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Senior Bowl 2022: Day 1 practice recap

The first day of Senior Bowl practices featured dominance by the defensive lines and struggles by several of the QBs. FSU EDGE Jermaine Johnson and Cincinnati EDGE Myjai Sanders were two of the early standouts.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 05 Notre Dame at Florida State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first practice of the 2022 Senior Bowl is officially in the books. It was a surprisingly chilly and overcast day in Mobile, but we got to see some spirited practices from both the National (coached by the Jets) and American (coached by the Lions) teams. While the National team only spent a small portion of practice on 11-on-11 and one-on-ones, the American team devoted nearly half of the practice time to them. So, kudos to the Lions.

I spent most of the day focused on the offensive and defensive lines, but was able to get a decent look at the rest of the position groups during 11-on-11 periods. Read on for my biggest takeaways from the first day of practices in Mobile, and check out The Falcoholic Live for my instant reactions. You can also check my Twitter timeline for the rest of my recorded practice clips.

FSU EDGE Jermaine Johnson was the star of the show

While there were plenty of impressive performances today, FSU edge rusher Jermaine Johnson was undoubtedly the most impressive of all. As a run defender and pass rusher, Johnson was dominant. From 11-on-11 to one-on-ones, Johnson looked nigh unstoppable. The only offensive lineman who stood a chance was Darian Kinnard—himself a likely a first-round pick.

There were so many impressive plays, it’s hard to pick just one to showcase. But take my word for it: Johnson was the best player on Day 1 of the Senior Bowl. On both teams. If he keeps this up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Johnson projected in the top-15.

Defensive lines dominate, offensive lines struggle

It’s not terribly surprising on the first day of practice, but the defenses for both teams largely dominated the action. In particular, the offensive lines had a lot of trouble with the defensive lines. I’d expect to see the OLs settle in a bit as the week goes on, but it was an impressive start for what looks like a stacked DL class. Some names that stood out:

  • Cincinnati EDGE Myjai Sanders had a great day, looking disruptive and powerful. His most impressive rep came against massive OT Daniel Faalele—Sanders managed to get under Faalele’s hands and put him on his back after a nasty spin move.
  • Georgia DT Devonte Wyatt had a sack and multiple TFLs in team drills. He was disruptive and looked like one of the best interior players there.
  • Florida DT Zachary Carter had a number of impressive reps and even got some time at EDGE.
  • Arkansas DT John Ridgeway III was very hard to block in one-on-ones and had some impressive reps in team drills.
  • UConn NT Travis Jones was almost impossible to single-block and had a good day overall.
  • South Carolina EDGE Kingsley Enagbare looked dynamic and showed off his burst and pass rush moves.
  • WKU EDGE Deangelo Malone showed off his blazing speed on one particularly impressive rep.

National QBs struggle, American QBs look more comfortable

This year’s Senior Bowl features a very talented quarterback class, but things started out pretty sloppy for the National team—which features QBs Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, and Carson Strong. Pickett was mostly fine, but Ridder struggled taking snaps under center and was hit-or-miss with his accuracy. Carson Strong was notably present without his knee brace—which he wore throughout the 2021 season—but was also scattershot with his accuracy. It’s just the first day, so there’s nothing to worry about yet.

Things were a little more comfortable on the American side—which features QBs Sam Howell, Malik Willis, and Bailey Zappe. Each seemed to be a little calmer and a little more accurate with their throws in the first practice. However, neither side managed to do much through the air due to the dominance of the defenses.

Trevor Penning, Darian Kinnard stand out on the OL

While most of the offensive linemen struggled with the talent of the defenses, two players in particular managed to be consistently impressive: Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning and Kentucky OL Darian Kinnard.

Penning showed off his size, length, and strength on the outside by stonewalling almost every opponent he faced. He’s currently one of the top OTs on most boards, behind Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, and Charles Cross.

Darian Kinnard has been projected to guard by many scouts, but he measured in with plenty of length for OT and looked good at the position on Tuesday. He was chosen by the offense to go up against Jermaine Johnson in a best-of-3 series at the end of practice. Kinnard won two out of three reps, and the offense was victorious.

Damone Clark, Darrian Beavers impress at LB

I spent most of my time focused on the offensive and defensive lines, but occasionally got a chance to watch the linebacker drills. Cincinnati LB Darrian Beavers impressed me from the National team—he’s as big as an edge and moves really well for his size. He’s got a great body type for a 3-4 ILB and has the length and athleticism to match up against TEs in man coverage.

On the American team, LSU LB Damone Clark consistently stood out. One of college football most prolific tacklers, Clark made his presence felt in the run game on Tuesday.

RBs stand out on Tuesday

While the passing games were still finding their footing, each team had a few impressive runs and several running backs had good days.

  • Arizona State’s Rachaad White had a near house-call run on an early 11-on-11 play, and showed off impressive burst throughout practice.
  • Michigan’s Hassan Haskins looked physical and decisive, making a few smart reads and getting consistent yardage.
  • Florida’s Dameon Price had several big runs, showing off good burst and elusiveness.
  • FIU RB D’Vonte Price looked exceptionally fast and ripped off a couple of long gains when he was able to get into the open field.

That’s all for today’s recap! On Wednesday, I’ll be focusing a little more on the QBs, WRs, and DBs. Stay tuned for another practice recap tomorrow, along with live recap of today’s practice on Falcoholic Live!