2012 East-West Shrine Game
Drafttek analyst Michael Schottey reports all week long from the East-West Shrine Game in St Petersburg, Florida.
Report for Wednesday 1/18 (Final Report)
1) Josh Norman (CB Coastal Carolina) started the week as an unknown small school corner who couldn't even manage to wear the right helmet. (Shipping problems delayed the helmet's arrival and Norman wore a Pitt helmet the first day). By the end of the week, he was being talked about by every scout and tweeted about by every media member. Norman is a plus run defender and a superb ballhawk. I got a chance to talk to Norman and he said he prefers to play the quarterback's eyes before he plays his man. Sounds like a perfect zone defender to me.
2) One of the more surprising players this week was Nick Jean-Baptiste (DT Baylor). NJB has a really high motor which belies his short-round body type. Most effective at the 1-technique out of a 4-point stance, the Baylor prospect scrapes the line well against the run and consistently draws two blockers at the point of attack. He plays a little high for such a short player, but he finds leverage more often than not and can be a solid run-down defender in the NFL.
3) I was also surprised by Travian Robertson (DT S. Carolina). I had watched plenty of the Gamecocks in 2011, but was primarily focused on the offensive side of the ball. At the Shrine Game practices, Robertson lived in the backfield and constantly found himself ready to make big hits on a quarterback or runningback he had to lay off of. He had a few errors in one-on-one drills this week, but always fixed them on the next rep. He also asked for more reps, which is always a good sign at these events.
4) When the coaches asked the defense to step up, Joshua Linam (LB Central Florida) answered the bell. On a theoretical "third-and-one," Linam forced the point of attack and pealed off a blocker to tackle the ball carrier in the backfield. On the next play, a "forth-and-one," he helped stack up the L.O.S. and allowed another defender to stop the first down. With a good pro day, Linam could solidify his draft stock and earn a spot on an NFL roster as a core special teamer and a chase linebacker.
5) The fastest learner this week shouldn't be any surprise--Jeff Adams (OT Columbia) received an Ivy League education in college, but arrived to practices no more than an average Ivy League football player. On Monday, nearly everything I wrote about Adams was negative. He looked awkward in his stance, had no punch in pass protection and bent at the waste. However, it's important to remember this is the best coaching Adams has ever gotten and apparently he soaked it up like a sponge. He was stoning defenders in the Wednesday practice and looked like a solid mid-round developmental prospect.
1) Let me be clear, I think Akiem Hicks (DT Regina) is a fine prospect and should be drafted in the late rounds this April. However, after watching him today, I wouldn't want him on my team unless it were on the practice squad. Hicks is very raw and seems overconfident in his average physical abilities. While Hicks looks like a big and lean defensive tackle, he has poor technique (even for a Canadian prospect) and didn't seem to get any better. Worst yet, he repeatedly looked like he was going 50% in reps which made the name "Haynesworth" go through my head over and over.
2) Micanor Regis (DT Miami) has been in the backfield all week during team work, but sometimes looks can be deceiving. While Regis was able to penetrate, he was often pushed away from the point of attack, effectively over- penetrating himself out of the play. In one-on-one drills, Regis spent more time on the ground than any player should and was pushed around by lesser talented athletes. If Regis ever gets his game under control, he could be a solid rotational player, but he looks a long way off.
3) Essentially on his "home turf," John Brantley (QB Florida) looked like he had jitters all week and he clearly needed John Elway to tell him to "pull the trigger." Brantley had a number of fine receivers and tight ends on his squad, but constantly waited to throw until coverage had already converged on their target. Brantley needs all the help he can get with average armstrength and a hitch in his delivery, poor decision-making and slow reaction won't help his cause one bit.
4) Speaking of "pull the trigger," Chandler Harnish (QB Northern Illinois) pulled down the ball to run in several 7-on-7 skeleton drills. While he was effective as a mobile QB in the MAC, skeleton drills are the last place scouts want to see you take off and run. I really wanted to like Harnish this week, but he made it difficult. He's a subpar passer who needs a lot of work at the next level. The last thing he can afford is to look scared.
5) My last "down" goes to the West Coaching Staff--Brad Childress, Greg Robinson, Mark Mangino and others--who ran very lazy practices down in St. Petersberg. It was a common occurrence to look around and see no drills going around and every player just milling around as coaches talked. Over on the East side, Bobby Ross got more out of his players by running more reps and keeping players moving almost constantly. Regardless of the game's outcome on Saturday, Childress and his staff did their players a disservice this week.
Report for Tuesday 1/17
1) The player of the morning practice was Chase Ford (TE Miami). The former Hurricane has an athletic looking basketball body and a set of long arms. He used those arms to grab a couple of highlight passes during the East's second session. One catch--shades of Tyrone Prothro--was over and behind the defender's head. Another catch was right on the sidelines and Ford managed to get both feet in bounds. He needs to be more consistent, but Ford put together a top-10 reel today and clearly has the talent.
2) West lineman Brandon Brooks (OG Miami OH) was considered, "just a guy," last year, but put together a fine season for Miami of Ohio and is putting together a nice week of practices here in Tampa. Running with the first team line, Brooks is lean, strong and has a nice wide base. Most impressive is his ability to pull and find his man at the second level. Brooks will be a solid find in the mid-rounds for a lucky GM.
3) One guy climbing up boards this week is B.J. Cunningham (WR Michigan State). While he doesn't have elite speed to gain separation, Cunningham can create all the separation he needs with a variety of polished moves within his routes. He left many of the East's defensive backs guessing today as he trotted into the endzone with the football.
4) Dan Persa (QB Northwestern) has everything you'd like out of a quarterback except for even the minimum height requirement for the quarterback position. He struggles throwing deep because it's a guessing game, but the mechanics, strength and touch are all there. Those who questioned Persa's arm strength were treated to a couple of ropes he threw, completing two 20-yard post routes. He may never be more than a 3rd QB, but he should have a long NFL career.
5) On defense, Matt Daniels (DB Duke) had a couple of big plays in the morning practice. Decent in zone coverages, Daniels needs to shake the soft label before any teams feel comfortable drafting him higher than the 7th round. However, he can make plays while reading the quarterback's eyes and turnovers tend to draw a lot of attention.
1) Thomas Mayo (WR Cal-PA) was my least favorite player during the morning practice. Not only did he drop a number of easy passes, he also loafed around like his day couldn't possibly get any worse...then it did. On two straight plays, Mayo found himself jawing with the defensive back and even threw a mini-jab after he was stoned on a pass play. It was nothing that would've drawn a flag in a game, but not a good sight at the biggest job interview of his life.
2) On the same practice field, Kevin Hardy (WR Citadel) was doing his best to make Mayo look like a heady and polished receiver. Yesterday, Hardy dropped a few passes and that trend continued today. Over-the-middle, Hardy alligator-armed the ball numerous times when he should've come up with it against soft coverage. Likle Mayo, Hardy is very vocal with his self-frustration and needs to control his emotions better when things aren't going his way.
3) The consensus among everyone here is that Moe Petrus (OC Connecticut) doesn't have much of an NFL future if he doesn't dramatically change his approach to the game of football. A senior from a major conference, Petrus seems too raw to have gotten to where he has. Petrus has trouble getting in and out of a natural-looking 3-point-stance and consistently needed more coaching and reps to match what many of his peers were doing naturally. He will get drafted because he can move smaller interior linemen on strength alone.
4) While he has the pedigree, Davin Meggett (RB Maryland) doesn't have a ton of pro potential. Thick bodied, stiff and not overly fast, Meggett is a linear athlete who runs at one speed. Because of that, Meggett looks like he might top out as a 2nd/3rd back in a zone blocking system. Meggett could possibly gain some wiggle if he loses some bulk, but a drastic change of running style is unlikely. Concerns about his attitude don't help his draft stock.
5) A favorite of West OL Coach, Mark Mangino, Marcel Jones (OT Nebraska) got a lot of extra instruction today. He needed it. As a huge guy, Jones just needs to lumber through these practices without being noticed to get drafted in April. Instead, he's found a way to stand out with mental errors and a serious lack of aggressiveness. Fundamentally unsound, he was unable to move smaller defenders who consistently got leverage on him and has one of the weakest punches in pass protection I've ever seen.
Report for Monday 1/16
Offensive Game Ball--Tim Benford (WR Tenn Tech) - Benford has good size, decent fluidity and came out of his breaks well in the first practice of the week. While the East Roster seems to lack the star power of their Western counterparts, Benford had the most flashy plays could be their one stud.
Defensive Game Ball--Josh Norman (CB Coastal Carolina): - Without a doubt, the talent level is higher this year than it was in the 2011 Shrine Game. Also, the amount of small school cornerback talent is through the roof. Norman confused some of the onlookers by wearing a Pitt Panthers helmet through the morning practice, but made a number of plays on the ball that drew oos and ahhs and made everyone figure out who he was realy quick.
Riser of the Day Award--Dale Moss (WR South Dakota State) - Like many, I hadn’t seen this small school prospect yet; and, like many more, I was impressed at his potential during the West’s afternoon practice. The bad news is that Moss is probably a late round developmental pick because he has lots of work to do with his route running. However, Moss certainly looks the part of a big time receiver--he’s a great athlete who plucks the ball well and finds it at its highest point. Once he puts it together, some lucky personnel guy is going to get a promotion.
“Try Again Tomorrow” Award--Kevin Hardy (WR Citadel) and Tyler Hansen (QB Colorado) - When Kevin Hardy caught the ball in the East practices, it was with his body. The rest of the time, he managed to drop, slap, fight and punch a lot of very catchable balls. Hardy has some nice upside as a hardworking slot receiver, but he needs to calm down and let the game come to him. Hansen was a solid prospect out of highschool and many were glad to see him get a chance here in Tampa. In the pros, Hansen will need to be broken down completely and have his throwing motion put back where it should be.
Jarron Gilbert Memorial Award--Kevin Koger (Michigan) - Everyone remember Gilbert jumping out of a pool on Youtube? We all do. Remember him doing something in the NFL? I think not. Gilbert showed up at the Shrine Game years back and looked the part of a great defensive linemen and fell flat on his face. Today, Kevin Koger looked every bit the part of a top NFL tight end. Yet, the Michigan product was slow in and out of his routes and dropped a number of catchable passes.
The Golden Maple Leaf--Akiem Hicks (DL Regina) - The best player here from north of the boarder, Hicks should’ve gone to LSU, but his recruitment was sketchy (he was rumored to be paid) and his NCAA eligibility would’ve been in jeopardy, so he ended up at the University of Regina where he was an all-star. Hicks is big, carries his weight well and should be a lot better than he looked today at quarter-speed. A deep, deep sleeper, once we’re going full speed in full pads, he could create a little havoc.