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2023 Senior Cup Day 1 standouts: BYU WR Puka Nacua impresses; center rises to first round?

MOBILE, Alabama — More than 100 potential candidates for the 2023 NFL Draft were conducting crucial interviews Tuesday as Reece’s Senior Bowl practice kicked off.’s Lance Zierlein and Eric Edholm cover Day 1 standouts, as well as news and notes from the day’s events.

Watch live NFL+ Senior Bowl practice starting at 12:30pm ET on Wednesdays and Thursdays, don’t Miss Saturday’s exclusive coverage of the Senior Bowl game at 2:30 p.m. ET on the NFL Network.

Five stars from day one of Senior Bowl practice

DJ Dale, DT, Alabama

Going into this week, I have Dale viewed as a solid backup who can contribute as part of a defensive rotation. After his first practice in Mobile, Dale is proving he can play a bigger role at the next level. He continues to challenge interior offensive linemen with strong impact and penetration.

Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State

Jones is Biggest and longest prospect in the Senior Bowl (6-foot-8, 375 pounds). On Tuesday, he looked like a mountain on the practice field. I was a little apprehensive about the way Jones readjusted his weight and balanced to prevent frontcourt movement, but he was great in the first practice this week. In his baserunning and pass protection reps, he effectively uses his frame against opponents. The former Buckeye was able to surround and stop his challenger several times.

Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon

The league’s coach this time of year There’s a reason players, scouts and personnel executives flock to Mobile — they want the chance to see some of this year’s top prospects individually. Game movies don’t always make proper judgments about a potential client’s size and physical attributes. The close-up perspective can have a huge impact on the assessments of NFL decision makers. Musgrave is already considered one of the top performers in this year’s strong class at the position, but after getting a chance to meet him for the first time on Tuesday, I was even more impressed.

He has a shapely 255-pound frame that makes him stand out from other players in his Senior Bowl position group. He’s coming off a knee injury, played in just two games last season, and was only cleared to run the lane a few weeks ago, but you’d never know that based on the buzz he’s had at Mobile Field.

Puka Nacua, WR, BYU

Nacua found Open and flash approach top-notch ball skills, leading to challenging catches on several different occasions. On tape, his hands and ability to tackle tough tackles stand out, but his separation speed isn’t always the best. On Tuesday, he was open and productive.

John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota

Schmitz enters this week with a chance to challenge for the title of top center in the draft. He could walk away from Mobile with that title and put himself directly in the first-round conversation. He impressed me the most, out of all the prospects I saw on Tuesday. Schmitz displayed a ton of core strength and impact against stronger players. He might be more than just a zone program center — the ability to play in multiple programs would improve his draft stock.

Five Senior Bowl takeaways starting Tuesday

1) SMU’s Rashee Rice gave up her nap Tuesday to stand out.

Rice knows how to open up situations, and that trait was on full display at the end of Tuesday’s practice.

The U.S. coaches played a series of five one-on-one contests — O-linemen versus D-linemen, linebackers versus running backs, receivers versus cornerbacks — to end the session. Two defensive wins, two offensive wins.

That puts Rice in a tiebreaker with South Carolina CB Darius Rush. Rice won the fast break and quickly gained separation on the digging route, but Shepherds QB Tyson Bargent’s throw was off target. It was technically a defensive win — meaning Rice and his teammates owed 15 pushups.

“Never mind, we’ll do one tomorrow,” Rice said with a laugh, “if they give us another chance.”

Rice’s performance on the first day Standout and appears to be one of the more talented receivers at this year’s event. He also wants to be one of the most prepared.

“I’ve been studying all night,” he said. “I didn’t put the script down. I was like, I can’t take a nap. I have to put these scripts down. I don’t want to come here like this guy who doesn’t know what (he) is doing. Everyone here is competing for the job, I don’t want to be unprepared and look stupid.”

Rice, a 6-foot, 200-pound Bowl, caught 96 passes for 1,355 yards and 10 in 12 games last season. touchdown. Tuesday was his most competitive fight in months since he last played on Nov. 26.

I did a few reps. These corners are fast. “

2) TCU QB Max Duggan’s up-and-down day ends on a high note for all-team work.

Duggan spoke Tuesday morning to reflect on what he called an “eventful” and “exceptional” season for the Frogs, but with several twists and turns.

He initially lost the starting quarterback job to Chandler Morris, but regained it when Morris was injured in the first game. Duggan never looked back, leading TCU into the college football season Playoff, and was named a Heisman Trophy finalist. Georgia finished the season with a bang, beating the Frogs 62-7 in the title game.

Dugan said. “… [Learning] how to deal with things that failed in our eyes (was) and how to, you know, pick yourself up from it. “

Duggan got off to a slow start on individual work and his pass was intercepted by Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams in a 7-on-7 play.

But in Among the reps, Dugan started to shine. He completed all five passes in the session and twice avoided the rush to find Ole Miss WR Jonathan Mingo, who also had a good day.

It’s been a solid start to the week for Duggan, an unorthodox passer, but has helped his stock significantly over the past six months. Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy said Duggan has struggled into the first half of Day 3 of the draft.

3) Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh has an injury scare.

McIntosh enters Senior Bowl week as one of Mobile’s most exciting linebackers, but leaves his early First practice, initial drill seemed to be a horrible injury.

McIntosh was running a course and trying to control a loose on the turf at Hancock Whitney Stadium Fell down after the ball and was attended to by a trainer. He lay down for a few minutes before getting off under his own power.

Fortunately, the injury was not serious. NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reports his calf Cramps. Several players spoke after practice of the unexpectedly hot weather and how coaches often reminded them to stay hydrated.

McIntosh passes his first test at tournament weigh-ins , at 210 pounds (his Georgia roster) and just under 6 feet. Hopefully he’ll get back into practice this week and show off the skills that allowed him to rush for 829 yards and grab 504 receiving yards last season.

4) Ronnie Bell did a great job on day one.

Michigan WR Ronnie Bell ran to the sideline during national team practice, did 15 pushups, then ran back to the field to do more work.

Bell’s violation Behavior?

“I can’t drop out here, man,” Bell said. “Have to hit 100%. So I went over and did my push-ups after that rep, but then you know, I just have to move on for the next race and try to keep putting in good practice.

Bell did just that, knocking out Ohio State defensive back Ronnie Hickman on a sloping route in a personal workout. He also showed adaptability to off-target throws and The ability to catch the ball outside the frame. Bell said the latter is something he particularly wanted to showcase this week.

“There’s no question,” he said, “it’s got to be in my heart, you know, to be able to catch Anything is thrown at me, so if it’s close, I absolutely have to show that I can do it. I’m not the biggest guy (5-11, 192), but I have the reach (31 1/8” arms) to run these games. “

5) If you’re a Steelers fan looking to help QB Kenny Pickett, this might be Lucky offseason for you. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin is front and center at offensive line drills during national team meetings.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, a year ago, Tomlin seemed glued to the quarterback. The Steelers ended up taking 2022 Senior Bowl contender Pickett in the first round. The offense Line is Pittsburgh’s number one need this offseason. Will they figure it out in the first round? We’ll see.

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