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2021 Senior Bowl: Recapping Day 3 of practice

Lead Draft Analyst Jacob Infante shares his thoughts from the third day of practices at the 2021 Senior Bowl.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday marked the third and final day of practices for the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

As we head into the home stretch of this action-packed week, Day 3 of workouts saw a lot of the same familiar faces put together stellar performances.

Trench warfare dominated the highlights of Thursday’s practice, while the quarterbacks held plenty of chance to showcase their skills in a more traditional, 11-on-11 setting. Red-zone threats had more of an opportunity to show their stuff, and running backs were able to make some plays, as well.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Day 3 of this year’s Senior Bowl practices.

Senior Bowl Day 3 notes

On a day filled with rather pedestrian quarterback play, Mac Jones was once again able to separate himself from the rest of the pack.

The Alabama signal-caller thrived in a more traditional setting, making some nice throws in full team scrimmages and showing the ability to go through his progressions and climb the pocket well. He made some pretty accurate throws throughout the course of the afternoon, and though he rolled his left ankle in practice, he has shown enough over the past three days for teams to be impressed with him.

There was a solid gap underneath Jones at quarterback today, though. Jamie Newman has thrown four interceptions in the past two practices, and he had his fair share of questionable throws on Thursday. After a hot start to the Senior Bowl week, he has cooled off a little bit.

Ian Book and Kellen Mond both put together fairly solid performances, though. Both quarterbacks were able to deliver accurate balls more often than not, and both showcased the ability to extend the play with their feet. Though Mond may have arguably been slightly more inconsistent than Book, both did a good job of proving their worth.

The wide receivers were utilized heavily in red-zone situations on Day 3, giving some of the bigger wide-outs an opportunity to stand out. Among those receivers was Michigan’s Nico Collins. Despite not playing in 2020, he looked plenty polished, excelling in tracking the ball down and making nice adjustments to square up to the ball and make the grab. Tennessee’s Josh Palmer and UAB’s Austin Watkins were also stand-outs, generating consistent separation for bigger wide receivers.

Kadarius Toney is known as one of the most electric receivers in the 2021 draft class, and he showed why on Thursday. The Florida prospect was able to consistently get open using impressive lateral quickness and a flexible lower body. However, Toney struggled greatly with ball security, dropping several passes and bobbling a few others. His separation was something to be lauded, but his hands were relatively shaky throughout the course of the afternoon.

A handful of tight ends were also able to make an impression, with Duke’s Noah Gray being one of them. He secured one of the best catches of the week, making a one-handed grab in tight coverage in a red-zone drill off of a throw from Mond. He also held his own as a blocker, picking up a handful of quality reps in scrimmage. Bowling Green’s Quintin Morris showed a bit of juice as a route runner and put together a solid day, as well.

On the ground, Michael Carter from North Carolina and Chris Evans out of Michigan were among the notable stand-outs at the running back position. Carter was athletic in space and decisive in between the tackles, while Evans showed off impressive hands and ball skills for a running back that were apparent when looking at his collegiate tape. Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill also showed toughness in between the tackles and power as a pass blocker out of the backfield.

As has been the case for the past few days, the offensive and defensive line battles proved to be some of the most exciting action of the afternoon. The offensive linemen once again appeared to outshine the defensive linemen, but both sides had their fair share of impressive performances.

David Moore out of Grambling State put forth yet another quality performance, holding his own at the point of attack with powerful hands and a massive anchor in his lower body. He was one of several repeating stand-outs along the offensive line, with Cincinnati’s James Hudson III and North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz being among them. The latter has likely shattered any rumblings of his being any lower than a second-round pick with his play at the Senior Bowl practices this week.

One bounce-back candidate along the offensive line was Alabama product Alex Leatherwood. Coming off of a down performance on Wednesday, Leatherwood was able to shake off his lackluster day with a strong outing on Thursday. He was able to lock up numerous defenders, including Miami (FL)’s Quincy Roche, who got the best of him on Day 2.

Repeating stand-outs was also a trend along the defensive line. Tulane’s Cameron Sample put forth yet another strong practice, using his speed and quick hands to penetrate the backfield in both one-on-ones and in team scrimmages. UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa also continued his strong string of practices with a solid outing on Thursday. Wyatt Hubert from Kansas State showcased an impressive speed-to-power conversion ability off the edge, while Marlon Tuipulotu from USC used his massive frame to overwhelm interior blockers at the point of attack. Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith was another defender who came away from Thursday with a strong performance.

At linebacker, Jabril Cox out of LSU put together a strong performance, particularly in coverage. With the ever-growing importance of linebackers being able to drop back into coverage, Cox looked fluid and was able to diagnose route concepts pretty well against running backs and tight ends in man coverage. Northwestern’s Paddy Fisher was another notable performer, looking sharp in his diagnoses and showing off better athletic ability than previously expected.

Arguably the biggest star on defense from Thursday’s Senior Bowl practice, though, was UCF safety Richie Grant. Grant finished the day with two interceptions and was flat-out dominant in coverage. He was able to excel in one-on-one drills in man coverage, and he also showed the discipline to read the quarterback’s eyes and jump routes in two-high shells. His ball skills also allowed him to make multiple pass deflections throughout the day.

Another defensive back who performed well was Minnesota cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. The 6-foot-3 cornerback used his length to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage in quick-jam press coverage, and he looked fluid coming out of his breaks. He was able to come away with a handful of breakups in coverage on Day 3.

With practices now complete, a lot of the winners from this week have already become apparent. With the actual Senior Bowl game on Saturday, though, there’s still one more day left, so it will be interesting to see if any players can make a lasting impression.