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East-West Shrine Game Practice Week Review
Wednesday January 14, 2009
Chad Reuter, Senior Analyst, The SportsXchange, NFLDraftScout.com

Mid-tier prospects invited to the Shrine Game did their best to impress NFL scouts with the three days of practice that wrapped up Wednesday. The practices hold more weight than Saturday's game because some NFL personnel have headed home for a few days to write up notes before heading to Mobile for next week's Senior Bowl.

There are practices Thursday and Friday, but they aren't high-impact.

The Shrine Game became more important because of the demise of the Hula Bowl this year. Players who may have chosen a trip to Hawaii over Texas now have no choice.

The Shrine Game typically features about eight top 100 selections, while around 40 of the 100 or so participants will be drafted. This year's group should meet those averages.

The sideline chatter this week was dominated by talk about underclassmen declaring early for this year's draft. The news that Ohio State wide receiver Brian Hartline will leave the Buckeyes early left many scouts scratching their heads. Meanwhile, Rice tight end James Casey took advantage of the school's proximity to the Reliant Stadium practice fields to stop by and talk with scouts. NFL personnel not yet familiar with Casey were impressed by his physical build.

Player who made an impression -- for better or for worse -- during the first three days of practice for the Shrine Game:


--WR Jarrett Dillard, Rice: Another guy basically playing in his backyard, Dillard was the class of the receivers here. His routes are so crisp that it looks like he practices using a T-square. Drops were few and far between, even when he was in traffic. Scouts weren't excited by his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame and small hands, but he played tall and strong on the field, where it counts most. His productivity in college (4,000-plus yards, 60 touchdowns) is not something to take lightly. Honorable mention: Aaron Kelly (Clemson), Mike Thomas (Arizona).

--TE Brian Mandeville, Northeastern: One of the FCS players who shined in his opportunity to play against the big boys (his 6-7, 255-pound frame fits him into that category no matter where he plays). His length and straight-line speed threatened the seam and he consistently caught passes with his hands outside of his body. His relatively slight frame belies his ability to effectively block defensive ends in pass protection, and he even showed the ability to block linebackers at the second level after going in motion.

--QB Stephen McGee, Texas A&M: A highly-recruited prospect from Texas (where else?), McGee's career did not go as expected for multiple reasons. Last fall he started just three games with two touchdowns and two interceptions. But this week he proved he belonged on this field with his arm strength, mobility and accuracy. Considering the poor make-up of the senior quarterback class, McGee's performance and his work at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next month could push him into the middle rounds.

--WR Marko Mitchell, Nevada: At 6-3, 204, Mitchell's body seems to be made to play receiver and he did make a couple of nice grabs. However, his inability to run correct routes, get his head around to see the ball, secure the catch or even give the effort to adjust to poorly thrown balls made him the most disappointing player on the field.

--OG Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech: When you talk about line play in coach Mike Leach's Texas Tech offense, people think of wide splits and pass protection. But Vasquez is not a finesse player by any stretch of the imagination. He proved to scouts that he can fire off the ball from a three-point stance (which he didn't do much in Tech's pass- and draw-happy offense) and dominate tackles in the power running game. Picking one lineman from this year's group was tough. Guards Ray Feinga (BYU), Seth Olsen (Iowa) and Jaimie Thomas (Maryland), centers Cecil Newton (Tennessee State) and Edwin Williams (Maryland) and tackles Ramon Foster (Tennessee), Jamon Meredith (South Carolina) and Sebastian Vollmer (Houston) all helped themselves this week.


--CB Don Carey, Norfolk State: Another small-schooler turning heads against FBS prospects. The 5-11, 186-pound corner played physically, refusing to back down in coverage or run support. He unquestionably showed the best recovery speed of any corner this week; even if the receiver ran a great route that put him off-balance, Carey quickly got back into the play. Honorable mention: Cary Harris (Southern California), Ryan Palmer (Texas).

--SS Keith Fitzhugh, Mississippi State: At 5-10, Fitzhugh does not have the size of other safeties in this game such as Kevin Ellison (Southern California) and Curtis Taylor (LSU). He seemed to be all over the field throughout the East team's three practices, whether it was covering running backs out of the flat or sticking his nose in on running plays. His aggressiveness and stout 210-pound frame makes it likely he'll spend most of his NFL career in the box.

--DE/DT Jarron Gilbert, San Jose State: It's fair to say Gilbert was the most impressive athlete on the field this week. His measurements were ridiculous (6-5, 287 pounds, 35 5/8-inch arms, 10 1/4-inch hands), but on the field he looked really fluid and played strong. He's not going to be a run-stuffer inside, but his length and size could be a great fit for 3-4 teams looking for a starting defensive end in the third round - like 2008 East-West participant and current Miami Dolphin Kendall Langford.

--DT Terrence Taylor, Michigan: Like Mitchell, Taylor flashed at times. But overall he was slow to get off blocks from solid, but not dominating, East centers. The defensive line coaches were constantly getting on Taylor to get past his man into the backfield. Occasionally he would use his strength to fill a gap, but most times he was stuck to his block like Velcro.

--LB Jason Williams, Western Illinois: The Leatherneck showed versatility all week, running with tight ends down the seam and stepping into the hole to stop running backs in their tracks. His size and athleticism put him at the top of the linebacker group despite the presence of players from big programs like Southern California, Cal and South Carolina.

*Post-game report
*Wednesday practice report
*Tuesday practice report

* (Right click mouse to Save Target As) East-West Shrine Measurements (Height, Weight, Hand, Arm)
Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet by Chad Reuter

*Monday practice report
*East-West Shrine All-Star Rosters
*East-West Shrine Journal: Central Washington QB Mike Reilly

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