By Adam Hoge
MOBILE, Ala. (CBS) —The two Senior Bowl practices Monday had a very different feel, and not just because the weather changed. The South team practiced in the early afternoon with the sun baking Fairhope Stadium across the bay. The Jaguars’ coaching staff ran a high-intensity practice and the South team quarterbacks lit up the field with long, crisp passes.
A couple hours later, however, the sun began to set at Ladd-Peebles Stadium where the North team went through a quieter practice with the Falcons’ coaching staff looking on. As the temperatures fell, so did the quarterback play. Here’s a look at who stood out Monday and who struggled:
QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois – Garoppolo carried the momentum over from his strong showing at last week’s East-West Shrine Game. He passed the eye test immediately at the South team practice, showing off his strong arm and quick release. He flicks passes with ease and was very accurate. The quarterback said his biggest adjustment right now is working on his footwork, particularly 3-, 5- and 7-step drops as he worked primarily out of shotgun in college. The hype around Garoppolo is growing at a rapid pace, as he was the star of Monday night’s media dinner.
QB Derek Carr, Fresno State – Carr is the only quarterback to arrive in Mobile with first-round hype and he lived up to it at Monday’s South team practice. He battled toe-to-toe with Garoppolo as the two quarterbacks put on a show. Carr’s arm is a little stronger and he has a quick release too, although probably not as quick as Garoppolo. Accuracy will be what scouts watch closely the rest of the week.
DE Trent Murphy, Stanford – The NCAA’s sack leader this season got off to a great start with an impressive practice with the North team Monday. Murphy is an athletic freak with a long wing span and his hands measured out as the biggest at the Senior Bowl (10 7/8 in.) He reminds me of J.J. Watt in that he’ll move up draft boards by impressing teams in his interviews with his character and knowledge of the game. He could be a mid-first-round pick by May.
DE Chris Smith, Arkansas – Smith’s day didn’t get off to a great start when he measured out at just 6-1 1/8 and 266 pounds. He was listed at 6-3 at Arkansas. But any scouts worried about that quickly forgot about it later at the South practice when Smith laid a huge hit on an opposing offensive lineman in 1-on-1 line drills. His size will continue to be a concern, but if his week continues like it did Monday, he’ll impress many teams.
DT Aaron Donald, Pitt – Speaking of undersized, Donald came in at just 6-0 7/8, 288 pounds, but he hardly plays like it. The defensive tackle backed up his impressive college tape Monday when he essentially lifted Baylor guard Cyril Richardson off the ground during pass rush drills. Richardson weighs 343 pounds. Donald has played everywhere on the defensive line, but prefers the 3-technique.
QB Stephen Morris, Miami – After a strong showing by the South team quarterbacks in Monday’s first practice, the North team quarterbacks were underwhelming later in the day. Morris was inaccurate and short on many throws. His arm strength is questionable and his accuracy and decision making was poor this season.
QB Tahj Boyd, Clemson – Boyd was also inaccurate Monday, at one point overthrowing a receiver by about 15 yards. At just 6-0 2/3, his size is a big question mark and he needs to turn things around Tuesday if he wants to be taken seriously as an NFL quarterback prospect.
QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech – Yes, all three North quarterbacks are on the “down” list. That’s how bad they were Monday. Thomas was actually the best of the bunch, but that’s not saying much.
S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois – The good news is that Ward didn’t look overmatched at just 5-10 3/8, 191 pounds. In fact, he looked quick and his changes in direction were impressive. The problem is, I thought he looked like a great cornerback prospect, not a great safety prospect. He still has a lot to prove at safety at that height and a switch to corner might not be a bad idea.
OG Jon Halapio, Florida – Halapio’s technique was sloppy Monday and he lost a number of 1-on-1 matchups in run-blocking drills. He was pushed around by Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton, who didn’t think look all that great in 1-on-1 pass rush drills.
– Players aren’t supposed to be delivering big hits, but that didn’t stop Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon from leveling Saginaw Valley State wide receiver Jeff Janis during the North practice. Janis got up slowly and appeared to be dazed, but stayed in the practice.
– If it seems like I’m picking on the North quarterbacks after the first day, it’s warranted. One North wide receiver was frustrated and told me it was hard to get on the same page with the quarterbacks. You can’t blame him for being frustrated. This is a job interview for the wide receivers too and they can’t look good with the kind of quarterback play they got Monday.
– Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland said the biggest knock on him that he’s heard is that he’s not athletic enough. Apparently those people didn’t see him leap over a player to block a punt in 2009. Size might be a concern with Borland, but it’s not height. I’ll say this more than once with him over the next few months: trust the tape, not his measurables. The kid can play.
– Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who tore his ACL in November, is at the Senior Bowl meeting with teams, but obviously not practicing. He said he’ll be back on the field for Georgia’s Pro Day April 16 and expects to be close to 100 percent.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.