It has been reported elsewhere that Monday's practices for the East-West Shrine game were cancelled. Though the conditions were certainly less than ideal, practices did, in fact, go on. NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Chad Reuter is in Orlando and contributed this report.
East-West Shrine Game report
by Chad Reuter
Monday, January 17, 2011
Mother Nature wreaked havoc on the first day of East-West Shrine Game practices. With thunderstorms rolling through north central Florida all morning, Shrine Game officials decided to move the afternoon practices into the Rosen Plaza Grand Ballroom.
Yes, I said "ballroom"--players running around an empty room with sconces on the wall and mirrors and chandeliers on the ceiling. And no, we were not scouting player for future appearances on "Dancing with the Stars".
Interceptions were made off the wall. Plants got knocked over in the area outside the ballroom when one-on-one pass rush drills were going on.
It was climate-controlled and the green-and-salmon carpeting could be considered as an "artificial turf." The Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Alabama, has had to do similar things because of weather, it is still less-than-ideal conditions for evaluating talent.
Still, there were a few players that piqued scouts' interest with their physique, effort, and footwork .
UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin is the player with the most to gain (or lose) with his efforts here. He's not suited up all year due to his suspension for NCAA infractions and violation of team rules. So far, he's looked quick off the snap and strong. Right guards Bryant Browning (Ohio State) and Randall Hunt (Illinois) stood up to him in pass protection fine, but it won't be surprising if Austin starts to dominate when the practices head outside.
Austin's East squad teammate, Lehigh tackle/guard prospect Will Rackley pancaked high-motor and low-bulk Richmond defensive tackle Martin Parker and handled ultra-productive UCF defensive end/linebacker Bruce Miller on the edge. Rackley did get coaching, however, keeping his head up during a drive-blocking drill. "If you're looking at the ground, you're doing it wrong!" his coach bellowed.
Parker exacted revenge for his earlier play against Missouri State tackle/guard David Arkin, getting under his pads to get the "B" gap on one play, then bull rushing Arkin into the quarterback on the next.
East team receivers had some issues with consistency catching passes today. Perry Baker (slight at six-foot, 167 pounds) from Fairmont State show real quickness and hands to extend on high throws from Tyrod Taylor. He dropped other very catchable passes, however. Another small school receiver, Cecil Shorts III from Division III runner-up Mount Union, did not make the same adjustment on a high throw that Baker did, but redeemed himself on the next practice rep by displaying his quick feet and snatching a heater thrown behind him.
Big six-foot-three, 211-pound receiver Terrance Tolliver also had a couple of drops, a problem plaguing him throughout his career at LSU. Lesser-known Florida Atlantic Lester Jean, with nearly identical measurement, showed better feet on comeback route and more consistent hands than Tolliver.
In the West practice, head coach Wade Phillips did not even have his players wear helmets like Dan Reeves' squad did in the earlier session. They still ran nearly all of the same drills as the East team.
Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson is in a similar position as Austin, as he needs to prove himself after his mid-season benching in favor of Ryan Tannehill -- who took the team to a BCS bowl. Johnson an impressive receiver build at 6-5, 250 pounds with 35 inch arms--not unlike current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Webb. But long delivery is an issue and his 9.5-inch hands are only average for quarterbacks, and a couple of his wobbly throws today verified that this could also be a problem for him down the road.
LSU offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale is one of the most impressive looking athletes at this game. He measured six-foot-five, 336 pounds (about 20 pounds over his listed weight) with 35.5-inch arms. At times he used his athleticism and length to seal the edge and get out in front of plays run to his side--whether at left or right tackle.
But the inconsistency that cost him an invite to the Senior Bowl also appeared today. Boise State Ryan Winterswyk looked stronger and quicker on a couple of snaps until Barksdale used his length to carry Winterswyk around the pocket and into a crowd of scouts lined up behind the play.
Another impressive athlete on the West squad is Southern Cal tight end Jordan Cameron. The former basketball Trojan player looked very smooth and displayed solid hands, as he had during the season in his limited opportunities. I thought Jimmy Graham really helped himself at the Senior Bowl last year, an the six-foot-five, 245 pound (and growing) receiving tight end might be heading that direction, as well.
Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch was extremely productive as a pass rusher in college (42 tackles for loss, 15 sacks), but projects as a linebacker at the next level (checked in at only six-foot-one, 229 pounds in the morning's weigh-in). The athleticism he displayed in limited opportunities at linebacker for the Wolf Packer was evident again today. He looked like a defensive back during flip-your-hip drills and was very quick dropping into coverage during team scrimmages. He also took coaching well during practice.
-One of the biggest stories (literally) of the Monday morning weigh-in was Canadian college player Martin O'Donnell. He came just one-eighth inch short of six-foot-ten. Though raw playing both left and right tackle, he gave good enough effort to potentially get a training camp invite this summer. He also displayed some skills as a long snapper.
-Despite Tolliver's issues catching passes, his 10 inch hands were the biggest among the receivers; yet Fairmont's six-foot Perry Baker had the longest arms at 33.5 inches.
-UCF right tackle Jah Reid measured six-foot-seven, 325-pound body with 34-inch arms but looks like he could get to 350 pounds without losing a lot of mobility. He's a player to watch this week.
-Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle stood just five-foot-nine and five-eighths and 227 pounds to be the smallest second-level defender here this week. Iowa State safety David Sims also came in just north of five-foot-nine, while Boise State safety Jeron Johnson eclipsed five-foot-ten, which was no given in scouts' eyes.
-Former Penn State and recent Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin beat the six-foot-three mark scouts hoped he would, while Virginia Tech passer Tyrod Taylor measured nearly six-foot-one, better than most NFL folks here expected.
-Running back Alex Green from Hawaii was one of the few players who weighed significantly less than listed. He looked all of 230 pound during the season, but has dropped about ten pounds, presumably to get a bit quicker (which he appeared to be in practice).
Chad's daily practice reports from the Shrine Game will be available either here on the blog or as feature stories accessible from the main page. Either way, for the best in NFL Draft coverage, check out NFLDraftScout.com .