Last Saturday night, college football hopefuls put on their best, last amateur efforts. After running to a commanding 17-3 lead, the East squad held on to outlast the West, 35-29. As one might expect, the game had mixed results for its participants.
A positive performance from the East West Shrine Game might foreshadow NFL success (as it did with Marques Colston in 2006), or not (as with David Ball in 2007). Here are a few players who stood out, for better or worse.
Chase Daniels, QB, Missouri. Daniels threw behind at least two wide-open receivers on plays that could have netted his team first downs. Though no passer looked spectacular Sunday, Daniels seemed well behind the rest of the group.
Jorvorski Lane, FB, Texas A&M. Listed as 6-2, 270 on his college player page and estimated at 285 this past season, Lane showed up at the Shrine Bowl looking like his training equipment consisted of a couch and a keg. He got stopped three times inside the five-yard line. He also caught a few short passes, only to be tackled immediately, seeming to lack the quick feet that had set him apart. If Lane fails to train better, the combine could prove disastrous.
Marko Mitchell, WR, Nevada. Tall, somewhat slow receiver who let the ball slip through his hands twice. A possession receiver without hands has a name: Undrafted Free Agent.
Fun to watch:
The East Offensive Line. The East bolted out to a 17-3 lead due in large part to their production on the ground. When Nebraska back Marlon Lucky got the Offensive MVP award (seven carries, 68 yards, one touchdown), he needed to thank the following: Ryan Durand, Syracuse; Jamon Meredith, South Carolina; Cecil Newton, Tennessee State; Augustus Parrish, Kent State; and Matt Slauson, Nebraska.
Undersized Receivers. Most impressive was Jarrett Dillard, WR, Rice. After a quiet first half, Dillard showed why he holds the record for most NCAA career touchdown receptions (60) with an array of catches that kept the West offense in the game. On his 35-yard TD catch in fourth, he got DB Morgan Trent to bite on an in-fake. Great hands, good quickness. For his part, Deon Butler, Penn State, had three catches for 69 yards. Proved difficult to cover one-on-one, and made one nifty catch in traffic where he had to stop and come back for the ball. Mike Thomas, Arizona, now at the Senior Bowl, didn’t get many chances but did make a couple of receptions.
Gartrell Johnson, RB, Colorado State. Johnson picked up where he left off in the New Mexico Bowl (where he had 285 yards rushing vs. Fresno State), powering the West’s first field-goal drive with a 39-yard burst up middle. Not the fastest, but gets to the second level quickly and displays the ability to run through would-be tacklers.
Tyrell Sutton, RB, Northwestern. Sutton had ten rushes for 37 yards and one TD. He also averaged over 27 yards per kickoff return and displayed an unexpected knack for gaining tough yards after the initial hit. Pencil him in as a change-of-pace back and special-teamer.
USC Linebackers: Not the same USC for each. Kaluka Maiava, Southern California; Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina. Maiava sniffed out a misdirection play inside his own 10 to tackle Sutton for a loss. Brinkley showed surprising speed considering 2007’s knee injury, dropping back into coverage and making several tackles after receptions. A successful test of his side-to-side agility at the combine will boost his stock greatly.
Brinkley could work as a two-down linebacker and could provide some position flexibility given his size (6-2, 275). At 6-0, 230, Maiava’s too small for a 3-4 alignment.
Javarris Williams, RB, Tennessee State. Like much of the rest of the country, I’d never seen Williams play. He’s the real deal, running for 56 yards in the game, including one TD and one 11-yard bolt on third and six that sealed the East win. At 5-11, 220, Williams proved he could play with the big boys (heck, he’s one himself) and benefited as much as any player from this game.
Myron Pryor, DL, Kentucky. A last-minute replacement for Sammie Lee Hill (Stillman), Pryor had a sack and stopped Lane on a goal-line stand. He proved to be one of the few defensive linemen to stand out during the contest.
Keith Fitzhugh, DB, Mississippi State. This safety was all over the field, breaking up passes and stopping the run.
An eye-opener whom I missed:
Michael Tauiliili, ILB, Duke. Tauiliili, whose name should never appear on Wheel of Fortune, got the Defensive MVP Award for his game-high 13 tackles, few of which were noticed or mentioned on the television broadcast.
Plays that may have changed minds:
For better … In Fresno State’s loss to Colorado State in the aforementioned New Mexico Bowl, TE Bear Pascoe seemed to live up to his name, lumbering around the field and knocking folks over with his big paws. His catch in the third quarter belied that, as Pascoe raced downfield and leapt between two defenders to haul down a deep pass. He showed strong blocking skills, too.
…and for worse: Playing left tackle, Alex Boone, Ohio State, gave up pressure to high-motor DE Nick Reed. Nothing against Reed, but if Boone can’t get his hands on a player of Reed’s caliber, he’ll have some long Sundays trying to pass-block the NFL’s speed-rushing ends.
The “Facts of Life” category (“You take the good, you take the bad”):
Lawrence Sidbury, DE, Richmond. On the West’s final drive, Sidbury hit the QB late, but then made up for it with a strong rush that forced Mike Reilly to overthrow Mitchell in the end zone to preserve the East’s lead. Sidbury will play in the Senior Bowl.
Stryker Sulak, DE/OLB, Missouri. One play after his neutral zone infraction, Sulak strung out a play and tackled the opposing running back for a minimal gain.
Bradley Fletcher, DB, Iowa. Late in the fourth, he was called for pass interference on Dillard, putting the ball on the East’s five. Fletcher then made a great play in the end zone to swat a pass out of Dillard’s hands.
Would have liked to get a better sense of:
Jarron Gilbert, DL, San Jose State. Came in with plenty of praise as a hard worker, but he was hard to notice on this broadcast.
Middle Linebackers Worrell Williams, California; Robert Francois, Boston College. Both have the right size for 3-4 middle linebackers and both produced in college, but neither did enough to stand out on Saturday.
Darius Passmore, WR, Marshall. With a name like that, you’d think he’d have Caughtmore.
(I hesitate to tell you how proud I felt of that comment.)
Sammie Lee Hill, DL, Stillman. As alluded to above, Hill suffered a strained hamstring during the practice week in Houston and had to sit out the game. I would have liked to have seen what the 328-pounder could do in the middle.
Come April, New England should have at least three picks in the first two rounds. With the Shrine Game as an indication, they can also find some help on Day Two.
Over the next several weeks, Chris Warner’s NFL Draft coverage will appear periodically on Patriots Daily. He can be reached at [email protected].