ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Both teams practiced in helmets and in anticipation of the light practice, most scouts had headed home. The slower pace and lack of contact aside, attending these practices offered another opportunity to gain more insight into the quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs.
Gusting winds affected the quarterbacks as the East signal-callers struggled to drop the ball into the bucket in the red zone. Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo (6-2¼ 225) and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch (6-0⅜ 220) put too much air under the ball, resulting in their passes floating out of bounds.
Cornell’s Jeff Mathews (6-3⅜ 220) appeared to overcompensate by driving the ball. The problem is he failed to loft it over 5-foot-9⅜, 191-pound Georgia Tech safety Jemea Thomas, who has big hands for his frame and came down with the pick.
The wind’s impact on velocity and ball placement showed up even more during the West practice in the afternoon.
Ball State's Keith Wenning (6-2⅜, 219) threw a pass outside the hashes that died and dipped at the end. He adjusted and improved but had to put more effort into his release than he had so far this week.
Notre Dame's Tommy Rees (6-1⅜, 214) doesn’t have a cannon for an arm and the wind played a role in him missing his target on a throw outside the hashes. He also appeared to put too much faith in his arm strength when he tried to thread the needle and got picked on a red zone pass.
Washington’s Keith Price (6-0½, 196) had his best practice of the week and he handled the conditions well as his passes cut through the air. While his decision-making, erratic accuracy, and frame are of concern to scouts, he has quick feet and good arm strength.
Looking back at this week's practices, Garoppolo has separated himself from the other five quarterbacks heading into the game, even though Duke corner Ross Cockrell (6-0, 183) picked off his first pass running the two-minute drill. Had Miami receiver Allen Hurns (6-1½ 193) tracked the deep ball and run a better route, it's unlikely Garoppolo gets intercepted on the play.
Garoppolo’s poise, footwork in the pocket and especially his quick release are all noteworthy.
The best part of today was watching the one-on-one matchups between the West receivers and defensive backs. Three reps stood out in particular.
San Jose State receiver Chandler Jones (5-8⅝, 180) got Texas corner Carrington Byndom (5-11½, 180) to bite outside before redirecting inside. Byndom hasn’t shown great balance this week and he couldn’t recover in time to make the play.
Size is a concern for both receivers but the argument could be made that it’s more of a concern for Jones even though he’s slightly taller and heavier. Reedy has longer arms and bigger hands.
Notre Dame corner Bennett Jackson (5-11⅞, 187) isn’t going to match explosiveness and fluidity with quicker slot receivers. He does, however, have long arms that help mask his deficiencies. He matched up against Reedy on one play and broke up the pass despite allowing some separation. It helps that he was patient and waited for Reedy to make his break before committing one way or the other.