TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 22: Dont'a Hightower #30 and Courtney Upshaw #41 of the Alabama Crimson Tide react after a defensive stop against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
MOBILE, Ala. -- I was able to get my first look at the South Team in the 2012 Senior Bowl on Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, both teams practiced at the same time but at different facilities so I could only observe one of the teams and I opted to go to the practice that didn't require a 25-minute drive.
The South Team features the better wide receiver corps with some familiar big time NCAA wide receivers such as Arizona's Juron Criner, Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller, North Carolina's Dwight Jones, and Arkansas Joe Adams. Of the receiver group, Criner seemed to have the best day. He has nice size at 6-foot-2 220 pounds and seems to try to catch the football with his hands more often than not. Criner also does a nice job of blocking out the corner and getting in position to make the catch. He also made an impressive one handed grab on the sideline with a corner draped all over him. As for Jeff Fuller, he had more of a rough day struggling to get off the jam when the corners were allowed to play press. He wasn't very physical and allowed the football to get into his body too much. Dwight Jones looks the part of NFL wide receiver and caught nearly everything, but didn't really do anything that really stood out.
As for the quarterbacks, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden has been the best looking quarterback out of both squads. He's got what most teams would look for in a quarterback as far as the size and his arm, but everyone always brings up the fact that he's already 28-years old. Outside of that knock, he effortlessly put the ball in spots for the receivers to make plays on the football. The other quarterbacks in Arizona's Nick Foles and San Diego State's Ryan LIndley on the other hand were both pretty erratic. Foles has more than enough arm, but his accuracy was all over the place. He'd often overshoot receivers deep or throw the ball behind them on the shorter routes over the middle.
On the defensive side of the football, the South squad sports some impressive defensive backs. Despite being a smaller small school guy, Louisiana-Lafayette's Dwight Bentley drew a lot of attention from scouts after an impressive practice. Bentley didn't really get beat by much in coverage, and when he did it was simply because of excellent route running or getting boxed out by a bigger receiver. Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward and Markelle Martin had nice days. Martin broke on the football a few times from the safety position nearly picking the ball off.
On the defensive line, North Carolina's Quinton Coples had a nice practice playing at both defensive end and defensive tackle. The offensive line struggled to slow him down and he's got great size for the position at 6-foot-5 and 281 pounds. Alabama's Courtney Upshaw lived up to his impressive look and was tough for the South offensive lineman to block. In some plays, Upshaw would line up with his hand on the ground to rush the passer and get pressure and he also handled himself well playing stand up linebacker. Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson also had an impressive day collapsing the pocket from the inside and stuffing running plays in the backfield.