BYU WR Puka Nacua impresses; rising cross in the first round?

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

Rice knows how to open up, and that trait was in play at the end of practice Tuesday.

Team USA 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. He was tied at two wins on defense, two on offense.

That left Rice battling with South Carolina CB Darius Rush for the tiebreaker. Rice won the snap and quickly got a split on the dig road, but Shepherd QB Tyson Bagent’s throw was off target. It was technically a win for the defense — and it meant Rice and her teammates owed 15 pushups.

“It’s okay, we’ll get it tomorrow,” Rice said with a smile, “if they give us another chance.”

Rice stood out on Day 1 and appears to be among the most 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 make these games. I didn’t want to come here and be like the guy who didn’t know what (that He was doing). Everyone here is competing for jobs, and I didn’t want to be unprepared and look silly.”

Rice, who was 6-foot, 200 pounds in the Senior Bowl, caught 96 passes for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games last season. Tuesday was his most competitive action in a few months, as he last played in a match on November 26.

“I had to get my speed back a bit,” he said, “and it took me a few reps. These turns are fast.”

2) TCU QB Max Duggan’s eventful day ends on a high note in full teamwork.

Duggan spoke Tuesday morning, reflecting on what he called a “hectic” 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 position, but regained it when Morris was injured in the opener. Duggan never looked back, leading TCU to the College Football Playoffs and being named a Heisman Trophy finalist. The season then ended with a thud after Georgia beat the Frogs in the title game, 62-7.

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

Duggan started slow in individual work and blasted his pass through Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams for an interception in 7-on-7 work.

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

It’s been a strong start to the week for Duggan, an unorthodox passer who has nonetheless helped his stock noticeably over the past six months. Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said Duggan himself worked the top end on Day 3 of the draft.

3) Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh is scared of injury.

McIntosh entered Senior Bowl week as one of Mobile’s most exciting fullbacks, but left his first practice early with what initially appeared to be a frightening injury.

McIntosh fell and was treated by coaches after running down a course and trying to retrieve a loose ball on the turf at Hancock Whitney Stadium. He remained on the ground for several minutes before leaving on his own.

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

McIntosh passed his first test at the event weigh-in, weighing in at 210 pounds (his listed weight on Georgia’s list) and just under 6 feet tall. Hopefully he can 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 champions.

4) Ronnie Bell works through the drop to get solid on day one.

Midway through National Team practice, Michigan WR Ronnie Bell ran to the sideline, did 15 pushups, then returned to the court for more work.

“Can’t get any drops here, man,” Bell said. “I have to be 100%. So I went above and beyond, I did my push-ups after that rep, but then, you know, I just have to keep moving for the next game and try to keep doing well. train.”

Bell did it, dusting Ohio State defensive back Ronnie Hickman on an angled route during individual work. He has also shown his ability to adapt to off-target throws and catch balls outside of his frame. Bell said the latter was something he particularly wanted to flaunt this week.

“Without a doubt,” he said, “it has to be in my heart, you know, to be able to catch anything that’s 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-inch arms) to make those plays.”

5) If you’re a Steelers fan and want some help with QB Kenny Pickett, this could 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 problem, you ask? Well, a year ago, Tomlin seemed to be stuck to quarterbacks. The Steelers ended up signing Pickett, a 2022 Senior Bowl entrant, in the first round. The offensive line is a major need for Pittsburgh this offseason. Will they address the position in the first round? We’ll see.

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