Day 1 of Senior Bowl practices is in the books and it was a pretty physical day for a day without pads. Players were hitting and really getting into it at the tail end of practices. Since I am the safety guy for Breaking Football, a majority of this will be focused on the safety play I observed, but I will also point out a few other players who caught my eye.
Tray Matthews – South Team
To be honest, I really didn’t see much out of Tray Matthews on tape. He often looked slow, unaware, and just out of place on Auburn’s defense. Now, I’m not saying that he was particularly impressive, but in my opinion he certainly was the best out of a group that featured Jeremy Reaves, Kameron Kelly, and Quin Blanding.
What really stood out about his play day one was the physicality. Much of the day was spent doing one-on-one drills covering the tight ends, and he was the only safety to consistently disrupt the tight end at the top of their route, usually causing an incompletion as a result.
Another big plus that I observed was his leadership out there, while his maturity has been praised recently. You could hear how vocal he was from the sidelines, and he was really helping these other guys set up and get into the right spots. I’m not saying Matthews “wowed me” or anything but it certainly was a solid practice from him.
Kyzir White – North Team
Was there any doubt who I was going to pick from the North team? It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Kyzir White, and he proved today why I think he is the best safety down here this week. Armani Watts does deserve a shout-out though for his impressive interception on Josh Allen to end practice, but overall White was the standout.
The real trait of his game that really puts him on another level from this group is his versatility. He looked very comfortable from his normal slot role from college, lining up with and shutting down most tight ends and slot receivers he had to face. He even showed some nice instincts in coverage, as a beautifully baited pass from QB Tanner Lee turned into an interception in 11-on-11s. When he had to line up deep, it was the same thing. His range and instincts really put him on another level and he looks like a top-flight safety prospect. I expect even more praise and big things throughout the week from Kyzir White.
OTHER NOTES AND STANDOUTS:
Kameron Kelly CB/S: Kameron Kelly really caught my eye today and he’s a guy that I really wasn’t focused on coming into the week. The 6’1” 195 pound San Diego State graduate displayed excellent cover skills and athleticism, especially when lining up against tight ends. I heard that he will take reps at both safety and corner this week so it’ll be interesting to follow his progress playing both positions.
Siran Neal CB: Siran Neal is a personal favorite prospect for me and he really showed he can match up with these big name receivers. The 6’1” 206 pound Jacksonville State corner showed excellent athleticism and was really physical with receivers all day. He even got involved in some run defense later on in practice, despite there being no pads today. When I asked him about it after practice, Neal started laughing and said he it was getting a little chippy down there for sure. If Neal can get less grabby in coverage, watch out for this kid.
Byron Pringle WR: I honestly had no clue Byron Pringle got the call up this week until I saw him at weigh-ins. He immediately stood out in the morning though, weighing in at 6’1” 201 pounds. He was basically uncoverable all day and displayed excellent footwork and hand usage at the line of scrimmage. I was told by a regional recruiter later in the night that he rarely got the opportunity at Kansas State because of their offense but he is a pure athlete with all the tools. I’m very interested to see him the rest of the week, as he’s already among the top 2018 Senior Bowl risers.
Kalen Ballage/Jaylen Samuels RBs: Both of these guys had so many questions coming into the week. Which Kalen Ballage will we see in Mobile? Can Jaylen Samuels be a RB in the NFL? Well both really impressed yesterday. Ballage showed he was the best athlete of all the running backs, consistently out-running corners to the edge and making effortless cuts. Samuels showed lightning quick feet and vision when in the hole. If both continue to play this well, I think they can both be early Day 2 prospects.
Fred Warner LB: Last, but certainly not least, is the athletic linebacker out of BYU. Fred Warner looked very fluid and athletic, and made plays all over the field. Many teams are going to love him as a Will, or as a passing downs backer. I expect Warner to continue to have a big week and, like Ballage and Samuels, be a sure-fire Day 2 pick by the end of it.