By Chad Reuter, NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange
EL PASO, TEXAS -- Success breeds imitators in the NFL, from players to coaches to schemes. Thanks to the emergence of Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel filling in for injured Tom Brady in 2008, scouts are scouring high profile colleges looking for quarterbacks with upside who were stuck behind productive starters.
Enter Missouri's Chase Patton, who has an opportunity to improve his stock dramatically at The Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge this week.
After being considered a top five quarterback nationally by recruiting services coming out of high school, Patton spent his career as "the other Chase" in his home town of Columbia. He threw just 31 passes while watching All-Big 12 quarterback Chase Daniel start the past three seasons.
While it's far too early to project his career following that of Cassel's, Patton certainly has the tools to garner late-round consideration. Cassel, who served as a backup to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at Southern California, was a seventh-round pick in 2005.
During Monday's practice, Patton's size stood out as he measured in at 6-feet-4 5/12 and 222 pounds. So, too, did his fair arm strength and tight spiral. It's tough to be accurate with receivers you've never played with at these all-star games, but Patton seemed comfortable making all the typical NFL throws.GAME ON THE RISE
Texas vs. the Nation is the last and least-known of the three major all-star games. Its three-year history pales in comparison to the tradition-laden East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. However, the demise of the Hula Bowl has raised the level of football played in El Paso this week. Several players in this game could have fit in at Houston's East-West practices.
Between the Texas and Nation rosters, as many as 25-30 players could be drafted, and the majority will sign as free agents. Nineteen players from last year's game were selected, including one of Houston's two third-round picks (cornerback Antuan Molden) and Cardinals fifth-round rookie running back Tim Hightower, who emerged as an excellent short-yardage back. In 2007, 12 players were drafted including Denver Broncos starting defensive tackle Marcus Thomas.PRACTICE NOTES
--The star of Monday's practice was Abilene Christian's Bernard Scott. The 5-11, 199-pound running back displayed impressive vision and quickness inside, even for the first practice of the week. Every time he ran the ball there was a buzz. More of the same is expected throughout the week, given his running for more than 4,300 yards in just the past two seasons.
--Two other backs who stood out were Pittsburgh's Conredge Collins and Wyoming's Devin Moore. Collins, son of former NFL back Tony Collins, looked like a pro fullback as he pounded defenders in the hole, adjusted to a high throw to bring it down in the flat and displayed a little wiggle as a ballcarrier. Moore's speed is evident when seeing him in person. Even though he measured at 5-9, 191 on Monday morning, he appears strong enough to carry the ball in addition to receiving and returning kicks.
--Scott's teammate, Johnny Knox, was one of three non-FBS receivers who impressed despite very windy conditions. Stephen F. Austin receiver Dominique Edison is unquestionably the best receiver here. The 6-2, 199-pounder has sub-4.4 speed and displayed great hands throughout practice. Next in line was Gardner Webb's Dobson Collins, who snatched every pass thrown his way.
--This year's senior quarterback class is among the worst in recent memory, which makes Patton's story even more interesting. Another intriguing prospect is Division III's Jason Boltus from Hartwick. He could be the first D-III passer drafted since 1991 because of his 6-3, 224-pound frame and more than adequate arm strength and athleticism. As this week progresses, scouts will watch whether he gets comfortable enough with receivers to display great accuracy and timing.
--Purdue's Curtis Painter started the year highly-regarded, and his arm is still strong enough to cut through the El Paso wind. But his lengthy release makes it too easy for defensive backs to get a jump on him. Rutgers' Mike Teel looked solid Monday, continuing his late-season surge after a disappointing start to 2008.
--Ohio cornerback Mark Parson was one of the top defenders on the field. His speed, smooth backpedal and solid hands stood out. Furman's William Middleton is a 5-9, 190-pound corner, just like Parson, but his speed and toughness made scouts take notice despite the presence of several FCS corners trying to better their stock this week.
It's not often you see a 293-pound linebacker. That's right, 293 pounds. Central Oklahoma's Michael Reed (through Yuba Community College and the University of Oklahoma), however, still manages to attack the ball in the flat and even gets into the deep third. Stamina is a bit of an issue, as you'd expect. Alcorn State linebacker Lee Robinson is all of 6-2, 249, and appears destined to be a 3-4 inside linebacker to use his strength and athleticism. Nebraska linebacker Cody Glenn stood out in coverage, as did Kansas' James Holt (although his slight 218-pound frame may be an issue for scouts).
--It's normal for scouts to flock to "the pit" to watch one-on-one matchups between offensive and defensive linemen. The top lineman on either side of the ball was Tennessee State left tackle Cornelius Lewis, a Florida State transfer who will probably move inside at the next level. He used his arm length and athleticism to hold up his man at the point of attack or direct him around the pocket in drills and scrimmages.
--Eastern Michigan left tackle T.J. Lang moved inside for Monday's practice and proved he belonged, refusing to back down from anyone. Nebraska's Lydon Murtha played a strong right tackle, anchoring and moving his feet like a good Cornhusker should. Pitt center C.J. Davis and Penn State teammates left tackle Gerald Cadogan and left guard Rich Ohrnberger played as though they were from the major programs. Cadogan's athleticism on the edge and Davis and Ohrnberger's mauling style inside were as expected.
--The defensive line may be the weakest group here. Tennessee defensive tackle Demonte Bolden weighed in at only 281 pounds, and struggled to move Lang and other linemen. He ended up on the ground way too often in drills and team play. Ohio State's Nader Abdallah dominated his man in one-on-one drills because of his superior hand usage and swim move. Once in tight quarters during team play, his moves were not as effective. Tulsa tackle Moton Hopkins III flashed raw power as a 6-2, 273-pound power end.Related links:* 2009 Texas vs Nation Measurements, Excel Spreadsheet: Height, Weight, Hand, Arm* Texas vs Nation Rosters