The 93rd annual East-West Shrine Game is coming this Saturday, and the practice sessions are heating up. Many aspiring NFL prospects from schools all around the country are gathered in St. Petersburg, Florida to show what they can do to the assembled NFL scouts and media.
Through the first two days of practices, here is what has stood out with the West roster. For the East, check out the notes here.
This is not the strength of the roster. Nic Shimonek from Texas Tech, Nick Stevens of Colorado State and Sam Houston State’s Jeremiah Briscoe are all hoping to parlay a strong week into meriting draft consideration.
Thus far, it has not looked promising. Shimonek is the most accurate of the three, and he spins a clean ball on intermediate routes with some anticipation and touch. Both he and Briscoe have found some success hitting crossers and predetermined outs, but none of these QBs appears draftable. Even so, it’s a better crop than some past Shrine Games I’ve covered (this is my seventh year).
The standout here is Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay, a powerhouse of a runner despite being just 5’7” and 185 pounds. He’s thrived in pass protection drills, with very impressive pop behind his pads. He’s been better than the tight ends (all nondescript to my eyes) in the passing game
As a runner, it’s difficult to judge Lindsay or any of the rushers because there is no live tackling. Both he nad Northwestern’s Justin Jackson have shown an ability to burst through a hole and make a move or two in space. Troy’s Jordan Chunn has decent giddy up for a 238-pounder but very little agility and has not shined in the passing game drills.
Bryce Bobo is one of the week’s big winners so far. At just a hair under 6’2” and 201 pounds, he’s got an impressive build. The Colorado Buffalo is consistently getting separation both at the line and down the field on his later move. He’s stood out for how quickly he secures the catch and transitions to runner after the catch.
UNLV’s Devonte Boyd runs crisp routes and can release off the jam well despite being a slender 178 pounds. He has soft hands, too. So does South Dakota State’s Jake Wieneke, who has had an up-and-down first two days of practice. Wieneke’s size (6’4”/218) gives him a chance to get drafted.
I had little expectation for Jeff Badet from Oklahoma. He caught just 26 passes as a senior, but there is a lot to like with the heady Badet. He’s very good on crossers and underneath routes and shows no downside to having small hands and short arms. He’s not going to get drafted but will be a guy who can energize a fanbase in training camp and preseason.
One player dripping with intrigue is Greg Senat from Wagner’s basketball team. At 6’6” and 294 pounds, he looks like a G League power forward. He moves like one too, and that’s a good thing in the context of playing offensive tackle. His technique remains pretty rudimentary but there is ample physical potential to work with. As one scout noted, he’s got higher upside than 2017 fourth-round pick Julie’n Davenport.
I was impressed with Hawaii’s Dejon Allen, who is primarily playing guard. He has a very good sense of how to counter what the defender is trying to attack him with, and his powerful punch can jolt up unsuspecting tackles. He was the top interior blocker in Tuesday’s session.
For more action from the OL vs. DL battles, I streamed the session here:
Joe Ostman, Central Michigan. Show stealer. Incredible motor, great spin move to either shoulder, surprising speed in the open. Second in the nation in sacks for the Chippewas despite missing 2 games. It’s so easy to fall in love with his game, and as a MAC apologist I’m even more inclined to bite the apple.
He’s been great, winning far more battles than he loses. The issue is he’s both undersized at 6’2” and 248 with 31” arms, and he doesn’t generate a great deal of leverage despite being shorter. I don’t know where to play him in the NFL. I still want him on my team.
SMU big man Justin Lawler had some excellent pass rush reps from the edge on Tuesday. He’s got the prototypical 4-3 DE size at 6’4” and 265 with long arms, and he’s strong with great leg drive while engaged. NFL scouts in attendance have proven big fans of Lawler, as well as Missouri’s Marcell Frazier, who might be the most athletic edge rusher here. Frazier shows bend and burst on every rep.
Inside, Texas’ Poona Ford is a squatty 5’11” and 309. He looked quicker on Longhorn game film than he does in person, but he’s proven he can anchor and redirect well. The comparisons to Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett are a little lofty for my liking but he’s definitely capable of playing in the NFL.
Delaware’s Bilal Nichols is a player I had never seen before coming to St. Pete. He’s made me want to see more of him, which is the goal of the small-school talents. He was quite effective in team drills on Tuesday.
This is a very athletic group, led by Wisconsin’s Leon Jacobs and Indiana’s Tegray Scales. Jacobs is a ripped athlete with quick eyes and a good burst to the point of attack. Scales has boundless energy, though he doesn’t always harness it well. He’s much better in chase mode than downfield attack mode.
Arkansas State’s Ja’Von Rolland-Jones is moving to LB from being a rush end in college. It’s a prudent business decision for the Red Wolves standout, though it might not pay immediate dividends. The athleticism is there, and when he lined up at edge he was generally effective. He still needs a lot of work on avoiding blocks and anticipating the action while not lined up with a hand in the ground.
Arizona CB Dane Cruikshank is an impressive physical specimen who has picked off passes both days. He does not lack vocal self-confidence. The same is true of Illinois State’s Davontae Harris, a natural ballhawk. Harris reminds me some of Brian Poole from Florida and now the Falcons, though Harris isn’t as powerful. He will be drafted and could play as a slot corner early.
The top safety is Northwestern’s Godwin Igwebuike, who flows well and can strike quickly. He’s got big hands at 10” and can extend his arms quite powerfully to get at the runner even if he’s not in great position. He is not a blitzer.
North Dakota’s Cole Reyes impressed on Monday with a great INT on the dead run. Reyes has demonstrated quick reactions and processing, and he’s straight-line fast.