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01-18-2012, 01:59 PM
Shrine practice notes: Players from non-major schools getting attention

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/stor ... -attention (http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/story/16913289/shrine-practice-notes-players-from-nonmajor-schools-getting-attention)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Coastal Carolina cornerback Josh Norman is one of 20 prospects from non-FBS schools at the East-West Shrine Game, and he isn't merely taking advantage of the opportunity to show NFL scouts he stacks up against players from major conferences.

Norman might be having the strongest week of any player in attendance through the first two days of practice.

Playing for the East squad, Norman has a tall, narrow frame with good length and muscle definition for the position; he definitely looks the part on the field. Through two practices, Norman shown off his quick feet and fluid hips, looking natural in reverse but also driving on plays in front of him with good timing and anticipation. He showed on several occasions his willingness to hit and get dirty, to go along with terrific ball skills when the ball was in his area.

Norman is flexible but he gets a bit high out of his stance and overpursued on a few drills, allowing the running back to reach the sideline and turn upfield. Norman received plenty of attention from several NFL teams that wanted to talk to him after practice. He entered the week as a likely late-round pick, but Norman's arrow is definitely pointing up through the first two days.

Another cornerback from the FCS level who has flashed is Hampton's Micah Pellerin. Like Norman, he has a tall, lean frame (6 feet, 195 pounds), but not as much bulk. Pellerin struggled a bit with his footwork in coverage drills, but he's decisive in his movements with a smooth backpedal, getting to top speed quickly. He played with confidence on the field and didn't back down or look tentative against Big Ten receivers A.J. Jenkins and B.J. Cunningham.

At linebacker, Shawn Loiseau out of Merrimack College has stepped up and taken control of the East defense. He is extremely aggressive and plays with enough intensity for the entire team, showing natural leadership ability. Loiseau isn't the biggest or most athletic, but he plays fast with solid instincts and lateral agility. I'm not sure he has enough to crack a starting lineup at the next level, but he'll be one of those players who will make it tough for a team to cut him because of his motor and intangibles.

In the trenches, it's hard not to notice big defensive tackle Akiem Hicks from the University of Regina (Canada). Weighing in at nearly 6-5, 324 pounds with 35½-inch arms and a ridiculous 84-inch wingspan, there is no doubt he is physically imposing with the size that simply cannot be taught. Hicks, who originally committed to LSU as one of the top JUCO prospects in 2009, is extremely raw and needs a lot of work, but his movements for a player his size are rare and he is definitely one of the better developmental linemen in this draft class.

Another pair of small-school receivers continues to impress during practices. Tennessee Tech receiver Tim Benford is a natural plucker, using his unusually long arms (33¼-inches, longer than 10 offensive linemen participating this week) to snatch the ball out of the air. He looks quicker than fast with sharp footwork to break out of his routes with sudden burst. Benford is a bit lean and he wasn't as impressive on deep-ball opportunities, but he was a popular player among NFL teams talking to prospects after practice.

Wideout Thomas Mayo from California (Pa.) has had a few drops in practices, but showed off his impressive ball skills with a few one-handed grabs. He also showed his physical, feisty attitude, getting in more than a few skirmishes with cornerbacks in 7-on-7 drills. Mayo is rough around the edges, but his natural acceleration and toughness is evident.

Other notes from practices Tuesday:

• DT DaJohn Harris, Southern Cal: He was the most impressive player at the West practice, disposing of blockers very easily. He has quick hands and arms, but will rely on his upper body too much at times and needs to be more aggressive instead of waiting to catch blockers off-balance with his rip moves. Overall, he has definitely helped himself and might be the top prospect on the West squad.

• WR B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State: He stepped it up from Monday and looked like the veteran of the group with his polished route running and natural body control to adjust to off-target throws. I do question his overall vision and hand-eye coordination to secure quick, contested passes, but when he has time to locate and track the ball, Cunningham comes down with it.

• LB Josh Kaddu, Oregon: At 6-3, 235, Kaddu continues to impress with his fluid athleticism for his size. Technique isn't a strength for him and he has lean limbs, but he oozes raw ability and strength. Kaddu is naturally flexible with a smooth burst that is rare for a player of his size.

• TE Chase Ford, Miami (Fla.): He had only 16 catches in his two seasons with the Hurricanes, but he worked very well Tuesday. While he struggled in blocking drills, especially with his angles and body positioning, Ford looked natural catching the ball with body fluidity, above-average focus and soft hands. After practice, a scout confirmed my beliefs Ford is "one-dimensional" at this point, but the upside is there and he has definitely improved his chances at getting drafted.

Dane Brugler is an NFL Draft Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange

01-18-2012, 02:01 PM
CARSON, Calif. -- It was the first practice for prospects preparing to play in Saturday's NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Quite frankly, it looked like it.

The American and National teams, coached by former NFL coaches Tom Flores and Dick Vermeil, featured many players out of uniform, missing helmets and virtually none of them were wearing the numbers listed on the event roster.

Absent NFL evaluators, who aren't allowed to attend the event because underclassmen are permitted to participate, CFL and Arena League scouts were on the field to get a good look at the talent. NFL teams will have video-recorded practices sent for review. There are legitimate pro prospects on the field who warrant close inspection.

Based on a practice in which players performed without shoulder pads, grading a player as the elite talent might be a reach. But Miami (Fla.) junior offensive lineman Brandon Washington stood out with his versatility and thick build. Washington, who earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2011 at left tackle, saw time at both tackle positions.

Another junior prospect added to the roster late last week wasn't as impressive. Defensive end Max Holloway left Boston College following his junior season but he looked much more like a linebacker than a defender capable of holding up to the 300-plus-pound behemoth offensive linemen in the NFL. He showed some burst and quick feet but was easily pushed back during the scrimmage portion of practice.

Without full pads, grading offensive and defensive linemen wasn't fair, but the skill-position talent here earned a long look.

If you were wondering what LSU head coach Les Miles was thinking in not allowing quarterback Jarrett Lee an opportunity against Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, you wouldn't have liked Lee's performance in the first practice. Lee never found any rhythm with his receiving corps and several of his passes fell woefully short of their target.

Miami (Fla.) QB Jacory Harris wasn't much better in the National practice a few hours later.

Eastern Washington's Bo Levi Mitchell (American) and Tulsa's G.J. Kinne (National) were the most impressive quarterbacks. Mitchell, the reigning Walter Payton Award winner, is short and slim but demonstrated a surprisingly live arm challenging defensive backs on short-to-intermediate routes and effectively beating them over the top once the corners started biting on his targets' initial breaks.

Kinne threw several impressive touch passes early in practice before firing a couple of long passes. The first was a strike down the seam. The next was a beautiful deep ball that should have been caught by UCLA's Rosario Nelson but was instead broken up by San Jose State cornerback Peyton Thompson. As impressive as Kinne was early, he must be able to manipulate defenders with his eyes to have any success against NFL athletes. Kinne saw a short dump-off pass to a running back taken away by Southern California linebacker Chris Galippo as the National practice ended.

Every talent evaluator watching an all-star game practice is hoping to see players dominate and make their job easy. This rarely occurs, which is why identifying players with NFL body types or explosive athleticism can often be helpful.

These receivers and one cornerback made the most of the low-impact practice format:

WR Isaiah Thomas, Hampton -- Thomas' blistering speed got him behind the defense on multiple occasions. He showed less-than-reliable hands, dropping a few passes and a couple of punts. Thomas also lacked physicality and competitiveness when the ball was in the air, seeing two passes taken away -- a jump ball in the end zone and a crossing route.

WRs Lavasier Tuinei, Oregon and Keith Nichol, Michigan State -- If these receivers played with more suddenness, they could surprise as late-round picks come April. Tuinei is a glider with deceptive speed who might have the most reliable hands of any receiver at the NFLPA event. Nichol is well built, runs precise routes and vacuums the ball in, but the vast majority of the routes he ran Tuesday were short and across the middle. When he did attempt to push defensive backs onto their heels, they generally turned and ran with him easily.

WR Aldarius Johnson, Miami (Fla.) -- Though Johnson was one of the players practicing without a helmet, the lack of headgear didn't stop him from leaping high and taking tumbles to secure the football. A lean, lanky athlete with deceptive speed, he lulled cornerbacks to sleep before exploding upfield for multiple big plays.

WR Brandon Carswell, Southern California -- Playing time wasn't easy to come by in a loaded receiver corps at USC, but Carswell has the burst, body control and hustle to stand out in this arena. Defenders had little choice but to play off-man coverage. Carswell attacked the cornerback's cushion, exploded out of his breaks and made the catch of the day with a leaping, twisting grab despite tight coverage. Perhaps even more impressive, Carswell rushed downfield on multiple occasions in an effort to block for teammates, the type of selflessness is rarely seen in all-star game practices.

Jay Smith, North Carolina State -- The most impressively built wideout in this game, Smith has a strong build with wide shoulders and good overall athleticism. He made several impressive plays on intermediate routes early in the practice before pulling his groin. He completed practice, but clearly had lost a step. He told me he was hopeful he'll return Wednesday.

CB Richard Crawford, SMU -- He was beaten badly for a long touchdown by Tuinei, but otherwise remained in the hip pocket of receivers throughout much of the practice and was the thief who stole the ball from Thomas in the end zone.

Rob Rang is Senior Analyst of NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.

01-18-2012, 02:13 PM
TAMPA -- With dozens of prospects on a field together for the first time, the Monday practice sessions at all-star events are typically the toughest to digest.

For most players, it's their first exposure to pro coaching so a learning curve is expected. It's the progression that scouts will be look for during the course of the week.

NFL decision makers make note of early-week struggles and watch to see if players respond to coaching and show steady improvement.

As expected, it was the skill-position players who stood out on day one.

East practice

Physically, the most impressive quarterback on either roster is B.J. Coleman out of Tennessee Chattanooga. Not only did he weigh in at a solid 6-feet-3 and 234 pounds, but he also has the strongest arm of any quarterback here. Coleman's passes were all frozen ropes and he showed the ability to drive the ball downfield. He did struggle at times with his deep accuracy and showed raw fundamentals, but he really improved his footwork and passing stance throughout the day, doing a nice job of adhering to the techniques taught to him by coaches.

Florida quarterback John Brantley has an effortless throwing motion and throws a pretty ball, but he has a bad habit of putting all of his weight on his back foot and not staying balanced as he begins his delivery. He has a borderline draftable grade by most scouts, so this week of practice is extremely important for him.

Division II wide receiver Thomas Mayo out of California (PA) is an impressive athlete for his size (6-1, 207 pounds), showing quick acceleration off the line of scrimmage and getting downfield in a hurry. His footwork in and out of his breaks looks a bit raw, but there is a lot to like about Mayo's skill set and he could emerge as the best wideout in attendance. An FCS-level receiver with a good first day was Tennessee Tech's Tim Benford, who turned out to be a pleasant surprise. He showed his fearlessness in tight coverage with very good quickness and caught everything that came his way. Both of these small-school receivers are worth monitoring moving forward.

Teams looking for a poor man's Aaron Hernandez should take a long, hard look at Temple's Evan Rodriguez. He showed his versatility in practice, lining up outside the tackle on the line of scrimmage and also in the backfield. Rodriguez isn't very impressive physically, measuring a hair over 6-1 1/2 and 242 pounds, but he put his reliable hands on display with very good vision and focus to reel in tough catches. He is a smaller target and struggled in blocking drills, but Rodriguez is an intriguing pass-catcher.

On the downside, Michigan State's BJ Cunningham seemed to have more drops than receptions Monday. He doesn't have the natural burst or quickness to create much separation from defensive backs so a player with his average athleticism needs to be able to make consistent catches in traffic, something he struggled with. Cunningham has the smallest hands (8'1/4") among the East receivers and needs to do a better job this week securing the catch and proving he can be a dependable receiver.

Several small-school defensive backs flashed their talent, showing they belong here.

Coastal Carolina cornerback Josh Norman used his size (6-feet 1/2-inch, 203 pounds) and length (32' 1/2" arms) to consistently make plays on the ball with impressive ball skills and confidence. I'm anxious to watch him the rest of the week. Other defensive backs from smaller schools who had positive performances include Micah Pellerin (Hampton) and Justin Bethel (Presbyterian).

West practice

The quarterbacks on the West squad were very underwhelming. Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish has enough size (6-1 1/2) and athleticism to warrant late-round consideration, but he showed Monday why scouts have concerns about his ability to throw downfield. His passes ranging from 5-to-15 yards were sharp, but he really struggled with throws over 15 yards -- a problem most quarterbacks coming from a spread, quick-strike offense often encounter.

A pair of Iowa prospects stood out. Despite measuring in at just 5-10 and 185 pounds, cornerback Shaun Prater showed off his quickness and short-area burst, getting his hands on a number of passes in 7-on-7 drills. He had a few dropped interceptions that he should have picked off -- and he knew it by the way he dropped to the ground and grinded out a few pushups following a drop.

On the other side of the ball, offensive lineman Markus Zusevics weighed in at 6-5 and 296 pounds with average arm length (33 inches), but his on-field temperament was full-go the moment he stepped onto the practice field. He did a nice job squaring his shoulders to rushers and displaying his raw strength and toughness. Zusevics had to be reminded repeatedly to keep his head and eyes up, but he's off to a good start.

Receivers Devon Wylie out of Fresno State and Arkansas' Jarius Wright don't look like much on the field, but both are quicker than fast, showing their coordinated footwork and body control in drills. They are players to keep an eye on as the week plays out.

01-19-2012, 12:26 PM
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Offensive and defensive linemen began to stand out Wednesday at the East-West Shrine Game practice, where one of the biggest stories was from the far north -- Canada.


Well-traveled defensive lineman Akiem Hicks was impressive for a second successive day. Hicks played high school and junior college football in Sacramento, Calif., area. But after being at the center of a LSU recruiting controversy in 2010, he wound up playing for the University of Regina in Canada the past two seasons.

Hicks (6-5, 324 pounds) is one of the largest players on the field, but the most surprising aspect of his game is his impressive movement, showing nimble feet and fast hands. He definitely has some work to do before he is NFL-ready, but he has raw ability. Hicks isn't a natural bender and has very ordinary initial explosion out of his stance. But he does have an 84-inch wingspan and used those long limbs to dominate blockers and prove to pro teams he should be drafted in April.

NFLDraftScout.com has considered Hicks as a seventh-round or free-agent projection, but if he continues to impress, he certainly could climb on some charts.

South Carolina defensive tackle Travian Robertson showed quick feet, a burst off the snap, good low pad level and finished well. But he struggled with his initial hand placement and looked unrefined fundamentally. Coaches harped on him because of his sloppy technique, but his encouraging play this week, including a positive weigh-in (6-4, 305 pounds), will force teams to do some extra homework on him.

Miami's Micanor Regis is another interior defensive lineman showing steady improvement. Although he doesn't have the natural strength to overpower blockers, he showed consistent burst, leverage and quick hands to rip past offensive linemen. His scrappy attitude came through when he laid out a receiver in drills after an interception by the defense -- a hit that created a buzz from the crowd.

Offensive guard Rishaw Johnson (California, Pa.) has shown why some feel he could be a top-120 pick. He has good thickness throughout his body and moves very well for his 309-pound frame with large, 11-inch mitts. Johnson, who has been practicing at right guard, spent a little too much time on the ground and is a bit of a bull in a china shop, but he stays balanced off the snap and looks to finish. He has some off-field questions, but showcased the raw skills in practice to develop into a pro backup, at worst.

Another guard, Brandon Brooks of Miami (Ohio), has a broad, filled-out frame and carries his weight well for being the heaviest player here -- 353 pounds. He showed heavy feet in space, which was expected for his body type, but he was quick off the snap and understands body positioning. Brooks is stout at the point of attack in practice and displayed the natural size and strength to hold his own against NFL linemen in confined quarters.

Other notes from Wednesday practices:

• WR Tim Benford, Tennessee Tech: This small-school receiver was impressive in every practice. He has very good vision to quickly locate and snatch the ball out of the air with his long arms. Benford is only 199 pounds, but showed off his physicality, fighting for body position and winning several 1-on-1 drills against tight coverage.

• CB Robert Blanton, Notre Dame: Blanton style of play is aggressive. He doesn't shy from contact and succeeded multiple times rerouting receivers and getting in their heads a bit. He struggles mightily when left alone on an island in man coverage, but does a nice job in zone and should get a few looks at free safety.

• DE/OLB Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest: Wilber has drawn mixed opinions across the board. He has struggled with his hand on the ground at defensive end, showing underwhelming upper- and lower-body strength. However, he has impressed with his foot quickness, burst and overall flexibility to bend and break down in space. He will be considered a later-round player by teams employing 4-3 defenses, but will be valued much more teams that use the 3-4.

• RB Tauren Poole, Tennessee: After a slow start, Poole has really separated himself as the top running back on either squad. He runs with low pad level and quickness through the line of scrimmage, routinely getting to the second level. Poole had an up-and-down 2011 campaign, which is why he isn't at the Senior Bowl, but he has been running tough, decisive and quick with smooth acceleration in practices.

• WR LaRon Byrd, Miami (Fla.): Byrd came back from a rough Tuesday practice to become the second impressive Hurricane on the field. At nearly 6-4 and 224 pounds, he took advantage of his size Wednesday, elevating and high-pointing several passes over the defensive back in coverage. After a forgettable senior season, Byrd is helping his draft stock. (Miami tight end Chase Ford continued to be impressive in practice.)

01-19-2012, 01:30 PM
http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Ran ... pects.html (http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Ranking-the-Shrine-Games-Top-10-prospects.html)

Ranking the Shrine Game’s Top 10 prospects

1. Arkansas WR Jarius Wright (5-10, 176)
The undersized wide out didn’t have the type of dynamic week of practice I expected. However, a lot of that had to do with the quarterbacks on the west roster. Nevertheless, he was the one guy on the field who opposing corners were terrified of on the outside due to his ability to run vertically down the field. He showcased a real snap out of his breaks working the comeback as well and looked like a receiver in the Titus Young mold. But, he needs to continue to work on his hands when plucking the football.

NFL Fits…

2. Coastal Carolina CB Josh Norman (6-0, 203)
If there was an MVP of the week in St. Petersburg, Norman was the guy. He’s long, physical and showcased an impressive burst when asked to drive on the football. He was making plays all week and not only has a “plus” skill set, but also exhibits a very natural feel deciphering routes developing in front of him. There are some off the field character concerns, but he’s a legit top-100 pick.

NFL Fits…

3. Miami (OH) OG Brandon Brooks (6-5, 353)
Brooks stood out immediately at the weigh-in, carrying his weight about as well as you can for a 353-pound specimen. He dominated practice all week due to his combination of power, balance, coordination and pop on his punch. He’s a natural anchor player who can slide through contact and overwhelm in the run game. There isn’t a ton of snap off the ball initially into contact, but he still looks like a starter at the next level to me.

NFL Fits…

4. Missouri DT Dominique Hamilton (6-5, 320)
Hamilton flashed all week. He can bend, has a good first step and can overwhelm on contact. He will get himself into some trouble when he gets upright inside and I would like to see him continue to fill out his lower half a little more. However, he looks like an ideal five-technique at the next level who should be able to earn a starting job in the league.

NFL Fits…

5. Boise State DE Tyrone Crawford (6-4, 285)
At 285-pounds Crawford showcased natural power all week at the point of attack in the run game while exhibiting the ability to be sudden with his hands and slip blocks. He’s also a physical pass rusher who turns speed into power off the edge, understands angles and knows how to rush with leverage. I could see him fighting for a starting job as a 43 base end potentially early on.

NFL Fits…

6. Fresno State WR Devon Wylie (5-9, 186)
If Wylie can stay healthy, I think this guy could end up maturing into one of the better slot men in the NFL. He is the definition of a quick-twitch athlete, showcasing good explosion out of his breaks and possessing great vertical speed as well. He wasn’t the most consistent of catchers either this week, but there is no doubt in my mind the guy is going to be able to separate quickly at the next level.

NFL Fits…

7. USC DT DaJohn Harris (6-3, 308)
Possesses an good first step off the ball, can gain leverage in the run game and generate a snap into/through contact. He can be effective as a pass rusher as well due to his first step, lateral quickness and ability to use his hands to gain leverage. At worst looks like a rotational guy, but should be able to fight for playing time early one and could develop into a starting 43 tackle.

NFL Fits…

8. Iowa CB Shaun Prater (5-10, 185)
He’s not the biggest or fastest of corners. However, he’s improved his feel in coverage as a senior, recognizes routes well and does a nice job cleanly getting out of his breaks when asked to run vertically down the field. Plus, he plays faster than he times because of his “plus” balance and ability to stay low consistently. Looks like a solid NFL nickel.

NFL fits…

9. UT Chattanooga QB B.J. Coleman (6-3, 234)
In a quarterback starved league, you can’t ignore a kid with Coleman’s skill set. He’s a strong kid with a great arm and flashes the ability to balance himself into throws and accurately deliver the football on all levels of the field. Now, he’s inconsistent, but most of that stems because of poorer footwork, which can be fixed with more development because he has the natural athleticism and work ethic to improve.

NFL Fits…

10. DT Akiem Hicks: University of Regina (6-5, 325)
A tall, long-armed lineman who carries his weight well, displays impressive power on
contact and has the first step to get up the field and overwhelm. For a big guy he displays
some natural movement skills as well and his long arms allow him to gain leverage
consistently. However, the former LSU transfer is still raw, but with some development
looks like a guy who could end up starting in the league if he puts in the time. That is a
question mark though.

NFL Fits…

Just missed the cut…

Hampton CB Micah Pellerin (6-1, 195)
A tall, good-looking corner who can turn and run, and showcases good quickness/feel in off man coverage. Has a tendency to get a bit overextended when trying to get out of his breaks and close. However, he displays a “plus” burst when driving on throws and uses his length well to get after the football.

02-08-2012, 09:42 AM
Brooks, Hamilton, and Norman are good day 2 or 3 prospects that fit the STeeler's system(s).

Thanks for posting.