January 16, 2017

Monday marked the first day of practices for Shrine Week in St. Pete. Partly cloudy skies which gave way to full sunshine by late afternoon and a high temp of about 78F. The EAST SQUAD took the practice field at Shore Crest Academy on the North side of town. A miscellaneous group of mostly young NFL assistant coaches was in charge and we hope to get a full coaching roster soon.

I hope whoever was the last one to leave the Ann Arbor football facility turned out the lights for Coach Harbaugh. There are 7 total Wolverines on the East squad, including 3 DB. The top ranked Wolverine here is likely CHANNING STRIBLING, a nice long (6’2) athlete who runs very well. I will check out his cover skills in the coming days. I guess we’ll find out how good of a coach JIM HARBAUGH will be for his alma mater next season as another 5 players are currently listed on the Senior Bowl roster.

I also noted that today on the Senior Bowl website TOLEDO TE/MIKE ROBERTS was added to their list of participants. I can tell you he was at practice for the West team here today. So he will either play in both games, or he may be MIA Tuesday afternoon when the West squad hits the practice field tomorrow down here. Stay tuned I will advise you if he’s still here Tuesday or not.

The main practice highlight, per usual, was the one-on-one pass pro drills between the DL/OL units. The automatic advantage in this drill goes to the D, since they can roam anywhere they want with their moves. To my eyes the clear overall winner today was WILL HOLDEN/OT/Vanderbilt. He’s a long armed 6’7 player with better foot agility than you might expect for his size. He took on defenders at both the OT & OG slots and won the majority of his match-ups. His draft stock rose in his senior season of college, and may still be ascending based on today’s work.

I didn’t see anyone dominate the drill on the defensive side but I will say DEANGELO BROWN/DT/Louisville bulled through more than a few blockers. He pretty quick for his 6’/300+lb. body, and has a few spin moves he uses to the surprise of blockers. I also thought that TREY HENDRICKSON/DE/FLorida Atlantic showed very nice quickness and body control in getting around/past blockers on occasion. I wonder if LANE KIFFIN is trying to uncover another year of eligibility for TREY back at FAU.

I spoke with JARROD “CHUNKY” CLEMENT/DT/Illinois as he sat watching practice with a walking boot on his right lower leg. He indicated that he would likely NOT be ready for the Combine, other than lifting there. So his Pro Day will be key. He says he got his nickname, CHUNK/CHUNKY from an Aunt. He describes himself as big kid, and when he first went to school he thought his name really was Chunky, not Jarrod. He is a well muscled young man, who when healthy could just be a legit NFL Draft prospect. I wonder if they still make the square candy bars called Chunky, which I remember very well as a kid and young adult?! The TV ad went; ‘Chunky, what a chunk of chocolate’, as whined nasally by comic Arnold Stange.

I may have found one of my first, ‘how does he project’ as an NFL prospect players today. He’s mighty might KERMIT WHITFIELD/WR/RS/Florida State. He’s about 5’8 and less than 180 lbs., but folks he’s fast and quick, and showed very good hands today at practice. He also appears to be fearless at catching over the middle and in traffic. He may also surface as a KR when game day rolls around. Keep his name filed away in your brain.

I also made myself a quick mental note, when I was surprised a what a smooth runner big LSU/TE/COLIN JETER looked like out there today. He had a couple nice catches and was not lumbering down the field. after the catch He looked like he can run at over 6’5 and 250+ lbs.

I will remind you that unless someone blows me away, I will not take a real critical look at the QBs here until Wednesday. There is so much for these guys to learn that I think it only fair to give them a couple of days with the playbook, their coaches and of course a whole new group of receivers.

I will also make an early mental note that I am not impressed initially by the LB group assembled for the East. That is made worse by the apparent absence of MARQUEL LEE, of Wake Forest who is the most impressive name on that LB list, IMO. Hope he shows up, healthy for Tuesday mornings practice, but I am not holding my breath on that account.

It’s only about a 15 minute drive to the south side of town and the practice field at St.Pete High School where the West Team works out.

When I got to the field a young Assistant Coach was auditioning long snappers. The Shrine does not recruit snappers to its game, primarily because it is against the game rules to rush & block kicks. The two aspiring snappers were OT/SAM TEVI & TE/BLAKE JARWIN. Neither one is ready to win an NFL LS job, but both were improving with each snap, more or less. If I have to pick one from what I saw I’d work with JARWN the remainder of the week. If nothing else though just being able to back up capably at that type of job just might win a guy a job next September.

As I moved around the field during warmups it suddenly struck me that this squad looked significantly bigger than the East team. I’m going to let that observation ride for now until I get official weigh-in results later in the week. The media is not invited to the weigh-in here as we are in Mobile next week. What’s up Mr. Richardson? Hint, hint, hint…

Consensus among three Draftniks, including yours truly, until proven otherwise (which could happen) AVERY GENNESY/OT/TEXAS A&M is likely the highest rated prospect at this game, at least coming into it. I joked with GENNESY as he was headed onto the team bus about our conclusion. He smiled said thank you, and said he was going to try hard to fulfill our ranking. I think he will.

As I walked along the sideline to change vantage points of drill work, I looked up at the sound of a booming kick. It was a high flying, big hang time punt from the leg of AUSTIN REHKOW of Idaho, who will handle Punting & Place Kicking chores for the West. I will get out the old stop watch in the next few days and determine if we have the best Punter since BRYAN ANGER touched the sky with a few several years ago. Let me just say there were several NFL scouts around him after practice as I headed his way. Usually I’m one of the few guys seeking out the kickers/punters/long snappers. I’ll catch him another day… I think.

An intriguing player here is clearly man/child WR/BILLY BROWN/Shepherd. He does indeed run like a WR, but he’s 6’4 and over 240 lbs. He is a physical specimen and he looks smooth running patterns and catching the ball. He should be exciting to watch and why Draftniks & Scouts alike are delighted to see kids like this from smaller schools playing with the big school boys for a whole week.

Seeing a lot of action, and responding well today was WISCONSIN RB/DARE OGUNBOWALE. He was second fiddle to COREY CLEMENT for the Badgers, but is a solidly built player, who can run with some quickness, catches the ball out of the backfield well, and can play on any Special Teams unit you want him to. He had a couple of hard, slashing runs today and looks to be a coaches’ favorite already.

Defensively, it looks like the team cheerleader is going to be RALPH GREEN/DT/INDIANA. He’s an athletic looking 6’5/ 300 pounder, who encourages and congratulates teammates constantly. I picked up on his positive energy in IU’s narrow Bowl loss. I will be anxious to see how his game holds up against the big OL in practice this week.

Physical specimen of the day, beyond BROWN is probably DE/DEATRICH WISE/Arkansas. He’s a full 6’6 and plays even longer, plus it looks like he can run and chase all day long. The reason he is not a household name is that he had trouble staying on the field for the Razorbacks. By the middle of the 2016 season the Arkansas coaching staff was using him in passing situations, since getting to the QB is his claim to fame. He was very active today. He reminds me of a more athletic MARGUS HUNT/DE of the Bengals. Now let’s see if he can sustain this effort and remain healthy for the whole week and into the gamer itself.

That’s it for today people. I’m sure some other guys will stand out on Tuesday, without too many of these guys fading away. I am sure I will have no trouble finding some additional players to report to you on in the upcoming days. I believe there are a lot of Day 3 Draft prospects on these two teams, just like last year. I’ll also try to find the handful that will push themselves into the Top 100 lists heading forward from this venue.

Cheers from St. Pete!