The North and South squads follow very different practice schedules. Mike Shanahan and the South coaches make offensive and defensive players face off early in practice, so we can cut to the chase and start watching Quinton Coples and Cordy Glenn try to kill each other. Leslie Frazier's North squad starts with special teams drills, then individual position drills, then offensive and defensive play instillation, before finally getting down to 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. If you like 1-on-1 matchups and heated competition, you like the South's practice style. If you like watching the offense run plays at half-speed against other offensive players pretending to be the defense, then you are easily entertained.
Individual offensive line drills did provide some insight, as coach Ryan Silverfield singled out Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State) for practicing much better than he did on Tuesday. "Mike was a hundred times better today," he said as Adams fired out from the gate and blocked pads. Adams is projected as a top-15 pick and appears to be coming around after a slow start.
Senio Kelemete (OL, Washington) also drew praise from Silverfield several times. "See where his hands were? See where his eyes were? See where his hips came out?" Silverfield said, using Kelemete as a role model for the other linemen. Silverfield set the blocking pads at linebacker level and made the North linemen focus on footwork and finishing at the second level. "Too often we were getting to the second level yesterday and we were dancing," Silverfield told his troops. "That's bull****."
The biggest hit of the North practice came during a wide receiver stalk-blocking drill, of all things. Marvin Jones (WR, California), a 6-foot-2, 198-pounder, collided with 5-foot-10, 198-pound defender Leonard Johnson (CB, Iowa State) with a force that added up to a heck of a lot more than 396 pounds. Jones has held his own as a receiver but has not stood out, so showing blocking prowess is a plus. Johnson is one of the feistiest, most competitive players on the field, though Alfonzo Denard (CB, Nebraska) is another small cornerback who likes to end every play by loudly thumping his receiver.
Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State) hit Melvin McNutt (WR, Iowa) on a seam route for the prettiest pass of 11-on-11 drills. But overall, it was not a good morning for aerial heroics. Russell Wilson (QB, Wisconsin) threw a tight spiral into the corner of the end zone to T.J. Graham (WR, N.C. State), but Graham tried to one-hand the pass and dropped it. Cousins looks the part at quarterback, but "looks the part" is scout-speak for "tall, strapping, square-jawed, and able to throw a football 30 yards without clutching his shoulder in pain." He has not shown any outstanding qualities. Wilson made some plays on the run and put a fine touch on a few passes. He appears to fit the mold of the scrappy, mobile undersized backup, but I want to see more reps.
Shea McClellin (DL-LB, Boise State) made the most unexpected play of practice during 7-on-7 drills. McClellin covered Dan Herron (RB, Ohio State) up the sideline on a wheel route, stayed stride for stride with the receiver, and broke up a pass. The play was unexpected because McClellin played defensive line in college. He is playing weakside linebacker for the North, and at 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, he is an odd fit at that position. His ability to cover speedy running backs down the field, and the range and diagnostic ability he showed in 11-on-11, were both revelations. McClellin noted that he did have some man coverage responsibilities at Boise State.
"I've done some wheel routes in my career," he said after practice. If McClellin can add 4-3 weakside linebacker to his list of potential positions, he will leap onto some draft boards.