Looked and sounded like most of the Shrine participants watched LSU win Monday night and were energized for the day. While the East was practicing, three new teammates from Clemson arrived in town. At the conclusion of practice, the 3 players introduced themselves to their new teammates, with expectation of practicing on Wednesday. WR/DIONDRE OVERTON and OG/GAGE CERVANKA will suit up, but OC/SEAN POLLARD is nursing a pre-existing injury, and will only observe and root on his new mates. DERRICK DILLON and MICHAEL DIVINITY were also expected to show up this afternoon.
OG STEVEN GONZALEZ #74 was held out of practice today, but should be back Wednesday, per Dan Shonka – Draftnik Guru from Ourlads, that handles player selection and procurement for the Shrine Game these days.
I was able, with Dan’s help of course, to ferret out the missing DT/TERSHAWN WHARTON of Missouri S&T. He had been at practice Monday, but with a jersey number different from that on our initial roster print outs. He’s #58! The small school star is a high energy guy with lots of power packed into his slightly undersized frame at 6’1/275. He was dynamic in drills in using his quickness to good advantage in pursuit of the ball. He is yet another example of a really good football player that just doesn’t have prototype size. However, these days the NFL will still try to find roles to fit their talent if they can produce.
For my money, after two days, the best all-around RB at this game is RICO DOWDLE/South Carolina. He has shown burst and power moving the sticks with solid runs of 5-10 yards. He also has looked very natural catching the ball. Now today, he showed himself to be the best pass-pro blocker against LB prospects. It makes sense, since he is one of the few bigger backs at 5’11/216 lbs. DOWDLE has been a highly regarded player and pro prospect during his college days, but has a history of numerous injuries costing him playing time.
On the other side of the drill, LB SHAQUILLE QUARTERMAN did former monster Miami LB RAY LEWIS proud with his explosive tackling. He was the defensive star of the RB blocking drill with some crushing tackles that popped pads and dislocated helmets. I actually shuddered on one of the last collisions he initiated.
One of the more interesting players on the East Squad is Navy/QB/MALCOLM PERRY #10. The slightly undersized QB is practicing with the WR group this week, where his size and quickness would seem to make sense for a primarily option running QB. While speaking with him briefly, he admitted that the staff is putting in a package of plays run by him at QB. This could be quite an adjustment for the West to deal with. I recounted to him the intention, a few years back, of CHARLIE WEIS concocting a similar plan, which fell apart when Navy QB KEENAN REYNOLDS was injured on the last day of practice and ruled out of the game. It may be quite interesting to see how such a situation might actually work out. Stay tuned for some excitement perhaps come game day.
Another smaller school player from Rhode Island is OG KYLE MURPHY #64, one of two players from Rhode Island on the East roster. MURPHY is a nice sized young man who can move his stout body. At 6’3/290 he might be considered a slightly light-weight player, but not by much. And a few pounds won’t mean much either if he gets the job done on the Interior. He seemed to win more battles today than he lost, and could be on a day by day improvement pattern playing with and against the big school guys.
When the big guys matched up in 1/1 pass-pro blocking, the clear winner was McTELVIN AGIM from Arkansas. #93 plays DT at 300 lbs. Today, he dominated his opponents with power, hustle, verbal abuse, and some exceptional pass rush moves. He had quick spin moves and was very active slapping away blockers hands and arms with his strong arm action. He made himself thin a couple of times, and basically left opponents frustrated and flat out defeated. It was an outstanding showing, IMO. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was intimidating overall. As the drill ended, no OL really wanted another shot at trying to block him.
TOMMY STEVENS/QB/Mississippi State #7 was surprisingly athletic today for a 6’4/230 lb. QB. His passing accuracy was good, but his best individual effort may have been on a roll to the right out of pocket pressure, on which he turned on the afterburners and got to the edge, running down the sideline for almost 20 yards. He followed JOE MOORHEAD to State when Joe got the head job there a few years back. Had he been more able to stay healthy, Moorhead might have won a few more games in his brief tenure and not been dismissed last month.
JOE REED/WR/Virginia finally got it rolling a bit today with some nice route running and solid hand catches. I feel like he is the most talented receiver on the East team, but he has flashed only sporadically so far. I am hoping he explodes some day soon.
When the West hit the field for afternoon practice, CARLOS DAVIS, one of the Davis Twins at DT from NEBRASKA, was on the field, but without pads and helmet. Let’s hope that he will return to practice as GONZALEZ is expected to do. I really am anxious to see the twins side-by-side manning DT slots in the game Saturday.
Looks like PARKER HOUSTON #82 is indeed going to be the long snapper for the West, as he handled all the snapping chores that I observed today at West practice.
I still don’t see a clear cut winner of the starting QB job, but Utah’s TYLER HUNTLEY looks like the leader in overall performance right now. The West filled the air with passes throughout the practice session and a couple of guys caught my eye over and over again. Indiana’s NICK WESTBROOK is a big target at 6’2/215, and he gets separation often. Even when he’s not clearly open, he dives, jumps, and uses his body to shield defenders away from balls that get to his hands. He made several nice catches that caused some hoots of delight from his offensive teammates.
Not too far behind him on the catching tree was Boise State’s JOHN HIGHTOWER, who looks to have more speed than most of the other full-sized receivers. He dropped a few throws, but worked the sidelines nicely and tracked throws well in the air. Watch for Hightower to get a shot or two on reverse plays or jet sweeps on game day.
It comes as no real surprise that at times BRAVVION ROY/DT/Baylor uses his massive frame (6’1/333) to bully blockers and plug up the center of the line-of-scrimmage, but it was a bit surprising, and disappointing, that on several occasions he failed to grab hold of the RB trying to brush past him. Not the most impressive work I have seen from ROY this season.
I would also say I still think that KEVIN DOTSON #75 looks very natural at a Guard slot and has a chance to sneak into the Top 100 if a few more underclass OL stay in school. He has a big, but well proportioned body and shows nice knee bend. He also displays good power to move defenders where he wants them to go. Being a four year vet starter is also in his favor.
There was no letdown today from Michigan State’s DL RAEQUAN WILLIAMS. He still looks bigger and stronger to me than guys listed as being bigger on our roster sheets, and he is playing with an energy that I don’t feel like I always saw from him for the Spartans last season. He pushed folks around again today and made some very nice plays against the run.
DOMINIK EBERLE did some very strong legged kicking today, hitting multiple field goals in the 40-55-yard range. Last year, we had MATT GAY here from Utah, who ended up with the Tampa Bay Bucs, and this year we have EBERLE from Utah State. One always wonders a bit about how much the high altitude of the Rockies helps these kickers, but he’s pounding the ball here at seas level quite well.
That’s a wrap folks. Good night from Florida and we’ll be back at it Wednesday morn. The third practice day (Wednesday) at the Shrine is usually the most physical and energetic day of practices. I don’t expect anything less from this year’s squads.