Senior Bowl Day 1 observations: Towering Ohio State OL dominates, QBs underwhelm
MOBILE, Ala. – Dawand Jones was the talk of the week during the early days of the 2023 Senior Bowl.
Jones opened the week standing at 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds with the longest wingspan recorded in the Senior Bowl’s 74-year history at 89.5 inches. And that height and length propelled him into an impressive first practice with coaches, scouts and executives from across the league in attendance. At the same time, the first day of training was not fully padded and very busy. Still, the former Ohio State standout offensive tackle was impossible to miss as the greatest human on the court, not letting anyone beat him on Tuesday afternoon.
He had some shining moments in those meaty one-on-one reps against defensive linemen, including against some of Mobile’s most intriguing names. Jones got the better of Army rusher Andre Carter, not to mention Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey. Carter didn’t have much luck, with Jones hastily dismissing him and not taking his foot off the gas. Foskey couldn’t get around the big man, with Jones ending the drill by putting Notre Dame’s all-time sack leader on the turf.
And there wasn’t much offensive-on-defensive work for the US or national teams on Tuesday. Jones was still minding business, showing off his powerful hands and footwork against Oregon’s DJ Johnson in one of those throwback looks. Jones also helped Texas spring running back Roschon Johnson for some big wins, with no defenders able to move the Buckeye.
Pro Football Focus ranked Jones 10th among offensive tackles in this year’s draft class. The analysis site allowed him to allow only 15 pressures over two seasons from Columbus. If Jones continues to look like this, arrow up on his stock ahead of the recon combine.
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See below for more observations and takeaways from day one of Walkthroughs in Mobile:
– There is not much to say about the quarters after the first day. And while that’s understandable, with the group throwing at the receivers they’ve encountered over the past two days, it was still disappointing. Fresno State’s Jake Haener missed his first shot, then lost control of two more in the first 15 minutes. It was reminiscent of Desmond Ridder’s display on the first day of practice last year. Haener finally settled down, displaying that short-to-mid accuracy that propelled him to a successful college career. He probably had one of the best pitches of the day too. Haener put a ball into the tight window for BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua along the sideline. It was an impressive catch, no doubt, but the quarterback dropped this one in the bucket safely away from the defender. Haener turned that rough start into a pretty solid day. He was sharp in team and one-on-one drills, settling into a rhythm with his teammates for the week. BYU’s Jaren Hall had his fair share of knockdowns and even lost the ball unchallenged on the fallout in team drills. It was a day to forget for the fast playmaker. These two took care of the national team representatives, with Louisville’s Malik Cunningham struggling with an apparent stomach problem. According to Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, Cunningham is expected to return on Day 2.
And there wasn’t much to take away from Team USA training, with an even heavier tune-up. Music and ambiance were also turned down to end the day. With an up-and-down day, TCU’s Max Duggan flashed an out-of-pocket throw, throwing an interception down the middle. even though Shepherd’s Tyson Bagent was fragile. He and Houston’s Clayton Tune seemed to be struggling, failing to get that chemistry with the clickers from the pass catchers. There wasn’t much to note in the deep or middle passing game aside from Haener’s throw.
– Illinois running back Chase Brown will be looking to recover after a tough first session. Brown failed to get a swing pass on his own in the backfield. He was also fried in a pass blocking drill, losing a fumble trying to make a spinning move. Brown is an intriguing prospect after posting 1,643 yards and 10 scores on a whopping 328 carries. On the other hand, Tulane’s Tyjae Spears had an impressive one-screen catch-and-run, taking it to another level to get away from defenders.
– Coastal Carolina inside defenseman Jerrod Clark flashed a few times early in the session. Clark did not dominate any of his one-on-one opportunities. But the big man showed athleticism and conscience. He raised his hand to fend off a pass at the line and caught two of his own boards before the ball hit the turf in a forced fumbling exercise. The 6-foot-4, 345-pound player had 10 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks last season. If Clark can flash a little more on these individual occasions, follow his name through this draft cycle around these parts.
–Alabama tight end Cameron Latu ended the day with an impressive move at the line of scrimmage. Latu sold the block, then made a nice cut to the outside, opening wide for the long catch-and-run. He is one of the names to watch on tight end. Purdue’s Payne Durham is another one of those guys to watch, looking strong in blocking scenarios but not getting many chances in the Day 1 passing game.
–Tennessee defensive lineman Byron Young threw some serious juice as he rushed the passer on the second practice. He hovered over Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Steen in one rep and was a handful every time he was on the court. Young had 23.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in two seasons for the Volunteers. Steen bounced back and handled another quick spin attempt, this time from Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV. Other highlights from the trench drills during the Team USA session included Syracuse offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron, who handled Young’s rotation better than anyone. And Steen is recovering from that early loss, also not moving against LSU’s Ali Gaye pass-rush attempt.