SAN ANTONIO - I spent the morning at the East practice. The team started off going through some various warm up and stretches. After that they broke into individual periods before coming together for some one-on-one’s. They followed that up with an inside run period before they finished practice with full team practices.
One recruiting note: Shaun Williams, the father of Ishaq Williams was once again sporting a Notre Dame hat. I told him he looked good in the green and gold and he just looked at me with a big huge smile.
Notre Dame commit Stephon Tuitt (Monroe, Ga./Monroe) had a solid first day of practice. The first thing you will notice about Tuitt is his tremendous size. He’s every bit of his listed 6-foot-5, 260-pounds. Tuitt has very long arms and a thick lower body. He still has plenty of room for physical maturity, so I expect him to become a massive defensive end prospect. Tuitt’s only issues were the occasional late get off. Other than that he played very well. He showed good hand quickness, quickly disengaging with linemen on several occasions as he came off to the ball carrier. On one of the early plays in the inside run period he got driven back by a double team from Florida TE Nick O’Leary and the left tackle because he was late off the ball. On the very next play Tuitt lined up over O’Leary again, but this time he came off quickly, made a beautiful swim move against O’Leary, and blew the play up.
Whenever the East running game came his way, Tuitt blew it up. He also did a good job stretching out the outside zone and then coming off late to make plays on the football. The Monroe native played with a very good stance and stayed low, which has been an issue for him in the past. During the one-on-one period Tuitt was hard to handle. On one play he lined up against Nebraska commit Tyler Moore and bull rushed Moore right into the quarterback dummy. On the next play Tuitt used an outside speed rush to blow past Moore. It was a good first morning of practice for Tuitt.
Notre Dame recruit Ishaq Williams (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) had a tremendous first practice. He was the most impressive end for the East squad, who is loaded at the position. Williams showed tremendous quickness off the edge. When he comes off well Williams has one of the best first steps in the country. On one inside one play during the inside run period, Williams actually got to the running back as he was receiving the handoff from the quarterback. When he was asked to play the quarterback on the read, he was in the backfield and hitting the QB as soon as the QB pulled the ball out from the handoff. He was just blowing past offensive linemen. When he wasn’t blocked he literally blew up the play before it could get started. Williams speed off the edge was very difficult for the East OL to handle during the one-on-one periods.
It was during the run game that Williams really impressed me. He did a great job using his hands when he came off the ball. I was surprised at how well he got extension against offensive tackles when they ran at him. This allowed Williams to quickly shed blockers and get to the ball carrier. He was able to consistently beat linemen off the ball, get his hands inside, and shed blockers for tackles. On one sweep play to WR Nickolas Brassell, Williams stretched the play, easily shed the OL, and came off to tackle the speedy Brassell at the sideline for a loss. On another play Williams came off, got his hands inside of OT Zach DeBell, and drove DeBell into the ground. He was outstanding all morning.
Of the quarterbacks, former Notre Dame prospect Jacoby Brissett was the most physically impressive player. He has tremendous tools as a quarterback. He showed a relatively quick release and a big arm. When he does it right his ball looked great. He powers the ball downfield well and shows good touch when he needs too. FL QB Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t have Brissett’s natural tools, but he throws a real nice ball. Bridgewater doesn’t have a huge arm, but his arm was good enough to get the ball out on the deep out routes on a cold and windy day. Bridgewater has a quick release and the ball jumps off his hand better than I expected. Another former ND recruit, FL QB Phillip Ely struggled a bit on the day. The ball does not come out of Ely’s hand all that well. He did not show much zip on any of his throws. He’s an accurate QB and throws a good deep ball, but he doesn’t have a big arm. He could struggle against fast defenses in the SEC.
None of the running backs stood, but it was largely because the East offensive line was dominated all day by the East defensive line.
The East defensive line is just flat out dominant. They have Tuitt, Williams, Aaron Lynch, and Ray Drew on the edge. Inside is Tim Jernigan, Michael Bennett, and Sterling Bailey. Aaron Lynch showed very good quickness off the edge. Few players his size can run like he does. Lynch has a great frame and is going to really get huge. He does not use his hands consistently well, but it often doesn’t matter, as he is by the OL so quick they cannot get their hands on him. Lynch showed good physicality at the point of attack as well, but he made his living today with speed. GA DE Ray Drew was the least impressive of the four, and it’s partly because of how good the other three looked. Drew is a tough player, but he lacks the quickness and fluidity of the other DE’s. He’s a solid player against the run.
Inside, DT Tim Jernigan proved that he truly is the best DT in the country, and one of the best overall players in the country. The short, stout, and thickly built DT just destroyed the East OL. I can’t think of one play where he wasn’t in the backfield. Jernigan has tremendous quickness of the line and he plays very low. He uses his hands well and he has a tremendous motor. I only saw a couple plays of Michael Bennett, but he impressed on those plays with his toughness.
WR Sammy Watkins has tremendous speed. He is fluid and quick as well, although he was inconsistent catching the football. He is going to be a big time deep threat for Clemson in the future if he can shore up his catching consistency. I don’t usually read too much into drops at an all-star event if a player shows good hands, which Watkins did. WR Nickolas Brassell is going to be a standout at Mississippi State. He was one of the most impressive players at practice. He is fast, extremely quick, fluid, and he adjusts well to the football. He torched every DB that lined up against him. WR Miles Shuler didn’t consistently catch the football, but he did make some good grabs. One thing about Shuler is he can absolutely fly. He was running past DB’s all day.
NOTES: Notre Dame OL recruit Antonio Richardson was injured during the first play of the inside run period. He missed the entire practice with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. I'll try to get more on him later.
That’s all for now.