Football Gameplan is on location in beautiful Daytona Beach, Florida for the 2019 Tropical Bowl!
Here’s our Preview, Interviews and some exclusive video from all of the Tropical Bowl Practices!
National Team Kicks Off 2019 Tropical Bowl Practice
It was a beautiful day in Daytona Beach, Florida as the 2019 Tropical Bowl got underway. The National Team got things started in the mid-afternoon with their practice, and there wasn’t a shortage of ‘wow’ plays made by both the offense and defense. The only issue from the National practice was the amount of false starts coming from the offensive side of the ball, as guys just couldn’t get the snap count correct. It slowed down the practice and caused a loss in some valuable reps.
Hail 2 Pitt
Day 1 was a great day to be a Pitt Panther as DE Dewayne Hendrix, LB Elijah Zeise and OL Connor Dintino had really good days of practice. Both Hendrix and Dintino were strong in OL/DL 1-on-1s, while Zeise was solid in coverage as well as very active in team periods.
Rock Chalk-EMAW Connection
Along the offensive line, both Dwayne Wallace (Kansas) and Abdul Beecham (Kansas State) had really good 1-on-1 periods. I thought Wallace was the most dominant offensive lineman out there yesterday. I don’t believe he lost a rep during 1-on-1s. You also saw him coaching up the other OL during the drill, like Beecham. The former K-State Wildcat drew rave reviews from scouts because of how well he competed yesterday.
A Lot of Length in the Secondary
One thing that stood out instantly from the National Team practice was how long and athletic they were in the secondary. Kentucky Wildcat corner Chris Westry stands 6’4, corner Herbert Miller (FAU) is 6’2 and his teammate Ocie Rose is also 6’2. Being a taller defensive back can be both a gift and a curse, but yesterday I thought it was all gifts as guys were able to move and transition really well.
RB – Isaiah Johnson (5’11 215), Eastern Illinois: Johnson has a 2nd gear that is very impressive. He is very comfortable catching the football and has the type of acceleration that can be a problem trying to defend him in the passing game.
DB – JT Hassell (5’11 200), Florida Tech: Hassell had the hit of the day as he laid his shoulder into Notre Dame Tight End Nic Weishar, who hauled in a reception over the middle of the field. His hit seemed to wake up the defensive side of the ball and brought some much needed energy to practice.
WR – Workpeh Kofa (6’0 205), Charlotte – I was really impressed with the explosiveness of Workpeh. He was able to find soft spots in the zone throughout practice, and once he made the catch, was able to explode past defenders.
DE – Charles Harris (6’4 267), Buffalo – Harris had a strong day going up against the offensive line in 1-on-1s. He can rush with both power and quickness, and shows really good hand usage as well.
DB – Aaron Williams (5’10 185), Nebraska – The coverage skills and technique is strong with Williams. There’s no panic in his approach and he did a really good job yesterday in coverage – both in 1-on-1s and team drills.
Day 1 Practice Highlights (National Team)
WR/RB/TE vs LB/DB 1-on-1 Drills
Defense Takes Control for the American Team
As the 2nd practice of the day began, it seemed to be all about the defense as they had a fantastic day from start-to-finish. That’s not to say that the offense didn’t have their fair share of success, it just seemed as if defensively, the American Team had it on their minds from the time they got off the bus, to the time they left the field.
Ivy League Representing
OT Thomas Dennis was outstanding in 1-on-1s on Day 1. Dennis saw a variety of edge rushers during the drill, guys that wanted to bull rush, guys that tried to beat him with speed and quickness, none were successful as the former Penn Quaker was able to stonewall guys throughout the drill. He’s the only Ivy League participant in the Tropical Bowl, and is doing a great job of representing the Ancient Eight down here in Daytona Beach, as he did back in December at the FCS Bowl.
Mississippi State Tight End Justin Johnson (6’4 238) had a fantastic day catching the ball. For a bigger guy, Johnson moves really well and did a great job in the route running department as well. He seemed really comfortable out there in space, reading coverage well on the fly and working himself open. During the 1-on-1 periods, I don’t recall seeing a pass that was thrown his way hit the ground. Needless to say, he’s checking off a lot of boxes here in Daytona Beach.
WR – Jaelan Austin (6’2 205), TCU: Austin was money all practice long, catching everything thrown his way. I loved how he consistently attacked the ball when it was in the air. Whether it was going up high, or reaching out in front, or snatching it away from the defender, Austin came up 100% every time.
OT – Benjamin Knox (6’6 315), Colorado State: Impressive show of technical skills by the former CSU Ram. Knox uses his long arms to stymie defenders and was able to keep his feet moving effectively enough to run defenders out of the club in 1-on-1s.
QB – Tanner Mangum (6’3 210), BYU: I thought Mangum threw the ball really well yesterday. Very impressive short-to-intermediate accuracy as well. Talking with him after practice, he realizes how big this week is for him and is primed to take advantage of the opportunity.
OL – Breontae Matthews (6’4 330), North Carolina A&T: Matthews got off to a great start yesterday during 1-on-1s. He has tremendous core strength and is able to absorb and redirect defenders with ease. He’s coming off of a really strong week in Fort Worth, Texas at the College Gridiron Showcase.
OL – Shamdu Nalls (6’4 315), Virginia Union: Nalls was strong in his performance during the National Bowl back in December, which got him the invite back for the Tropical Bowl. He just consistently wins. He’s got very good feet and quick hands to reposition himself to get the block.
WR – Quinn McElfresh (6’3 220), Mississippi Valley State: McElfresh has a ton of smoothness about his game. He’s able to fluidly get in-and-out of his breaks and does a great job of tracking the ball. The FCS Bowl was a big showcase for him and he’s already off to a great start here in Daytona.
CB – DeMarcus Owens (5’9 194), New Mexico State: Compete. Compete. Compete. That’s what I like about Owens’ performance yesterday. He’s is able to stay in the hip pocket of the receiver and gets his head around to find the ball. No reception will come easy with him in coverage.
DB – Kurron Ramsey (6’3 195), Alabama State: Another strong start for an FCS Bowl Alum. Ramsey has the length that scouts covet and is able to use it really well to his advantage. I’m very impressed with how he’s able to close quickly on the ball for a taller defensive back.
WR – Ryan Schadler (5’11 192), Kansas: Schadler’s explosiveness and quickness gave defensive backs fits yesterday in both 1-on-1s and in team drills. He might be the most explosive wideout on the American Team, or at least it looked that way yesterday. He also catches the ball extremely well.
DB – Joshua Simmons (6’0 190), Limestone College: Simmons is a bigger corner with ball skills. He uses his hands well to stay with the receiver without getting grabby. Plus he’s able to get his head around and find the football. This will be the 2nd of three all-star games for Simmons as he’s off to the NFLPA game after the Tropical Bowl.
WR/TE/RB vs LB/DB 1-on-1s
National Team Gets Final Tune Up Before Game
If Day 1 belonged to the offensive side of the ball, then Day 2 was the defensive side’s day to take control. In the morning practice for the National Team, we saw a consistent performance defensively in 1-on-1, team-vs-team run, OL-vs-DL, and 7-on-7. It just sets the stage on what should be a really good Tropical Bowl game day.
Second Level Control
During the 1-on-1s, the linebackers did a fantastic job in coverage. JT Hassell (Florida Tech), Jerry Iweh (Fairmont State) and Bryson Allen-WIlliams (South Carolina) all stood out with their play against backs & tight ends. Allen-Williams has shown really good instincts for the position and has definitely elevated his stock with his week of work; the same for Hassell. I don’t recall seeing him lose many reps in coverage.
On the offensive side of the ball in one-on-one drills, both receivers Floyd Allen (Ole Miss) and Sean Modster (Boise State) proved to be very difficult to cover because of their explosiveness and ability to quickly get in-and-out of breaks. Modster had a really good reception in 7-on-7s as he was able to split two defenders and make a spectacular grab down the rail.
Play of the Day
QB Devlin Hodges (Samford) threw a frozen rope deep down the seam in between two defenders to WR Jody Fortson (Valdosta State) where the 6’6 225lb wideout went up with one hand and was able to snag it while being draped by a defensive back for the touchdown.
Play of the Day II
During 7-on-7s, QB Vincent Espinoza (Lincoln U) threw a nice rainbow deep down the sideline where WR Marquise Irvin (Mercer) was able to go up and make an acrobatic catch to haul in the reception. Espinoza has looked solid this week, stacking back-to-back good performances in All-Star games (FCS Bowl).
Bullying Up Front
Dwayne Wallace (Kansas), Connor Dintino (Pitt), Aaron Monteiro (Boston College) and Deontae Crumitie (Troy) looked fantastic during OL/DL 1-on-1s. These were guys that dominated their reps, winning more than they lost, which is very impressive considering that the drill is essentially set up for the defensive player to win.
LB – Dah-Quan Edrington (6’2 205), Virginia-Lynchburg: Edrington consistent made plays in the Team-vs-Team run period. He’s was getting great run fits, make the right decisions, taking the right angles en route to the ball carrier. He had a really strong day.
DT – Rashad Brandon (6’2 300), Missouri: Brandon plays bigger than his size, meaning he’s a very tough DL to handle; especially when his bull rush is working. He was able to have some success in 1-on-1s.
CB – Herbert Miller III (6’2 195), Florida Atlantic: It’s been a pretty impressive week for Miller. His coverage on Day 2 was particularly strong. You don’t normally see taller corners be able to click-and-close like he does. He uses his length really well, excelling in press man coverage.
CB – Chris Westry (6’4 197), Kentucky: Inside the red zone is where Westry had a ton of success. His length allows him to take away windows, making it tough to complete passes his way. I like his footwork as he’s able to mirror-and-match really well vs receivers.
DL – Brandon Varner (6’3 268), Grambling: Varner had a very good day overall, especially in Team-vs-Team run and in OL/DL 1-on-1s. What’s been impressive about him this week has been his versatility. We’ve seen him line up inside and out on the edge. He was able to find success doing both yesterday.
DE – Walter Brady (6’3 265), Akron: Brady was very vocal yesterday, but definitely backed it up during team-vs-team run. It was his quickness off the ball and ability to use his eyes to find the ball carrier that stood out the most.
LB – Chase Hancock (6’1 230), Marshall: Hancock had a strong week at the College Gridiron Showcase, and was strong here on Day 2. His run fits are consistent and he was solid overall in coverage. I think Hancock is a good, all-around football player.
DT – Boogie Roberts (6’2 300), San Jose State: Roberts was virtually unblockable in 1-on-1s today. Between his quickness and a variety of moves, he was able to consistently win vs the OL.
OL – Matthew Pyke (6’1 301), East Tennessee State: Pyke was at his best during team periods, doing a great job of getting guys off the spot, cutting off penetration and not getting walked back in pass coverage. This is his 2nd all-star game (FCS Bowl) and is making the most of his postseason.
Practice Highlights: National Team – Day 2
Skill Positions vs Defense 1-on-1s
Secondary Leads the Way as Day 2 Wraps Up
It was an impressive day overall for the secondary as the American Team wrapped up its practice here at the 2019 Tropical Bowl in preparation for Sunday’s game. What has been consistent about the American Team practice has been the consistency of the energy level. Guys have been amped since they arrived and that yields itself to great play on the field during the practices.
Route Running Assassins
Between Robert Lewis (Washington State), Prince Gray (Jacksonville) and Ryan Schadler (Kansas), I don’t know who the best route runner is out of the three, but what I do know is all of them is the best route runner out of the three. These guys have put on a clinic this week in how to get open. Their ability in this regard has helped them look good in both 1-on-1s and in 7-on-7.
Ballin’ in the Red Zone
Inside the 20-yard line everything shrinks for an offense. What doesn’t shrink is the play of your bigger wide receivers and tight ends. WRs Kaian Duverger (6’6 212, UVA-Wise) and Quinn McElfresh (6’3 225, Mississippi Valley State) and TE Justin Johnson (6’4 238, Mississippi State) were standouts during this portion of practice. It’s all about body positioning and extending out to make the reception, and that’s what all three of these big targets were able to do throughout the day.
Running Backs Have a Day
I thought Day 2 was a good day for the running back position for the American Team. We saw guys showcase their entire arsenal today as far as running, receiving and blocking. Ryan Fulse (Wagner) is probably the most explosive of the backs and that cause problems for a defense out on the perimeter. Emmanuel Jones (Concordia St. Paul) is the best receiver out of the group. I think Jones could serve as a slot receiver if he had to. He’s been one of the better receiving backs in both the National Bowl & here at the Tropical Bowl. Both Reggie Gallaspy II (NC State) and Alonzo Smith (Miami OH) ran with really good pad level and picked up blitzes really well today. Both guys had some nice runs in team period also.
Centers Dominate 1-on-1s
The two Centers on the American Team, Byron Glass (Austin Peay) and John Yarbrough (Richmond), were flat out fantastic yesterday. Glass has excellent core strength and was tough for defensive lineman to move off the spot. Yarbrough shows really good hand placement and is patient in his approach, which lead to a lot of wins yesterday for him. Both players are creating a real buzz amongst scouts here in attendance.
Size is Not a Skill
If you follow Football Gameplan, you know this is our rallying cry. During Day 2, both defensive backs Marvin Conley (West Florida) and DeMarcus Owens (New Mexico State) were able to carry that flag in a big way. Conley, at 5’9 185, plays safety but can also serve as a slot corner. He was able to match up well against the bigger wide receivers, showing his ability to win in 50/50 situations. He already has tremendous ball skills as a Safety, showing he could effective cover 1-on-1 was a plus this week. Owens at times seems like he’s running the route for the receiver with how well his feet and hips are in coverage. He’s put together back-to-back stellar day in man coverage. Owens also does a fantastic job in playing the ball.
WR – Jaelan Austin (6’2 205), TCU: Once again Austin was the talk of the day. The former Horned Frog is able to make any, and all catches on the field. Speaking with him after practice he stated that ‘he tries to take a picture of the ball before catching it’, his attention to detail shows itself in his play.
DT – Zachary Cannon (6’3 313), Johnson C. Smith: Cannon has an effective bull rush that tends to surprise offensive lineman. His initial jolt/punch off the ball gives him an opportunity to win the rep.
DE – Chase DeMoor (6’5 250), Central Washington: DeMoor had a really good day in both 1-on-1s and in Team period. You can see him finally start to use his length to his advantage, winning multiple times because of his ability to get his hands on the offensive player first.
OL – Thomas Dennis (6’5 305), Penn: Another strong performance for the Penn Quaker. What’s interesting about Dennis is how quiet he goes about his business, showing the ability to remain consistent in his technique with each rep. He’s been impressive.
LB – Anthony Flory (6’2 235), Appalachian State: Flory made a nice play in team period, catching an interception off of a tipped pass. I’ve been impressed with how he’s moved in coverage this week.
DB – Illya Lawrence (6’0 200), South Alabama: Lawrence made some plays on the ball today that showcased his ability to be a matchup defender on the backend and not just a Safety. He has good, all-around game.
DB – Mook Reynolds (6’1 185), Texas A&M Commerce: It’s going to be interesting to see where a pro team plays Reynolds at the next level. I thought today he was excellent in press man, strong on off coverage, and drove on the ball really well. He’s versatile enough to serve multiple roles in the secondary.
CB – Darryl Randolph (5’10 190), Middle Tennessee State: Randolph was strong in Red Zone 1-on-1 drills. You can tell he understands spacing and where he is on the field. He also does a great job in getting his head around to make a play.
Practice Highlights: Day 2 American Team
Skill Positions vs Defense 1-on-1s