The first day of practice at the Senior Bowl is in the books with both the National and American teams getting their turn on the field in Mobile, Ala.
* The Senior Bowl operated a little differently this season in choosing their coaching staffs. Instead of having a full NFL staff coach each team, the 16 non-playoff teams could nominate a coach to coach in the Senior Bowl in a more advanced role they currently serve in. For example, Patrick Graham and Luke Getsy are coordinators for the Raiders and Bears, respectively, but are the head coaches for the National and American teams in Mobile. Position coaches are given the chance to act as coordinators, etc.
* The first thing you notice at these Senior Bowl practices is the build of the players on the field. It is one thing to see the listed college heights and weights of these players and watch them on tape, but it is quite another seeing them in person for the first time. For the National team, Texas running back Roschon Johnson popped immediately. At 6-0 and 225 pounds, he is thick and powerfully built. He is not going to be easy to tackle in the NFL. He backed up Bijan Robinson this season, but Johnson might be a Day 2 pick in April.
* Dawand Jones is another player that stuck out immediately. The Ohio State right tackle weighed in at 6-8 and 375. He towers over everyone else on the field, and plays like someone who is the biggest guy on the field. (More on the linemen tomorrow.)
* The wide receivers stood out during the National practice. Michigan wide receiver Ronnie Bell (5-11, 192) had a drop, but he showed an all-around skillset that got him open at every level of the field, even if no elite traits were obvious. Michigan State slot receiver Jayden Hill (5-10, 191) recorded the fastest speed from the player tracking during National practice, going over 20 miles per hour. He was able to create separation fairly consistently with his combination of quickness and speed, and showed the speed to win over the top.
* BYU receiver Puka Nacua caught more passes than any other receiver during the team and 7-on-7 drills. He was able to find open areas in the short and intermediate areas of the field. He made the best catch of the early practice, as sliding grab on a back-shoulder throw near the sideline.
* Riley Moss played the best coverage of any cornerback during National practice. A former 110-meter hurdle champion, Moss showed the speed and ability to track receivers down the field and prevent passes from going over his head. He was consistently tight with the wide receivers he lined up against and logged the fastest speed among cornerbacks on the Senior Bowl player tracking software.
* The group of quarterbacks and receivers for the American team were even more impressive than the group the National team fielded earlier in the day. The three quarterbacks - Clayton Tune, Max Duggan, and Tyson Bagent (from Division III Shepard College) - were able to spread around the ball throughout the day.
* Rashee Rice didn't make a ton of catches but was consistently separating on deep routes and in the middle of the field. The SMU receiver (6-0, 200) showed any worries about his ability to get open were a bit overblown. He had the speed to win over the top and also presented some savvy route-running ability.
* Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchinson (6-1, 207) was able to get open with his superior route-running and feel for finding open spaces in the secondary. He did not flash the best speed over the top, but his ability to produce and be a reliable target for his quarterback was obvious.
* Tiny Houston Cougar slot receiver Nathaniel Dell (5-8, 163) showed the ability to separate and run past defenders. He also caught (and dropped) punts throughout the early practice. Dell is small but extremely quick. Virginia wide receiver Don'Tayvion Wicks also flashed some big play ability during 1-on-1's, using a double -move to catch a deep ball for a touchdown. It was also fun to watch Princeton receiver Andrei Iosivas (6-1, 211), who has the speed to get open with his track background.
* The American cornerbacks also had some good moments. South Carolina defensive back Darius Rush anticipated a route during 1-on-1's and came up with the interception. Super-sized cornerback Julius Brents (6-3, 202) of Kansas State was also very impressive in coverage. He mirrored receivers well, and even used his anticipation to grab an interception. Alabama defensive back DeMarco Hellams also grabbed an interception during practice. Finally, Georgia safety Christopher Smith II showed sticky coverage skills against the tight ends on the field.
* Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh appeared to suffer lower-body injury early in practice, but after some treatment it looked like it was just a bad cramp. He did not return to practice but he had shown some good route-running ability and explosiveness before he left the practice field. He did not return and it's unclear whether he will practice the rest of the week.
* Tulane running back Tyjae Spears (5-9, 204) picked up where he left off during the college football season, showing off his quickness, speed and explosiveness. He had a big run during team drills and caught a screen that could have went for a score. He is extremely elusive in the open field. Oklahoma running back Eric Gray (5-9, 204) also had some good moments running the ball.