Brandon Thompson can go home now if he wants to. There is nothing left to accomplish.
Thompson (DT, Clemson) came to the Senior Bowl as one of the top defensive line prospects in the draft pool. There was talk of a slow start on Monday, but Monday is in the rearview mirror. Thompson made so many plays in the backfield during 11-on-11 drills that it might be easier to list the times he didn't make a play. He stopped ball carriers. He flushed quarterbacks. He is explosive, strong, and very competitive.
Quinton Coples (DT-DE, North Carolina) is one of the other marquee linemen on the South squad, and while he did not look quite as sharp on Wednesday as he did on Tuesday, he started to reach the backfield at the end of the South practice. There has been a lot of talk about the Coples versus Cordy Glenn (OL, Georgia) matchup — a reporter at Mike Shanahan's press conference asked the coach to give them extra reps against each other, just for the entertainment value — and the pair are a lot of fun to watch.
Glenn got the better of Coples the few times I watched them square off Wednesday, but it was always a seismic battle, and neither of them wanted to disengage when the whistle blew. Glenn has established himself as the best guard in the draft, particularly for a team with a drive-blocking running game like the Cowboys. Coples looks like a rock solid all-purpose left end-type: not an elite pass rusher, but a guy who controls the line of scrimmage against the run.
With Thompson, Coples and others penetrating on every passing play, it was another rough day for the South offense in 11-on-11 drills. Luckily, I skipped the second half of the 1-on-1 line drills (a hardship, because it was like leaving a movie just when it got good) to check out the receivers in 7-on-7 drills.
Juron Criner (WR, Arizona) had a very strong afternoon. He beat Ryan Steed (CB, Furman) badly on an inside move to beat the jam at the line, then made Steed slip with a sharp cut on an in-route. Criner later made a fine catch on a deep sideline pass. Criner is projected as a late-round pick on many draft boards, but his size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds), route running, and ability to beat the jam make him a potential starter as a possession receiver.
Steed had a rough early patch in practice. Jeff Fuller (WR, Texas A&M) also beat him badly during 1-on-1 drills. Steed didn't appear to let it get to him, and was sharper and feistier later in practice: He wrestled the ball away from a receiver at one point. Fuller looks like a natural at 6-foot-4, glides past some defenders, and knows how to use his body against smaller cornerbacks. He appeared to have trouble tracking deep balls, however, on a very windy day.
Chris Rainey (RB, Florida), working almost exclusively at wide receiver, also had trouble tracking a deep pass. Rainey blew a defender away on a double move and was streaking down the left hashmark, but he looked over his right shoulder for a pass that sailed to his left shoulder, and he couldn't twist his body in time. On the plus side, Rainey appears to be running a full route tree and looked comfortable running posts and other receiver routes.
Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama) had an inconsistent day. He jumped a crossing route to Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina) during 7-on-7 drills and was able to run stride-for-stride and maintain good position against all of the receivers he faced. Late in the 1-on-1 session, however, he overreacted to a quick head-fake and let Fuller blow past him for an uncontested catch.
Brandon Boykin (CB, Georgia) was more consistent than Jenkins. Boykin is physical for a little guy, and once absolutely manhandled Jones in press coverage. Add Boykin to a growing list of scrappy little cornerbacks who could fit well with a Cover-2 defense.
With the defense tearing up full squad drills, the most exciting action taking place in the home end zone (where the linemen drills are held), and the weather turning from sunny to cloudy-windy-chilly, it was a terrible day to bring a youth group to a Senior Bowl practice. But two different busloads of kids shivered in the stands throughout the proceedings, one a group of middle school boys, the other a coed high school aged contingent. It's a school day, so I can only file their presence under World's Worst Field Trips.
Early in the session, the kids were so loud that it was hard to keep your notes straight: "Janoris Jenkins just pressed at the line and Colin and Brittany are both invited to Emily's party on Friday night. D'Oh!" Later, boredom and Angry Birds quieted them, at least until the Alabama players left the field, at which time the youngsters did their best Brandon Thompson imitations, tackling each other in search of autographs.