Wednesday, March 22, 2023
HomeNFLBYU WR Puka Nacua impresses; center rising into Round 1?

BYU WR Puka Nacua impresses; center rising into Round 1?

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

Rice knows how to get open, and that trait was on the line at the end of Tuesday’s practice.

The American team coaches pitted a series of five one-on-one battles — O-linemen versus D-linemen, linebackers versus running backs, receivers versus corners — to close out the session. It was tied at two wins for the defense, two for the offense.

That left Rice to battle with South Carolina CB Darius Rush for the tiebreaker. Rice won off the snap and quickly gained separation on the dig route, but Shepherd QB Tyson Bagent’s throw was off-target. That was technically a win for the defense — and that meant Rice and his teammates owed 15 push-ups.

“It’s fine, we’ll get that one tomorrow,” Rice said with a smile, “if they give us another shot at it.”

Rice was a Day 1 standout and appears to be among the more gifted receivers at this year’s event. He also hoped he was among the most prepared.

“I was studying all night and all morning,” he said. “I didn’t put the playbook down. I was like, I can’t take a nap. I had to get these plays down. I didn’t want to come out here and be like the guy who didn’t know what (he was) doing. Everyone out here is competing for jobs, and I didn’t want to be unprepared and look foolish.”

Rice, who measured 6-foot, 200 pounds at the Senior Bowl, caught 96 passes for 1,355 yards and 10 TDs in 12 games last season. Tuesday was his most competitive action in a couple months, as he last played in a game on Nov. 26.

“I had to regain my quickness a bit,” he said, “and it took me a few reps. These corners are fast.”

2) TCU QB Max Duggan’s up-and-down day finishes on high note in full-team work.

Duggan spoke Tuesday morning, reflecting on what he called an “eventful” and “special” season with the Horned Frogs, but one that came with several twists and turns.

He initially lost his battle to Chandler Morris for the starting QB job but regained it when Morris got hurt in the opener. Duggan never looked back, leading TCU into the College Football Playoff and being named a Heisman Trophy finalist. The season then ended with a thud after Georgia thumped the Frogs in the title game, 62-7.

“We got our butts kicked, but you know, there’s a lot to learn from it,” Duggan said. “… (Learning) how to handle something that (was) a failure in our eyes, and how to, you know, get up from it.”

Duggan started slowly in individual work and had his pass jumped by Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams for an interception in 7-on-7 work.

But in full-team reps, Duggan started to shine. He completed all five of his passes in the session, twice sidestepping the rush to find Ole Miss WR Jonathan Mingo, who also had a good day.

It was a nice start to the week for Duggan, an unorthodox passer who nonetheless has helped his stock noticeably over the past six months. Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said Duggan has worked himself into the upper portion of Day 3 of the draft.

3) Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh has injury scare.

McIntosh entered Senior Bowl week as one of the more exciting backs in Mobile but left his first practice early with what initially appeared to be a scary injury.

McIntosh went down and was tended to by trainers after running a route and trying to corral a loose ball on the Hancock Whitney Stadium turf. He remained down for several minutes before walking off under his own power.

Fortunately, the injury is not considered serious. NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported it was a cramp in his calf. Several players spoke after practice about the unexpectedly hot conditions and how coaches reminded them frequently to hydrate.

McIntosh passed his first test in the event’s weigh-in, coming in at 210 pounds (his listed weight on Georgia’s roster) and just under 6-foot. Hopefully he will be able to return to practice this week and show off the skills that allowed him to rush for 829 yards and gain 504 receiving yards last season for the national champs.

4) Ronnie Bell works through drop to turn in strong first day.

Midway through the National team practice, Michigan WR Ronnie Bell ran over to the sideline, did 15 push-ups and then ran back on the field for more work.

“I can’t have drops out here, man,” Bell said. “Gotta be 100 percent. So I went over, did my pushups after that rep, but then you know, I just gotta keep moving for the next play and try to continue to have good practice.”

Bell did, dusting Ohio State defensive back Ronnie Hickman on a slant route during individual work. He also showed the ability to adjust to off-target throws and catch balls outside his frame. Bell said the latter was something he especially wanted to display this week.

“Without a doubt,” he said, “it’s got to be in my heart, you know, to be able to catch anything thrown at me, so if it’s close, I definitely have to put it on display that I can do that. I’m not the biggest guy (5-11, 192), but I have the reach (31 1/8-inch arms) to make those plays.”

5) If you’re a Steelers fan wanting help for QB Kenny Pickett, it might be your lucky offseason. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin was front and center for offensive line drills during the National team session.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, one year ago, Tomlin seemed to be glued to the quarterbacks. The Steelers ended up drafting Pickett, a 2022 Senior Bowl attendee, in Round 1. The offensive line is a top need for Pittsburgh this offseason. Will they address the position in the first round? We’ll see.

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