Sun, 28 Feb 2021

Senior Bowl Day 1, Defense | Harris Hits

Houston Texans
28 Jan 2021, 18:02 GMT+10

John Harris

The offensive stars weren't the only ones out and about in Mobile on day one of the Senior Bowl practices. Here are my HARRIS HITS for the defense from Tuesday.

At 6-2, 280 lb., UCLA defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa is the classic tweener and when he faced interior offensive linemen, he sped past them regularly. I didn't see many interior offensive linemen that could handle his short area burst and ability to get upfield. He had great battles going with Wisconsin-Whitewater center Quinn Meinerz during one-on-ones.

Osa wasn't the lone interior defensive line star from the Pac-12, even if his Pac-12 brethren didn't play in 2020. That would be Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike who opted out of the 2020 season. The former Husky defender was a 290 lb. house of fire against his offensive line mates. His quickness and slippery nature were WAY too much for any of the interior offensive linemen to effectively handle. He played with intensely violent hands on his pass rush. He won up and down the line of scrimmage, including hitting Nebraska guard Brenden Jaimes with a sick interior cross chop ala Aaron Donald. On the first play of the 9-on-7 inside drill, he lined up as a shade nose and exploded into Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey, forcing Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson back across the formation on a split zone run.Levi made it look relatively easy throughout the day, even more so considering the fact that he hadn't played football in over 12 months. When I first studied him back in 2019, I knew he had the potential to be an interior menace and he showed just that on Tuesday.

North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt accepted his Senior Bowl invitation late in the process and it's great that he's here. His anticipation and play recognition are absolutely on point. On that first inside run noted above, he read the blocking action, saw Stevenson cut back and stepped right into the backside C gap to halt the run. From the end zone view, it looked like Rhamondre had something but Surratt stepped right in to stop the run for a short gain.

It's pretty clear on an isolation run play that there's going to be a collision but if it's a GREAT isolation play, there's going to be a collision heard outside the stadium. That was the case when Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes filled in the gap against Michigan fullback Ben Mason. My. Gosh. The collision? Steal my heart. That sound? Beautiful. Just beautiful.

The name Elerson Smith won't register for most Texans fans/readers. The only reason that many have heard of Northern Iowa is because Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner was a record setting gunslinger before he became the World's Most Famous Grocery Bagger. Okay, back to Smith...he didn't play in 2020 because most, if not all, FCS teams chose to move their seasons to the spring due to COVID. As such, the 6-6 ½, 262 lb. defensive end chose to take the Senior Bowl invitation and opt out of the Panthers 2021 spring season. I'm not one to decide for these guys whether it was a good decision/bad decision but the way Smith flashed both against the run and rushing the quarterback, it appeared to be a great decision. He wore #16 in college so it threw me off from afar when he was wearing #47, but I found him. Well, he actually made me find him because he was disruptive all day long.

I wouldn't put Notre Dame edge Ade Ogundeji in the category of the most athletically gifted pass rush prospects I've seen. However, he's incredibly skilled off the edge. Against North Dakota State left tackle Dillon Radunz during one-on-ones, Ogundeji used a beautiful forklift move on the former FCS All-American. Once Ogundeji lifted Radunz's arms, he ripped back underneath to get clean to the quarterback. A few reps later, he bumped inside to rush from a three technique position and worked an arm over move to win against a guard. Pretty impressive pass rushing performance by one of Notre Dame's finest.

His teammate Daelin Hayes was equally productive, rushing from up and down the line of scrimmage, in particular, during the one-on-one period. Like Ogundeji, he's skillful but Hayes has a little bit more twitch. He showed that twitch when he moved inside to rush against a guard, flashing a nasty spin move. Both Hayes and Ogundeji were on my list of top ten defensive players on the day.

Oklahoma State's Rodarius Williams wasn't pristine in coverage but he had some decent moments on deep routes down the field. He's got to work on his feet in press coverage and come to balance earlier in the route so he doesn't get bumped off the route at the top of it. Wake Forest star receiver Sage Surratt got yards of separation due to that exact situation against Williams.

Unfortunately, Oklahoma cornerback Tre Brown struggled with some ailment on Tuesday. He attempted to gut through it, but it was clear later in practice that he was hampered more than just a little bit. I hope he's going to be able to get back on the field for the rest of the week. Prior to getting dinged up a bit, he competed his butt off in the one-on-ones against all types of different receivers.

Cal's Camryn Bynum was stuck with the unfortunate task of slowing perhaps the most dynamic receiving threat in Mobile - Western Michigan pass catcher D'Wayne Eskridge. Let's be honest, no corner can stay with Eskridge effectively multiple times. However, Bynum did have a couple of solid covers on Eskridge, but the misses were so evident with Eskridge's explosive releases off the ball. That said, I still really like Bynum and look forward to him bouncing back the rest of the week.

Oklahoma safety/nickel former cornerback Tre Norwood is intriguing as can be. He had a few moments of outstanding coverage, including one in which he caused a pass breakup on a deep over route to Ole Miss tight end Kenny Yeboah from an initial middle of the field position in cover one. He also matched up with tight ends in one-on-ones very well throughout the day. With the way that teams covet safeties that can cover, Norwood will have some NFL teams clamoring for his services.

Ohio State linebacker Justin Hilliard came up with one of the few interceptions during the day in running back/linebacker one-on-ones. Prior to 2020, Hilliard was known for having NFL-sized talent, but couldn't find his way on the field. In 2020, though, he was one of the most productive Buckeye defenders on the roster. He continued that ascent on Tuesday with one of the more impressive defensive plays on the day.

Iowa's defensive lineman Chauncy Golston wore #57 at Iowa, but on Tuesday, he wore #90 and I couldn't help but think "Jadeveon Clowney" as I watched him on the field. Now, Clowney was on a whole different level but Golston's 84 ⅜ wingspan and quick first step made me think of the former Texans star. Golston went one-on-one with 365 lb. guard Deonte Brown and took him straight back into the quarterback with a speed-to-power long arm that was nasty. Outside of watching him the rest of the week, he will definitely be a guy that I study much closer when we get back from Mobile.

USC defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu threw one of the most wicked counter moves in pass rush drills against Tennessee guard Trey Smith. He put up his inside arm as if he were going to long arm into the quarterback which forced Smith to counter with his outside long arm. Tuipulotu then snatched Smith by the jersey and yanked the hulking 331 lb. guard to the turf. It elicited plenty of cheers and "ATTABOYS!!" from his fellow defensive linemen.

Four years ago, Houston Episcopal HS's Marvin Wilson was one of the most heavily recruited players in the country. On Tuesday, I got to see him up close for the first time and it was evident why he was so sought after four years ago. There are definitely traits present with Wilson as he's skilled with his hands and agile for a guy his size. Case in point, in one-on-ones, on his first rep he faced off against Kentucky center Drake Jackson. Initially, the Wildcat center held strong as he was giving a little ground in pass protection. Then, Wilson clubbed him and swam over the top to get clean. Against Alabama star Deonte Brown, Wilson swatted, chopped then ripped past him clean to the quarterback. Wilson has been a bit of a polarizing prospect over the years, but the talent and drive are there to be great; it just has to show up 100% of the time as it did on Tuesday.

Man, Miami, FL edge rusher Quincy Roche is CLEAN with his pass rushes. He has a litany of pass rush moves, but his technique is pure coaching-clinic worthy.

Alright, that's going to do it for Tuesday's defensive stars and Wednesday's practice is right around the corner. See ya then with more Senior Bowl HARRIS HITS from Mobile, Alabama!!

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