For 2012 Texas commits Malcom Brown, Tim Cole, and Caleb Bluiett, enrollment at Texas is still several months away, but they all have a chance to spend some time in Austin this week practicing in preparation for the International Bowl, which will feature the USA team versus the World team on Signing Day at the Palace, kicking at 5 pm CST.
Saturday marked the start of practices for the event put on by USA football and included two practices for the USA team. While the first session was mostly introductory and featured a great deal of basic instruction, the second practice featured mostly one-on-one and team drills that allowed some players to flash.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is carrying some bad weight around his midsection and looked in the range of 300 pounds, but he still has his trademark quickness. When playing half a man, Brown consistently showed the ability to quickly swim into the backfield and in those situations, he's extremely hard to stop for any high school linemen. Judging by the results in high school and in these types of settings, it may be virtually impossible to stop him. He also showed off his pure power and ability to come low and hard off the ball driving Rice commit Spencer Stanley about 10 yards deep into the backfield with a bullrush during one-on-ones.
Though Brown showed off the ability that has him so highly ranked in any and every recruiting service, it's possible that a much more underrated Texas commit had a better day -- that would be Caleb Bluiett. Physically, Bluiett still doesn't look like he has the man strength of someone like Brown, with a frame that could easily add 20 or more pounds of muscle. Combined with the fact that Bluiett has spent so much time at other positions, it was surprising that he was as successful as he was during practice.
Watching Blueitt during the instructional periods, it was clear that he was not only paying attention to the specific instructions given him by his position coach, but he was also able to translate that instruction quickly into production -- no easy task. Bluiett also showed off a strong first step that allowed him to beat Cal commit Freddie Tagaloa off the edge in the second session after using a bullrush that knocked the 6-7, 300-pounder on his backside during the morning practice. That edge threat allowed Bluiett to work his inside move as well, giving Cincinnati commit Caleb Stacey fits on one particular rep.
There were times when Bluiett was overpowered, especially in the zone running game when he was a bit too willing to give a shoulder and allow himself to be controlled. Tagaloa also got him back during team drills on a running play by notching a pancake of his own, but Bluiett was consistently one of the players who flashed the most often for the USA team along the defensive line and was an overall surprise on the day.
Bluiett also showed off his straight-line speed when the US team worked on covering punts, showing some tantalizing ability that could allow him to stretch the seam if Texas does decide to look at him at tight end, which he indicated to me was a possibility. He was also willing to vouch for his hands, for what that's worth.
As for Tim Cole, the 7-on-7 drills were not the best to highlight the skills of the linebackers in attendance, much in the way that they don't reveal much about linebackers during 7-on-7 in the summer. Cole was working at the SAM position and seemed to do a solid job of getting depth on his drops and did not noticeably give up any plays. As was the case at the Army game, Cole was dwarfed somewhat by the height of the linebackers on the USA team, including 6-4 Noor Davis, a Stanford commit, Ohio State commit Se'Von Pittman, who is a 6-5 defensive end who was lining up some at linebacker, and Ifeadi Odenigbo, another defensive end who stands 6-4 and drilled some at linebacker.
Cole told me that the Texas coaches have indicated to him that he will play SAM linebacker in thedefense, so his work there at the Army game and for the International Bowl will give him a head start. He also perhaps relieved some of the concern about his speed by revealing that his last 40 was timed at 4.68, not the fastest for a linebacker, especially at the SAM, but fast enough to allow his instincts to take over and get him in the middle of plays.
Some other random notes about players in attendance:
- With Jameis Winston day-to-day with a shoulder injury sustained in the Under Amour game, the quarterback play from the US team was a little bit spotty on the day. Florida State commit
had trouble with multiple meshes with the running backs and also had some trouble with snaps from under center and in the shotgun. When passing, he was slow to get the ball out of his hand and dropped his elbow at times in his delivery, though he did show a strong enough arm to make most of the throws. Jarrett Solomon also looked shaky, especially on the move, where he short-hopped several throws and nearly threw an interception when he failed to anticipate his receiver's break.
- At wide receiver, Corey Coleman showed off the top-end speed and the quickness in and out of his breaks that should make him a major threat in the slot at Baylor. He struggled at times to read coverages and get on the same page as his quarterback, but when he did, he consistently created separation.
- The most impressive wide receiver on the day may have been Romond Deloatch, a 6-4, 215-pound wide receiver who gave Ray Buchanan, Jr. fits in one-on-ones. A Temple commit, Deloatch was impressive with his ability to change direction at his size and also showed solid hands, looking much more like a four-star recruit than the three-star prospect Rivals gauges him to be.
- Tagaloa had some struggles with Caleb Bluiett and needs some work on his pass sets, but on the hoof he was one of the most impressive players at the event and is a lean 300 pounds. The best offensive lineman may have been Ian Park, a Northwestern commit who showed off his quick feet pulling into the hole.
- must have chosen the running backs for the US team, with all three of them standing 6-1 or taller. As mentioned, they had some trouble getting the ball from the quarterback. Georgia commit Todd Gurley showed good quickness to beat linebackers to the flat, but doesn't look like a running back at 6-1. More live drills in the coming days should reveal more about how well all three project at the position in college, but those evaluations might not be completely possible until the game on Wednesday.
- Daje Johnson was not in attendance at either practice, as he was busy visiting the Texas campus, receiving his offer, and becoming a Longhorn. Will be interesting to see his speed in person again on Sunday.
- The linebacker who had the best day was probably Noor Davis, who caused havoc during one stretch of team drills coming off the edge, forcing the whistle to blow once to protect the quarterback and breaking up a pass from Maguire on another.
- The best defensive back was another Stanford commit, Alex Carter, who had an impressive showing at The Opening when Daje Johnson burst onto the scene. He played safety in the team drills, but it was the one-on-ones when he really flashed, using his 6-0 frame to get his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage and his transition speed to sit in the hop pocket of receivers down the field. When playing off, he showed the recovery speed to close on a receiver out of a break and make plays on the football. Ohio State commit Frank Epitropoulous struggled mightily against Carter, as it looked like he could take 20 reps against the physical Carter and not win more than a couple of those battles.
- Ray Buchanan, Jr. may have the ideal bloodlines as the son of the former Falcons star, but he had a rough day. Without the size of a guy like Carter, he has to rely on his pure speed and he looked a step or so slow, allowing receivers to get him into his backpedal by threatening him vertically and then just not having the speed to close down the space created. He's rated as a three-star player by Rivals and he had a three-star type of day, at best.
- Houston commit Jarrett Irving worked on punt return, but is pretty undersized listed at an extremely generous 5-10, 180 pounds. Of the defensive backs in attendance, he was by far the thinnest. His legs didn't appear ready to snap like Will Hines, for instance, but he's not a guy who physically looks like he has the capability to excel in press coverage.
- There were also some light moments on the day, as former Austin High head coach LD Williams, an Oklahoma grad, threatened to write "OU" on Malcom Brown's helmet when the Texas commit left the field briefly.
- Then, perhaps the most impressive play of the day came from Hookem.com analyst and good friend Jeff Howe, who showed the body quickness and reactive quickness (as Gerry Hamilton would say) to avoid Deloatch barreling down on him at full speed going for a deep ball. Nicely done, Jeff.