It’s Day Three at the East/West Shrine Week and the stakes are even higher. The East practice was more crisp and there was a lot less teaching and more yelling. The man in black, head coach Jerry Glanville, kept things on task. Keep in mind, this is my first year covering the Shrine Game on location, so I may be overly impressed. So let’s discuss how the players looked:
Erik Highsmith, a wide receiver from North Carolina, was very impressive. He has a wicked (sorry a Mainerism) quick first step that he used to put the defensive backs on their heels. I liked the way he plucked the ball out of the air. Highsmith has very quick quick feet, sells a solid juke move and has great body control contorting to the ball. He was at his best catching the ball in full stride across the middle. The wide receiver sold his route long and came back to the football making a spectacular catch. He did struggle some against physical coverage, but he did his best to out-maneuver it. His body is a bit on the thin side, but I see a real playmaker there.
Virginia Tech wide receiver Corey Fuller had a solid practice. He looked very quick and agile, had very good hands, and busted out a few spin moves once he had the ball. The wide receiver ran very crisp routes and plucked the football out of the air. He showed high effort blocking, and was physical fighting press coverage. If you are looking for someone to make a spectacular catch, look to him.
My first day favorite, Virginia Tech’s wide receiver Marcus Davis had another mixed day. He has the hops to get his body above the defense, and has amazing body control while tying to find the ball. Too bad he has lapses where he loses the ball in the sunlight. It is a shame as he can break clear of most press coverage as he is quite strong off the line, but sometimes comes up short at the end of a route. I really like the way he can start and stop his body like a running back. He ran the best wheel route so far in St. Petersburg and hugged the sideline the entire way.
Rodney Smith, the wide receiver from Florida State, flashed at times. He tracks the ball in the air well, and made a few nice sideline receptions. However, he has his warts as he was out-physicalled in the end zone by a safety, caught the ball at times near his facemask and got stripped after he made a decent catch. I want to see a more consistent skill set before I recommend any fantasy owner drafting him.
Yesterday’s favorite, Blake Emory, the wide receiver from Auburn, had a day of body catching and drops. He runs much better inside routes than outside routes. The wide receiver seemed to be distracted and did not do a good job looking the ball into his hands. Emory tried to block, but was out-matched.
Brandon Turner, the Navy wide receiver, looks the part with size and speed, but awkwardly catches the ball and rounds off his routes. He has decent hands, but is limited after the catch. There have been a few surprise downfield catches that he has made this week though.
Brooks Reed’s little brother, Lucas, who plays tight end for New Mexico, is a solid blocker and can maintain the edge when the ball is run his way. He fought with the ball a little bit today with a double catch or two. Boston College’s tight end Chris Pantale showed a lot of effort in the running and passing games, lept high, and had soft hands.
The quarterbacks did not stand out to me during this practice.
Zac Stacy, the Vanderbilt powerhouse running back, had another good day. He has good vision, moves well side to side, and goes all out on every play. Stacy seems to enjoy hitting and delivering punishment. Out of all the East backs, he was the very best at pass pro and had decent hands.
Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham had another great day of practice. He can run any passing route you ask of him including the seam route. Graham may have the softest hands of all the East skill players. The former Panther has very quick feet, keeps his legs churning and gets very small in the hole. He sees the entire field well which helps helps him take the best angles to avoid contact.
Montel Harris, the running back from Temple, seemed to have a few issues with the playbook as a snap or two was stopped early after he ran the wrong way. He is a shifty back, but needs to gear down and concentrate when trying to make a catch. I saw some hesitation when he crashed into the line. A running back needs more of a killer instinct to fight for yardage, not look around with doubt. There are rumors of more leg injuries abound, so I am watching him closely.
Now onto the easier paced, less stressful for the players West practice…
There is just something about Eastern Kentucky’s wide receiver, Tyrone Goard. Despite his very thin body, there is a big playmaker laying underneath. He does a great job breaking down quickly and finding the ball. Goard made a few beautiful one-handed grabs and was willing to fight for the ball on almost every single play. He seems to always know exactly where his is on the field, but was a little hesitant over the middle. I like the way this receiver gets quicker with the ball in his hands. When Goard missed a catch, he would look at his hands in disbelief. The receiver almost ran me over on a hook pass, but even then, I was impressed with his concentration near the sidelines. I don’t know who will take him in the draft, but I am a fan.
Anthony Amos, the wide receiver from Middle Tennessee State, had a very good day as well. He contorted his body to adjust to the ball in the air. I liked the way he attacked the ball and caught it at its highest point. Amos is very quick/agile and does a good job selling a route deep and coming back to make the catch. The receiver also looked like a pro fighting through physical coverage to make the reception.
Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis looked a bit better today than he did in the first two days. He made some adjustments to poorly thrown balls, and created a few plays in the middle of the field. The receiver was much better on shorter routes that allowed him to make plays in tight quarters. I’m not sure he will get drafted as he fights his hands too much for my taste.
I want to like Iowa wide receiver Keenan Davis, but he makes it so hard sometimes. Every practice he makes a great adjustment to a long ball and comes down with a incredible catch. It’s the other five targets he gets that he does nothing with that puts you to sleep. For a physical guy, he gets man-handled quite a bit coming off the line of scrimmage.
Another one of my favorite wide receivers is Mt. Union’s Jasper Collins. I’m convinced that he will only be a slot receiver, but he may become a darn good one. He tracks the ball well in the air, has very quick feet and makes sure he catches the ball at its highest point. Collins has a great double move that he sells his coverage that he is going one way and Collins darts the other way usually giving him great separation. It’s that wiggle that freezes the defense in their tracks. He is also a high effort player as he is willing to get down and dirty to make a catch inches from the ground. Whatever team drafts him, will need to set him in motion to get the most out of Collins.
Zach Sudfeld, the tight end from Nevada, had another good practice showing off his in-line blocking. He busted out a nice swim move that he uses to get past a linebacker’s bump technique. The tight end looked a bit quicker today and looked good catching in traffic. He should make a nice second tight end in the NFL and if we are lucky, have a Joel Dreessen type of career.
Once again, running back Christine Michael from Texas A&M had another solid day of practice. He has very quick feet and is very decisive once he has the ball in his hands. Michael is trying to do the little things: fighting for more yards after contact, looking for someone to hit on passing plays and constantly hustling on every play. He has good enough power and vision to be a starter in the NFL if he can remain healthy and settle any character concerns.
Kerwynn Williams, the running back from Utah State, had a decent day for the West squad. He is more of a glider who makes people miss as he wiggles away from defenders. The back has good hands and runs tight passing patterns. He really sells fake hand-offs well. I like the way he explodes through the line of scrimmage by getting small in the hole and uses his vision to set his running lanes.
Southern Methodist’s running back Zach Line flashed for a couple of plays, but looked like a fullback. He is not that quick to the hole, but he does have quick feet and did a good job pass blocking. I’m not sure how that information will help you in your rookie draft, unless you have to play a fullback in your lineup.
I also wanted to give an IDP shout out to Nevada linebacker Albert Rosette. He fills well to the hole and did a decent job in coverage. The young athletic linebacker has good vision and is best suited for an inside linebacker job. My next report should be about the actual Shrine Game. Thanks for reading and make sure you are following me on twitter at @AndrewMiley.