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Old 01-24-2008, 10:33 AM   #1
tony hipchest
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Default Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

p. kirwan and t. ryan are broadcasting from the senior bowl this week. lots of great interviews with coaches and prospects, and of course, some good breakdowns on nfl.com.

http://www.nfl.com/seniorbowl/story;...o&confirm=true

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MOBILE, Ala. -- Practices at the Under Armour Senior Bowl have been crisp and upbeat. The Oakland and San Francisco staffs have blended a lot of quality contact and instructional periods in the schedule to ensure the NFL coaches and personnel people get a real good look at the talent here. After three days of practice, it sure looks like the linebackers are the premier group in this week of practice. The North squad may have three first-round linebackers working out and the South has another first-round candidate. Dan Connor (Penn State), Keith Rivers (USC), Xavier Adibi (Virginia Tech) and Ali Highsmith (LSU) have dominated the week with all the skills required to line up on Sundays as early as next September. Let's take a look at the top four showing off their talents for the NFL, along with a guy who just impressed me at practice and may be moving up the draft boards.

1. DAN CONNOR, 6-3, 230, Penn State
From the first practice, Connor jumped out as a tremendous middle linebacker with range, the ability to key and diagnose, and all the instincts required to be a great player. When a guy posts 410 tackles in a college career, sometimes you wonder if maybe his stats were padded. Maybe he was getting credit for every time he got to a pile. But that's not the case with Connor. He's out on the field lining the defense up, and meeting all of the running backs at the line of scrimmage. It's great to see his pass drops, which he performs with smoothness and an eye on the route progressions. On one play he's holding off the deep middle and on the next pass he's colliding a slant route. When the linebackers went to their blitz period against the running backs he made an even bigger impression on me when he made three different backs simply miss him when he rushed. On two other occasions, he won with a bull rush and came back with a spin move to get to the QB. As one GM said while we watched the team period, "Connor could play in any scheme, 4-3 or 3-4, and excel as a rookie. He reminds me of Lofa Tatupu of the Seattle Seahawks except bigger."

2. KEITH RIVERS, 6-3, 237, USC
Rivers is a very impressive physical specimen. He weighed in around the 235 range but when you watch him practice you would swear he's closer to 250. Rivers can thump a guard who comes out to block him; he sees the scheme in front of him right away and always seems to be waiting for the back before he gets to the point of attack. What is impressive to me is he always leads with his hands. He has long arms and great upper body strength to explode into blockers and disengage. Rivers has smooth hips and easily opens up in his drops and has a knack for knocking balls down. Rivers runs 4.6 in the 40 but he plays even faster. One GM who has a 3-4 defense feels he's the best prospect for him even though he was in a 4-3 package at USC. Rivers also has pass rush skills and is capable of a few sacks a year but more likely pressures as he brings a physical style. If a 4-3 team takes Rivers, they will be able to try him at mike Sam or Will.

3. XAVIER ADIBI, 6-2, 219, Virginia Tech
This player was first on the field for every practice and usually beat the coaches out to the drill area. It's always great to see how much a guy loves football and has a professional attitude. Adibi demonstrated that all week, even before practice started. As the drills got under way, Adibi showed the same lightning-quick playing style Connor and Rivers demonstrated. He has edge rush skills, he can disengage from blockers to tackle and he has some coverage skills. He will need to work on the nuisances of the pass drops in all the zone concepts but it isn't a negative. What impressed me most about the Virginia Tech linebacker when I spent some time with him was his ability to deal with a bad situation and self-correct. During the Wednesday morning 9-7 drill that pits the defense against the offensive running game, he got tagged by USC offensive tackle Sam Baker. Baker got under Adibi's pads and put him on his back. But Adibi recovered from the embarrassing shot and made a great play in the next situation. When I asked him about the Baker play, he was comfortable talking about it and basically moved on to the next play in his mind and that's the mental toughness all coaches are looking for in the NFL. Adibi is being scouted by all 32 teams and has a position in the 3-4 as an OLB or in the 4-3 as a Sam or Will.

4. ALI HIGHSMITH, 6-0, 221, LSU
Highsmith is a 4-3 will linebacker and is drawing little interest from the 3-4 teams. But the 4-3 teams see a young Derrick Brooks. This guy can go sideline to sideline and he's athletic enough to go out on a slot receiver and play him in man coverage. After watching him practice all I can say is he makes it look easy. One defensive coordinator watching the practice with me said, "He might be good enough to play some safety." His point wasn't that he would move Highsmith to safety but rather that he was talented enough in space to do it. On his pass rush skills, it's all about speed, and he demonstrated a nice spin move. He could be a real intriguing player for the Tampa scheme.

5. BEN MOFFITT, 6-2, 241, South Florida
Moffitt just jumps out at you when the contact starts up. He likes to strike, he plays hard all the time and he has a nose for the ball. Moffitt will be an absolute terror on special teams right away and will be able to back up at a few linebacker spots as a rookie. I was also impressed with his pass rush skills; he has a good dip and rip move to beat a blocker. He told me he did a lot of blitzing at South Florida and that sets up well for the fire zone teams like Philadelphia and the New York Giants.

There is still lots of work to be done before the final grades are in for the draft but the linebackers got a good fast start in front of the NFL coaches this week.
for what its worth, they (along with r. cross) werent really impressed with any of the offensive linemen. nobody is standing out like joe thomas did last year.
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Old 01-24-2008, 10:51 AM   #2
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Default Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

Dan Conner is a BEAST!!!!!!!

Conner > Lauranitis

just as Pozluzny > Hawk
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Old 01-24-2008, 11:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

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Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
p. kirwan and t. ryan are broadcasting from the senior bowl this week. lots of great interviews with coaches and prospects, and of course, some good breakdowns on nfl.com.for what its worth, they (along with r. cross) werent really impressed with any of the offensive linemen. nobody is standing out like joe thomas did last year.
From what I've been reading Tony, Carl Nicks OT Neb. and Oneil Cousins OG UTEP have looked good. Nicks is massive and Cousins has shown the versatility to play various positions on the line. Cousins is probably a 2nd day pick while Nicks will most likely be go in the 3rd round.

Mike McGlynn OG Pitt, name has shown up also. The word is that he is extremely tough and also versatile, including longsnapping. From what I've been seeing McGlynn is a late rounds prospect.

Sorry guys, this is a LB thread. My bad!
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Old 01-24-2008, 11:09 AM   #4
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Default Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

any of them a punter?
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Old 01-24-2008, 11:38 AM   #5
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Default Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

Keith Rivers is the the best of bunch IMHO. The guy hits like a freight train and has a motor that doesn't quit.

Moffitt is so overrated it's a joke.
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Old 01-24-2008, 12:19 PM   #6
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Default Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

I was watching a kid from Vanderbilt the other day, OT, Williams I believe. Looks like a monster and was doing well in the few drills I saw for what thats worth.
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Old 01-24-2008, 01:12 PM   #7
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Default Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

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I was watching a kid from Vanderbilt the other day, OT, Williams I believe. Looks like a monster and was doing well in the few drills I saw for what thats worth.
FWIW, an aquantance of mine runs a pretty good football site: WalterFootball.com

his current mock draft has us selecting Williams from Vanderbilt
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Old 01-24-2008, 07:29 PM   #8
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Default Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

connors is the best lb in the draft he is good all over and will prob win the def rookie of the yr.. he'll have a impact like p. willis did for san fran
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Old 01-25-2008, 12:58 AM   #9
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Default Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

Xavier Adibi... i can't believe 3-4 teams are scouting him as an OLB... a guy 219 pounds will get lit up by NFL offensive tackles... in college w/e but when ur in the NFL and going up against guys who outweigh u by at least 100 pounds u aren't gonna win...
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Old 01-25-2008, 12:57 PM   #10
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Exclamation Re: Linebackers impressive at Senior Bowl practice

I just hope that the Steelers dont draft LB's 1st and 2nd this year and continue to let Clark Haggans take the snaps that Woodley should have been getting.
I thought the O Lineman looked pretty good to me, especially that number 1 ranked guard, I cant remember his name, but he was definitely holding his own during practice against LB's and DE's and DT's.
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