Senior Bowl: 10 Thursday observations about the South squad

MOBILE, Ala. — Here are 10 random observations from Day 3 at the Senior Bowl, specifically the South squad’s afternoon practice, led by head coach Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

1. UCF linebacker Terrance Plummer, a mid-week addition to the Senior Bowl, got off to a great start on Thursday, knocking down Alabama QB Blake Sims’ bullet-pass during a red-zone drill.

Adding to the degree of difficulty, Plummer had to twist his body — while stopping on a dime after a controlled sprint — to break up the quick throw.

Yes, the South quarterbacks — Sims (3,487 yards passing, 35 total TDs in 2014), Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, Southeast Louisiana’s Bryan Bennett — evenly divvy up the practice reps. But on this day, the majority of action-packed snaps involved the Alabama QB, in the form of tipped passes and/or perfectly placed balls against live defenses.

And frankly, that may scare a number of NFL general managers, if Sims’ long-term upside (a subjective evaluation, for sure) at the next level doesn’t eclipse the apprehension that goes with riding hot-and-cold assets … and their 14 career starts.

2. Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett (36 catches, 871 yards, 10 TDs in 2014) has absurd speed in open spaces. Upon fielding an end-around hand-off near the 15-yard line, Dorsett quickly garnered separation from all defenders and cruised into the end zone, untouched.

It’s a wonder the Hurricanes only used Dorsett as a running back twice during the season, netting minus-6 yards — and just seven times in four years of collegiate activity.

3. During a round of spirited 1-on-1 drills in the red zone, Central Arkansas receiver Dezmin Lewis made a leaping circus catch in the end zone. The superb play came just five seconds after BYU tight end Devin Mahina lost his balance after cutting hard on a down-and-out pattern (starting from the middle) … but recovered in time to snag Garrett Grayson’s laser pass.

Mehina, who caught 20 balls for 244 yards and three TDs this season, was so overjoyed by the awkward-turned-pretty TD reception … that he wildly spiked the ball, before jogging back to the line of scrimmage and getting playfully razzed by teammates.

4. On the opening play of 11-on-11 drills, TCU cornerback Kevin White (previously known asThe Other Kevin White with this draft class) corralled an interception for the Orange defense, a leaping grab that fell woefully short of the receiving target.

That’s the kind of mojo White needs for the coming months, as a means of not getting lost in the draft-day shuffle come May. (CBS Sports has White tabbed as the 13th-ranked corner.)

White anchored the back of a Horned Frogs defense which ranked 8th nationally in points allowed (19.0 PPG). As part of that, Minnesota, Kansas State, Texas, Iowa State and Ole Miss scored a grand total of 43 points against TCU.

The Texas native has the requisite size (5-foot-10, 174 pounds) and quickness for the next level; but once again, he’ll need to showcase his unique skill set in the coming weeks. He may be destined for a "nickel" role in Year 1.

Of course, being projected for the latter rounds is hardly a death knell. In the last five years, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Buster Skrine, Perrish Cox and Reshad Jones have all gone in Round 5.

5. It was tough not having Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright (mild foot sprain) on the field Thursday.

Wright (6-foot-3, 299 pounds) brought a lot of passion, energy and attention to the individual trench battles during the first two days of workouts, most notably against Alabama’s Arie Kouandijo, Georgia Tech’s Shaq Mason and Alabama’s Austin Shepherd.

Of course, that one-day absence might heighten the expectations for Saturday’s all-star event, as Wright (a prospective Round 3/4 pick) vies to become the first Aubrn D-tackle selected in the first two rounds since 2011 (Nick Fairley).

Typically, behemoths that blow up other behemoths in high-profile practices don’t slip into Day 3 of a draft.

6. Northwestern State safety Imoan Claiborne demonstrated good ball-hawking skills during the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. He also seemed quite frustrated with the ‘no-contact’ mandates on downfield completions … patiently biding his time for Saturday’s live action.

7. It’s only fitting to be in the great state of Alabama … when viewing the surreal occurrence of Alabama’s Sims lofting a TD pass to Auburn wideout Sammie Coates, who fell hard to the ground but still managed to hold onto the ball.

For this "recognition" sequence, Sims had to quickly identify the unmanned receiver … or hit a covered wideout with an accurate pass. Mission accomplished for both Sims and Coates — although the former would experience a few foibles later in the day.

8. I can’t wait to see how Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett (106 catches, 1,515 yards, 11 TDs) handles the pressure of Saturday. (As an aside, is the 5-foot-10 Lockett really three inches shorter than Fresno State’s Josh Harper?)

For the pro teams that covet Lockett in the middle rounds, however, they might be cheering for the South team to fall in the Senior Bowl.

Of Kansas State’s four defeats in 2014 — including the Alamo Bowl loss to UCLA — Lockett averaged 11 catches, 141 yards and one TD … and that includes a six-catch, 45-yard clunker against Auburn.

9. It’s great to see a strong stable of running backs this week — led by Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford (seven consecutive multiple-TD outings to close the season), Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne (1,608 rushing yards/13 TDs) and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (1,611 rushing yards/22 TDs).

But in a perfect (and perhaps delusional) world, there wouldn’t be any senior ball carriers from power conferences, given the following logic:

The shelf life of an NFL tailback gets minimized by the day … so much that even superstar backs are in danger of being extinct before their second contract — aka The Big One — expires.

In other words, a running back (pro or college) has only so many carries, so much tread on a proverbial tire. So why not get a head-start on the NFL after a successful junior campaign?

10. The Wednesday weather at Ladd-Peebles Stadium was gloomy and somewhat chilly — a radical departure from Tuesday’s brilliant sunshine and warm temps.

That prompted more NFL executives and media analysts to lounge in the press box during the afternoon session. A few observations stand out from that two-hour window:

**Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome prefers to be the lone wolf when evaulating practice. No team officials assisting his every move. Very little interaction with tech gizmos (phones, tablets, etc.) … and it must all be done from his customary seat in the back row of the press box.

**NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly isn’t one for full-on retirement mode. After reportedly completing consultant duties with the Jets, in terms of hiring a new general manager (Mike Maccagnan) and head coach (Todd Bowles) … the former Redskins and Texans executive could easily be found taking copious notes during the morning and afternoon sessions.

In fact, it was hard to distinguish between Casserly and the army of younger GMs seeking out the non-obstructed sightlines of the stadium press box.

**Rams GM Les Snead isn’t a big fan of sitting down during practice. Just like the old Rocky movies … Snead is seemingly ready to stick-and-move at a moment’s notice.

Of course, Snead may have reason to be antsy. In 2015, the Rams will no longer benefit from the stealth 2012 trade that led to QB Robert Griffin III going to the Redskins … and St. Louis collecting draft picks that ostensibly led to CB Janoris Jenkins, DE Michael Brockers, OT Greg Robinson, LB Alec Ogletree, RB Zac Stacy, RB Isaiah Pead and wide receiver Stedman Bailey.