Tag Archive: 2012 NFL Draft


Defensive Line:

Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall: Curry is a very talented player but when I watched him I just didn’t see 1st round ability from him. He’s been very productive at Marshall and deserves to be at the Senior Bowl, I just don’t know that I buy him as a 1st round pick based on the film I’ve seen of him. I will be very interested to see how he does against this significant jump in competition.

Mike Martin, DT, Michigan: Martin is an all effort/all hustle defensive tackle that I like despite his lack of size. He’s going to be a rotational guy from day one in the NFL in my opinion and while he won’t wow people at the weigh-in I think he is going to make an impact at the next level.

Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State: I’m glad McClellin got an invite here because I like him as a defensive end. I don’t think he’s a 1st rounder but he’s definitely in the 2nd/3rd round range on my board right now and I haven’t done much film study on him yet. He’s got some edge speed and if he filled out his frame a little bit I think he could be a 4-3 left end and apply a pass rush from the position which is much harder to find that many realize. He can definitely help himself this week, so I’m looking forward to watching him.

Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington: Ta’amu had a TON of hype going into the bowl game against Baylor and then Baylor ran right up the middle all game and people started to hop off the bandwagon. Ta’amu didn’t impress me in that game at all obviously, but he didn’t get to be a legitimate NFL prospect because he played like that all season. He will make himself a lot of money this week if he shows he can stand up to double teams and that he has some burst off the line of scrimmage. But he will continue to drop if he gets washed out versus the run and shows no push as a pass rusher.

Billy Winn, DT, Boise State: Winn is a guy I have been high on since last year, he’s got impressive size and length based on the film I’ve seen of him and I really like his upside as a 4-3 DT or as a 3-4 defensive end. He’s got versatility and I think he’s going to end up going in the first two rounds, especially since this defensive tackle class isn’t exactly stacked.

Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati: Wolfe is an underrated player that doesn’t have huge upside but I think he has starting potential in the NFL. Brandon Holstein (@NFLDraftRoundUp on Twitter, follow him) pointed him out to me the first time months ago this season and when I got a chance to watch him I liked what I saw. Again, he’s not a stud defensive tackle but he is definitely draftable in the 3rd/4th round range in my opinion and I look forward to seeing what he can do this week.

Andre Branch, DE, Clemson: Andre Branch was a player that I did not like at ALL when I watched him as a junior last season with Bowers opposite him, so I did not have high expectations for him as a senior at all. Most of his pressure on the quarterback came as a result of one on one’s and he didn’t show that he could use his hands at all and accomplished all his production thanks to his athleticism. But this year he flashed hand usage and the ability to use pass rush moves when I watched him. He has a TON to prove this week because if he has a good week he could be one of the biggest winners of the Senior Bowl thanks to his prototypical defensive end size and athleticism. Keep an eye out for Branch because he could make himself a ton of money this week.

Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Coples came into the season projected to be a top 5 pick and his stock has slowly slid ever since then. He didn’t live up to expectations as a defensive end this year and plenty of people are projecting him inside to defensive tackle. I have no doubt that he could bulk up to play defensive tackle, but I haven’t given up hope on him as a left end. I think people really underestimate how difficult it is to find a left defensive end that can play the run and rush the passer at a high level. Coples has that potential and I think that is what will keep him from sliding out of the top 20 or 25 ultimately. He has a lot to prove this week as well, and as a Tar Heel fan I will certainly be rooting for him.

Jaye Howard, DT, Florida: I am really happy that Howard is here. I remember watching him as a junior and thinking that he definitely had draftable ability and I believe he was on my list of potential break-out players this year. He definitely deserves to be here and he could open some eyes this week. He’s not the flashiest guy but he is reliable and should make some plays in the backfield this week.

Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: Ingram has a chance to make himself a lot of money this week as well. He’s got quality size for a defensive end and has really improved his stock over the course of the season when everyone (including me) thought Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney would be the talk of the defensive end position. I’m excited to see him live this week.

Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina: Powell is a player that I personally think is very overrated. He’s got a late round grade from me at this point and having seen a significant amount of film on him I’m not sure there’s a lot he can do this week to change my mind. His upside in the NFL is a 4-3 NT but he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher and he doesn’t defend the run well either. His best bet is to land in a scheme that asks all of their defensive linemen to penetrate and make plays in the backfield, but he isn’t the athlete to consistently do that (it’s just what he likes to do, based on film). Powell could get exposed this week if he doesn’t play with better gap responsibility, and I have no reason to think he will based on the film I’ve watched.

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama: I’m very glad Upshaw is here and I’m sure a lot of other people are as well. He will likely be playing out of position at 4-3 DE all week, but he has enough ability to play with his hand down and succeed even if his best position is 3-4 OLB in my eyes. I’m excited to see him in person because he really impressed me when I watched him this year, especially in the National Championship.

Linebackers:

Honestly, I’m not wowed with the linebackers here. Zach Brown (North Carolina) is the odds on favorite to be the first one drafted, but I’m not high on him and he looks like a better athlete than a linebacker when I watch him. He won’t be able to show his tackling ability this week so he could really impress people thanks to his athleticism and potential but he struggles with wrapping up and making quality tackles. One guy I do like is Nigel Bradham (Florida State). He’s not an elite prospect but I think he will be a NFL starter in a 4-3 defense. Another guy I am very high on is Keenean Robinson from Texas. He’s got great instincts and may be my odds on favorite to boost his stock as much as any other linebacker in Mobile this week. Look out for him, he is an absolute player.

Defensive Backs:

This defensive back group took a hit when Mark Barron (Alabama) announced that he would not be here this week, but it makes sense that he elected to skip it because his stock can really only go down at this point. I’m very excited to see Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt) who I have been talking up for well over a year at corner, Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama, formerly of Florida), Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska), Jamell Fleming (Oklahoma) and Leonard Johnson (Iowa State). Jenkins was a corner I was very high on when he was at Florida, so it will be fun to see him in person despite the troubles he has this past year. Jamell Fleming and Hayward were both on my potential break-out players list that I posted before the season this year, so I am very excited to see both of them live. I really like both of them in coverage even though they may not have prototypical size (Hayward may be 5’9” or 5’10”) and speed. They’re good cover corners and that should show this week.

Senior Bowl Preview:

Quarterbacks:

-Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden is my top quarterback because he has what the scouts are looking for in terms of size and arm strength. It will be interesting to see how he does with a batch of new receivers, but I like him as a prospect. Do I think he’s a 1st rounder? No, but I think he may end up in the 2nd round or at least the 3rd round barring a very problematic week for him here. His age will limit his stock, and it will definitely make him a polarizing candidate because I believe he will need a year of development before he can have significant success as a starter (meaning he would be about 30 years old by the time he was a starter). He’s got potential though and should have 6-8 years of quality quarterbacking in him if he is developed correctly, and that’s more than enough to spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick on if you need a quarterback.

-Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin: I am high on Russell Wilson, I’ll say it right now. Is he the prototypical quarterback? No, I don’t think he is. He’s going to measure in at 5’11” if not slightly under that in my opinion, and that will turn off a lot of scouts and a lot of draftniks if I had to guess. But I’ve watched this kid a lot over the last two years and I am convinced that he absolutely has a NFL arm and more than that I am convinced that he has a NFL head on his shoulders. There probably weren’t 10 quarterbacks in the entire nation this year that could have come into a completely foreign situation in Wisconsin and do anything like he did this season. Again, that’s my opinion, but I think people tend to forget just how skeptical some were before the season that he would be successful as a starter for the Badgers. I am really hoping I will be able to interview Russell to get a sense for his personality and his intellect on a one on one level, but I refuse to write him off because of his height. Plenty of people will, but I think that is a mistake. I wouldn’t bet against this kid based on what I know about him.

-Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State: I like Lindley and I think he has a chance to really impress this week. I was disappointed I didn’t get to see him at the East-West Shrine Game this week, but I am glad he has a chance to show what he can do on an even bigger stage. He has a live arm and NFL size, but his accuracy has been an issue and he can be a little erratic at times based on the tape I’ve seen of him. This week will be big for him, and while I think he will show his faults I think he will demonstrate his upside as well. He might not be this high on others’ rankings coming into the week, but hopefully he has a strong enough week to turn some heads.

-Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State: Cousins is a player that people have slept on his entire career. He’s never been big enough or fast enough or talented enough to be the outright favorite, but he has fought through it and been successful despite that. I think that speaks to some intangibles on his part, and I think he has a toughness and gutsiness to him that isn’t especially easy to find in a quarterback. However, his lack of arm strength will be a limitation at the next level and he isn’t especially poised in the face of pressure in the pocket. That doesn’t project him to be a great starter at the next level, but I think he has a long NFL career ahead of him as a back-up and a possible spot-starter.

-Nick Foles, QB, Arizona: Foles is an interesting player to me. He has the physical tools to be a NFL quarterback, but I am just not a fan. There’s obviously a lot more to playing quarterback than just your physical ability and God-given tools, but I don’t know much about Foles other than what I’ve been able to see on tape. I am not high on his intangibles at this point and haven’t been overly impressed with him in the 4th quarter when I have watched him. He has a chance to change my mind this week and I have to study a lot more of his 2011 tape, but at this point I think he is an overrated prospect as a possible 1st or 2nd round pick. The 3rd or 4th round range would be more realistic because at that point you are talking about a bit of a project and at least a year or two of development, but coming into the season I had a late round grade on him.

-Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: This isn’t meant to be a slight against Moore, but when you’re a shorter player teams are ready to write you off as a potential starter anyways, but his lack of arm strength makes it even easier. He’s got average arm strength to be fair, but his ball velocity is lacking on throws beyond 10 or 15 yards. Measuring in at 6’0” or taller is critical for his draft stock, as silly as that might sound, because unlike Russell Wilson he doesn’t have the arm strength to make up for his lack of size. He’s got the intangibles and the smarts to be a NFL quarterback based on what I have seen on film and been able to find out about him, but being smart with limited size and arm strength doesn’t exactly qualify you to be a NFL starter. It means he will stick in the NFL, which I expect him to do, but it will be in a back-up role for the most part in my opinion.

Running Backs:

-Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: I love Doug Martin. I think people mentioning him as a possible 1st rounder are a little ambitious only because the demand for RB’s usually drives running backs down in the draft not up. Martin is absolutely a complete back though and he reminds me a bit of Ray Rice (I have to credit one of my Twitter followers for making the comparison to Rice before I did). He’s going to be a productive NFL back barring injury, and I expect him to demonstrate all of his ability throughout the week. I’m excited to see him in person.

-Chris Polk, RB, Washignton: Polk is a guy that has been underrated for about two years up until a couple of months ago. A lot of people felt comfortable saying that Jake Locker had “zero” talent around him at Washington. He may not have a had an abundance of talent around him, but Polk is a very legitimate 2nd or 3rd round running back prospect and he really helped make Locker’s life easier and he certainly helped Keith Price out in his first season as a starter this year. He’s the 1B to Martin’s 1A in my book, so I expect him to have a good week as well.

-Isiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati: Pead doesn’t strike me as an every down/feature back in the NFL but I definitely think he can contribute to an offense. He’s more of a complementary back in my opinion but he has impressive burst and speed as well as pretty good hands out of the backfield. I haven’t seen him much in pass protection, but he definitely warrants 3rd round pick conversation at the RB position. Again, I don’t see feature back potential from him but he could be a helluva complementary guy if used correctly.

-Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State: Ballard is a solid back who runs with good power and is a bit underrated at this point. Is he a top back? Not in my opinion, but I don’t think there’s much doubt he has the potential to contribute at the next level. I’m not sure if he is a guy who can be the feature back at this point, but he should show the ability to carry the ball effectively early on his career.

-Chris Rainey, RB, Florida: Rainey is a speed demon that has not shown the ability to consistently run through tackles and gain yards after contact. His value is in the open field and when he can find some space to run and really show off his great burst and speed. He’s not a feature back in my opinion, but he has plenty of upside as a complementary back, as a receiver out of the backfield (or possibly split out) and as a return man. He should show that off this week.

Fullbacks:

-Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin: Ewing was the starting fullback in Wisconsin’s run heavy offense and definitely has enough blocking ability to contribute in the NFL. Fullback isn’t a position with a ton of demand though, so I don’t know where his stock is at this point. He should have a strong week blocking, but I’m not sure he’s a very good receiver out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers:

-Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina: This receiver class looked extremely deep a few days ago, but after the Senior Bowl lost Michael Floyd, Nick Toon and now Kendall Wright three of the top five receivers who were supposed to be here won’t be. That means that, almost by default Dwight Jones moves up and I think he has 2nd/3rd round potential, which might make him the #1 receiver here. He’s got a lot of upside thanks to his size and athleticism but his hands are too inconsistent for my liking. Some have him in round 1, but I don’t like him enough for that.

-DeVier Posey, WR Ohio State: Posey has a lot to gain this week. He’s got NFL size and athleticism to be sure. His hands were always incredibly inconsistent at Ohio State and he figures to have a number of drops this week, but if he has the work ethic to improve his hands a bit he could really shoot up boards. He may do it anyways considering where his stock might be after serving a nearly year-long suspension.

-Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M: Fuller hurt his stock this year as he fell from a possible 1st or 2nd rounder to a 3rd or 4th rounder as of right now. He looked slow this year and that hurt his stock considerably, but if he can show better speed and consistent route running this week he could really breathe some life into his stock. I have a feeling he will look faster than most are expecting him to, so I think he could definitely help himself if he shows up with his A game this week.

-Marquis Maze, WR, Alabama: Maze is an underrated receiver in my opinion and I anticipate him turning some heads this week. He’s a bit undersized and the weigh-in will be important for him, but I think he has the hands and route running ability to create separation and stick in the NFL as a slot receiver.

-Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: Joe Adams is a tricky player for me to project. He’s so explosive thanks to his fantastic speed and burst, and once he gets the ball in his hands he is so fun to watch because of his combination of balance, strength and physicality. He’s undersized but he doesn’t play like it, and that’s always fun to watch. But I’m not sold on him as a route runner and he has had drop issues in the past, he just doesn’t have great hands. It will be interesting to see what he weighs in at, but more than that I will be interested to see how well he catches the ball away from his body this week. He’s had trouble with that when I’ve watched him on film.

-Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State: Quick is a guy I haven’t had a chance to see play yet and I’m very excited to get that chance this week. He’s got impressive size and should have a positive experience at the weigh-in, but I honestly can’t say too much about him as a prospect at this point. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on him this week.

-T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: T.J. Graham is a guy that really caught my eye as a sleeper after I saw him play in NC State’s bowl game. He had a huge game, but he was productive this season, has great speed and flashed the ability to run through arm tackles despite his size. He’s a good receiver and a good return man, and if he has a consistent week catching the ball and running routes I think he will definitely start to open some eyes and move up draft boards.

-Juron Criner, WR, Arizona: Criner is a player that a lot of people were high on coming into the year but his draft stock really dropped over the course of the season. He’s not the best receiver in the draft by any means, but he is still draftable and has some value as a prospect. I’m very anxious to see him going up against some quality competition at corner this week.

-Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State: Robinson is a nice addition to this game and he easily had the best season of his career as a senior this year with Brock Osweiler throwing him the ball. Robinson is the definition of a possession receiver and consistently came up with big catches over the middle or on curl routes to extend drives for Arizona State this year. I like that about him, but I question his speed and I’m not 100% sold on his route running either. He’s got upside and value though, and considering he was a possible (or maybe even probable) undrafted free agent before the season started he has really helped his draft stock this year.

-Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa: I like McNutt but from what I’ve heard he is dropping on draft boards around the league, and it’s not super tough to see why. He’s solid in all aspects, but doesn’t do anything spectacularly well. Not only that, but he showed a lack of speed and physicality this year and that has to concern scouts. He’s a late round pick right now as far as I can tell, so this week is huge for him because he may be able to breathe a little life into his stock if he plays well. But if he doesn’t he might drive himself close to the 7th round/undrafted free agent conversation. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I can’t rule it out if he struggles.

Tight Ends:

-Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri: I really like Egnew and he is definitely the top tight end here in my opinion. He’s got great size and he has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Graham which I think are fairly legitimate due to their combination of size, athleticism and potential, but Egnew is obviously more polished as a receiver than Graham was when he came out. Egnew doesn’t have much experience blocking though which might hold him back at times this week, but if he is drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round range whatever team picks him will end up being very happy with him once he gets to camp.

-Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana Lafayette: Green is a talented tight end that looks very skinny on film and due to his athleticism honestly looks a little like a very tall, skinny receiver when you watch him. I haven’t seen much from him as a blocker at all, so this week could expose that for him a little bit, but he’s a natural receiver with significant upside. He should be in the 3rd round conversation this year, and I think that is very deserving.

-Deangelo Peterson, TE, LSU: Peterson is someone I thought could really improve his stock as a sleeper this season but thanks to Jordan Jefferson and LSU’s pathetic excuse for a passing game that never materialized. He’s got the size and athleticism as well as solid hands to be a productive receiving tight end but he never really got a chance to at LSU. This week could be HUGE for him for that exact reason because he will finally be able to show what he can do when he is consistently involved during this week of practices.

-Brad Smelley, TE, Alabama: Smelley is a fun guy to watch because he doesn’t look like he’d be a very good tight end but he makes plays despite that. He might offer more as a blocker than any of the three players I have mentioned previously, and he’s one of those glue guys that I think every roster needs. He’s not flashy, but he’s versatile and strikes me as a hard-working guy that will find a way to stick on a NFL roster whether he is drafted in the late rounds or not.

-Brian Linthicum, TE, Michigan State: Linthicum’s value is as a blocker and I’m not sure he has starting tight end upside in the NFL. I just don’t see the route running and athleticism to threaten down the seam, and the tight end position has increasingly become an integral part of the passing game. Think about it: A significant number of teams that ended up making the playoffs this year had an impressive target at tight end, and even though he might be underrated Jake Ballard has been huge for the Giants this year and we don’t need to talk about how good Gronkowski and Hernandez are for the Patriots. Linthicum should get drafted late, but I don’t think it will be for his receiving ability.

Offensive Line:

-Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: I am high on Sanders and I have been since he was a junior. When I was scouting Christian Ponder I openly wondered if he had what it took to slide to left tackle but didn’t think he’d ever get a chance to show it in college. Little did I know that Datko would get injured and Sanders would take full advantage by doing a good job as E.J. Manuel’s blind-side protector. He’s improved his stock a lot this year and with one more good week he could lock himself up as a 1st rounder, and I expect that to happen.

-Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin: Zeitler has been underrated for over a year and he is finally starting to get the love that he deserves as a guard. I think he might be the top offensive guard prospect even though he’s not a behemoth like Osemele or Cordy Glenn. He’s very fundamentally sound and has starting experience in a great rushing attack at Wisconsin. He should be a riser this week and should end up in the 2nd/3rd round range come draft day. He has a 10-12 year career as a starting guard ahead of him, and will be a good value in that range.

-Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State: Osemele is a guy I really like. He is dominant once he gets his hands on you and I love watching that type of play from offensive linemen. He’s extremely large and strong, but he won’t be able to stick at left tackle in my opinion. It will be interesting to see if he gets a shot to play right tackle at all this week because I think he has a chance to stick there in the NFL, but even if he doesn’t look good there I think he will be a high draft pick as a guard.

-Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Adams is one of the well-known participants in Ohio State’s tattoo scandal from this past season but he is a legitimate pro prospect at offensive tackle. I’m not sure I love him at either tackle position because I think he struggles with speed a little too much to stick at left tackle at the next level but he’s not exactly a force in the running game either and might struggle to get a good enough push to be a quality run-blocking right tackle. Regardless, he clearly has talent and should impress at the weigh-in as long as he is in shape. He’s got upside and should be an early 2nd round pick, but may sneak into the late 1st round if there is a team that really needs a tackle picking late.

-Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia: Glenn could try and stick at right tackle much like Osemele this week but I don’t know if that his ideal fit. He’s tough for me to project right now, but he should be fine inside at guard. He’s a HUGE guy but he worries me with his waist bending and isn’t nearly as dominant in the run game as his size would make you think he would be. This week will be big for him because he will need to show up in shape and hopefully ease some concerns that I and others have about him.

-Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois: Jeff Allen is an underrated offensive tackle prospect that I am really glad got an invitation to this game. Every time I’ve watched him he has looked solid and I can’t recall a time off the top of my head that I saw him get beat badly. Obviously that isn’t exact, but my point is that Allen looked good consistently this year for the Illini and warranted an East-West Shrine Game invite but apparently didn’t get one, so I’m glad he is here. He can play left tackle in the NFL in my opinion and guys with that ability don’t stay under the radar for too long, so I don’t expect Allen to last long under the radar this week and he could end up being the talk of the Senior Bowl if he plays like I think he could.

-Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State: I’m actually not a big fan of Brewster, but I think he warrants consideration in the 3rd or 4th round. He has a chance to show me something this week though. But at this point I wouldn’t pick him in the 2nd round, I just don’t see top center ability from him despite his starting experience at an elite program at Ohio State.

-Ben Jones, C, Georgia: I’m not hugely high on Ben Jones either, but I think I like him a bit more than I like Brewster right now. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the two this week because I think Brewster is the better athlete, but Jones has always impressed me a bit more when I watch Georgia.

Sorry for the long wait! The defense is on the way!

–Tom

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman (Chattanooga) continued to look like the top quarterback here as he went 10/15 for 170 yards and 1 touchdown on the night. He led two scoring drives in the first half and was the only quarterback to challenge the field beyond the 10-15 yards range for quite some time. He got lucky on one of them but thanks to a great catch and run by Chase Ford (Miami) his stat line reflected how good he looked when he had reps. He threw a couple easy passes but he threw the ball accurately and to the right shoulder on all of them. It’s great to see him put it all together like this but it’s too bad he couldn’t move the East down the field on that last series to make for a really exciting ending! BJ definitely helped himself this week and capped it off with a quality performance. He’s got promising future ahead of him and I still maintain that he has starter upside.

Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi) produced a scoring drive late in the 1st half when he threw a short touchdown pass to LaRon Byrd in traffic for a score. Davis made a couple nice throws and threw the ball pretty accurately when he got time to throw. His lack of arm strength was evident on a couple of throws though and they masked that a bit when they rolled him out on a throw to the near sideline to Mayo. He looked pretty comfortable in the pocket at times though. Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois) didn’t look quite as comfortable though, probably because he seemed to deal with more pressure than any of the other quarterbacks. He took a couple shots, one of them a big one from Akiem Hicks on a screen pass. Harnish was 8/14 for 52 yards and one interception. He also ran for 7 rushing yards and 1 touchdown in the 1st half but at least two of his incompletions were dropped passes by running backs on screens, both of which were set up nicely.

Tyler Hansen (Colorado) also got into the game and moved the ball a little bit as he went 12/17 for 144 yards. He didn’t impress me quite as much, but I think he has a chance to get drafted very late or get signed as an undrafted free agent. Dan Persa (Northwestern) was ineffective and got little playing time going 1/3 for only 10 yards and running twice for -2 yards. His two incompletions were significantly overthrown deep balls, and he seemed to believe that he needed to make a big play to stay in the game for more than one or two series. If that’s what he was thinking, then unfortunately he seemed to be right.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) got the running started with a nice run showing his burst and vision on his first carry but didn’t have much room to run the rest of the game and he finished the night with 5 carries for 17 yards with his first run accounting for 15 of those yards. He also added one reception for 14 yards, but dropped a pass on a screen that was sniffed out well by Ronnie Thornton. Marc Tyler (Southern Cal) was another impressive back as he showed impressive vision, a little burst and some power to run through tackles as he gained 34 yards on just 6 carries. Alfred Morris (Florida Atlantic) ended up as the leading rusher for the East with 9 carries for 32 yards. He wasn’t terrific, but he did run through contact very well and a lot of his 32 rushing yards were well earned.

Bobby Rainey (Western Kentucky) showed some burst and vision but finished with only 6 receptions for 33 yards. He did, however, catch 4 passes for 23 yards out of the backfield. But the most impressive back on the night as far as statistics were concerned was Lennon Creer (Louisiana Tech). Creer finished with 80 rushing yards on 15 carries and his touchdown late in the 4th quarter gave the West the victory. Creer had some pretty big holes to run through in the second half so I don’t necessarily think he was the best back on the roster, but he sure did have a good game.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) had a solid game and caught every pass that I saw thrown his way. He definitely helped himself this week and continued to run good routes tonight. Jarius Wright (Arkansas) may have had the catch of the night on a deep ball from Tyler Hansen that he dove and caught for a 41 yard gain. He displayed his speed and route running all game and ran right by Josh Norman, one of the stars of this week of practice, for that big gain.

Lance Lewis (East Carolina) had a solid game catching 4 passes for 41 yards, but a couple of those receptions came on the final drive with less than a minute left. Lewis is still an underrated player but he may not have helped him as much this week as some expected him to. B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State) had a couple receptions and his most impressive play was on a curl that was thrown very well by Coleman and Cunningham was able to catch it and seamlessly turn and run towards the sideline. He ran through a tackle attempt by Rodney McLeod and scored easily.

Thomas Mayo (Cal PA) had a solid game with 3 receptions for 41 yards and showed pretty good hands and caught passes in rhythm from the quarterback who delivered the ball to him. LaRon Byrd (Miami) continued to surprised by making a couple tough catches, one on a throw slightly behind him and another in significant traffic for a touchdown in the 1st half.

Tight Ends:

Surprisingly, tight ends led both teams in receiving in this game. Chase Ford (Miami) made one of the great plays of the game by catching a pass in traffic from Coleman downfield, taking a hit from Gideon as he caught the ball and somehow stayed on his feet and rumbled for significant yardage after the catch. It was his only reception, but it was a big one. George Bryan (NC State) had 3 catches for 55 yards but continued to look slow when running routes and when running after the catch.

Offensive Line:

It was hard to see all of the offensive line play from up in the press box, but when I re-watch the game I will definitely have more notes on the offensive line.

Defensive Line:

Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) had a good game as he was consistently around the ball, he made a number of tackles (unfortunately I couldn’t track down a stat sheet, so at this time I don’t know how many tackles he finished with) and showed his ability to rush the passer. He’s still pretty light to try to stick at defensive end, but I think he has the potential to shift to outside linebacker at the next level. Akiem Hicks (Regina, Canada) didn’t have a lot of impact plays but he consistently showed developing hand usage and his strength to keep blockers off balance. He also had a couple hits on quarterbacks tonight, though he did play too high at times. Nick Jean-Baptiste (Baylor) isn’t fantastic at the point of attack but when you allow him to work down the line of scrimmage and use his motor he can make plays at the line of scrimmage. He had a few tackles at or near the line of scrimmage tonight. DaJohn Harris (Southern Cal) made a nice tackle for loss in this game but I didn’t see a lot of him otherwise. Tyrone Crawford (Boise State) also made a couple nice plays but I didn’t see a ton of him live either.

Linebackers:

Jerry Franklin (Arkansas), Josh Kaddu (Oregon) and Tank Carder (TCU) all made a couple plays up near the line of scrimmage today and all showed some potential in coverage as well. Shawn Loiseau (Merrimack) had an up and down night but his effort and passion should help him make a roster. I didn’t see too many other linebackers making plays, but again it was hard to keep an eye on everything live from the press box.

Defensive Backs:

I didn’t get a great look at all of these guys and because they were playing such vanilla coverages it isn’t the greatest barometer of their ability. I saw Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) get beat deep and attempt a big hit on Kevin Koger that was rendered ineffective, I saw Aaron Henry (Wisconsin) absolutely level Emil Igweganu over the middle. Other than that I don’t have an abundance of notes on the defensive backs from this game unfortunately.

Punters:

I told you guys that Bryan Anger (California) can punt didn’t I? He had some great punts tonight just like he did all week. He might honestly get drafted.

I’m sorry for the lack of notes from the game. I wish I had the stats to help with the defense and it was tough to focus in on everything during the game. It’s always easier to watch the skill position players when the ball is going to them. I’ll re-watch the game at some point and get notes up on it.

Thanks for reading all week. I’ll be covering the Senior Bowl next week as well!

–Tom

Defense:

Defensive Line:

1. DaJohn Harris, DT, Southern Cal: DaJohn Harris was a guy that I thought was very underrated all season long and I think he opened some eyes this week. He doesn’t have elite size, strength or speed but he is well rounded and consistent. He needs to play lower at times but he can rush the passer and stop the run from the 3 tech position which is where I think he has the most NFL upside. He should be able to contribute to a rotation early in his career and could go in the 4th round range.

2. Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina Canada: Hicks may not have played like the 2nd best defensive linemen every day but I don’t think there is any question he has the upside to be one of the best players that was in St. Petersburg this week. He has all the size, power, athleticism and length that you could want in a defensive tackle and he flashed a lot of potential this week. It wasn’t always consistent, and he needs significant work on playing with leverage and he needs to develop much better technique and hand usage, but there is a lot of raw potential there. If he lands on a team with a good defensive line coach and they are patient with him he could end up being something special.

3. Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: Hamilton was a late round pick before this week but I think he has piqued some interest through his play this week. He has great size and strength for the position and has flashed some burst off the line of scrimmage to penetrate into offensive backfields. He doesn’t offer a lot as a pass rusher at this point and will stand up out of his stance too often which limits his ability to move offensive linemen. He knows that he needs to work on that though and he has been improving in that aspect since the end of his senior season.

4. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: Crawford was a guy that was not very well known coming into the week but he definitely impressed me when I watched him. I questioned his ability to shed blocks coming into the week but he definitely showed the ability to do that this week and also showed up bigger and stronger than I expected. I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the 4-3 defensive end position, but I think he may even be able to slide inside to the 3 tech position or continue to bulk up and play the 3-4 defensive end position. His versatility will definitely help him.

5. Justin Francis, DE, Rutgers: Francis definitely looked like one of the better pass rushers at the defensive end spot this week and on top of that he had an absolute non-stop motor all week. He seemed to be the emotional leader of the West defensive line and the guys I talked to from that group mentioned him as a guy with a terrific motor. He will make hustle plays that’s for sure, I just wonder how much upside he has beyond being a rotational defensive end in the NFL.

6. Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina: Robertson may not be a great pass rusher at this point but he definitely showed the ability to play strong at the point of attack and wasn’t easy to move off the ball for anyone on the East offensive line this week. He offers value as a run stopper and warrants a late round draftable grade in my opinion.

7. Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: Jean-Baptiste (or NJB as I like to all him) definitely showed his potential as a pass rusher this week as I compared him to BJ Raji after watching him in pass rush drills on Monday and Tuesday. He was dominating and he was virtually unblockable 1 on 1. The trouble came in team drills when he faced regular double teams and didn’t look great against the run (which was an issue when Baylor played Washington in the Alamo Bowl as well). He plays a little high at times despite his natural leverage because of his height, but he just isn’t as consistent of a run defender as you would like to see. He has upside and he definitely warrants a draftable grade, I’m just wondering if he will ever be more than a rotational guy.

8. Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber definitely flashed his potential as a pass rusher this week but he is too light and lean to stay at 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. He will have to transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in my opinion, and while he has the ability to at least be a reserve and a special teamer there I just don’t know if he has the athleticism to drop into coverage. He’s tall and pretty lanky so he isn’t exactly built for coverage, but I’ve never seen him drop into coverage before so he is a bit of an unknown in that respect. I still think he is draftable though and he showed some of his ability this week and may cause some trouble for the lackluster group of tackles on the West squad.

9. Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis looked quite good in 1 on 1 drills this week when he was rushing the passer and definitely showed throughout the week that he has a good first step, good burst off the line of scrimmage and he has a pass rush move or two that he can use off the ball to beat you right off the snap. He wasn’t as good once he was engaged though and he struggled versus the run this week. He can definitely contribute to a rotation as a pass rusher inside, but defending the run is something he will have to try to work on in the NFL. That makes me wonder if he will get drafted or just signed as an undrafted free agent to let him earn his way onto the roster or practice squad.

10. Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath is one player that I would like to rank higher but based on the week I can’t right now. He was playing out of position this week though and isn’t built for the 4-3 defensive end position in the NFL. I don’t think he’s a good fit inside at defensive tackle either thanks to his 6’7”, 282 pound frame. I think he is definitely a 3-4 defensive end and he really didn’t get to show that this week. He’s someone that I think will go in the later portion of the draft but he takes coaching so well and has a perfect frame for that position that I think he will end up contributing to a roster and potentially ending up as a solid starter in a couple years.

Linebackers:

1. Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey was playing out of position this week as a 4-3 OLB but hopefully he won’t be drafted to play in that scheme. His best fit in the NFL is as a 3-4 OLB. It would have been nice if he had shown the versatility to drop into coverage as a 4-3 OLB this week, but he looked best when he was doing simple drops, particularly in the flat. He didn’t look great in deeper drops and he made his plays on the ball on his shorter drops. He has potential as a pass rusher and should be able to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB well enough to eventually be a starter.

2. Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon: Kaddu consistently impressed me with his athleticism this week and should continue to do that in today’s game. He is the best 4-3 OLB here this week and he showed that every day in practice. I never got to see him in full pads though so I am interested to see how he runs with them on and I want to see him tackle more importantly.

3. Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas: Franklin is a player that I think is a bit underrated and while he may not be a stud linebacker I definitely think he is a draftable prospect that will provide value as a special teamer and a reserve before potentially being a starter. He won’t start today’s game but he will definitely get playing time. It will be interesting to see the dichotomy between Franklin and Tank Carder at inside linebacker today for the West.

4. Shawn Loiseau, ILB, Merrimack: Loiseau isn’t a guy that makes you say “wow” with his size or athletic ability but he definitely leaves you saying that thanks to his passion for the game and his leadership capability. Whether this kid is drafted or not I would be shocked if he didn’t make a NFL roster because he is willing to do whatever the coaches ask him to and he strikes me as a potential special teams ace. I’m not sure if he has starter upside, but he will definitely be on a NFL roster one way or another.

5. Brandon Marshall, OLB, Nevada: Marshall is the “lesser” of the two senior Nevada linebackers but I think he might be a more fundamentally sound football player than his teammate James-Michael Johnson who will play in the Senior Bowl next week. I really want to see him tackle though and I haven’t seen him in full pads all week, but he has flashed ability in the run game and in pass coverage.

6. Tank Carder, ILB, TCU: Carder made plays in pass coverage consistently this week as we all expected but I haven’t seen an ounce of physicality from him in the trenches and I don’t think he can shed blocks from offensive linemen up at the line of scrimmage. I really want to see him in full pads when he has to fill versus the run because I think that is a serious weakness in his game. I don’t think he has starter potential in the NFL and I think he will end up being a WLB in a 4-3 when all is said and done.

7. Ronnie Thornton, ILB, Southern Mississippi: Thornton isn’t the best linebacker on either Shrine Game roster but he always looked like a good tackler to me on tape and I am excited to see how he does with full pads on today. He will be a reserve and a special teamer at the next level, but I think he can make a roster doing those things.

Defensive Backs:

1. Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Norman definitely had the best week of any defensive back as he regularly made plays on the ball either by intercepting them or deflecting them during all four days of practice. I like his ball skills, his size, his great closing burst and his willingness to hit people. He couldn’t lay anyone out this week, but there were two or three times that I can remember he really looked like he wanted to. I’m excited to see how he supports versus the run and how he tackles today.

2. Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: Prater didn’t have a great season this year but he had a good week of practice this week. He doesn’t have great hands but he has pretty good ball skills, fluid hips and a nice, low back-pedal. He looks like he can be a quality nickel back in the NFL and perhaps even a #2 starter at some point.

3. Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin was the second best defensive back all week for the East but he doesn’t strike me as a physical player and I really want to see how he supports the run and how he tackles. He is athletic though and showed some ball skills and closing speed this week, but I’m not sold on him having starter upside.

4. Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t have a great week when he was dropping into zone coverage and he didn’t always look good in man coverage (particularly against quicker receivers) but he showed his potential as a press man corner one day this week. He looks huge for a cornerback and it’s hard to believe he is only 6’0” tall, but he warrants a draftable grade in my opinion.

5. Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State: I liked Ihenacho coming into the week and I still do but he had his issues in coverage at times this week and didn’t look very fast either. He’s a good tackler though and should be comfortable supporting the run in this game. He’s definitely draftable in my opinion, but I just wonder if he has a future as a NFL starter.

6. Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: Henry is someone that plenty of people like but I can’t say I’m as big of a fan. He allowed a lot of big plays this year for Wisconsin and I think that is a problem that will not be easily fixed once he gets to the NFL. He’s got the athleticism and some ball skills but I just don’t think he has starter upside at safety. I could be wrong, but I just haven’t seen it and I have watched a lot of Wisconsin football the past two years.

7. Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: Young didn’t impress me early in the week but he looked better throughout the week to me. I’m not sure where his draft stock is at this point, but I think he is draftable and warrants consideration later in the draft.

8. Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: Tandy is someone I was not impressed with this week. He looks tight in the hips and is a little tall in his back-pedal, and I don’t think he has much upside outside of being a zone corner where he can close on things in front of him. He struggled in man coverage this week in my opinion and I think he’s a 4th or 5th round pick right now, maybe even a little later.

9. Rodney McLeod, CB, Virginia: McLeod was a bit of a pleasant surprise in my opinion because he showed fluid hips, good footwork and nice low back-pedal consistently this week. I’m not sure if that transitioned onto the field that well but it was definitely there in drills. He has spent time at safety but I think he has a chance to stick as a corner in the NFL.

10. Blake Gideon, S, Texas: Gideon had some of the same issues that Henry did this week as he let guys get behind him deep at times and he was scolded for it by his coaches when it did. He’s a solid player though and I think he warrants some late round consideration, but if he doesn’t get drafted I think he will be able to make a roster as an undrafted free agent.

Punters:

Bryan Anger, P, California: Anger looked great punting the ball all week whether it was with the wind or into it. He timed well on his hang time and the scouts I was sitting with pointed out regularly the sound that the ball makes when it comes off of his foot. He surprised me with his leg from day one at the West practices and he kept it up all week. He may even be draftable as a punter which isn’t exactly common, but he will definitely get a chance as an undrafted free agent if he doesn’t get drafted. He has a NFL leg.

Defensive MVP Prediction: Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: I like defensive linemen in these games but the interior defensive linemen on the East will have a tough challenge going up against Brandon Brooks, the talented guard on the West roster. NJB has flashed potential this week though and I think he is a bit of a sleeper for this award. He can penetrate and get upfield and he has looked good in 1 on 1 situations this week. He could end up with a tackle for loss or two and a sack today.

East-West Shrine Game Preview:

Offense:

Quarterbacks:

1. B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga: Coleman has been working on improving his footwork this week and while it hasn’t always been reflected by accurate throws you could see the progress being made from Monday through Thursday. He should be the starter at quarterback for the East, so keep an eye on him. He has the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks here, and I currently have a very draftable 4th round grade on him.

2. Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois: Harnish will be the first to admit that he had his ups and downs this week, but I don’t think that defines him as a prospect at all. Keep in mind, Harnish was taking snaps from under center, going through 3, 5 and 7 step drops and going through more complicated reads and progressions than he was ever asked to do at Northern Illinois. This isn’t to say that he can’t do it, not at all, but he was learning more every day of practice while he was still expected to perform well. I won’t excuse Harnish missing throws high or throwing interceptions this week, but I will say that everyone has to start somewhere and Harnish has made a lot of strides this week. As he would say, there is still a lot of work to be done, but he has the intangibles and the work ethic to continue to drill the techniques he has learned this week until he is comfortable with them. Do not bet against Chandler Harnish.

3. Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: Davis may have been the most consistent QB in St. Petersburg this week, but he also had his struggles. His lack of arm strength and ball velocity on downfield throws is pretty apparent, and he had his share of bad decisions and turnovers this week as well. He’s a 6th/7th round or undrafted prospect at this point in my opinion, but I think he has a chance to get picked very late by a team that likes his intangibles.

4. Tyler Hansen, QB, Colorado: Hansen had a solid week and while he obviously has his limitations I think he helped himself a little bit this week. He’s still an undrafted guy in my eyes, but I think he will get his chance to compete for a roster spot or a spot on a practice squad as an undrafted free agent.

5. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern: Honestly, Persa can play and if he was 1-2 inches taller I think he would have a shot as an undrafted free agent. Is he the perfect quarterback? No, but he is a gamer and I wouldn’t bet against him. But his height all but assures that he will go undrafted and he will likely be asked to change positions if he attempts to stick in the NFL. I kind of hope he goes to the CFL because I think he could be a special player in that league if they will overlook his lack of height.

6. John Brantley, QB, Florida: Yes, I ranked Brantley under Persa. Brantley had a rough week and I think some of that had to do with his lack of timing with receivers, but he has mechanical issues he needs to work out and doesn’t have the ball velocity that I was personally expecting. He should go undrafted and he has a chance to make a team in camp, but I don’t think he has any more upside than being a journeyman back-up in the NFL.

Running Backs:

1. Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: Poole has been consistent the entire week and has impressed me every day of practice. He has showed good vision, burst and lateral agility every day and I am really looking forward to seeing him try to run through contact today. I really like him as a great value in the 4th or 5th round, so keep an eye on him if your team needs some help at running back.

2. Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky: Rainey impressed me all week and I think he may end up being the starter for the West. I like his burst and his compact frame, and despite his size he has a draftable grade from me. I’m really looking forward to see how he runs through contact because the West never practiced with full pads this week.

3. Marc Tyler, RB, Southern Cal: Tyler was a guy that I wasn’t particularly high on coming into the week, but it’s pretty clear to me that he was nicked up during his senior season and he looked like he was healthy this week. He’s got a strong, powerful build and I am anxious to see how he runs today. He doesn’t have a ton of burst, but he looked like he had more than he did on tape this week.

4. Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland: Meggett is a guy that I have never really been a fan of. He’s got ability and he has weight room strength but I’ve never seen it translate to the field. One scout told me this week that there is a big difference between weight room strength and power. Not everyone has power, but anyone can add strength in the weight room. I believe Meggett is a guy that has weight room strength more than he has power, and it shows when he tries to run through contact.

5. Lennon Creer, RB, Louisiana Tech: I am not especially high on Creer either but he has the versatility to line up in the backfield or be split out away from the formation. It will be interesting to see if lines up outside today. I didn’t see much burst from him this week though and I’m not sure I have a draftable grade on him at this point.

6. Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic: Morris showed a little burst and some wiggle in practices for the East this week but while he caught the ball well overall I just wasn’t too impressed. I think one of his strengths is running through contact though, so he may very well have a good game running the ball today.

FB:

1. Emil Igweganu, TE/FB, Massachusetts: I wasn’t totally impressed with “Big Ig” as his teammates call him, but he has been invited to the Senior Bowl in what I would assume is a fullback capacity. He should line up there consistently today, but he has missed blocks at times this week when lined up at fullback. I imagine the position is pretty new to him, so it will be interesting to see how he does today.

Wide Receivers:

1. Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas: Wright didn’t have a perfect week, but he did get to display his great speed and his impressive route running all week. He has pretty good hands, not great, but they are fairly reliable. He had a few drops this week but he catches the ball with his hands pretty consistently instead of body catching. He looks like a quality slot receiver in the NFL, and I have a feeling his stock will be boosted once he gets to the combine and runs in the 4.3’s.

2. Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State: Wylie looked like the most consistent receiver on the West squad all week as he consistently ran good routes, created separation with his quickness and caught the ball extremely well. He was underrated coming into the week but he may have helped himself as much as any receiver at the Shrine Game. He has drawn a number of comparisons to Wes Welker this week and should have a good game today.

3. Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech: Benford has been the most consistent of all of the wide receivers this week and should be targeted fairly consistently in this game. He runs good routes and has reliable hands, though I don’t think he has a lot of shiftiness after the catch. That’s something I will be watching closely today.

4. A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: Jenkins is one of the more talented receivers here and after a slow start with a number of drops at Monday’s practice he really picked it up and played well the rest of the week. He should get playing time in the slot which is where I think his upside is highest as a NFL receiver. He’s not afraid to go over the middle and while he isn’t a speed demon he does have speed and may be able to get over the top of the West’s secondary today if they aren’t careful.

5. B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: Cunningham is a guy that plenty of people are high on but I’m not as big of a fan. He has size and solid speed and burst, but his hands are inconsistent and I wonder how much separation he will be able to create in the NFL. He showed the ability to catch the ball with his hands outside of his frame this week, but he also had drops like I was expecting. I personally just think he’s inconsistent, and that tempers some of his upside in my eyes.

6. Tyler Shoemaker, WR, Boise State: Shoemaker isn’t the biggest or the fastest but he ran good routes all week, came back to the ball consistently out of his breaks to help his quarterback, and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass all week. He doesn’t have an abundance of upside because he’s not a freak athlete and he is pretty polished, but he has reliable hands and runs good routes. He won’t be a guy that people are crazy about when he gets drafted in the 4th or 5th round range, but when he gets to camp he will impress coaches and media alike.

7. Darius Hanks, WR, Alabama: Hanks was a late addition to the Shrine Game but I like him as a prospect. He’s not an elite talent and he lacks size but he showed the ability to create separation with his route running and he caught the ball fairly well this week. I think he’s a bit underrated now that I think his hands have improved over the course of this season, so I may have him ranked higher than most would out of the 14 receivers here.

8. Dale Moss, WR, South Dakota State: Moss didn’t impress me early in the week and he looked like he was a 4.55-4.6 40 yard dash guy, but he grew on me a bit over the course of the week. He has a NFL sized frame and uses it fairly well to shield defenders from the ball to make the catch. His hands looked reliable this week and while I don’t think he will be a high draft pick by any means I think he has some upside. He could go in the 6th-7th round range or possibly be signed as an undrafted free agent.

9. Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas: Childs is a guy that I like but I am not sure how healthy his knee is right now. He still hasn’t come back to his old self yet and while he is a good route runner he looked slow out of his breaks, which I concluded had something to do with the knee. He has good hands and NFL height but teams will worry about that knee until he proves it is 100%.

10. Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: Lewis is a guy that was pretty under the radar all week. He doesn’t have great size or great speed but he is solid in all areas and caught the ball well this week. He consistently looked the ball into his hands and I don’t recall seeing many drops from him in all four practices. He’s a late round guy and a possible UDFA, but he can stick on a roster in my opinion.

11. Thomas Mayo, WR, Cal PA: Mayo came into the week with some hype but to be honest I didn’t think he lived up to it. I understand that he is raw as a route runner but I had people telling me he would run in the 4.4’s and even the 4.3’s during the week and I just don’t see it. I’ll admit it if I’m wrong, but even if he does run in the 4.4’s it just doesn’t look like it with the pads on. If he can improve his route running and start to play faster it would help his stock, but he does have pretty reliable hands even if he has the occasional issue with concentration.

12. LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: After Monday and even Tuesday’s practice I never thought I would be writing this, but I have to give credit where credit is due and I have always said I can admit when I’m wrong. LaRon Byrd improved every day of practice after looking absolutely terrible on Monday. I can’t recall a dropped pass from Byrd in either of the last two practices, which really says it all. He looked more comfortable playing the ball in the air, he high pointed it at times, caught it with his hands, and even created some separation. I still don’t think it’s very likely that he got drafted, but he really rebounded after a slow start this week and could very well end up with a touchdown today thanks to his prowess in the red zone he showed later in the week.

13. Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan: Hemingway had a solid week and got better as the week progressed until he hurt his hamstring. He may miss the game today which is unfortunate, but I think he was a late round/undrafted prospect coming into the week and not much has changed. He has some ability, but he looks slow on tape to me. The combine will be important for him so hopefully he is 100% for that.

14. Kevin Hardy, WR, Citadel: Hardy got a little hype from people on day one as he was able to demonstrate his speed and quickness but his hands were consistently the worst of all the receivers here in my opinion. Not only did he body catch more than any other receiver in St. Petersburg but when he did try to catch with his hands he dropped a lot of passes. He did catch some and he flashed the ability to make a play on passes away from his frame and above his head, but his hands are a problem right now. If he can improve them and catch the ball better his stock could shoot up, and he seems like a guy that might get a shot because of his athleticism. If he gets his chance and he works hard to improve his hands then he could surprise some people, but the only way he will make a contribution at receiver in the NFL is if he improves his hands.

Tight Ends:

1. Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan: Koger is the top tight end prospect here and I think he has the highest ceiling as well. He was very underutilized at Michigan in the passing game but he seemed to be the tight end that was able to block well and catch passes well this week.

2. Chase Ford, TE, Miami: Ford has the size and range you want from a tight end and he showed he has pretty solid hands this week, but he has a long ways to go as a blocker and his height (6’6”) hurts him when he attempts to get leverage in the running game.

3. Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple: Rodriguez isn’t flashy and I think he can make a roster but he doesn’t have the size and speed that teams love at tight end these days. He strikes me as a “glue guy” though and that’s what makes me think he will end up making a team whether he is drafted or not.

Offensive Line:

1. Brandon Brooks, OG, Miami Ohio: Brooks has been the best offensive lineman all week in my opinion. He’s got NFL size, athleticism and strength and he has demonstrated all of that consistently this week. DaJohn Harris told me that he thinks Brooks is the only offensive lineman on the West roster who hasn’t lost a 1 on 1 this week and I think he may be right.

2. Jeremiah Warren, OG, South Florida: Warren didn’t impress me too much early in practice but as the week went on he impressed me more and more. I probably have him ranked higher than most people, but he consistently looked good to me as I continued to watch him. He’s not a great puller, or at least it doesn’t look like it to me, but he has been reliable all week and should be a starter today.

3. Rishaw Johnson, OG, Cal PA: Rishaw Johnson has NFL size and strength for a guard, that’s for sure. He looks heavy footed to me though but he has some athleticism. I love his initial punch and his strength as a lineman, I just wonder if his character concerns will deflate his stock. Interviews will be very important for him, but he definitely warrants a draftable grade.

4. Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State: Saulsberry is the best center here in my opinion and was thought of as underrated coming into the week. He’s probably not so underrated anymore, and definitely warrants a draftable grade as a NFL pivot.

5. Desmond Wynn, OG, Rutgers: I liked what I saw from Wynn a lot this week. He’s got a nastiness and a toughness to him that I really like and he’s got NFL size, length and strength. He plays high though and that limits his potential but if he can improve his pad level and play with better leverage he absolutely has what it takes to be a starting offensive guard in the NFL.

6. Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: Dennis is another player that I like and that I have a draftable grade on but I think most everyone agrees he needs to work on his leverage and his hand placement which are both inconsistent at this point. He has starting guard potential though and I think he could get drafted in the later portion of the draft and end up starting after a couple years of coaching and development.

7. Al Netter, OG, Northwestern: Netter is a guy that I thought would be much better inside at guard in the next level before the season even started, and while he may be able to play at RT I like what he has been able to do at guard this week. I definitely have a draftable grade on him as a guard and I think he could end up starting down the line much like Wynn and Dennis. He’s got the size and length for the position and he improved throughout the week at this new position for him which is always good to see.

8. Jeff Adams, OT, Columbia: Adams looked like the best OT in St. Petersburg this week. I wish that meant more than it does because overall the offensive tackles here were quite awful. Adams looked consistently solid this week though and while he may not get drafted I think he has a shot to make a roster.

9. Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado: Miller came into the week with some hype that he might be able to kick outside to offensive tackle and stick there but that did not happen at all. It started when his arms measured in at 33 inches in length (not ideal for an offensive tackle) and he continued to struggle with leverage and with bull rushes throughout the week. He could have moved up into 3rd round consideration with a good week this week but I think he will be pushed down to the 5th or 6th round at best considering his poor showing. There have been 6’6” guards in the NFL in the past but they were all bigger and much stronger in the lower body than Miller is. I don’t think he has starting potential in the NFL and he definitely hurt his stock this week.

10. Matt Reynolds, OG, BYU: Reynolds is a guy that I have not been high on for well over a year and that hasn’t changed one bit. He still bends at the waist, he still struggles with bull rushes and overall was not impressive in 1 on 1’s or in team drills to me this week. He looks like an undrafted free agent to me.

Kickers:

Blair Walsh, K, Georgia: All week long Walsh was kicking field goals from about the 38 yard line on the sideline through the field goal posts. It’s a horrendous angle but he was knocking them through anyways, and that isn’t a regular 48 yard field goal! He’s definitely got a NFL leg, the only concern is can he make clutch kicks and what happened this past season when he missed more field goals in one year than he had previously missed in three entire years at Georgia.

My Pick For Offensive MVP: Tauren Poole, RB, Tennesse: Poole should get the ball a fair amount and he looked like the best running back at the Shrine Game all week to me. I expect him to lead the East in rushing, score a touchdown and help them ultimately win the game.

Thanks for reading! The defensive preview will be up shortly.

–Tom

Chandler Harnish Interview:

First of all Chandler, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know it’s been a busy week for you.

CH: Yeah it really has. We checked in on Saturday, have been doing meetings ever since. Meetings, interviews, testing, watching film so it’s been an unbelievably hectic week but at the same time it’s been a lot of fun.

What has been your favorite part of being down here this week?

CH: Just having the opportunity to meet some great coaches like coach Childress, Paul Spicer, and my QB coach Craig Johnson. I’ve had an opportunity to be with a lot of good people that have taught me a lot of different things.

Tom: What is one thing you think you have done very well this week?

CH: Just being a leader on the field and commanding the huddle. When guys are down or unfocused or need some extra direction on what they’re doing I think I’m a guy that’s really helped them along. There’s still plenty to work on but I think I’ve added a leadership aspect to the team.

Tom: What is something that your coaches have taught you this week that you consider particularly valuable?

CH: Just the way to actually progressively read through different receivers across the field and getting used to a NFL pass rush. I think they really harped on us as far as the pass rush in the NFL, specifically as defensive ends go, because they are so much faster than anything we’ve seen in college. So they’ve really taught me to play more urgently, to use my feet in the pocket and step up when I need to.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a quarterback?

CH: I think just making plays. When the game is on the line whether it is a 3rd and long or a 2 minute situation to go down and win a ball game I think that being able to make plays. Whether it’s a big throw, or scrambling out of the pocket to make a play with my feet or throwing on the run I think that’s something I’ve always been able to provide.

Tom: Yes sir, I’ve seen you do that at NIU many, many times.

CH: NIU asked me to do a lot of different things when I was playing for ‘em and that’s just the kind of player I’ve always been so it was comfortable for me to do that.

Tom: What about something you need to work on?

CH: I think that taking snaps from under center, doing your normal 5 step, 7 step drops. And then if your first guy is not open being able to go through your progressions and find your next receiver or go to your check down in a quick amount of time without getting sacked. Just taking the snap, reading the defense and making the proper throw from under center is something that I really haven’t done in college.

Tom: I agree, and how do you think that has been going this week as you’ve been learning how to do that?

CH: I think every day has gotten better. I think I saw improvement every day and again I think there’s still a lot of work to do, but we’ve had great coaches to get us there and hopefully on Saturday we’ll be able to show off some of those skills.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the position or people you modeled yourself after?

CH: As far as mentors go I like to contact my two former quarterback coaches. Most recently a guy named Matt Canada who was my quarterback coach at NIU and the guy before him Jim Zebroswki who is now at the University of Minnesota. Those two guys I really keep in contact with a lot. Then as far as modeling my gameplay after, I feel like I’m a pretty unique player. I guess maybe a guy like Jake Locker or Fitzpatrick from Buffalo. Just gritty, tough guys that can make plays with their feet but also can make the throws.

Tom: How would you describe your work habits?

CH: I feel like I’m an incredibly hard worker, especially when we are on the field I’m going 100% all the time. I like to simulate game speed when I’m practicing so I practice as hard as I can. And off the field I watch a lot of film, take a lot of notes. I’m one of those guys that likes to take a lot of notes and then go back over those notes afterwards.

Tom: What do you think is an attribute that is crucial to play and succeed at the quarterback position?

CH: I think definitely just having confidence at the position. It’s one of those jobs where there are a lot of critics out there and you have to be confident in yourself and confident in your abilities to lead a team. Once doubt creeps in your mind is when you start to fail as a quarterback. So if you can maintain a positive self image of yourself and stay confident then everything is easier after that.

Tom: Who are a few players on defense that have stuck out to you this week?

CH: I think Dominique Hamilton is a helluva player, he’s a beast on the inside. Tank Carder from TCU he’s a really good player that can do a lot of different things. He actually intercepted one of my passes today. It just shows what kind of athlete he is. Blake Gideon the safety for Texas is also a good player. We’ve seen a lot of good ones and I’m sure we’ll see more on Saturday.

Tom: Have you heard about Josh Norman and his 6 interceptions in East practices this week?

CH: Yeah I heard about that I kind of followed that along on Twitter. Where is he from?

Coastal Carolina, so I had never really seen him much before, but he really impressed me this week.

CH: Alright, I’ll definitely look out for him on Saturday.

Tom: Anyone on offense that you have been impressed by?

CH: Yeah, we have some really good WR’s. It’s hard to name just one. We have a guy from Fresno State named Devon Wylie who I think has surprised some people. He’s a quick guy, Wes Welker type who has made a lot of plays. Tyler Shoemaker from Boise State has really impressed me. Greg Childs and Jarius Wright are really good players. Our running back Bobby Rainey is a really good player as well. We have some talent there and I think they’ll make a lot of plays.

Tom: How have your offensive linemen been doing?

CH: The offensive line has done great. The first day was kind of a struggle in the new scheme and things like that, but they’ve really settled down and provided a lot of great protection and they’re creating running room in the ground game as well. So there’s a lot of great players there, can’t really name them all, but I think they’re really big guys. They’re strong and they’re smart and they’ve done a great job.

Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what teams have you talked to this week? Any interesting questions?

CH: Man I’ll tell you what I’ve talked to about every NFL team that’s been here this week. The Packers, Vikings, Titans, Bucs, NY Giants, Jaguars, Falcons, Patriots, Browns, Chiefs. Just to name a few. You get asked a BUNCH of different questions. They range from “Have you ever been arrested?” to “What do your parents do?” to “What do you like to do in the offseason?” to what kind of leader do you describe yourself as, to what would your coaches say about you. Just a lot of in depth questions that start to make you think.

Tom: Yeah they really ask you a lot of quirky stuff!

CH: Yeah and I think a lot of times they want to see your mannerisms, how articulate you are, or how quick you are to blame yourself rather than blame others. I think there’s a lot of things they do to see what kind of person you are because it’s pretty evident by how you answer those questions.

Tom: Where do you see your career going after this?

CH: Nowhere but up. I feel like I’ve done a lot of good things, I’ve done some things poorly down here, but I think it’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot of cool things and been around a lot of great people. I can only get better and continue to work on the techniques I’ve been taught. And being able to get to know Coach Childress and to gain familiarity with the West Coast offense is a great asset for any quarterback.

Tom: I agree, and I don’t think you can be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re gun-shy the scouts will see that and take note of it. Being able to make mistakes and learn from it is an incredibly important skill.

CH: I completely agree with you. You have to find that fine line between being willing to make a mistake and being too aggressive with the football. Sometimes you have to throw it away or you have to tuck and run but there are times you need to make a tight throw or see if you can throw one over the top. I think those guys just want to see what kind of decision maker you are and they also want to see how you bounce back from mistakes. I think that’s one thing that kind of gets overlooked is how you react to adversity when bad things do happen.

Tom: Absolutely! That is a HUGE thing that I look for when I am watching quarterbacks. You have to acknowledge that interceptions and turnovers are going to happen and that you want someone at quarterback who can lead you back down the field and not let those eat at him the rest of the game.

CH: Right, and there’s a lot to be said for having a skill like that; to be able to fight back through adversity.

Tom: Where will you be training for the combine and your pro day?

CH: In a suburb of Chicago, a place called Lake Barrington Field House. It’s a big high performance facility and I’ll train all the way through the combine and to my pro day after that.

Tom: What was your favorite moment during your senior season?

CH: Of my senior season… Man, I’ll tell you what there’s been a lot of great moments but beating Toledo when we beat them 62-60 on ESPN2 was pretty special because it was a rivalry game and there was so much on the line. But I don’t think anything tops the MAC Championship win and kind of the way we did it. NIU hadn’t won a MAC Championship for 28 years so that was really special for former players and alumni to get that one for them. There was a lot of pain there, so we kind of fixed that pain and to be able to hoist up that banner was pretty great.

Tom: Wow I didn’t realize it had been 28 years for NIU!

CH: Right, it was 1983 and we had lost a couple heart-breaking championships in the last 5 years, we could never really finish the job.

Tom: Is there one thing you want to work on or develop once you get to the NFL?

CH: Yeah I think, again, just continuing to work on reading my keys and becoming more and more comfortable under center and taking the 5 step or 7 step drop. Another thing is just being able to block out those distractions and not worry about those critics and the media and maybe some upset fans or whatever it is. Just being able to put that stuff to the side and be comfortable in your own play.

Tom: Is there a specific offense that you’d like to play in in the NFL?

CH: You know what, not really! I just want to get an opportunity to play because I like to think of myself as a pretty smart person that can pick up an offense if he’s coached the right way. But being a spread guy who has played in the shotgun a lot in college I wouldn’t mind playing in a system like that. Again, whoever is paying the bills when you get to that point. It doesn’t really matter to me!

Tom: Do you have any specific goals left for the rest of the week?

CH: Yeah, just continuing to learn our offense and master it by the big game on Saturday. Whether I start or not I want to take advantage of my opportunity and my reps that I get and be smart with the ball so I can show what I can do.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

CH: Oh man. Well I’m a farm boy. I grew up on a farm in a small town. Every summer me and my family we’d sell sweet corn. We’d go out, pick it in the field, sell it out to our local people in our community and that was the greatest time. We didn’t make a lot of money, but you can reconnect with a lot of people from the community and your hometown fans. Just being a country boy and coming from humble beginnings is I guess what I’d like people to know about me.

Tom: Well that’s about all I’ve got, do you have any questions for me?

CH: Yes actually, I saw you were from Minnesota, do you know where Richfield is? I have a teammate who is from there.

Tom: Yes of course! What is your teammate’s name?

CH: His name is Trevor Olson he was my left tackle at NIU. You should definitely follow him because he’s a great player. He’s at the NFLPA game right now and I guess he’s kind of the talk right now at left tackle. This is a guy that started 54 games at left tackle at Northern Illinois. He started every single game and in his career I think he had 5 penalties and gave up 3 sacks and at left tackle which is pretty impressive. He seems like he will be a nice sleeper and definitely make a NFL team that’s for sure.

Tom: Wow! 54 starts and only 5 penalties and 3 sacks? That’s amazing! But hey, tell me how much of that is you helping him out by stepping up and scrambling! *Laughs*

CH: Haha, yeah you know you have to put that into account but that was never a part of my game that I had to worry about was my left side. That’s probably what helped me do some of the things I did. I was always so comfortable in the pocket because I never had to worry about my back side. He’s a great player, he really is.

Tom: That’s great to hear, thanks for the heads up on that! Well it was great to talk to you Chandler, thanks again for taking the time to talk with me and good luck on Saturday!

CH: Thanks, I appreciate it.

BJ Coleman Interview:

Tom: First of all BJ thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know it’s been a busy week for you.

Tom: I have been high on you as a quarterback since before the season started, so it was fun to see you down here. How do you think your senior season went overall?

BJ: Senior season was tough. It felt great starting out, opened up in Nebraska. It was an awesome opportunity to play in Lincoln, it was really impressive. We were off to a great start, 2-1, played against App State got beat and then I got knocked out during Georgia Southern. I had a shoulder injury and was out until the rest of the season until the last game, wasn’t out the whole season, but was out until Wofford. Threw the ball around fairly well I’d say, was able to finish and come back which was big. The guys fought hard, I was blessed to be a part of that group of guys, didn’t go the way we wanted it to so that’s a credit to my teammates and the coaches.

Tom: I was trying to watch that Georgia Southern game, it looked like a tough injury.

BJ: It was one of those plays, you look at it on film and it looks like the guy didn’t even hit me that hard but the guy just caught me in the perfect spot and came down right on that AC joint. When you get that AC joint messed up, it’s really hard to lift that arm. I really hard to let my arm heal for a while, do little shoulder exercises, and I feel like my arm is stronger now I’ll be honest with you.

Tom: What has been your favorite part of being down here this week?

BJ: I would definitely say Sunday, being able to go to the hospital and visit those kids, those 3 hours are something you will remember for a lifetime. It was special and to be a part of that was way more than I could have ever asked to be a part of. I love the game of football, football is what got me here so I owe those memories to football, but being here is pretty special. After that obviously it’s been the guys, I love being a teammate and this has been special. Nothing is guaranteed after Saturday, we’d love to think that everyone will get picked up and play at the next level, but nothing is guaranteed after Saturday. We just need to go out and have fun; it’s the last send-off from college football for all of us.

Tom: What is one thing you think you have done very well this week?

BJ: I think I picked up the offense very well, I feel very good with what we’re doing. Coach Carr has done a great job preparing all of us in the meeting rooms and on the field. I think I have gotten better with my feet this week, I think that has been huge for me. I have never really had someone focus in and coach me on my feet. It was a good feeling to get a lot out of what Coach Carr was saying about feet and how it measures up with where to go, the timing of the throw and the accuracy. So I think I picked up the offense well and got better with my feet.

Tom: I agree, it’s always good to see someone that can take coaching well and improve over the course of the week and I think you proved that you could do that this week.

BJ: Oh absolutely. Ever since I was 4 years old my Dad has always been there for me and he coached my little league teams. I’ve always been able to listen and focus in on what the coach is saying and try to execute it the way they want. Sometimes it’s not going to work that way and you have to improvise a little bit, but it’s very important that you don’t get too mechanical and that the fundamentals stick so that it’s like muscle memory so you don’t have to think about that stuff when you’re playing. That way you can play fast and you can react. Sometimes I catch myself guessing a little bit, but this week I was able to kind of release, say “hey, I know this offense” make a pre-snap read, get the ball out, react and just play football. I think I’ve always been able to pick things up quickly and that was big this week as well.

Tom: What is something that your coaches have taught you this week that you consider particularly valuable?

BJ: I would say it would be the fact that it’s important to show up, and keep focus for certain amounts of time. What I mean by that is that everyone comes in and always going to be amped up to try something new. Scouts are coming in and you get the chance to play in a very prestigious game, one that’s been around a long time and that has produced a lot of NFL players, some Hall of Famers and some future Hall of Famers. We all know that. But when you come in you have all that excitement. What are you going to do when you get tired? What are you going to do when you finish practice and have to go to two hours and forty five minutes of meetings? Are you going to put your head down, take your cell phone out and not keep focus? For the most part I was very impressed with the guys in that meeting room with me because they all worked hard. Because this is a job interview for all of us, and when you go to that next level it’s a business, it’s a job. It’s something that you are going to do to put food on your plate for your family. It’s still fun, and you gotta treat it like it’s fun, but at the same time it’s what you do.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a quarterback?

BJ: I’d say teammates. The most important thing for a QB ESPECIALLY, yes you have to know the offense, yes you have to be able to interact and communicate, but to say it all in one word it has to be teammates. If you’ve got 10 other guys that are looking at you in the huddle with 20 eyes and they look back at you and they believe in you and what you’re selling, and they believe that you’re going to take whatever is thrown at you and make it positive, then you can accomplish anything. If you don’t have anyone that believes in you it doesn’t matter how good you are, it doesn’t matter how strong your arm is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are and it doesn’t matter if you know where to go with the ball, you’re not going to be able to do it on your own because this is an 11 man game. You’re playing against 11 other men who are very determined to stop you from your goal, especially offensively. It could be the opposite if you’re a defensive player, but I think if you’ve got guys who believe in what you’re selling and believe in you as a quarterback I think that the sky is the limit. It’s not going to be perfect, but do you give your team the best chance to win.

Tom: I think that’s a fantastic answer BJ, this has been a very refreshing interview so far.

BJ: Haha, well I’m an up-beat guy! Some people will say “Woah, easy, easy calm down!” but my mother is a principal and she has always taught me to be a leader and as a quarterback you gotta be. You gotta be outspoken and at times you gotta be able to take coaching but at the same time you have to let guys know that in a time of duress; everything’s fine. Even if it’s not!

Tom: I agree, you always look for those intangibles from a quarterback. I think that’s what sets the good ones and the great ones apart.

BJ: Oh absolutely. And you know, everyone here is a good football player. Excuse me, a great football player. I’ve seen some amazing athletes and amazing people this week, but the littlest of things, and I’m talking the littlest of the little, set some of these guys apart.

Tom: What about something you need to work on?

BJ: You would put me on the spot, Tom. I’d say touch. I think that’s another good one. Touch on the shorter passes, and I think a lot of that to with touch on the red zone, I think a lot of that comes with knocking the rust off it’s been a little while since we’ve been out here playing. But I’ve got a great feel for the long ball, I’ve got a good feel for touch, and I missed some of them this week which I was upset about. But at the same time when you get a good feel for the receivers you’re throwing to and you get time to work with them then that stuff comes. But I think that touch when throwing the check-downs and the shorter passes, other than that I was pretty pleased.

Tom: You know, it’s easy to grade a quarterback during these weeks and say “Oh he missed this throw, oh he was inaccurate that day” but playing quarterback is so much about timing, anticipation and having a good feeling for all of your receivers.

BJ: Absolutely! That’s a great point. And being down here I love seeing the big receivers and the strong legs and people that can move down the field and eat up grass fast. I think that’s what excited me because I knew I had the arm to get it there. But sometimes you get so amped up that you get a little heavy on some of those touch passes. You just have to slow yourself down, not your game, but you have to understand what throws to make in certain situations.

Tom: I agree, and I think that people forget sometimes that as a quarterback you have to develop chemistry with your receivers in just a few days of practice because you’ve usually never played with or even met any of these guys before. So I think watching the whole week to see if the chemistry starts to develop or whether the quarterback and his receivers just aren’t on the same page still is important.

Oh absolutely. I got off the plane and started shaking hands because I had never met these men. But we have done a lot of hard work this week and now it’s time to let the hard work go to work.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the position or people you modeled yourself after?

BJ: Well, I have. It was my freshman year at UT with the Vols under Coach Fulmer, I went to Coach Cutcliffe. I went to Coach Cut and said look, I know I’m redshirting, I am going to take 18 hours of classes and I want to get every piece of film you have on Peyton. I got as much as I could and I I watched his release and his feet, and I still got some way to go on my feet, but my release I really like. It’s comes over the top, it’s not a ¾ release, it’s over the top to get the ball over the defensive line, I like it and it comes out quick with no waste of motion. I got a lot of that stuff from Peyton and I love watching Peyton. I call him “The Sherriff” because he can dissect a defense better than anyone I’ve ever seen. So if you’re going to model your game after someone he’s not a bad one to model yourself after.

Tom: How would you describe your work habits? Do you watch a lot of film?

BJ: Junkie baby. I want to be one of those guys that when you walk in “hey BJ, why are we running this play?” I want to be able to tell you. I love watching film. Throughout my career at Chattanooga and at Tennessee when I was there I watched as much as I could weekly along with class, but making sure that I could balance it and take care of business in the classroom. I watched between 20 and 25 hours of film a week on top of school and on top of the film we watched with our coaches. Preparation is important to me. I think that being unprepared for what you’re doing on game day is the worst feeling. I can safely say there were not many times in my career when I was out there and I had to say “Coach I have no idea what they’re doin.” I have been very blessed to have some great coaches prepare me. Preparation is key and it’s something I’ve always been able to do. I’m not the fastest guy, I don’t have the strongest arm and I’m probably not the smartest but if I can prepare and understand how teams try to attack us defensively and I can try to put us in the best situation to be successful.

Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what was the biggest factor that led you to transfer from Tennessee?

BJ: The truth is, the biggest factor was that I wanted to play. I love this game, I enjoy it. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to showcase that if I stayed there. I wasn’t there to just sit on the bench. I knew I had the intangibles to get guys to play and to get excited, and to know that if they blocked for 2.5 seconds that the ball was going to come out and that we could be successful. And that’s the biggest thing with me. I wanted to go a place where I could play in a pro-style offense. There is NOTHING that is close to a NFL offense, but I wanted to go somewhere that would line me up with two backs, let me do play-action passing, do 3 step, 5 step drops. So I was able to get some of that stuff in my muscles early. That was the biggest reason. I wanted to play. I love the game and that’s what I wanted to do.

Tom: What do you think is an attribute that is crucial to play and succeed at the quarterback position?

BJ: I think you have to have a great mind. I think it’s as simple as this too, I think you’ve got to have a good arm. You don’t need to have the strongest arm, but you’ve got to be able to throw the football. I think the NFL has really become a passing league and I believe you need to be able to push the football down the field. I think if you watch the league, guys like Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Manning, Rivers, Jay Cutler, Brett Favre, they can push the football down the field. It’s important to carry out your fakes to hold those defensive ends, but it all comes down to completions, completions, completions. That’s what you wanted, I can sum it up in one word: Completions. To be able to play quarterback in the NFL you’ve got to be able to complete the football. You can never go broke making a profit, and if you complete the football… getting a yard in the NFL is very tough, and I don’t know anything about it, but listening to these coaches this week they say that getting a yard is very tough and winning is even harder. So I think it all starts with being able to complete passes.

Tom: That reminds me, I have always noticed that you do great ball fakes even when it’s in drills without a running back. I think that is part of what makes your play-action fakes so effective on film.

BJ: I learned this from Coach Clausen. He said that you want your defensive line and linebackers to see the ball in the running backs pocket. You want them to see that and if they take a picture, they would think he’s got it. Then you can carry out your fake and make big plays down the field. But if you don’t carry out your fake correctly and get that ball in the right spot then it’s not going to be effective.

Tom: Who are a few players on defense that have stuck out to you this week?

BJ: You’re going to have to work with me with some of the names, but I really like the Merrimack kid (Shawn Loiseau). I love his intensity. I love his energy, his passion. You can tell he loves to play the game for the game. There are several good defensive linemen here. Defensive back wise there’s some good ones. The kid from Notre Dame, the Blanton kid is pretty good. The Hampton kid is a solid football player.

Tom: Anyone on offense that you have been impressed by?

BJ: Tauren Poole. I’ve known him for a while but that’s not why I like him, he really works hard. I think our tight ends have done a great job. Ford, Rodriguez and I can’t pronounce the last one Tom, we just call him Big Ig. Those guys have been a solid group. The offensive line has done extremely well. You’ve got to give those guys credit, and I’m not just doing that because I’m a quarterback. For four days to get the protections down well is impressive. The receivers have gotten better all week. I like the Michigan State kid (B.J. Cunningham), I like his burst and I think he’s got something to him. I like Jenkins from Illinois and the Benford kid has made some strides as well. We’ve got some weapons, and those guys have really stood out.

Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what teams have you talked to this week? Any interesting questions?

BJ: Oh man. I’ve talked to a bunch which I hope is a good sign. I was able to talk to several teams. Every one of them was something different which I thought was something intriguing. Those guys are just down to earth type people. They interact with me just like they would anybody else. It was a really neat experience. They asked me what type of offenses are you in, can you explain certain plays, what do you expect out of your career. Some cool things, I was intrigued. It was a neat experience, and they asked a bunch of the same things you’re asking me about my strengths, weaknesses, what do I like or dislike, what type of guy are you. They just want to get to know you.

Tom: Well I’m glad some of my questions are reminding you of those interviews, I think that’s a good sign for me! Haha.

BJ: That’s exactly right!

Tom: If you don’t mind me stealing one of their questions, what do you see from your career?

BJ: I’ve always loved this game. It’s funny, I understand the situation that it’s very difficult. There’s 96 quarterbacks give or take a few, 3 per team, 32 teams. Those jobs are very few and far between. I understand that. My goal is to play football in the NFL. I want to be on a team, but I want to contribute. My goal is to play in a Super Bowl. I want to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and I want to play and win a Super Bowl. I want to have a long, successful career and I want to be the best. I think that’s something you should always strive for, to be the best. There have been some GREAT quarterbacks in the NFL, but I think that’s the goal you have to have.

Tom: I love hearing players, but especially quarterbacks, say that they want to win and that they want to hear a Super Bowl. That’s not always the first thing to come to people’s minds. But you can throw for a lot of yards and everything, but it comes down to being able to win and I think that’s why Tim Tebow has created such a big stir, because he has been able to win games.

BJ: Oh absolutely! I love what he has done in Denver. He goes out there and he has “it.” I believe you can look into a guy’s eyes and say “he has it.” You gotta be able to have that factor for people to gravitate to you. That comes down to playing quarterback and being a leader, being somebody that you can look at and say “I want to follow that guy and do whatever I can because I know that if he succeeds, we succeed” and that’s big.

Tom: Now, here’s the big question: Do you think YOU have “it”?

BJ: Gosh, I would prefer if someone else told me that I have “it”. But deep down in my gut I truly believe I do have “it”. I believe I have the ability to walk into a room and take control, and not in a “hey look at me” way, I’m talking about walking into a room and you have their respect and their eyes pop up. I think Coach Cutcliffe had “it.” When he walked in you knew he was there, you could feel him in the room. That’s the difference to me between good and great. When Peyton Manning walks into a room you can feel him, I’m positive. When Brett Favre walks into a room, people felt it and they could tell “hey, it’s time to go to work.” I love to have fun, but when it’s time to go to work you’re going to be accountable.

Tom: Where will you be training for the combine and your pro day?

BJ: As of now I have been working out in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. My agent is Bus Cook so I have a great man representing me. He’s a lot like me outside of athletic clothes I wear cowboy boots and jeans. I have gotten to work out with Brett Favre a couple times so I am very pleased.

Tom: Wow, how was working out with Favre?

BJ: Oh man, it’s been great. He’s a hall of fame quarterback man. He’s everything and more that anyone could think about, and I’m very lucky to be able to work out with him and Sam Morris my weight trainer down there. I’m not anything flashy man, I don’t like flash. I’m working out at a local high school in Hattiesburg with the head trainer there named Sam Morris and that’s exactly how I want it. I’m from Chattanooga, Tennessee and I wouldn’t want to be from anywhere else. To be able to go down and train with people who are very respectful “yes sir, no sir” type people is all I could ever ask for.

Tom: What is some of the advice he’s given you so far?

BJ: His biggest thing is that you gotta go in prepared. You never know what’s gonna happen. Make sure that when you go in you have a plan and when you snap the ball you can react. That’s what I’ve been trying to do this week. You have to do what you do, and you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Our quarterback coach, Coach Carr for the East, he said “Hey look, I don’t want you to play so uptight that you’re afraid to pull the trigger.” And that’s how I’ve played this week, I’m not afraid to pull the trigger. Was it always perfect? No, but because of that it allowed people to kind of see that this kid here is not afraid to throw the football.

Tom: What was your favorite moment during your senior season?

BJ: Senior season… It felt good to come back, I’m not gonna lie to you. It felt good to come back. It was a feat that I wanted to accomplish. Since I was very young I hadn’t missed a game in any sport I had played. This was the first time I had to sit out of anything. You can get to a point where you start playing mind games and you say “Am I ever going to be able to come back, is my arm ever going to be healthy” and the guys there, and my family were great and told me not to think that way. They told me that this is a part of playing athletics. You’re going to get injured, you’re going to have knocks, but my mom always said that every knock is a boost. If you can get through it it’s only going to make you stronger, and I really believe my arm is stronger now. I just gotta continue to build on it.

Tom: You know, it might be a strange thing, but I believe that sometimes those hardships that might feel awful when they happen, but knowing how to deal with an injury and rehab from it is important for going to the NFL. And maybe, if you hadn’t gotten hurt, you wouldn’t have known what to do but now you have some experience dealing with that adversity.

BJ: Absolutely!! My mother always says that everything happens for a reason. I had no idea Tom, I had no idea what it was like to get injured! I mean I’ve played with bad ankles, with a bad whatever, but I’ve always played. It didn’t matter, I always played through it. But this time the good Lord was saying “Hey man, you’re a guy who is just like everyone else and you’ve got to learn these things.” Did I like it? No, not at all. It was my senior season and we had great aspirations, and I was sorry that it happened that way not just for me but for my teammates, but everything happens for a reason.

Tom: Is there one thing specifically you want to work on or develop once you get to the NFL?

BJ: Sure. I think the biggest thing is that whatever ball-club I end up with I want to take in that system, learn all the ins and outs and everything I can learn about it. I’m one of those guys that loves to study and I want to learn all about it and I am one of those guys that really focuses in on the little things about it. But I think the most important thing is to learn from the guy that’s there. Obviously you want to be the guy, but I think there’s a lot to be said for a guy that can come in and really learn from the guy that’s there. It’s important for a new guy to come in and take in everything people are willing to teach him. It’s important to take some instruction and I’m very willing to do that. I think there’s a lot to be learned from those guys that are up there. They aren’t up there for no reason, they are up there because they can play football and I think they can really be good leaders too.

Tom: Is there any offense that you would like to play in?

BJ: I really… I’m very pro-stylish. I love what the Colts do, I know that’s Peyton, but the Colts do it. The Saints and Drew Brees do it. Play action fake and push the ball down the field. I like what Green Bay does with Aaron Rodgers, and he’s a guy that can move outside the pocket but it’s a lot of ball fakes and throwing the ball down the field. I like that I really do. I’ve never really played in a spread offense so I don’t know too much about it and I don’t know who runs it, I know some teams have dabbled in it, but wherever I go I’ll be able to adapt to whatever they do.

Tom: Do you have any specific goals left for the rest of the week?

BJ: Have fun. I think the biggest thing is for the rest of this week is, as I have been all week, is to just go out and have fun. As I said earlier, nothing beyond this Saturday is guaranteed and the teammates thing is pretty hard to swallow. I miss the guys back in Chattanooga, I miss my boys and Go Mocs. Those guys have been awesome for me. I’ve talked to a few of them since I’ve been down here, my brother is on the team, so I just really miss the team. You miss bleedin’, you miss sweatin with those guys, but now I have been blessed to try to make another ball squad. That’s my focus, it’s still an interview, but you go out, you have fun and you stay focused. Even if it’s just a disaster, that’s ok, you pick yourself up and you go on to the next day.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

BJ: That’s a tough one, but I could talk to a wall man. I’m always open to meeting new people. But if you give me a call Sunday after the game I can have a better answer for you than that, you put me on the spot! But I really appreciate you takin the time to talk to me and taking the time to follow me and the guys, it really means a lot.

Tom: No problem BJ, this has been great. I’ll check in with you on Sunday, and if I don’t talk to you before the game good luck on Saturday!

I’ll be sure to update this once BJ gives me his final answer on what he would like the world to know about him, so stay tuned for that. Hopefully you enjoyed the interview; I had a lot of fun talking to BJ.

–Tom

West Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois) had an up and down day today. He showed that he could make stick throws on one hand, but also missed high some today and threw a pick 6 to Tank Carder in the two minute drill late in practice. He’s still the #2 quarterback in St. Petersburg in my eyes, but he didn’t have a great day today. I talked to him on the phone tonight and he told me that there is a fine line between being too aggressive and being willing to take a shot or throw into a tight window. He mentioned taking snaps from under center and learning to go through progressions as things he has been working on this week, and I think that he has made progress this week. He has made mistakes, but I think he has gotten better and learned from his mistakes. Dan Persa (Northwestern) may have had his best day of practice today, but he looked good today. He might have the best ball velocity of all three quarterbacks on the West, though it wouldn’t be by much. His height hurts him but he is a gamer and has quality intangibles. He will get a shot in camp, I’m just not sure he will be able to stick.

Running Backs:

I continue to like what I have seen from Bobby Rainey (Western Kentucky) and I am excited to see how he does on Saturday. One guy I was impressed with today was Marc Tyler (Southern Cal). There weren’t any practices with full pads this week, so it was tough to get a great feel for the running backs, but Tyler is finally healthy and he looked faster than he did on tape to me. He’s caught the ball better every day this week and seems to have pretty soft hands. He has impressed me the last couple days, but I’m excited to see him run through contact on Saturday.

Wide Receivers:

Jarius Wright (Arkansas) and Devon Wylie (Fresno State) continue to lead this group. They’ve both helped themselves this week, but Wylie has definitely opened more eyes I think. Unfortunately Junior Hemingway (Michigan) seems to have suffered a hamstring injury and may not be able to play in the game on Saturday. Here’s hoping his injury heals up and he is able to go. Greg Childs (Arkansas) has had a solid week and the defensive players I have talked to have been impressed with him. I’m still not sure if he is 100%, but I will know more after I get to talk to him at length in an interview.

Offensive Line:

Brandon Brooks (Miami Ohio) continued his strong play today. He still looks like the top offensive line prospect in St. Petersburg. DaJohn Harris told me he thinks he’s the only lineman who hasn’t lost a one on one battle this week.

Defensive Line:

Dominique Hamilton (Missouri) continues to display his strength and power, but he stood up too much out of his stance for my liking today. But he has the potential to play at the nose in a 4-3 or MAYBE in a 3-4 as well as a 5 technique. He’s been strong all week, but I’m ready to see him in the game on Saturday.

When I spoke to DaJohn Harris he spoke highly of teammate Justin Francis (Rutgers) saying he has a non-stop motor that impressed him. I’ve noticed Francis’ motor as well and I think it might help him stick on a NFL roster.

Linebackers:

Tank Carder (TCU) had a pick 6 today and continues to play well in coverage but his lack of physicality has been very apparent this week. Obviously they haven’t been in pads and haven’t been tackling, but he has struggled to shed blocks and has stayed blocked too often. Brandon Marshall (Nevada) has looked good as well, and I believe he had an interception today. He may not be flashy, but he’s a reliable football player.

Defensive Backs:

I still believe Shaun Prater (Iowa) is the top corner on the West roster and the second best corner in St. Petersburg this week. He has pretty good footwork and good hips. I like something about Rodney McLeod (Virginia) as well. He’s got good feet and hips and I think he has some developmental potential as a corner. He hasn’t had a great work of practice, but I think he has tools that a coach can work with.

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

B.J. Coleman (Chattanooga) remains the top QB in St. Petersburg this week, though he isn’t perfect. His footwork is still developing but he has thrown the ball pretty well all week. He has had accuracy issues, I don’t see a lot of anticipation throws from him, and there are a few balls every day that wobble a bit off of his hand. He has upside and I think he could end up in round 4. Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi) had an up and down day today. He threw a couple interceptions today and doesn’t always look comfortable in the face of pressure (which has forced some mistakes from him). He threw the ball better when he had a clean pocket though, but he just doesn’t have the arm to stretch the field sideline to sideline. I still think he can stick on a roster, but he is a fringe draft prospect.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) continued to look like the best back in St. Petersburg again today. He was complimented by the coaches a few times today, showed impressive burst, vision and lateral agility. I can’t wait to see how he runs through contact on Saturday. Alfred Morris (Florida Atlantic) showed some burst as well, continued to catch the ball well out of the backfield, and looks thick. It will be interesting to see how he runs through contact on Saturday.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) continued his strong week catching the ball well, creating separation as a route runner, and proving to be a reliable receiver. He had a couple nice routes that created separation downfield but quarterbacks didn’t see him open. He should get drafted. One guy I have been critical of all week, LaRon Byrd (Miami) looked like a different receiver today. He ran better routes and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass all practice. He looks vastly better than he did on Monday, so take that for what it’s worth. Kevin Hardy (Citadel) continues to be inconsistent catching the ball, and was working with coaches on his route running from what I could see. His coach told him a couple times that the game would be won with his head, not with his speed. Again, take that for what it’s worth.

Tight Ends:

Chase Ford (Miami) continued to catch the ball well today, but I don’t think he offers much as a blocker. He’s got impressive size and length for a tight end along with some athleticism, so he has range as a receiver. His hands are solid and he has definitely helped himself this week, but I don’t think he has a ton of upside. Evan Rodriguez (Temple) looked solid today as he has all week and made a couple nice catches. He’s not a flashy guy, but he’s reliable. Emil Igwenagu (Massachusetts) has gotten an invite to the Senior Bowl which surprised me, but I have a feeling it will be as a fullback, not as a tight end. He missed a couple blocks the last couple days when I was watching him though, so we will see how he does.

Offensive Line:

Bradley Sowell (Mississippi) has impressive size but he has short arms (32 ½ inches) and while he has a solid first step and can create a bit of push off the line of scrimmage he leans quite a bit and hasn’t looked good in 1 on 1’s this week. He looks like an undrafted free agent at this point. Lamar Holmes (Southern Mississippi) also looks like an undrafted free agent this point, and didn’t get a lot of positive comments from the coaches this week. At 6’5”, 320 pounds with 35 ¼ inch arms he has the size and arm length to project to tackle, but the ability just hasn’t been there.

Rishaw Johnson (Cal PA) continues to look powerful with his initial punch and he showed some ability to sustain today. He had a few good match-ups with Akiem Hicks today in team drills and he won them for the most part when I was watching. He’s definitely got starter potential, but like I have said before he has character issues that have to be looked into before teams will be comfortable taking him in the 4th or 5th round range.

I’m not sure if I have this 100% right, but it sounded like the offensive line coach was talking to Quentin Saulsberry (Mississippi State) when he said “I hope you’re ready to play the whole game” during practice today. Not exactly a positive comment for Tyler Horn of Miami, but it definitely reaffirms Saulsberry’s solid week of practice if I am correct. Again, take it for what it’s worth because I can’t be sure.

Defensive Line:

Matt Conrath (Virginia) had a good day of practice today. He got his hands up into passing lanes consistently today (and may have been doing this all week) and batted at least two passes down today. One of them was batted up into the air and he came down with it for an interception. He doesn’t have much burst off the line or enough edge speed to play 4-3 DE in the NFL, but I think he looks like a great prospect to play at 3-4 DE. He seems to take coaching well as he has improved as the week has gone on and at 6’7”, 281 pounds he definitely has the size and solid length (33 3/8 inch arms) to project to that position. He won’t go early, but he seems like a guy who could go in the later portion of the draft in the 5th or 6th round, stick on a roster, and continue to work and improve over the next couple years until he ends up being a significant contributor on the defensive line for a 3-4 team.

Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) has had a good week this week. He isn’t a top guy obviously, but I think he has a chance to stick as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. He’s lean and needs to add weight, but he has some edge speed and burst. He doesn’t have much in the way of pass rush moves and he doesn’t have the natural power from his lower body to bull rush yet, but I think he has some upside.

Linebackers:

Shawn Losieu (Merrimack) looked pretty good today. He’s not a freak athlete and he likely doesn’t have starter upside, but I like his intangibles and leadership capability and he flows to the ball well. He even showed the ability to stack and shed at the line of scrimmage today which was good to see. I’m not sure he will get drafted, but I would wager that he will make a roster. Brandon Lindsey (Pittsburgh) had an interception in coverage today and while he doesn’t look fluid in coverage and doesn’t always get great depth in his drops he should be alright as a 3-4 OLB when he is asked to drop into coverage. For those of you who don’t remember, Justin Houston came out of Georgia last year and I didn’t think there was any way he could play 3-4 OLB because of his struggles in coverage. He had 46 solo tackles and 5.5 sacks this year. So even if Lindsey struggles some in coverage, don’t assume he won’t be able to survive in a 3-4 scheme. Finally, Max Gruder (Pittsburgh) continues to show quality instincts but his athleticism limits his range sideline to sideline and he doesn’t have great speed.

Defensive Backs:

Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) continues to be the star here and he looked pretty good today. I don’t think he had any interceptions that I know of (therefore marking the first day of practice this week that he hasn’t had one) but he looked good in coverage and may just have played his way into the top-100 of this upcoming draft. Jerrell Young (South Florida) looked solid in coverage today even though he got burned a time or two early this week in 1 on 1’s. I’m interested to see how he looks in coverage on Saturday as he will likely be over the top. But he looked comfortable in zone today. I’m not sure how good R.J. Blanton (Notre Dame) is in zone coverage, but he looks very big for a corner. I will be interested to see how he does in man coverage and in zone on Saturday, but he looked most comfortable in press-man coverage this week.