Checking in from Las Vegas for a couple of days to watch practices from the East-West Shrine Bowl. This is the second year the event and game are in Vegas, and it's a well put together event, loaded with talent.
It is also great to see the Shrine Bowl carry on the tradition of allowing a coaching fellowship pathway for coaches coming from the HBCU ranks, like Grambling's new offensive coordinator, Tony Hull, who worked this week with the Atlanta Falcons. Hull is a brilliant football mind and leader who will be a future head coach one day at the collegiate level. And he's getting an opportunity to cut his teeth in the pro game thanks to this Shrine Bowl initiative.
Before getting into the standouts from both teams throughout the practice week, here's all of the game information for the East-West Shrine Bowl.
How to watch
Date: Thursday, Feb. 2 | Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas)
TV: NFL Network | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
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RB Tavion Thomas: 6-1 247, Utah
Tipping the scales at 247 pounds was a shock to see, but once he took the field, it was easy to see that Thomas carries that weight rather well. He looked like a throwback big back with quick feet, ala Bam Morris and guys of that ilk. I thought he looked both quick and shifty during the week of practices.
WR Jadon Haselwood: 6-2 213, Arkansas
I was impressed with the acceleration of Haselwood. He's got a certain level of fluidity within his game that, when you combine it with his ability to hit his top speed and continue to elevate it, makes him a difficult receiver to cover.
OL Chandler Zavala: 6-3 322, North Carolina State
Functional strength is equally as important as weight room strength. And in some cases, the former is more important. Zavala was a difficult matchup for interior defensive linemen during 1-on-1s. I thought his ability to effectively strike and steer DL was the best of all the offensive linemen this week.
DL Dante Stills: 6-3 289, West Virginia
Stills had his way with the West offensive line throughout the practices, and it didn't matter if it was during 1-on-1s or team periods. His quickness off the ball was very impressive, in addition to his ability to work his hands well to get off blocks to make plays in the backfield.
LB Anfernee Orji: 6-1 230, Vanderbilt
It's been a good all-star circuit for Vanderbilt defenders, as they've made some noise during my travels. Orji made impactful plays throughout the week; the type of plays that stick in your mind. We saw him get really good run fits during the inside run period, and he was able to get himself an interception as well during the team period. It's that type of ability on both ends of defense that allows scouts the ability to project his skillset a lot better moving forward.
EDGE BJ Thompson: 6-5 238, Stephen F. Austin
Thompson's athleticism really jumped out at you during the practices. There was one drill in particular, the zone drop drill during the defensive individual period, where it was evident. He's got fluid hips, which helped him move seamlessly through the drill while also showing the acceleration to gain ground in the process.
EDGE Caleb Murphy: 6-3 254, Ferris State
Murphy was another small-college defender who showed good athleticism this week. Where he also stood out was in both 1-on-1s and during team periods, where his coverage ability and ability to set a physical edge to stop the run were on display. You could tell he was well-coached at Ferris State and is a fundamentally sound player.
CB Kei'Trel Clark: 5-10 179, Louisville
During the Sunday practice, Clark really stood out in all facets. He showed great ability to mirror-and-match during 1-on-1s, and he was able to display his ability to communicate with his fellow defenders during 7-on-7s. In the team period, his ability in run support is what drew cheers from his teammates. Clark competed well and raised some eyebrows.
S A.J. Finley: 6-2 202, Ole Miss
I joked on twitter that it seemed like Finley played offense with how much he had the football in his hands. He was all over the field and in some cases, Johnny on the spot to pick off the pass. I thought in 1-on-1s he more than held his own in coverage vs. tight ends, and his ball awareness and ball instincts spoke loudly during 7-on-7s and team periods.
Other East Team standouts
- S Gervarrius Owens Houston
- OL Spencer Anderson, Maryland
- OL Jon Gaines II, UCLA
- WR A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
- EDGE Jose Ramirez, Eastern Michigan
- RB Deneric Prince, Tulsa
- CB D'Shawn Jamison, Texas
Here's a look at some of the East Team WR/DB 1-on-1s:
QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: 6-1 191, UCLA
DTR, as he's also known as, had a solid showing this week in front of scouts. I felt like he was the most consistent of the passers. Consistency combined with the live arm and velocity, really helped him separate himself from the rest of the pack.
RB Xazavian Valladay: 5-11 199, Arizona State
Valladay, to me, was the most complete back of the practices. As a receiver, he showed he could be a downfield threat. As a blocker, he was able to step up and butt-up defenders well during blitz pick up. He didn't waste time in the backfield during 9-on-7s, nor during team-vs-team periods. I thought he also looked, and played, bigger than his size, in a good way.
WR Zay Flowers: 5-9 182, Boston College
Flowers just has a different type of speed, explosiveness and acceleration. This was evident during his first day of practice, which was on Day 2 of the event. You can easily see why he's garnering first-round consideration. He runs and plays at a pro pace already.
WR Dallas Daniels: 5-10 176, Jackson State
You can't coach or teach speed and explosiveness, and that's what made Daniels stand out all week. Because of his natural ability, you can easily envision him inside as a slot receiver or return specialist. Giving him a free release is just like signing your own death certificate.
OL Jaxson Kirkland: 6-6 322, Washington
Kirkland is a massive offensive lineman who showcased his position flexibility during 1-on-1s, when they had him working inside at guard and outside at tackle. He handled both duties extremely well.
DL Taron Vincent: 6-1 305, Ohio State
Hand fighting was his forte during the week, as it was a clear strength of his game. Vincent was a constant nuisance throughout practice and proved to be a tough block for the offensive line, across the periods.
EDGE Andre Jones: 6-4 250, Louisiana
Jones is a very strong point-of-attack player who used a variety of ways to get to the QB during 1-on-1s. But what was impressive was his one-arm stab, as it was effective throughout the practice, regardless of the drill. He also passed the "off the bus" test, as it felt like he kept getting taller as the practice went on.
CB Myles Brooks: 6-0 201, Louisiana Tech
Brooks was super active around the football. Wide receivers tried him a couple times, but to no avail. It's that type of confidence when the ball is in the air you want at the position. When he was asked to play off and in zone coverage, he closed on the ball well to break up passes.
CB Terell Smith: 6-0 207, Minnesota
Smith was the best corner of the week. Man coverage skills, ball skills and instincts, combined with the physical tools, made him stand out in all facets. All-star games are about rising to the moment, and he definitely took full advantage of his opportunities this week.
S Trey Dean III: 6-2 211, Florida
Dean's coverage skills and overall athleticism stood out to me the most. I knew he was an aggressive, downhill defender coming into the week, but watching him match up in man coverage vs. tight ends was good to see. Also, I think he's got more range than he gets credit for, as that was also on display this week during the practices. This won't show up on the stat sheet, but toward the end of practice Sunday, he walked down the line on the defensive sideline and shook the hand of every defender. I thought that was pretty cool.
P Michael Turk: 6-0 234, Oklahoma
The thud just sounded different coming off the foot of Turk. What was interesting to see was the depth and hang time he was able to get on his punts. And when they chose to use the Jugs machine instead of letting him kick many times in a row, the next time he punted, he outkicked the Jugs machine.
Other West Team standouts
- DL Desjuan Johnson, Toledo
- DL Jerron Cage, Ohio State
- WR Demario Douglas, Liberty
- CB Eric Scott Jr., Southern Miss
- FB Jack Colletto, Oregon State
- S Christian Izien, Rutgers
- EDGE Titus Leo, Wagner
- WR Justin Shorter, Florida
- WR Michael Jefferson, Louisiana
- TE Travis Vokolek, Nebraska
Here's a look at some of the OL/DL 1-on-1s from the West Team:
Next stop: Reese's Senior Bowl (preview)