Tag Archive: Blair Walsh


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

Quarterbacks:

-BJ Coleman, QB, Tennessee – Chattanooga. 6’3”, 220 pounds, 4.93 40 yard dash
-I really like B.J. Coleman. He missed some time due to injury this year which I thought might hurt him, but I was very happy to see him get an invite to the East-West Shrine Game. His game reminds me a bit of Nathan Enderle from last year, and there are some parallels between them that are pretty interesting (both started Senior season vs Nebraska, strong armed QB’s without much talent around them, both invited to East-West Shrine Game. I could go on, but I won’t.) Regardless, Coleman is a quality prospect in his own right and I think he has a chance to go in the first four rounds. This week will be big for him but if he is healthy he should have impressive ball velocity, good accuracy and pretty good pocket presence. I look forward to taking notes on him all week.

-Johnny Brantley, QB, Florida: 6’3”, 220 pounds, 4.89 40 yard dash
-I left his name as “Johnny” since that was how it was listed on the official roster and it cracked me up. Brantley is a guy that is starting to get some buzz as a sleeper and I understand why. He’s got experience playing in the SEC and he’s got a very strong arm. He did not have much success in his last two seasons as a starter in Florida but playing for two entirely different coaching staffs with very different offensive philosophies certainly didn’t help. I’m sure he appreciated not being taken out on 1st and 2nd down and thrust into a 3rd and long this year like he was in Urban Meyer’s last season at Florida (his first as a starter). He still didn’t do much passing this year in his first and only year under Charlie Weiss (who is now the head man at Kansas) but he did throw for 2,044 yards while completing 60% of his passes for an 8.5 yard average per attempt. He only threw 11 touchdowns as compared to 7 interceptions, but that was an improvement over his very unimpressive 9 touchdown, 10 interception stat line as a junior. Plenty of people have soured on him and don’t give him much of a chance at the NFL, but guys with his size and arm strength are always in demand. He’s been through a lot at Florida, but if he can have a solid week at the Shrine Game it could ensure him a chance as a late round draft pick or as an undrafted free agent come April.

-Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: 6’1”, 221 pounds, 4.78 40 yard dash
-Davis is the quarterback with the least upside of the quarterbacks on the East Roster. His size and arm strength are both average for the NFL and if there are any windy days down in St. Petersburg I think that will become very apparent. He’s the most athletic of the three quarterbacks and he does have an abundance of starting experience but I don’t think he has enough upside to warrant much consideration before the 7th round or as a priority free agent in April. He’s solid in a number of areas but spectacular in none, though he is supposed to have pretty good intangibles and football IQ. I don’t expect to see anything different than what I did at Southern Mississippi, but he might have the biggest adjustment to taking snaps from under center since Brantley had a chance to do that a bit with Weiss at Florida this year and Coleman ran an offense with pro-style looks in it. He’s definitely #3 on the depth chart for me, but it will be interesting to see him up close.

Running Backs:

– Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: 5’10”, 215 pounds, 4.56 40 yard dash
-Poole isn’t a freak athlete and he isn’t a burner, but he is a compact, well built running back. I like running backs that have compact, well filled out frames and Poole fits that bill. He runs hard, he’s strong, he has a good natural pad level because of his size, and he has shown the ability to run through arm tackles and gain yardage after contact. He’s my #1 RB at the East-West Shrine Game and I’m excited to see him in person. He’s an underrated guy that may not go very high on draft day but will be ready to contribute immediately and surprise people in training camp.

-Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland: 5’8”, 215 pounds, 4.56 40 yard dash
-I’m not a big fan of Meggett. He’s never really been the feature back until this season and his lack of production gives me pause when trying to evaluate him. He’s got the compact frame that I like in a running back, but he doesn’t break as many tackles and gain as many yards after contact as you would think given his size and strength. He’s supposed to be a big weight room guy who works very hard and was a team captain, but weight room strength doesn’t always translate to the football field and I’m worried that it doesn’t in his case. I question his balance a bit and that concerns me since I’m not sold on his vision and he doesn’t have the burst and speed to rip off big chunks of yardage. He’s a complete back though because he can run the ball, catch it out of the backfield and offer effort as a pass blocker. He needs work in all areas in my opinion, but there is ability to mold in all facets. He’s got some upside because he’s never really gotten a chance to be a feature back, but I wonder if he will ever reach it.

Wide Receivers:

-T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: 5’11”, 180 pounds, 4.36 40 yard dash
-Graham definitely doesn’t look like he weighs 180 pounds to me so I will be very interested to see what he weighs in at. My estimation would be he’s actually about 5’10”, 170 pounds but that is just my opinion. Regardless of his official measurements there is no denying his speed and explosiveness. He put all of his ability on display in NC State’s bowl game against Louisville as he put on a show with 7 receptions for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns in that game. He finished the season with 46 receptions, 757 yards and 7 TD’s receiving this year which nearly exceeded all of his production as a receiver from his previous three seasons on the Wolfpack. In his first three years he totaled 52 career receptions, 673 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He was only 6 receptions short of doubling his career receptions, yards and touchdowns total as a receiver as a senior. On top of that, Graham also has 630 career punt return yards with one touchdown and 3,157 career kick return yards and two more touchdowns. He had well over 5,000 total yards as a member of the Wolfpack and I think that his value as a receiver and a kick returner will be on full display during the East-West Shrine Game. I definitely think Graham will be a riser during the week and I really like his NFL upside. He’s my #1 WR on the East going into the week, so it will be very fun to see him play in person.

-B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: 6’2”, 216 pounds, 4.59 40 yard dash
-I’m not a big Cunningham fan personally but there’s no denying the production he has amassed while at Michigan State. He has never had a season with under 500 receiving yards in his four years as a Spartan and in the past two years he has totaled 129 receptions, 1,917 yards and 21 touchdowns receiving. The list of more impressive stat lines over the last two seasons is pretty short and it’s headlined by a potential top five pick in Justin Blackmon. As a senior Cunningham had by far his best season with 79 receptions, 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a junior he was pretty inconsistent and dropped too many passes for my liking, but he seemed to improve that a bit as a senior. His hands are still a concern for me and I will be paying close attention to both how well he catches the ball this week and HOW he catches the ball. Namely, is he snagging passes outside of his frame, therefore displaying quality range, or is he body catching and letting passes outside of his frame bounce off his hands.

-Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech: 6’0”, 200 pounds, 4.43 40 yard dash
-Coale is a guy I have been paying attention to for the last two years because I’ve watched a significant amount of Virginia Tech over that time and while he may not be the #1 receiver on their depth chart there isn’t a lot of doubt in my mind that he had the best hands on the team. I was and still am high on Jarrett Boykin, a fellow senior who will be vying to be drafted, but Coale is a quality player in his own right. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him drop a routine pass and he adjusts very well to the ball when it’s in the air and has much better timed speed than I expected him to have. He’s got serious sleeper potential and I think he could be a guy that catches a lot of people’s eyes during the week of practices at the Shrine Game because he will almost certainly make a great catch that sticks in people’s minds. He is all effort all the time and while he probably won’t go very high in the draft I would be shocked if he didn’t end up making a NFL roster and working his way into a contributing role.

-Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: 6’1”, 209 pounds, 4.50 40 yard dash
-Lewis is a solidly built WR that has more speed than I expected him to have. I haven’t seen him enough to quantify exactly how good his hands are, but he strikes me as a mid-late round prospect that should be able to stick on a NFL roster. He missed three or four games this season which hurt his statistics as he totaled 60 receptions, 600 yards and 8 touchdowns on the year. That’s a solid total, but it pales in comparison to his junior season (his first with East Carolina) when he burst onto the scene with 89 receptions, 1,116 yards and 14 touchdowns. I haven’t done enough tape study to figure out if the drop-off is due only to his missed playing time or if he was not the same player he was last year when he had Dwayne Harris playing with him. Hopefully he is 100% ready to go and he can impress in this game because I think he has enough value to get drafted in the 5th or 6th round range.

-Thomas Mayo, WR, California-Pennsylvania: 6’2”, 200 pounds, 4.59 40 yard dash
-Pennsylvania: Mayo is a guy who is getting some love as a small-school sleeper. I haven’t seen any game tape of him yet, but I have heard good things. I’m very excited to see him in person and I think he has a chance to make himself some money if he plays well. I have a feeling a lot of people know of him, but don’t have a great feel for his game yet.

-LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: 6’4”, 220 pounds, 4.53 40 yard dash
-I’m not sure why Byrd is on this roster to be honest. I thought he had some upside a couple of years ago, but he has continually disappointed me and anyone else who expected him to be productive. He was effectively buried on Miami’s depth chart and Jacory Harris’ ineptitude at quarterback didn’t help things, but I am pretty skeptical of Byrd’s talents at this point. He had more touchdowns as a freshman (4) than he had the next three years of his career (3, one each season). On top of that, he capped off his career as a Hurricane with a monster season totaling 11 receptions, 125 yards and 1 touchdown. Obviously I was being sarcastic saying he had a monster season since there are players playing in this game that have almost as many touchdown receptions this year as he had overall receptions. Byrd has the size and athleticism combination you would like to have in a receiver, but I’m not sold on his hands and his lack of almost any progression over his entire career at Miami makes me question whether he will ever reach the potential he seemed to flash as a freshman three years ago.

Tight Ends:

-Chase Ford, TE, Miami: 6’5”, 245 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Ford’s 9 receptions, 88 yards and 1 touchdown may not seem that impressive, but he nearly matched LaRon Byrd’s production, so he must be good! I personally don’t think Ford was the best tight end on Miami’s roster, I think Blake Ayles (a USC transfer) was. Unfortunately, Ayles went down with an injury at the beginning of the season and didn’t accrue any stats this year. Hopefully he will be healthy soon, but in the mean-time I can’t say I think Ford has much of a chance of being drafted. Ayles would have been the starter had it not been for his injury, so I don’t have very high expectations for Ford this week. Frankly, I think there are other more deserving tight ends that could have been in this game. Ladarius Green, Nick Provo, Aron White and James Hanna are all guys I like at this position that won’t be at this game.

Offensive Guards:

-Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: 6’3”, 328 pounds, 5.45 40 yard dash
-I wanted to give you guys a synopsis of what I expect from the offensive tackles for this roster but I haven’t seen any of them enough to give you what I consider a quality breakdown of their abilities. I’ve always enjoyed watching offensive line play though, so rest assured I will keep a close eye on them throughout the week. Dennis, however, I have seen. I’ll admit before the first time I saw him I glanced at his 40 yard dash time and wondered how athletic he could be, but that’s just another reason not to put stock in the 40 yard dash times of offensive linemen. Dennis moves much better than his 40 yard dash time would seem to indicate, especially for such a large man. I think Dennis could be a real riser this week, especially if his line coach can coach him up a bit and help him with his technique. Dennis has some tools you look for in an offensive lineman and while I don’t think he will go before round 4 or 5 I do think he has starter potential in the future. He’s going to take a year or two of coaching up and developing, but if he takes coaching well and has a good work ethic I think you could see him starting in a few years.

Centers:

-Quentin Saulsberry, OC, Mississippi State: 6’2”, 300 pounds, 5.16 40 yard dash
-Saulsberry is kind of under the radar right now since there are some talented interior offensive linemen in this class. The center class is headlined by a first round center in Peter Konz, but it has some draftable talent and Saulsberry is in that group. I don’t have a great feel for his game yet, but he is being mentioned as a sleeper and I am excited to see how he looks this next week. He’s an under the radar guy, but he might be a riser this week.

Defensive Ends:

-Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: 6’7”, 280 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Conrath has played DE at Virginia for a long time but a few people have started to project him inside. I disagree with that because I think he has a pretty ideal frame to bulk up and play defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He might not be big enough yet, but at 6’7” he has the frame you love to see in 3-4 defensive ends. It will be interesting to see where he plays this week since I don’t think he is a great fit as a left end in a 4-3 defensive scheme but I don’t think he fits well as a defensive tackle in that scheme either. As a result he might be a little out of position this week depending on where he lines up, but as a mid-late round guy I like him.

-Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia: 6’3”, 268 pounds, 4.76 40 yard dash
-Miller is a solid but not spectacular defensive end for West Virginia. Playing opposite Bruce Irvin meant he didn’t attract a lot of attention and that helped him rack up 57 total tackles (31 solo), 11.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 pass break-ups this season. I don’t think he has a lot of edge speed and I don’t think he’s fantastic against the run either, so I question how much upside he has at defensive end. I think his best case scenario is being a rotational defensive end in the NFL, but I am looking forward to seeing how he looks in person getting off the ball, how much bend he has and how well he uses his hands among other things.

-Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: 6’4”, 240 pounds, 4.70 40 yard dash
-Wilber is a guy that I was high on coming into the season but he didn’t have the break-out season that I expected him to have. Many people think he will have to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL and I tend to agree. He has a pretty skinny frame despite his 6’4” height so I don’t know how much weight he will be able to pack on. He’s listed at 240 pounds and I think he could get up to 250 or 255 pounds on a quality weight training program but even at that weight he is likely too light to be able to play at right end in the NFL. This week will be important for him because he may get a chance to drop into coverage at some point. I haven’t seen him do that much at Wake Forest but I haven’t completed my film study on him yet. Regardless, he’s an athletic guy with upside in my opinion. This year he had 69 total tackles (47 solo), 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass deflection and he also blocked a kick. In the past two years he has 25 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 6 pass break-ups and 2 blocked kicks. The production and athletic ability is there, so I’m hoping he can have a big week and help demonstrate the ability that led me to put him on my list of potential break-out players at the beginning of the season.

Defensive Tackles:

-Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: 6’2”, 335 pounds, 5.06 40 yard dash
-Jean-Baptiste definitely catches your eye when he’s on the field because of his sheer size. The weigh-in will be important for him because if he comes in looking flabby and out of shape it will raise some concern from talent evaluators. However, his combination of size and athleticism is pretty impressive. I just don’t think he is as good as he could be yet given his natural size and athleticism. He was a complete non-factor in the Anti-Defense Bowl between Baylor and Washington a couple weeks ago and that’s concerning to me. I am interested to see how he plays this week but it seems that defensive tackles, perhaps more than any other position (at least, off the top of my head) really know how to turn it on when they are playing for a pay-check. Albert Haynesworth is the best example I can think of to support this claim, and if Jean-Baptiste plays great this week in stark contrast to his performance against Washington it will help his stock but make teams wonder where this effort level and ability was when everyone watching that game was begging for a quality defensive performance.

-Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: 6’2”, 305 pounds, 5.20 40 yard dash
-Regis was definitely overshadowed at Miami because that defensive line was bursting with talent. They didn’t live up to it this year unfortunately, but a defensive line with Olivier Vernon, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo had a lot of potential. That left Regis in a reserve role before Forston’s injury, and even though he has had playing time throughout his career at Miami he has never had more than 8.0 TFL and 3.0 sacks, which he posted as a junior last year. I’m not sure he has much upside beyond a defensive tackle that can contribute to a 4-3 rotation, but it will be interesting to see how he looks this week.

Linebackers:

-Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: 6’2”, 250 pounds, 4.68 40 yard dash
-Lindsey flashed onto the scene as a junior when he posted an impressive 18.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks and 3 fumbles forced after Greg Romeus went down with another injury. This year he was without Romeus and Jabaal Sheard but he still posted 55 total tackles (31 solo), 11.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pass deflection. Lindsey doesn’t project to a defensive end position very well but I think he will be able to transition effectively to the outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense. He’s an athletic guy and has shown that he’s capable of producing at Pittsburgh even though he may not have been used properly.

-Max Gruder, MLB, Pittsburgh: 6’1”, 230 pounds, 4.71 40 yard dash
-Gruder isn’t a freak athlete by any means and he probably doesn’t project to be a NFL starter now or in the future, but I think he’s going to be a great special teams player and a quality reserve in the NFL. He’s a reliable tackler and the Pittsburgh coaching staff admitted that they continued to try to take him out of the lineup but he was so fundamentally sound that he always found his way back onto the field. It will be interesting to see how he looks this week, but I wouldn’t expect him to be dominant in any one phase of the game. He seems like a guy who is solid in all facets but spectacular in none, and while that may help get him drafted I don’t think it gives him a great shot to start in the NFL.

Cornerbacks:

-Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: 5’9”, 204 pounds, 4.49 40 yard dash
-Brown is another undersized cornerback from North Carolina that I think is primarily a zone corner personally. I always thought that his former teammate Kendric Burney was the better player and Burney went undrafted. That’s not to say that Brown will also go undrafted, but it speaks to where his draft stock is likely to end up barring a spectacular performance this week. I don’t think Brown has the size and speed to stick with receivers in man coverage very effectively, but North Carolina likes to run zone coverage and Brown should offer value in that phase of the game. I am interested to see him try to press corners during the week and I want to see how he does in man to man, though I anticipate him having some issues especially against taller, more physical receivers.

Safeties:

-Matt Daniels, S, Duke: 6’0”, 210 pounds, 4.53 40 yard dash
-Daniels is a quality sleeper prospect at the safety position. He isn’t a freak athlete but based on what I have read he has great intangibles, a high football IQ and an impressive work ethic. Those kinds of players are the ones you like to bet on when it comes to the NFL because they’ll get the most out of their ability even if they don’t project to be perennial pro-bowl players. Daniels has always impressed me as a tackler when I’ve watched him play over the last two years but I have never seen him much in coverage. This year he produced 126 tackles (65 solo), 4.0 TFL, 14 pass deflections, 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble. I am interested to see how he looks in coverage this week but I expect him to be one of the more reliable tacklers at the East practices all week.

Kickers:

-Blair Walsh, K, Georgia:
-Walsh is a confusing player to me, but then again kickers in general are pretty confusing to me. During his sophomore and junior seasons he missed a combined five field goals, a terrific stat line for any kicker. In his first three years he missed 13 field goals, eight of which occurred when he was kicking as a freshman. Then this season he inexplicably missed 14 field goals, more than he had missed his entire career up until this point! I haven’t done my film study of Georgia yet but I definitely will and I am very interested to see what situations he missed kicks in. I’m not sure what to expect from him this week, but hopefully he gets his mojo back and starts making kicks more consistently because he’s got a helluva leg. He had 19 touchbacks this year and that was kicking from the 30. In the NFL he will be able to kick the ball into the end zone very consistently and provide a lot of touchbacks for his special teams unit. That gives him value, but it won’t mean much if he can’t make field goals when asked to.

This is obviously just a fraction of the talent at the East-West Shrine Game, but these are the players I am more familiar with. I’ll have notes on most every player by the end of the week and they will be posted here every day after practice, so check in every day for your East-West Shrine Game fix!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom