Senior Bowl Day 2 observations: Potential Lions fit at cornerback shines

Senior Bowl Day 2 observations: Potential Lions fit at cornerback shines

MOBILE, Ala. –Kyu Blu Kelly did himself a favor on day two of the 2023 Senior Bowl, making a handful of aggressive ball plays, including a 40-yard interception on six picks.

The three-year-old former Stanford starter is a long, athletic cornerback who showed his quick reaction ability and strong ball skills on Wednesday. Kelly intercepted Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham by snatching the ball from the receiver’s hands and carrying it home. He played the ball hard all day, with those cover plays that were hard to erase from memory. The whole defense joined him in the end zone to celebrate the score and end the seven-on-seven drills.

He also flashed in the attack vs. defense sets, making a stellar read on another throw from Cunningham. Kelly jumped the road and brushed her off Oklahoma tight end Brayden Willis. Kelly showed his ability to cover men and areas throughout the day, leaving his mark on Mobile’s early practices.

And the Stanford standout certainly means a lot to the Detroit Lions. Kelly played outdoors and indoors for three years under former head coach David Shaw. The 6-foot-1 cornerback allowed 22 catches on 44 targets for 373 yards and two touchdowns last season. He was an All-State and Nevada State champion track athlete in high school, with those wheels and agility flashing on the college football showcase. He is also the son of former NFL cornerback Brian Kelly, who spent the final season of his career with the Lions.

Related: Senior Bowl Day 1 Observations: Ohio State OL dominate, QBs are overwhelmed

Related: Lions Pushed for Assistant Shaun Dion Hamilton to Get Senior Bowl Opportunity

It was a good day for defensive backs, in general. Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson was all over the ball, diving and making hard-hitting plays in the secondary. He credited Lions defensive assistant Shaun Dion Hamilton with instilling a physical mentality in Team USA cornerbacks during those first two days. South Carolina’s Darius Rush had a pretty similar day of coverage, which made it tough for these quarterbacks.

See below for more observations and takeaways from the second day of practice:

– before digging into those quarterbacks. Michigan State’s Jayden Reed might have been the best player on the court on day two. Reed was the fastest player on either team to open a business on Tuesday. And then Wednesday? Reed did it all. He displayed that speed while delivering a pair of 35-yard touchdowns downfield on one-on-one drills. Reed beat Maryland cornerback Jakorian Bennett towards the pylon, ending the game with the reception. He then got the better of USC’s Mekhi Blackmon in a hotly contested one-on-one road. Reed burned the defensive back with a move inside and then into the end zone, with Blackmon showing a serious ability to track the ball and make a hard hold of it. Still, Reed came out of that day looking like a big winner.

— So the quarterbacks were better. It’s not something to write home about, though. But BYU’s Jaren Hall and Fresno State’s Jake Haener looked much more comfortable on Day 2. Hall dropped pennies in the bucket at 35 yards in back-to-back reps on individual drills. He put the ball where it needed to be every time – with one of Reed’s – and avoided any repetition of bad fumbles. Haener did the same by cleaning it up and keeping the ball off the ground. His best throw of the day was an incomplete pass into the end zone, but it was quite a pocket throw, putting him where only his guy could get it. Haener was more on the run with the up-tempo practice, showing some of his fun game mentality. Session two was a bit worse, with Team USA quarterbacks still struggling to find that rhythm. TCU’s Max Duggan had his best moments in team drills, leading the offense while showing that leadership ability. Duggan dropped a beauty along the sideline in two-minute drills against Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave, too, for his best shot of the session. Shepherd’s Tyson Bagent and Houston’s Clayton Tune had stronger moments than Day 1. But there was still inconsistent precision and shaky moments, including a handful with no defensive line or rushing into their faces. There are no first-round quarterbacks in this group. Haener has been the most consistent since his lousy start, while Duggan has been with him.

– Carolina Coast defensive tackle Jerrod Clark continues to look good. The big man made an impressive move at the line for the second straight day to throw his mitts in the air to hit a pass. Clark fended off North Dakota’s Cody Mauch, then raised his hands to make the play. He showed a spark inside, with a recent history of jamming the run. It’s hard to get a taste of his ability against the run through these tackleless afternoons. But his power and his plan to succeed at the next level are easy to spot. Speaking of Mauch, the tackle was repeated at guard and center this week. It’s a new task for Mauch, with him playing the center of the room where Clark succeeded.

— Dawand Jones was the big winner on Day 1. The Ohio State offensive lineman was not there Wednesday, reportedly being assessed “to see if he’s healthy enough to return this week.” And in other injury news, Texas running back Roschon Johnson is out for the week after breaking a bone in his hand. Texas Tech running back SaRodorick Thompson Jr. took his place and was active, getting a few looks to start his impromptu week in Mobile.

– Tulane running back Tyjae Spears put the bow on another solid day. Spears showed off her ability in space on a display to open practice yesterday. And then he took that to another level to complete the second day of sessions for Team USA. Spears’ ability to make second-tier cuts and reads was remarkable. He interrupted a long run, causing several people to miss, and then brought a screen home. Spears made the catch low from the backfield, sneaked to the sideline, then backed up to midfield. And while there’s no tackle in those practices, it’s hard to imagine anyone getting him to the ground on those looks.

–TCU linebacker Dee Winters hastily performed a favor. On back-to-back 11-on-11 snaps, Winters intercepted the pass down the middle and snatched the ball from the hands of a ball carrier to force the fumble on the next play. There are size issues at 5-foot-11, but those plays are hard to ignore and his instincts kick in every time he heads into the football.

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