Jamaal Williams has the perfect combination of elusiveness and power. Knows when to cut and when to fight through contact. —NFL Draft analyst Tyler Brooke
Several players with Utah ties are looking to make positive impressions this week at the Senior Bowl and the practices leading up to the game.
Among them is former BYU running back Jamaal Williams, the Cougars' all-time leading rusher who is earning praise from several of the experts at practices.
Joining Williams in Mobile, Alabama, this week is former BYU and Bingham High linebacker Harvey Langi, along with defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, who prepped at East High and played two years at Utah — missing a year to injury — before heading to USC as a graduate transfer in 2016.
Offensive guard Isaac Asiata, who prepped at Spanish Fork High and starred at the University of Utah, was scheduled to play for the South team. He reportedly headed home after re-aggravating a hamstring injury Tuesday, according to Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst.
Wednesday night, Asiata expressed his thanks for the experience.
Williams and Langi will play for the South team in Saturday's game (12:30 p.m. MST, TV: NFL Network), while Tu’ikolovatu is suiting up for the North team.
Draft Analyst's Pauline is a long-time NFL Draft expert who is on-site at Senior Bowl practices this week, after spending last week at the East-West Shrine Game practices.
"I was surprised by the speed and quickness Williams showed. He hits the hole with authority and ran hard all day," Pauline wrote about the running back on Tuesday. Pauline added that on Wednesday, Williams was the top back in blocking drills and looked good making catches out of the backfield.
Bleacher Report's NFL Draft expert, Matt Miller, listed Williams at No. 15 among his top 25 prospects at the Senior Bowl.
"The Senior Bowl is a great chance for Williams to showcase his total skill set as a back. How does he do in space? Can he make defenders miss in the hole? What tools does Williams bring as a receiver? In seven-on-seven drills, he'll be a player to spotlight," Miller wrote.
Tyler Brooke, an NFL Draft analyst for FanSided and managing editor of Saturday Blitz, called Williams the nation's most overlooked college running back midseason in 2016.
"Jamaal Williams has the perfect combination of elusiveness and power. Knows when to cut and when to fight through contact," Brooke tweeted Wednesday.
Thursday morning, Brooke took his impressions of Williams a step further, rating him the third-best running back in this year's draft class.
Current RB rankings.1a. Leonard Fournette1b. Dalvin Cook2. Jamaal Williams3. Alvin Kamara4. Christian McCaffrey5. D'Onta Foreman— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) January 26, 2017
Turron Davenport, covering the Senior Bowl for USA Today's Eagles Wire, reported on a play during practice involving two former BYU players.
Jamaal Williams just jacked up Harvey Langi in blitz pickup. BYU on BYU crime.— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) January 25, 2017
According to Luke Easterling of USA Today's Draft Wire, Williams met with the Atlanta Falcons following Tuesday's practice. The Falcons are set to play New England in Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5. Bears Wire also reported that Chicago is showing heavy interest in the running back.
After the first day of practices at the Senior Bowl, Optimum Scouting wrote, "BYU’s Jamaal Williams entered as the expected top running back and looked the part after Day 1. Williams is a smooth runner, and was making nice cuts during team drills and was consistently the most productive of the running back group. Williams simply looked natural."
Pro Football Focus weighed in on Tu’ikolovatu's strengths and weaknesses following the second day of practice.
"Tu’ikolovatu had a practice showing that reflected his performance on the field this season. On any plays that required him to show a range of motion, he struggled. This was particularly true as a pass-rusher," Pro Football Focus wrote Wednesday. "But he was able to handle anything that came into his zone, and he was tough to move on any interior run plays. He helped blow up the offense’s run play on a goal-line stand."
"In 2016, Tu’ikolovatu earned the third-best run-stop percentage in the nation among interior defenders, but graded below-average as a pass-rusher."
His run-stopping abilities have caught the attention of experts and NFL personnel during the week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers scout raving about USC NT Stevie Tu'Ikolovatu. "He changed their whole run defense."— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) January 26, 2017
Also been impressed by push of USC DL Stevie Tu'ikolovatu. At 320 he can def play nose in 3-4. I fear having to say that name on TV tho— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayCSN) January 25, 2017
Wednesday's Day 2 report from Optimum Scouting included that Tu'ikolovatu "showed a nice blend of power and quickness today. He continually flustered the interior with solid reps versus Kyle Fuller and Jordan Morgan with a bull rush."
Roster Watch indicated that the Raiders have shown interest this week in Langi.
Langi, who played several different positions at BYU, is listed as an inside linebacker by the Senior Bowl. He could be seen calling plays for the South team during the ESPNU telecast of bowl practices.
Pauline has lauded Langi for his abilities as a run defender, as well as his explosion.
"Really stacked well against the run and looked very explosive moving up the field. Rebounded in coverage and shows the ability to make plays over the middle of the field," Pauline wrote after Wednesday's practice.