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NFL writer: Pitt’s O’Neill struggles, Penn State’s Hamilton shines at Senior Bowl |

NFL writer: Pitt’s O’Neill struggles, Penn State’s Hamilton shines at Senior Bowl

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pitt lineman Brian O'Neill carries the ball towards the end zone as N.C. State's Kentavius Street defends during their game on Oct. 14, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Penn State's DaeSean Hamilton (5) catches a touchdown pass as Indiana's Tony Fields (19) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

NFL writer Matt Miller, who covers the draft for Bleacher Report, was in Mobile, Ala., last week keeping an eye on the top prospects.

He came away with questions about former Pitt offensive tackle Brian O’Neill, but he also sees a future for him in the NFL.

Meanwhile, he listed wide receivers DaeSean Hamilton of Penn State and Oklahoma State’s James Washington (two guys Pitt fans remember all too well) among players who made themselves some money with their Senior Bowl efforts.

Miller also had questions about San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, who led the nation in rushing last season with 2,248 yards, but he liked what he saw of Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.

Here are Miller’s thoughts:

Brian O’Neill

“Drills at the Senior Bowl are slanted toward the defensive line having success given some of the situations the blockers are put in, which might be why O’Neill struggled,” Miller wrote. “He did flash his athleticism and agility, but he had a hard time pushing defenders out of the hole. I left Mobile thinking O’Neill would be a great right tackle in a zone scheme.”

Rashaad Penny

“Penny is a player I really liked on film and expected to see have a big week in Mobile, but he was largely absent in drills on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Miller wrote. “Penny’s build (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) is also a small concern given his large, muscular upper body and the lack of lower-body power. He’s still a possible mid-rounder, but the traits he showed don’t match the production he turned in at SDSU.”

DaeSean Hamilton

“The Penn State offense revolved around running back Saquon Barkley, but there was no denying the skill of DaeSean Hamilton when he was given chances this season. That showed up at the Senior Bowl. Hamilton, despite a few early drops, emerged as a clean route-runner with the speed to separate from defenders. He could be looking at a Zay Jones-type rise to the second round.”

James Washington

Washington was flawless through the week of practices and impressed with his physical route running, his speed on deep routes and his ability to track and attack the deep ball,” Miller wrote. “He might even sneak into the late first round if he can parlay this into a strong NFL Scouting Combine performance.”

None of that should surprise any Pitt defensive back who chased Washington around the secondary in two games the past two seasons. Washington’s totals against Pitt: 14 receptions, 420 yards, two touchdowns.

Baker Mayfield

“Bakermania was in full effect all week long, and the Oklahoma quarterback rose to the occasion. His mother being hospitalized because of illness caused Mayfield to arrive in Mobile two hours before his first practice, but he was among the first players on the field Tuesday. From that moment on, his energy, accuracy and athleticism were on display. Mayfield had a strong week and confirmed that his playmaking and touch aren’t a product of scheme or Big 12 defenses.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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