive downfield throws displaying his strong arm and was placing the ball well. He looked the most comfortable of the quarterbacks to me, though I liked some of what I saw from Jimmy Garoppolo as well. Jordan Lynch had a couple nice touch throws, but he has the most to prove this week to me. Mathews is going to start becoming a popular name again if he keeps playing this way.
The star of the day was Zach Bauman from Northern Arizona without a doubt in my mind. I was trying to focus on receivers and corners today but he consistently stuck out any time I was watching him. He has such impressive quickness, burst and shiftiness. He made some fantastic cuts today and seemed to be running in space every time I watched him. He was definitely impressive. LaDarius Perkins and Raijon Neal were both solid, and Perkins continued to show his ability as a receiver.
Matt Hazel had a solid day running crisp routes and making a couple catches in traffic. He caught the ball cleanly each time I saw him get the ball thrown his way. Ja’mes Logan and Allen Hurns both didn’t have great days, though Hurns did dig out a low throw over the middle on a post route towards the end of practice. Hurns didn’t impress me as a route runner and had a drop, and Logan had one or two drops as well.
Crockett Gillmore had a number of targets today but he is not going to be a big seam threat at the next level. He doesn’t look like he is going to run well at the combine, and he struggled to create separation when I saw him today. I think he can make catches in traffic, but his value is more as a blocker and an underneath receiver based on what I saw during the season and what I saw during practice today. Blake Jackson had a fairly forgettable day as I saw him drop one or two passes as well.
I didn’t watch a lot of the offensive and defensive lines today, but Will Clarke and Bruce Gaston both impressed me. Gaston looks like he has strong, heavy hands and gave Toledo Center Zac Kerin a lot of trouble in 1 on 1′s. Clarke was consistently disruptive all day and looks like he may be the top defensive lineman here. I’ll be watching more of these guys later this week however.
I focused on this group today and came away impressed with Pierre Desir, Ricardo Allen, and Andre Hal. Desir looks like a legit 6’2″ having seen him in person and standing next to him after practice, and he is an impressive athlete. As Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan) pointed out to me while we were chatting during a lull in practice, they are using Desir in a number of ways suggesting impressive versatility. He’s a good athlete with impressive length, he just needs technique work. I’m looking forward to seeing him more this week. Ricardo Allen gave up a couple catches today, but one of them was to Hazel and Allen had him blanketed, it was just a good catch in traffic. Allen looked smooth and fluid, though I wanted to see him close on a couple balls in front of him faster than he did. Finally, Andre Hal was practically running routes for receivers at some points today. He was impressive. He was blanketing receivers when I was watching him, and had a ball been thrown accurately (it looked like the receiver broke the route off early or had a miscommunication of some sort, but the QB threw it a couple yards further downfield and was nowhere near Hal and the receiver) Hal likely would have made a play on it or even intercepted it. He had a very good day.
Tre Boston and Hakeem Smith both had good days at safety. Boston has had issues with giving up big plays behind him at times but he didn’t have that problem today when I watched him, and in fact was praised a couple of times early in practice for playing his man well down the seam and not letting him get behind him. And Hakeem Smith was popping pads including a great hit when they were in team on the goal line. He filled with bad intentions and stopped the back short of the goal line with a great hit.