Senior Bowl Winners: Defense

CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 02: Jason Strowbridge #55 of the North Carolina Tar Heels leaps into the Tar Pit during their game against the California Golden Bears at Kenan Stadium on September 2, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Cal won 35-30. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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Last week I gave you my Senior Bowl winners on the offensive side of the ball, this time I’m back with the winners on the defensive side. Again, I would like to take a moment and thank Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl. In the past the event was just the practices and the game, Jim has taken the Senior Bowl to the next level. Jim has added a parade where the players throw out autographed mini footballs, a concert, a tailgate before the game and a fan event where you can meet your favorite players. The Senior Bowl is a great event for anyone to attend, whether you’re a casual fan or trying to break into the football world.

Edge: Bradlee Anae, Utah

Bradlee Anae might walk out of the Senior Bowl as the biggest riser. Not only did Anae flash during the Senior Bowl practices, he put on a show during the actual game. I try not to focus too much on the game as most of these players have only practiced in a new scheme for a week, regardless these are impressive reps from Anae.

 

In this next clip you will see Anae use the “Chop-rip” move. He “chops” the offensive lineman’s arms down, and then rips through with the same arm as he rounds the edge.

Here Anae is quick off the line and avoids the chip block from the tight end. He is able to quickly disengage from the tackle and pulls up from what would have been a sack (tweet is a part of a thread, so look at the second tweet).

 

Edge/ Linebacker: Josh Uche, Michigan

Josh Uche is another player that had a great week at the Senior Bowl. Uche is what we call a “tweener” player. This means that due to his size, evaluators don’t know where to play him. Uche showed flashes at both positions in his time at the Senior Bowl, but his best work came from the edge. This rep amazed me when I saw it, look how fast Uche reacts to the ball being snapped.

When studying edge rushers there is one skill set that every evaluator covets over anything else…bend.  This rep from Uche is a perfect example. Uche is able to get below Charlie Heck’s arms, maintain his balance and get around Heck. This rep from Uche is very impressive and will leave many people craving this ability.

Because of his size, many don’t know where to play Uche. The benefit of going to the Senior Bowl is that they will have you practice at multiple positions if you are a “tweener” player. Some consider Uche an edge rusher, others consider him an off-ball linebacker. Uche showed flashes in both position groups, here he is locking down tight end Brycen Hopkins, who is TE 1 in this class for many.

Interior Defensive Line: Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

Kinlaw was easily the most hyped player going into the Senior Bowl, and he did not disappoint. Kinlaw captivated the entire audience at the Senior Bowl from day 1. From his pure stature to his amazing life story, all eyes were on him. Early into day 1 it wasn’t hard to see why. In this rep Kinlaw is gets past the offensive lineman before they could establish their hands.

In this rep watch the power behind Kinlaw’s initial contact. He has so much power that hes able to drive the offensive lineman back and not allow him to establish his hands. Then it is easy for Kinlaw to gain leverage and get past him.

I was floored when I saw this rep, this is a perfect example of just how strong Kinlaw is. Kinlaw engages the offensive lineman and gets on hand to hold onto the o-lineman’s shoulder pads. Kinlaw establishes an anchor so strong that he doesn’t get moved at all, despite having only one hand engaged.

It seems he suffered a minor knee injury, so he only practiced two days, but I wish a speedy recovery to Javon Kinlaw.

Interior Defensive Line: Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina

Jason Strowbridge might have been my favorite player down at the Senior Bowl. The morning of weigh-ins I was sitting next to one of my good friends and he asked me if I had watched Strowbridge yet. I told him that I haven’t, he just smiled and told me to watch him this week, he’s good. Let me tell you, my friend was not wrong Strowbridge is very good. I don’t believe he is first round good, I believe his target range his end of the 2nd/3rd. Strowbridge has a high motor and very active hands and his hands pack some power, in fact just look at the clip below.

Here is another great example of Strowbridge using his hands. He never lets the center; Nick Harris establish his hands. Strowbridge then dips under the centers hands and gets dragged down on what would be a holding call.

Strowbridge is another on of those “tweener” players, his two positions are Edge, and IDL. I personally like him best at IDL, but he showed the ability to win on the edge. Here you will see him lined up on the edge and he is able to rip through the tackle’s grip and get to the qb.

 

Corner back: Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame

Troy Pride Jr. is another player that boosted his stock down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, and this rep is a perfect example as why. This is one of my favorite reps from him, Pride stays attached to the hip of the receiver through the stem of his route and keeps a hand on his back. Because of his hand being placed on the relievers back he can tell when the receiver is going to break. Pride then jumps the route and is in perfect position for an interception (if the ball was thrown on target).

KJ Hill was one of the most difficult people to guard in 1 on 1’s down at the Senior Bowl, Troy Pride does a great job against him here. Pride deflects the pass as its arriving.

Here are some more examples of Pride’s great week. In the first example he stays perfectly square with the receiver and has great position as the receiver cuts in. Pride then times the pass break up perfectly.  In the second rep Pride is attached to the receivers hip once again. As soon as the receiver turns his head to look for the pass, Pride does the same and forces another pass break up. In the 3rd rep the receiver attempts a stop and go, he and Pride are in a constant hand battle. The receiver attempts to get back outside but Pride re-routes him inside forcing the receiver to be out of position for the pass.

 

Corner back: Dane Jackson, Pitt

Dane Jackson is someone who pleasantly surprised me at the Senior Bowl. He is a very fluid in his movements and close on a receiver in a flash. This is a fantastic rep from Jackson, he stays square with the receiver and as the receiver breaks so does Jackson. He sees the receiver’s eyes go back for the pass and Jackson immediately closes the space and forces a breakup.

Here is another great rep from Jackson. I think most of his work will come from the slot at the next level, but here he is on the outside. Jackson gets a hand on the outside of the receiver and uses it to propel himself in front of the receiver to force the deflection.

Slot corner is becoming an increasing valuable position, and Dane Jackson could be a great asset for a team in need of one. Jackson is able to sink his hips in the break allowing for great explosion out of it, close the gap on the receiver and for the pass break up.

 

Safety: Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne

Kyle Dugger is one of the top small school prospects in this draft class. I had watched a few games of his coming into the Senior Bowl and was very excited to see him. A potential top 50 pick, Dugger did not throw away his opportunity on the big stage. In the clip below Dugger, does get a little bit of jersey, but look at his ability to close on the ball. Not many athletes have the ability and it is making evaluators fall head over heels for him.

In this rep Dugger gets outside leverage on the tight end. As the tight end attempts to break out on his route, Dugger remains in perfect situation to force a difficult throw.

Not only is he exceptional in coverage, Dugger displayed the ability to rush the passer. Here is a swim move he used on one of the tight ends in practice.

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Robert Windsor, Interior Defensive Line, Penn State
  • Neville Gallimore, Interior Defensive Line, Oklahoma
  • Marlon Davidson, Defensive Line, Auburn
  • Kenny Willekes, Edge, Michigan State
  • Darnay Holmes, Cornerback, UCLA

 

This is my last Senior Bowl article for the year and a sad realization I must wait until 2021 for the next Senior Bowl. Once again big thank you to Jim Nagy, and I can’t wait for next year!

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