I’m live in St. Petersburg for Shrine Game Week and taking meticulous notes on all the practices. Here are some quick winners and losers from the first two days.
Emory Blake, WR, Auburn--he looked very electrifying in his burst off the line and consistently caught the ball with his hands well away from his body. Blake also made the play that elicited the biggest response from those in attendance, a double move that he executed so crisply and quickly that he spun the defender around and into the ground like a top. It was akin to watching Allen Iverson crossing someone over. Blake is a guy who suffered in 2012 because of lousy QB play at Auburn and this week is an excellent chance for him to build momentum.
D.C. Jefferson, TE, Rutgers--Jefferson looks more like a converted lineman than a converted quarterback, very thickly framed at 6’6” and 250. He flashed very strong hands and surprising agility for a bigger man, and he catches anything near him--including behind his back leg. This is shaping up to be a very good and deep TE class, and Jefferson has moved himself up at least one tier in my mind.
Caleb Schreibeis, DE, Montana State--every draftnik latches onto a prospect each year that becomes their “guy”. Schreibeis is my guy this year. He has really impressed with his agility, his quick hands, and his ability to flatten around the corner. I need to get some game film on him, but everything I’ve seen in the first two days here tells me this is a guy that can contribute quickly in the NFL. A NFL team agrees, comparing him to Rob Ninkovich as they dined at the Waffle House near the Tradewinds Resort that serves as the base hotel for the week.
Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh--the mighty mite is easily the best RB in St. Pete and it’s not really close. His shiftiness, his burst out of cuts, his acceleration, and his vision are all superior to the other backs. I liked Graham more than most heading here and I like him even more now. He could very well be the third or fourth RB off the board now and emerge as a Jamaal Charles-style back.
Cooper Taylor, S, Richmond--his stature makes him a natural standout at 6’4” and 229 pounds, but he has also played pretty well in live drills. You can see his instinctiveness in both the running and passing games, and he has the quickness to close and make the play. Medical concerns--he had to leave Georgia Tech for a heart issue--will weigh on his stock but he has been the most impressive safety so far.
Duke Williams, S, Nevada--Williams is quickly becoming an all-or-nothing type of player. It seems he is always either making a legitimately great play or being caught trying to make it a little too zealously. I love his build and his aggressiveness; the right coach can harness Williams and he can start right away for a lot of teams.
Keith Pough, LB, Georgetown--the point of these games for the small-school guys is to attract positive attention and buzz. Pough has done so thanks to his relentless energy, obvious athletic prowess, and quickness to learn from his mistakes. When the coaches tell him something, he is very quick to learn and implement it into his game, and he’s quite proud of that. He should be.
Andrew Robiskie, C, Western Illinois--I consider his father Terry, a former NFL coach, to be a very good man and I respect the family name. So it pains me to be so harsh on his son, but Andrew has really struggled here. His lack of strength is readily apparent on every rep, and his snapping isn’t very consistent either. I see a guy that knows he’s in over his head and is trying too hard to make up for it.
Eric Kush, G, California PA--As I stated above, the goal for small school guys is to draw attention and build buzz. I’ve watched the East linemen pretty intently and I have almost no notes of Kush. He simply does not stand out enough. I can’t say he’s been bad because I would have that in my notes, but he’s done little to capture anyone’s fancy either.
Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech--He is quite visibly smaller and weaker armed than his West QB counterparts Matt Scott and Alex Carder. With those being the prevailing knocks on him coming here, Doege really needed to do everything else well. He has not, floating some passes and showing impatience in the pocket. As far as Texas Tech QBs of recent vintage go, I prefer Taylor Potts to Doege.
Kayvon Webster, CB, South Florida--Two quick days after Rahim Moore’s fateful mistimed jump in coverage allowed the Ravens to advance over the Broncos, Webster did the exact same thing early in Monday’s practice. He jumped early and was too shallow in coverage, allowing an easy catch over the top as he crashed to the turf. Aside from agility drills, where he has thrived, Webster has really struggled in the competitive parts of practices.
Manasi Foteki, T, West Texas A&M--The colossal Kansas State transfer sat out Tuesday practice with a strained calf, an injury that will almost certainly end his week here. He could have benefitted from the coaching and reps against more prominent competition as much as anyone down here, and he has legit talent and upside that would play well in the heat of practice sessions.
Travis Howard, CB, Ohio State--Howard is what my friend Brent used to term a “lightswitch” talent. When the lights were off in agility drills and no real competition, Howard looks fantastic. But when the lights come on and the competition gets real, Howard wilts under the light. His rather spectacular inability to locate the ball in coverage, or even be aware of when to look for it, have been quite the topic of discussion along the sidelines of St. Pete High School, where the West team practices.