STAR-GAMES Chatter 2.0

December 23, 2022

After detailing primarily some of the comings around the Senior Bowl last week, it is time to pay some attention to the goings on at the SHRINE BOWL. The game will be played on Thursday night, Feb. 2 in Las Vegas as part of the NFL Pro Bowl festivities. The Shrine will be hosting the only actual game of football at the venue. The pro players will stage some kind of flag football contest. Don’t laugh when I tell you to pay attention because this game concept may look more like your NFL of tomorrow than current game of tackle football that they play, mostly on Sundays. Hold on, I digress again… let’s get back to the Shrine Bowl.

The Shrine game is the oldest actual All-Star football venue, but the Senior Bowl holds the claim to the longest consecutive game, played in one location… Mobile. There is one very significant change being instituted by the NFL for this year’s game. The Shrine will host 2 whole NFL franchise coaching staffs, while the Senior Bowl will work with composite staffs comprised of up and coming assistant coaches from around the League. The games will alternate the coaching staff themes from year to year. Traditionally the Senior Bowl had always been coached by two team staffs. My quick, but thoughtful, conclusion is to chalk one big gain for the Shrine. This change is clearly a reward to the Shrine for moving its game to Vegas and working it in around the Pro-Bowl events.

So what’s cooking with the player acceptances to participate in the Shrine Game for Director Eric Galko?

Galko is filling out his roster of acceptances as we speak. The roster I printed out this morning from the Shrine website lists 93 acceptances. However, 3 of those names have also accepted invites to attend the Senior Bowl. Those three players are CLAYTON TUNE/QB/Houston, Ji’AYIR BROWN/S/Penn St and ISAIAH LAND/ER/Florida A&M. Expect them in Mobile not Vegas next month. Though his roster is short on Top 100 Prospects, it will contain contain a large number of Day 3 Draftees, with a handful or more sliding up into Day 2. I do not see justification for projecting any First Round hopefuls on the current Shrine player list.

I would single out the following dozen (baker’s style) players as the most intriguing relative to NFL potential:

ROBERT BEAL       ER/OB      Georgia       Got caught up in the spectacular athletic depth in the UGA program, especially on D. Was looking for a big 2022 season but was derailed early by injury.

ZAY FLOWERS      WR/RS     Boston College     Exploded as a wideout by returning for the 2022 season. He’s a bit small at 5’10/175, but he is elusive with a nice combination of speed & quickness. Caught 78 balls for 1,077-yds & 12 TD last season, on an offensively challenged (again) Eagles team. Best chance on this roster for a Day Two selection spot.

CONNOR GALVIN     OT    Baylor    Monster, long OT (6’7/310) who can move his feet. Needs a bit more strength to his game, but is very athletic.

MEKHI GARNER       CB       LSU    Played initially for Billy Napier @ LA/LAFAYETTE, but transferred to LSU when Napier went to Florida. By October he was entrenched as a starter for LSU. Nice size at 6’2/210 with good athleticism. Combine numbers will be critical for him.

ANTOINE GREEN     WR     UNC        Was the partner of Josh Downs at UNC in 2021, but slipped in 2022 primarily due to a rash of lingering injuries. He’s a long guy (6’2) and has good speed and reliable hands.

SHAKA HAYWARD        LB       Duke     Big, 6’3/240 LB who can do it all. 2022 ACC season stats showed his versatility and athleticism; 94 T- 49 solo- 6 TFL- 2 Sacks-2 INT.

MORO OJOMO      DL          Texas    Part of a very deep and talented Texas DL group. Plays with speed and quickness. Can disrupt the pocket. Still developing his game.

IVAN PACE       LB        Cincinnati   Spent his first 3 seasons in the MAC, then transferred to Cincy. Led their D at 6’1/235.

DEREK PARISH      ER/FB       Houston     Reminds many a bit of RIACRD of the Ravens. PARISH blocks for the running game and provides edge-rush on passing downs. Throw in Special Teams potential and he saves a roster spot or two for some team.

LUKE SCHOONMAKER     TE     Michigan      This big guy (6’6/250) mostly blocked in a strong TE group for the Wolverines until 2022. Then with injuries hitting his position group he became a favorite target for QB/McCarthy. He caught 34 balls for 386 yards and 3 TD. They don’t pass a lot to their TE in Harbaugh’s Offense, which makes those numbers impressive. Oh yeah, he still blocks.

RICKY STROMBERG     OC      Arkansas       Pumped up OC, somewhat like Creed Humphrey was at Oklahoma. Nothing fancy or pretty, but he plays hard and usually outworks DL he blocks against.

TYRUS WHEAT       ER/OB       Mississippi State     Interesting prospect, due to his conflicting size and position fit. He played OLB/ER for the Bulldogs in a 6’2/260 body, and made it work. He is NOT an explosive player, but he flashes in the clutch. 2022 regular season; 53 tackles/6 Sacks, 1 INT/3 Passes Deflected.

BRYCE FORD-WHEATON      WR    West Virginia       You see this guy get off the team bus and figure he’s a LB perhaps. Not so, he’s a big athletic WR at 6’3/225. He can get open, but even if covered he’s likely to win contested throws a majority of the time. Could make a nice partner for a team with a pure-speed wideout, and a quick slot guy. He moves the sticks, and occasionally makes a big play downfield.

I also think that RB/MOHAMED IBRAHIM/Minnesota deserves mention. He blew out his knee in the first game of the 2021 season. But he came back strong for 2022 and got better and stronger as the Gophers season went along last Fall. He’s a powerful runner, with excellent contact balance, and rushed for over 100-yards on a weekly basis. His Medical at the Combine will be closely watched.

The only real struggle left for GALKO filling his roster is similar to what NAGY is working through for the Senior Bowl. Where will those extra QB bodies come from on a potential set of rosters with only 2 or 3 spots filled so far?

I’ll be back at you next week with more from both games and maybe even a mention or two from a couple of lesser Star Games.




P.S.  One more mention of deceased partner Larry Parker. Missing you my man. Followers of the site will have to be patient with me on the typos, without you to FIX things. Hope you have plenty of football games to watch wherever you are now.