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2019 Senior Bowl: Day 1 Practice Observations

South offensive tackle Tytus Howard of Alabama State (58) loses his helmet in a drill with South defensive end Montez Sweat of Mississippi State (9) during practice for Saturday's Senior Bowl college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

MOBILE, Ala. — With Day 1 of practices for the 70th annual Senior Bowl now wrapped up, let’s take a look at some of the top news and notes from Ladd-Peebles Stadium:

North Team

» With about 60 players on both teams all trying to quickly learn a brand new playbook, show that they can take NFL coaching and apply it on the field, Tuesday’s first day of practices, perhaps predictably, weren’t the sharpest for either side. Quarterbacks mostly struggled to get on target, receivers dropped many, many passes and the overall juice just wasn’t all there. A chilly, at-times rainy day in Mobile certainly didn’t help matters. But I expect a much crisper day of practice on Wednesday — despite the fact it’s supposed to pour here in Alabama. The contingency plan is for both teams to practice indoors nearby if needed, so stay tuned.

» Speaking of the quarterbacks, Missouri’s Drew Lock seemed to have the most confidence throwing the ball of all QBs who took the field on Tuesday. From field level, Lock definitely seems to have the zip needed to make NFL-quality throws. Lock had an outstanding junior season in 2017, as his 44 passing touchdowns were the most in a single season in Missouri and SEC history. He was brought back down to earth a bit with 28 touchdown passes as a senior, but still had just eight picks and a 147.7 rating. Now, Lock wasn’t perfect on Tuesday by any means, but he definitely seemed to stand out more than the other QBs.

» The Colts like their basketball players-turned-tight ends, and Stetson’s Donald Parham might be the next player to successfully make that jump to the NFL level soon. A huge target at 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Parham only played football for one season in high school before taking on the sport at the FCS level at Stetson, and in 2018 he was a consensus All-American and was the top receiving tight end in all of college football in both receptions per game (9.4) and receiving yards per game (146.6). That trend continued on Tuesday, as Parham seemed to get open and make catches with relative ease. He’ll continue to work on his blocking to become a better-rounded tight end at the pro level, but he had a solid first day of work on Tuesday.

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South Team

» The Colts have already expressed the need for more pass rush help this offseason. Montez Sweat certainly seems like he’ll provide that for whatever team is able to pick him. The Mississippi State product, who weighed in at 252 pounds on Tuesday, which is 11 pounds more than what he was listed at during his most recent college season, showed an impressive burst off the edge on Tuesday, especially in the final one-on-one drill of the day against the offensive linemen. Sweat used a one-armed stinger right to Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard, who was planted on the ground. Early mock drafts seem to have Sweat going around the 20s in the first round, and the Colts pick at No. 26, so we’ll definitely keep an eye on this guy moving forward.

» Rock Ya-Sin out of Temple showed the ability to be a very aggressive, physical corner on Tuesday — and in all the good ways. He did get crossed up one time in a one-on-one rep where he lost the receiver, but he otherwise seemed to show solid coverage skills and hustle. He also had a play in which he poked the ball loose and would’ve been credited with a forced fumble in a real game setting. At 6-2, 190 pounds, Ya-Sin finished 14th in the nation in 2018 with 12 passes defensed.

» Will Grier is perhaps one of the more hyped players coming into the Senior Bowl, and the West Virginia quarterback ended up having an up and down first day of practice. Grier, who finished in fourth place in the Heisman voting in 2018, did have a nice completion for what would’ve been a long touchdown to fellow WVU receiver David Sills V. Now Grier needs to find similar footing with targets he’s not so familiar with. Sills V, by the way, is a big target at 6-foot-4, but he’s certainly not slow. He showed some nice separation and speed at times on Tuesday.

» Sticking at wide receiver, Deebo Samuel seems to be the real deal. Known for his quickness, the South Carolina product really put that on display during one-on-ones against the cornerbacks. When the quarterbacks were able to get Samuel the ball in the right place, it seemed like Samuel was winning over and over again. And Samuel isn’t only quick, he’s shifty, and he seems like he’d be able to get good separation early on in a quarterback’s progression if needed.

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