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POSITION REVIEWS

Savage: Dayes, Howard among standouts

Tue, Feb 21, 2017

Executive Director Phil Savage spent 20 years in the National Football League as a coach, scout, executive and general manager. Prior to the Combine, he will evaluate the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice sessions, position-by-position, for both the North and South squads. 

Here is his analysis of the running backs and tight ends based on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday practices with some assistance from our friends at Pro Football Focus.

“Committee” Tailbacks

All six running backs have an opportunity to become part of a back-field-by-committee next year as rookies. We highlight the four who enjoyed the best weeks in Mobile. As a note, keep in mind that the 1-on-1 Blitz Pickup is a drill slanted towards the defense, while the 1-on-1 Pass Routes give the offense an advantage.

#20 MATT DAYES/NC State (SOUTH)      
5085/207 | 29 1/4” Arm-10 1/2” Hand
Arguably the most versatile back in this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl, Matt has the ability to run behind his pads and can be effective as a route runner, too. He showed an excellent feel for setting up linebackers and then the quickness to separate in space. 

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 2           Losses: 3
1-on-1 Pass Routes- Wins: 7           Losses: 2

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Matt became the first running back at NC State since 2002 to surpass 1,000 rushing yards when he gained 1,166 yards on 249 carries (4.7 avg.) and scored 10 touchdowns. He also recorded 98 career receptions as a three-year regular for the Wolfpack.

#33 KAREEM HUNT/Toledo (NORTH)        
5104/208 | 31 1/8” Arm-9 3/4” Hand
This productive first team All-MAC performer runs the football well inside, has a willingness to block and can catch out of the backfield. He has everything except home run speed.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 3           Losses: 3
1-on-1 Pass Routes- Wins: 2           Losses: 2

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Kareem earned North Most Outstanding Player honors in the RSB game with 118 yards on 15 carries. In his previous appearance at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl, he rushed for 271 yards and five touchdowns in a 63-44 win over Arkansas State.

#21 JAMAAL WILLIAMS/BYU (SOUTH)       
6000/211 | 30 1/2" Arm-9 5/8” Hand
Jamaal had an impressive week running the football between the tackles and displaying a burst in the open field. It wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him emerge as a lead ball carrier for someone during his NFL career. 

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 2           Losses: 3
1-on-1 Pass Routes- Wins: 2           Losses: 2

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Jamaal enjoyed an outstanding senior season for the Cougars when he ran for 1,375 yards on 234 carries (5.9 avg.) and 12 touchdowns. 

#19 DONNEL PUMPHREY/San Diego St (SOUTH)
5082/169  | 28 1/8” Arm-8 1/4" Hand
Remarkably competitive, Donnel is difficult to find for the defense once he is tucked behind his offensive line. A very exciting player, he is capable as a ball carrier, receiver and return specialist. The expectation here is that he will find a niche role on an NFL team as a rookie.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 1           Losses: 2
1-on-1 Pass Routes- Wins: 5           Losses: 2

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: In the actual RSB game, Donnel rushed four times for 23 yards, caught two passes for 15 yards and returned four punts for 44 yards. He is the all-time leader in FBS rushing yardage with 6,405 yards.  

#44 DE’VEON SMITH/Michigan (NORTH)  
5107/220 | 29 3/4" Arm-8 7/8” Hand
After participating in the East-West Shrine Game, De’Veon accepted an invite to Mobile and continued his consistent work as a rugged inside ball carrier and capable receiver out of the backfield. 

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 2           Losses: 3
1-on-1 Pass Routes- Wins: 5           Losses: 0

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: As a senior for the Wolverines, he had 181 carries for 846 yards (4.7 avg.) and 10 touchdowns.

#6 COREY CLEMENT/Wisconsin (NORTH) 
5102/221 | 30 7/8” Arm-9 7/8” Hand
After an injury-plagued junior season, Corey bounced back to have a very successful senior year in 2016. Another capable ball carrier, he is also adept at running routes from the backfield and should be able to secure a job in the NFL as a rookie. 

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 3           Losses: 2
1-on-1 Pass Routes- Wins: 4           Losses: 2

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: This first team All-Big 10 performer rushed for 1,375 yards on 314 attempts (4.4 avg.) and 15 touchdowns.

“Functional” Fullbacks

Both fullbacks should be able to contribute on offense and play on special teams as rookies in 2017.

#43 FREDDIE STEPHENSON/Florida State (SOUTH)
6003/236 | 32 3/8” Arm-9 1/8” Hand
Freddie has hybrid abilities as a blocker, runner and receiver. He is an ideal fit in the true West Coast offense as a combination lead blocker and short-area receiver.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup- Wins: 4           Losses: 1
1-on-1 Pass Routes- Wins: 3           Losses: 2

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Despite only 44 career touches (25 rushes/19 receptions), Freddie played a key role in the success of the FSU offense by leading the way for Dalvin Cook’s three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. 

#45 SAM ROGERS/Virginia Tech (NORTH)                       
5102/231 | 29 5/8” Arm-9 5/8” Hand
A former high school quarterback, Sam converted to fullback/H-back and became a star player for the Hokies. He is a versatile “football player” that will find a way to help his future NFL team win games. 

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 4           Losses: 4
1-on-1 Pass Routes- Wins: 3           Losses: 3

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: For his career, Sam put together 692 rushing yards and four touchdowns to go along with 72 receptions and another seven scores, while earning 2nd team All-American honors from Pro Football Focus. 

“Talented” Tight Ends

As part of the deepest TE draft class in recent memory, each one here made a positive showing in the practices that should carry over to the Combine.

#88 O.J. HOWARD/Alabama              
6055/249 | 33 7/8” Arm-10” Hand
As advertised, O.J. lived up to his billing as the top tight end in this year’s draft. With his prototype size, speed, athleticism, route technique, hands and blocking ability, he is the complete package and a rookie that should start from day one in the NFL.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 6           Losses: 3
1-on-1 Pass Routes-  Wins: 7           Losses: 1

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: O.J. had an unforgettable performance in the 2015 national championship game, when he caught five passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns to earn MVP honors.

#17 EVAN ENGRAM/Ole Miss                       
6031/236 | 32 3/8” Arm-10” Hand
This four-year starter is a super fluid route runner who proved to be a better blocker than anticipated in Mobile. At 236lbs, he has the potential of getting into the 240’s, which will only increase his draft value.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 6           Losses: 1
1-on-1 Pass Routes-  Wins: 5           Losses: 5

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Evan enjoyed a very productive senior season for the Rebels when he grabbed 65 passes for 926 yards, a 14.2-yard average and eight touchdowns.

#12 GERALD EVERETT/South Alabama          
6026/227 | 32 7/8” Arm-8 1/4" Hand
After the UAB program was shut down in 2014, Gerald transferred to USA and made an immediate impact with the Jaguars. In the Tuesday RSB practice, he flashed excellent separation quickness and hands before a groin strain limited him on Wednesday and Thursday. More of a pass receiving tight end/H-back, he will need to improve his bulk and strength to become a complete pro.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 0           Losses: 3
1-on-1 Pass Routes-  Wins: 4           Losses: 0

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Gerald became the first two-time first-team All-Sun Belt Conference in USA history after he snagged 49 passes for 717 yards (14.6 avg.) and four touchdowns during his senior year.

#80 MIKE ROBERTS/Toledo                           
6043/261 | 33 1/4" Arm-11 5/8” Hand
Named first team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, Mike led the nation’s tight ends with 16 touchdown receptions as a senior. He is a jumbo-sized athlete with the upside potential to become a complete tight end in the NFL.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 4           Losses: 4
1-on-1 Pass Routes-  Wins: 5           Losses: 4

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Blessed with enormous hands, Mike maximized his one season as a starter for the Rockets with 45 receptions for 533 yards (11.8 avg.) and the aforementioned 16 touchdowns.

#87 JONNU SMITH/Florida International    
6026/245 | 31 3/4" Arm-9 1/4" Hand
Jonnu is a gifted pass receiver who has the skillset needed to find a role at the NFL level as a contributing H-back. Bigger than expected, he is smooth as a route runner and catches the football very well.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 4           Losses: 5
1-on-1 Pass Routes-  Wins: 3           Losses: 3

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: This 2nd team All-Conference USA selection ended his FIU career with 178 receptions for 2,001 yards (11.2 avg.) and 18 touchdowns.

#83 JEREMY SPRINKLE/Arkansas                  
6046/256 | 34 1/8” Arm-10 5/8” Hand
With his natural size and overall athletic ability, Jeremy has the potential to become a legitimate combination tight end in the NFL. This two-year starter is versatile enough to block as a Y at the line-of-scrimmage and detach as a receiver in the slot.

1-on-1 Blitz Pickup-  Wins: 3           Losses: 4
1-on-1 Pass Routes-  Wins: 4           Losses: 4

Reese’s Senior Bowl Pieces: Jeremy concluded his senior season for the Razorbacks with 33 receptions for 380 yards (11.5 avg.) and four touchdowns.