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Tropical Bowl: Day 2 Observations – National Team

National Team Gets Final Tune Up Before Game

Emory Hunt

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.

Speed Kills

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.

Practice Standouts

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

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

Team-vs-Team Run

Tropical Bowl: Day 1 Observations – American Team

Defense Takes Control for the American Team

Emory Hunt

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.

Clanga Smooth

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.

Practice Standouts

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.

Practice Highlights

WR/TE/RB vs LB/DB 1-on-1s

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

Tropical Bowl: Day 1 Observations – National Team

National Team Kicks Off 2019 Tropical Bowl Practice

Emory Hunt

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.

Practice Standouts

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

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

College Gridiron Showcase: Wranglers Scrimmage

College Gridiron Showcase Desperados Scrimmage

College Gridiron Showcase Prospect Interview: Jamie Harry

College Gridiron Showcase Prospect Interview: Jonathan Boone