East-West Shrine game daily practice notes and much more

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This weekend’s 2014 East-West Shrine Game, set to kick off this Saturday, Jan. 18, 3 p.m. CST, from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., is drawing the annual interest of scouts and fans from across the football landscape as college stars come together in a single game to tout their skills.

Following the practices this week is fanspeak.com’s Steve Shoup, who has been so kind as to share his insights on the players who have been selected to play in this game.

He provides his sideline view of the players, their individual skills and how they seem to be stacking up among the competition. He talks about quarterbacks such as Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois and Keith Wenning of Ball State, running backs Rajion Neal of Tennessee and Tim Flanders of Sam Houston State, along with stars that you might not have had the chance to check out before.

For you draft nuts out there, this is a great game to keep and eye on this weekend and Shoup provides the daily insight into how the players seem to be positioning themselves for a possible draft spot. You will not only want to check out Shoup’s comments, but you will also want to watch Saturday’s game, as well. I’ve pasted the East and West practice notes from Shoup below, but you should also head on over to the site for so much more about the game – things like each day’s practice, a game preview, and photos from the East and West team practice sessions.

 

Here is a sampling from day 3 of practices from both the East and West teams … you can see these in full, along with other days here …

 

East Practice Report: Matt Hazel and Jeremy Gallon Shine

Day 3 East Practice Report: Due to travel and weather this was my first look at the East team coached by Jerry Glanville. Glanville really runs a good crisp practice and offers plenty of info for scouts to gather from his practices. There was a lot of hitting, as well as a good tempo. We saw a variety of situations and plays to help get a good balance of information. Here are my notes from today:

Quarterbacks:

Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois):

-Really had a great day throwing the ball, shows really nice touch on his passes and can dial up the heat when throwing into a tight window. Ran a couple of real nice rollout passes where he sold the fake and delivered a nice catchable ball for his receiver/tight end to get some nice yards after the catch. You can see the potential for him to be a sleeper quarterback who ends up a starter down the road.

Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois):

-Lynch throws the ball pretty well though you can see he’s most comfortable with quick throws when he can get the ball out quickly. His footwork isn’t the greatest, but it’s not necessarily as bad as you might think given the type of offense he was in. Lynch also showcased his running ability on some red zone plays, including a nice QB draw for 15 yards and a score.

Jeff Mathews (Cornell):

-Mathews had a good day of practice, though definitely behind Garoppolo as a thrower. Still he showed a nice arm and delivered a number of good balls down the field. His throwing motion is a little slower than you’d like to see and one time that led to a “sack”.

Running backs:

Rajion Neal (Tennessee):

-Didn’t watch the running backs too much today, but Neal did have a couple of nice runs. On one draw play he saw the original hole was filled by the linebacker and he made a nice cut to take it outside and get a big gain. He ran low and showed a good burst throughout practice.

 

Wide Receivers:

Jeremy Gallon (Michigan):

-Gallon is going to have to make a living as a slot receiver, but he just might be able to do so. He was able to get some nice separation with his route running and quickness and showed some nice YAC ability as well.

Matt Hazel (Coastal Carolina):

Hazel was really impressive today, making some big time catches against some of the best corners on the squad. He showed both really nice deep speed and some crisp route running that earned him some separation. On one screen pass he juked past a defender and got the side line for an easy score.

Allen Hurns (Miami):

-Hurns has some deep speed and caught a couple of nice balls, but he had some trouble coming away with the catch when the defender was there. On one throw from Mathews, Hurns had a clean look and the ball was there but he couldn’t come down with it.

 

TIght Ends:

Blake Jackson (Oklahoma State):

-Didn’t watch the tight ends too much today. Jackson stood out unfortunately for a couple miscues. He missed a couple blocks that blew up some plays for the offense. Also had a bad drop on an easy crossing route. It was a clean throw and Jackson had separation, but he couldn’t complete the play.

Offensive Linemen:

Zac Kerin (Toledo):

-In between day for Kerin, he did some nice things with how he anchored and stayed with blocks, but a couple times he got walked back to the quarterback. While he didn’t give up a big sack or anything like that, a couple of times the quarterback would have had to escape the pocket.

James Stone (Tennessee): 

Stone had the best day of any offensive lineman, routinely winning one on one battles and stopping even the top defensive linemen. Stone displayed good quickness and anticipation. He could mirror defenders and used his hands really well. I liked the way he anchored and rarely gave up any ground.

John Urschel (Penn State):

-Urschel had an up and down practice today. He struggled some in the individual drills, especially when facing off with some of the better interior defensive linemen. In team drills he seemed to improve and didn’t allow as much penetration. His footwork was okay, but could use improvement.

Defensive Linemen:

Jason Bromley (Syracuse):

-Bromley is easily the most active defensive lineman on the East squad. He’s causing havoc in the backfield on the majority of his snaps (either in team or positional drills), and is breaking double teams. He’s showing good leverage and using a quick first step to get into linemen before they have a chance to anchor. Bromley brings a lot of power and uses his hands to get off blocks.

Will Clarke (West Virginia):

-Clarke looks the part with good size and a nice frame and he doesn’t disappoint with his level of play. He had a number of nice rushes today and made some big plays. One play in particular they were working on red zone defense and he snuffed out a screen play and got them for a loss. It was good, quick recognition, by Clarke and saved a potential TD.

Zach Kerr (Delaware):

-Kerr is a bit raw overall, but I liked the push he got in the interior of the line. In a 3 on 2 drill (three offensive linemen vs two defensive linemen), twice I saw him break a double team and get pressure on the quarterback. Another time in full team drills he blew up a running play in the backfield and got the back fora loss. He needs to be more consistent, but you see some nice potential in his game.

Kerry Wynn (Richmond):

-Wynn is listed as a defensive tackle, but at about 268 lbs he’s really an end and that is where he saw his work today. He’s got really good size and is pretty quick off the snap. He’s not the most refined pass rusher, but he’s got a good burst and challenge the edge, but also brings some strength to walk back the tackle. He also showed great hustle running down the line chasing the ball carrier on a couple of occasions, also liked that he ran after a receiver who caught a screen on the opposite side of the field and was running down the sideline. He had no shot of catching the guy, but it’s nice to see the hustle on the field.

Linebackers:

Andrew Jackson (Western Kentucky):

-Jackson is a short stocky linebacker with a nose for the football. Though he doesn’t possesses great speed, he makes the most out of it with good angles to the ball carrier or running with tight ends. In a short area he can cover pretty well, it’s the deeper area that will give him trouble. His best skill though is clearly his run defense, where he made a number of nice plays today filling holes and blowing up plays.

Xavius Boyd (Western Kentucky):

-Linebackers weren’t a big focus for me today, but Boyd showed up on a more than a few plays in full team drills. He read one screen perfectly and got off the block from the tight end to make the play. He displayed better athleticism than I thought he had and could perhaps be a SLB at the next level.

Glenn Carson (Penn State):

-Didn’t get the chance to watch a lot of Carson today, but did notice him fill the hole on a couple of running plays. One of those he missed the tackle, but he did recognize it, and it’s not full tackling so had he been able to dive at the ball carrier he might have made the play for a short loss.

Derrell Johnson (East Carolina):

-Johnson got the chance to work as a 4-3 end today and flashed some natural pass rush ability. A couple times he was stopped, but overall he showed good burst from the edge and a nose for the quarterback.

Defensive backs:

Tre Boston (UNC):

-Boston clearly showed that he was the best safety today, as he showed good reactions to both run and pass plays. He ran easily with all the tight ends and helped out in deep coverage as well. He has starting potential (maybe not as a rookie) and is one of the higher upside players in this secondary group.

Nevin Lawson (Utah State):

-Lawson really struggled throughout practice and wasn’t able to keep up with a number of the top receivers. He was slow to react on a couple of occasions, and other times he was just plainly outmatched. This was not a good showcase for him at all today.

Pierre Desir (Lindenwood):

-It’s easy to see a lot to like with Desir, with his speed and size really shining through, but it’s also clear he’s maybe a bit more raw than some of the other prospects. Desir showed a lot of good physical tools and was very fluid throughout practice, but he was pulled aside by the coaches on multiple occasions to fix mistakes.

Ross Cockrell (Duke):

Ross Cockrell had a couple mistakes early in practice during 1-on-1’s where he allowed separation or didn’t react quickly enough to an underneath route, but he improved later in practice, especially in 7-on-7 and team drills. Cockrell showed some physicallity in fighting with receivers and getting off blocks to defend screens or running plays. On one running play, he got off his block and forced the back inside, and as the back was cutting back inside Cockrell punched the ball out causing a fumble. It was a good heads up play, and an underrated trait for a corner to have.

Phillip Gaines (Rice):

-Gaines had a great day challenging receivers, not only showing tight coverage, but knocking the ball away on multiple occasions. Despite facing some quality receivers and decent QB play, Gaines more than held his own. He rarely got beat and did a nice job flipping his hips to run deep. On underneath routes he closed quickly and that is where he got a couple of his passes defensed today.

Andre Hal (Vanderbilt):

-Hal had a really nice practice today in every area. He showed both good ball and cover skills and succeeded against a variety of receivers and routes. He showed good long speed, running stride for stride with Allen Hurns and Ja’mes Logan on a couple 9 routes. He also didn’t bite on a double-move from Matt Hazel on another play. I liked on one deep route he used the sideline to his advantage and forced the receiver out of bounds. Hal also showed good recognition on a couple of running plays as well.

 

West Practice Report Day 3: Max Bullough and Tyler Starr Come Up Big

Quarterbacks:

Keith Wenning (Ball State):

-Wenning continues to be the only draftable quarterback on the West roster as Keith Price and Tommy Rees have shown they aren’t NFL quarterbacks. Wenning is not without his struggles as at times his shoulders comes open and his accuracy really struggles, but overall he’s done a nice job. He’s got solid size a good strong arm, and shows at least functional mobility.

Running backs:

Tim Flanders (Sam Houston State):

-It’s always tough to judge running backs without full hitting, and it’s even more so when the West practice is mainly a glorified walk-through for half the practice, but Flanders continues to impress in little ways. He shows nice bust and ability to cut that could translate to the next level.

Wide Receivers:

John Brown (Pitt State):

-For a small school guy, Brown continues to hold his own versus more well known cornerbacks. Brown shows nice route running ability and uses it to get separation on intermediate routes. He’s not a complete receiver, but as a slot guy he can get open which is the most important thing to look for.

Bernard Reedy (Toledo):

-Reedy continues to be the best receiver on the West roster and shows the best combination of hands, route running and speed. Reedy’s job (as with all the receivers) is made more difficult due to poor QB play, despite that he is the one most consistently open and making catches.

Chandler Jones (San Jose State):

-I thought Jones had his best day, and challenged Reedy for best receiver at practice. He did a nice job fighting off press coverage, and ran really crisp routes today. He also made some nice catches today, even when he didn’t have separation, including one on the sideline that he had to go up for and take away from the defensive back.

Tight Ends:

Ted Bosler (Indiana):

-Bosler is the most physical of the West tight ends (and probably of the entire Shrine Game). While he needs to get better separation in the passing game, he looks like a quality blocker in run support.

Offensive Linemen:

Austin Wentworth (Fresno State):

-Offensive line wasn’t a big focus of mine today, but Wentworth really stood out from what I saw. He’s very technical in his approach and does a good job of taking his man out of the play. In pass blocking he’s quick to get into his stance and anchor, he’s not one to give a lot of ground. Run blocking he’s quick off the snap and shows good drive.

Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma):

-Probably a slightly better day for Ikard today, but still he struggles versus power. He shows good technique, but against power tackles he struggles as he can’t anchor against their strength. He’s going to get eaten alive by nose tackles at the next level. With some of the technical work already there teams could look at him as a red shirt guy who is on the practice squad or inactive list each week and bulks up in the weight room.

Khalil Wilkes (Stanford):

-Wilikes doesn’t do a lot to standout, but he also doesn’t seem to make too many mistakes. I noticed him yesterday but didn’t write up on him, but in seeing more the same today I thought it was worth mentioning. He’s a solid center prospect who handled power rushers pretty well. He uses his hands to keep a defender at bay and has a solid anchor. He might not really profile as a starter, but he can probably find a back-up role in the NFL.

Kevin Graf (USC):

-Graf looked improved today, as he did a nice job of riding pass rushers away from the quarterback. He’s got good size and strong arms and showed today that when he uses it correctly he can be pretty effective. He’s probably going to fall into the dreaded “RT only” category, but there’s some potential he could start there one day.

Defensive Linemen:

Josh Mauro (Stanford):

-Mauro continued to be one of the most impressive defensive ends here. He shows good hustle and wins a number of battles on the edge. While an underrated part of his game, Mauro show’s nice speed and burst for a player his size (276).

Justin Ellis (Louisiana Tech):

-Ellis continues to be the most physically dominating of the defensive tackles, he drives back the blocker on almost every one of his rushes and shows a nice ability to shed the block as well. Ellis is quick off the snap and uses his power to bull rush linemen into the backfield. He will appeal to all teams, but 3-4 teams looking for a nose tackle should take the most notice.

Derrick Hopkins (Virginia Tech):

-Hopkins didn’t have as strong of a practice today. he is a solid bull rusher and can be tough to move off the line of scrimmage, but he needs to play with better awareness. At times he ran himself out of the play and the lineman only had to redirect him away from where the ball was going. He also lacks versatility to do much else beyond a straight bull rush.

Beau Allen (Wisconsin):west2allen

-Allen was slightly down from yesterday’s practice. He shows nice nose tackle potential, but consistency is still a factor, on some plays he’s just too invisible and that is without being double-teamed. When he’s on though he can be a force in the middle and clog up those running lanes.

Chidera Uzo-Diribe (Colorado):

-Uzo-Diribe impressed today with some really nice burst from the edge, we saw some of this yesterday as well, but he continued showing off his pass rush skills today. He has nice speed, and a quick first step that helps him get an edge on a tackle. Also, if the tackle over-commits to the outside, Uzo-Diribe shows a nice ability to cut back inside and get to the quarterback. He flashes a lot of ability as a pass rusher, but he’s unlikely to do much in run support as strength doesn’t seem like a big part of his game.

Cassius Marsh (UCLA):

-Marsh shows nice length and quickness off the edge again today, though he was forced out of practice at the end with a minor tweak. Marsh has shown well versus both the run and pass, though he appears to be ahead as a pass rusher.

Linebackers:

Max Bullough (Michigan State):

-Bullough had a really strong day of practice, particularly in coverage where he broke up a couple of passes and made a nice interception late in practice in full team work. Despite questions about his size, Bullough has moved well and hasn’t given up too much separation in coverage. Where he really shines though is as a leader on defense. You can see the rest of the defense rallies around him and how he talks with them even when he’s not in on a play. Bullough diagnosed a couple plays really well, but one that stood out was a potential flare pass to the running back in the flat. Bullough saw it developing, and jumped the route and forced the quarterback to double clutch and throw it away. It was a quick reaction play at a time when they were simulating a two minute offense.

Tyler Starr (South Dakota):

-Starr really impressed today, and was all over the field. Despite being a smaller school guy he is really impressive in coverage and has really nice size. Starr made a number of big plays in coverage today including a nice interception along the sideline. Even on the couple of times where Starr did give up a catch, he was in position to make a play and limit yards after the catch.

Prince Shembo (Notre Dame):west1shembo

-Shembo had a really good day of practice, he showed nice quickness and recognition in coverage, and did a good job against the run as well. In a very deep linebacking group it can be tough to get noticed, but Shembo was in on a number of plays today and got plenty of compliments from the coaching staff.

Defensive Backs:

Bene Benwikere (San Jose State):

-Benwikere has looked good in every practice, but this was perhaps his best day. He’s got good size and decent speed, but what really separates him is his instincts, he has great timing on breaking on the ball and knocking the ball away. Despite good size he’s not the most physical corner, but he does well versus smaller receivers and looks like he can handle the slot.

Bennett Jackson (Notre Dame):

-Jackson is not a corner who is going to constantly “wow” you, especially not from a athleticism standpoint, but he consistently is around the ball and shows good instincts. On one deep throw where the quarterback slipped and the ball was going to be underthrown, Jackson saw it before the receiver and came back for it to intercept it. It might have been a bad pass, but Jackson showed the better recognition and boxed out the receiver to get the pick on a jump ball.

Shaquille Richardson (Arizona):

-Richardson continues to look to be the best corner on this squad, he plays very aggressively and doesn’t allow much separation. He does a nice job breaking on shorter quicker routes and staying with his man down the field. Richardson also has nice ball skills and has come away with a couple interceptions this week.

Carrington Byndom (Texas):

-This was a really strong day for Byndom, as he showed well both in man and zone coverage. Byndom challenged receivers all day, and overall did a nice job re-routing them and forcing the ball to be thrown elsewhere.

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