It’s a gray and cold day in Mobile, and I’m writing from my lunch table in the local Panera Bread restaurant, which is way better than the Kristal burger where I had lunch yesterday. (Let’s just say I experienced “Kristal’s revenge” later in the day). The North had practice this morning and I’m about to set off and watch Mike Nolan’s South squad this afternoon. Keeping in mind that I am not a GM, personnel director or talent scout, here are my observations from the North practice:
The USC guys look very good. Keith Rivers seems like one of the best of the outside linebackers and drew lots of praise from Raiders D-coordinator Rob Ryan during individual drills. The Raiders coaches are playing Rivers at all three linebacker positions even though he played on the weak side at USC. He seems like he’s be a great fit for the 49ers but it’s looking doubtful that he’ll last until the 29th pick.
Scouts aren’t sure whether Virginia Tech defensive end Chris Ellis will be able to stand up and play outside linebacker on the next level. The 260-pound Ellis did at little of that with the Hokies but primarily played out of a three-point stance. The Raiders have used him exclusively as a defensive end thus far, although Ellis said he is working on his linebacking skills at the training facility where he is currently working out. Ellis said he’s hoping to surprise people with a 40 time in the 4.5-second range next month.
Purdue receiver Dorien Bryant and Cal receiver Lavelle Hawkins are two of the smallest guys at the Senior Bowl, but they were the best pass catchers today. Hawkins in particular made a nifty diving catch along the sideline on a throw from Michigan QB Chad Henne. Hawkins also caught a touchdown on a nicely thrown pass from Joe Flacco. On the flip side, big Oklahoma State receiver Adarius Bowman struggled, dropping several passes this morning.
There are not a lot of defensive linemen who can play in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme. In fact, there are only a few players here who could play defensive end. One of them is Notre Dame’s Trevor Laws, who at a little over 6 feet is short for an end but who has shown really good quickness thus far. Florida State’s Andre Fluellen – 6-1, 285 pounds – is another guy that can play the position. Fluellin is fighting through a quad injury this week.
Bad news for Beau Bell fans. The big UNLV linebacker hurt his knee in practice and did not return. North Carolina defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer also was out with a hamstring pull.
That’s it for now. I’m off to watch the South and hopefully talk with Mike Martz. Stay tuned.
-- Matt Barrows