We've got a special treat for all you draftniks — Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders is down in Mobile for Shutdown Corner to cover all the sights from the Senior Bowl. This is his first of many practice reports. You should also follow Mike at @FO_MTanier for further updates and other football wisdom!
MOBILE, Ala. -- After a rain-soaked Monday, the weather in Mobile was sunny and cool for the North practice. Practice started with punt return drills, followed by position work, offensive and defensive installation, some 7-on-7 while the linemen squared off on the other side of the field, a little full-squad, and finally special teams. Here are some notes and observations from the morning session:
Kellen Moore (QB, Boise State) looks out of place against this level of competition. Moore's deep passes sailed all morning, and some of his throws on out-routes arrived at the receiver's knees. Worst of all, Moore looks stiff and awkward when dropping and setting. A 6-foot-5 quarterback can afford to look a little stiff. A 6-footer must show the mobility to slide around an NFL pocket.
Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State) threw the prettiest pass of the morning: a 35-yard bomb on an out route that landed right in the arms of Marvin McNutt (WR, Iowa State). Unfortunately, McNutt dropped the pass.
Wide receivers had a hard time catching the ball in sloppy conditions on Monday. There were fewer drops on Tuesday, though Brian Quick (WR, Appalachian State) continues to struggle. Quick dropped two passes in 1-on-1 drills against cornerbacks and stumbled while making a cut on an in-route. On the plus side, Quick high-pointed a pass against tight coverage during 7-on-7 drills. T.J. Graham (WR, North Carolina State) had a fine practice, hauling in several passes that were behind him, though he did muff a punt.
The North is short on centers, so Kevin Zeiter (G, Wisconsin) has moved over to back up Tim Brewster (C, Ohio State). Zeitler put several snaps on the ground and took extra reps at center at the end of practice. Zeitler snapped a few times in practice as a college freshman, but otherwise never played center, even at the Pop Warner level. "It's just a matter of me being excited," Zeitler said of the bad exchanges. Brewster also missed an exchange, but aborted snaps can be expected when working with three different quarterbacks under totally new practice conditions.
Speaking of Brewster, he got into a brief shoving match with Mike Martin (DT, Michigan) after Martin beat him on an inside move during position drills. Brewster and Martin are familiar foes, of course, because of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. "He's one of my best competitors," Brewster said after practice. "I love going against him."
On the offensive line, Kelechi Osemele (G-T, Iowa State), stood out during position drills, routinely putting defenders on their butts.
Boise State safety George Iloka had the biggest play of 11-on-11 drills, jumping a route and intercepting a pass. Leonard Johnson (DB, Iowa State) stood out as the feistiest defender. Martin growled with rage when McNutt caught a pass in front of him, and delivered a lot of contact in both 7-on-7 and full-squad drills. He will be worth keeping an eye on as a press or Cover-2 cornerback.
Emil Igwenagu (TE, UMass) got reps at both tight end and fullback, but he dropped several catchable passes. Bradie Ewing (FB, Wisconsin) got a lot of reps at fullback and as a shotgun blocking back, catching a few outlet passes. The Vikings' staff is coaching the North, and its scheme should provide a lot of opportunities for fullbacks and tight ends.
Practice ended with Doug Martin (RB, Boise State) returning kickoffs. Martin was one of Monday's stars and has looked like one of the best athletes on the field so far. Martin even lined up at fullback in front of Isaiah Pead (RB, Cincinnati) in what appeared to be a "speed" package for a few snaps.