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Senior Bowl Diary: Thursday

Safety and tight end positions have been the better groups so far

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
South tight end Harrison Bryant of Florida Atlantic (40) grabs a pass in front of South safety Kyle Dugger of Lenoir Rhyne (23) during Senior Bowl practice
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday is the last day in pads and with contact here at the Senior Bowl. Fridays are always walk-thrus as well as other activities such a community service project, the Coca-Cola meet the players, and finally a Mardi Gras street party. So Thursday was the final opportunity for these players to glisten and show what their mustard is against other top talent.

The game is broadcast this Saturday on NFL Network with a kickoff at 2:30 (eastern) if you get a chance to tune in. There is a starting lineup which players hold as special because the coaching staff has decided that those players were the best talent for the week; but essentially all players not only play but play quite a bit. The announced starting quarterback will usually take the field for the first half or a quarter and a half and then end his day whereas the others play throughout.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
South offensive lineman Lloyd Cushenberry III of LSU (79) spars with South defensive tackle Josiah Coatney of Ole Miss (40)
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

I have mentioned LSU C Lloyd Cushenberry before, but this dude is killing it. His techniques are flawless and has pushed aside just about everybody during the week, including DT Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina. If the Browns are considering a backup center for J.C. Tretter, they would do well to take Cushenberry who has instantly jumped up two rounds. Kinlaw has shined the most from the defensive linemen on the South squad while Oklahoma DT Neville Gallimore has been the dominant force with the North team. If the Browns draft either of these two men, the roster will have instantly improved. Both DTs are great pash rushers, an uncommon affect coming from the middle.

Other defensive linemen who looked sharp are DE Trevon Hill of Miami, EDGE Josh Uche from Michigan and Utah DE Bradlee Anae. Hill’s change of direction is outstanding and his hand play is very physical. I think he is the most polished EDGE guy in this game and is great in push situations in most drills. Don’t believe he will start right away, but will develop into a top pass rusher. Anae is a not-quit guy but the negative around practices is that this arms are a tad on the shorter side. Uche is physical as well and has beat blockers with speed and power. He might be one of the best from the week.

Auburn DE Marlon Davidson, who was having a great week, is a scratch for the game due to an ankle injury. He has looked good up until the injury. Another player with a good week and now is nursing an injury is RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn of Vanderbilt. Both players, however, have helped themselves with their play this week.

QB Justin Herbert is a man on an island – an extraordinary quarterback island. His accuracy is simply amazing. Projected as a first-round pick, it would surprise nobody to see him go Number 6 to the Los Angeles Chargers as Philip Rivers’ replacement or 14th to Tampa Bay. He has great scrambling abilities as well and his called run plays are fluid without any fear of gaining yardage and can dish out the punishment himself. His play in the 7-on-7 drills showed most defensive coverage guys how to spell “frustration” repeatedly. And the ball gets out quick and hard – sometimes too hard for receivers such as WR Collin Johnson from Texas who will catch most balls and then drop a few but is a consistent route runner and seems to work best in press coverage. And Herbert seems to be a very humble guy.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
South offensive guard Ben Bartch of Saint John’s (75) works through a drill during Senior Bowl practice
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of offensive linemen who are having a great week not named Josh Jones is OG Ben Bartch from D-III St. John’s. His first practice he appeared antsy and intimidated by the stiff competition here but somebody must have reminded him that he was chosen for a reason. He has impressed more each day and not dominated, but has stood his own. DE Terrell Lewis of Alabama and Bartch have gone head-on in several one-on-one drills to which Bartch has stood his ground and not allowed the projected second-rounder Lewis get any traction. Many scouts I talked to were impressed by his physicality. And yes, Jones is also having a great week.

One player who has struggled is OT Terence Steele from Texas Tech. The speedier pass rushers have been too much for him to which he has a terribly slow first step. The one-on-one drills have not been friendly to Steele. The same can be said for South Carolina State OT Alex Taylor. He has had issues in pass blocking drills to which he biggest obstacle is the spin move. It gets him every single time. He will need lots of attention on somebody’s roster.

As far as the safety position, two small school guys have owned the position are S Jeremy Chinn from Southern Illinois and again S Kyle Dugger of Lenoir-Rhyne. Dugger is a baller and a beast with hitting. This dude is fearless and could just as easily play linebacker due to his instinct of where the play is headed and his smash-mouth freaky attitude. And he has great speed-to-power ratio (4.46) to boot. This week might have escalated him to become the third best safety in this year’s draft instead of someone you never heard of. Here’s to the unsung. One negative has been his inability to cradle the ball on punt returns, which he also played in college. Chinn is pretty big (6’, 3” 219 pounds) and uses his body to block off smaller wide receivers who believe they can get into his space before he can. Saw him moved to slot cornerback on a few plays, but should be projected as a run stopping safety who has had zero issues coming down into the box. Before this week projected as last day pick, but could see the fourth-round.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
North safety Jeremy Chinn of Southern Illinois (22)
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
North wide receiver Chase Claypool of Notre Dame (83)
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Several receivers have recently stood out including Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool, Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk and WR Kalija Lipscomb of Vanderbilt. Claypool told me he enjoyed special teams as well especially gunner, which is a new topic. He has great height (6’, 4”) with very long arms. He has impressed with his catching area with a badly tossed ball at times. Will need to fight more for the ball, though. The best part about Lipscomb’s game is the ability to separate which he showed repeatedly in one-on-one passing drills. Aiyuk has shown why is going to be a second-round talent. This guy catches everything in the mindset of Cooper Cupp two years ago. And he just gets open.

Another player who is turning heads is TE Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic. The winner of the John Mackey Award for the nation’s best tight end, this kid is very strong and is a good blocker. Led all tight ends this past season in receptions and has shown great receiving touch with a long wing span. Has a bit of an issue with much larger defensive ends but does not quit on his blocks and has made good decisions of which direction to show his opponent once engaged. Will be interested to see how he plays against faster linebackers in an actual game at the next level because this week he was pretty shifty on his delayed routes. And he lined up in different positions all week such as the slot, H-back and helping the tackle. Along with TE Adam Trautman of Dayton, this week that position has shown great potential.


Are the Browns set at tight end, or would you draft either Bryant or Trautman in the fourth round?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Yes, take Bryant
    (82 votes)
  • 22%
    Yes, take Trautman
    (31 votes)
  • 18%
    Waste of draft pick - we’re set
    (26 votes)
139 votes total Vote Now

Penn State OLB Cam Brown often looked lost and confused in passing downs. Not sure if dropping back was part of his game in college, but a necessity at the next level. Gets to the runner without any issues and appears to tackle well, but is easily fooled that a running back is about to unfold when the reality is that it was a passing play. Very teachable player, but will a year to process. Has played multiple positions in the past but is too light for defensive end (230 pounds) and too tall (6”,5”) to retract to safety. Has the most cut body in this game.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
North cornerback Troy Pride Jr. of Notre Dame (5) works through a drill during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns might or might not need corner help, but CB Troy Pride of Notre Dame and Utah CB Terrell Burgess are quietly having a good week of practices. Pride’s pride is his speed and ability to get back into the play. He is a good playmaker and has good instincts. Burgess is going to be one of the best run stopping cornerbacks from this week. You can see he enjoys the physicality of that aspect of his game. Could instantly plug into the nickel position with his next team.