The annual East-West Shrine Classic will be airing on ESPN2 this Saturday at 3pm EST, and with over 100 players being invited, it seems like a good time for a look at some names worth watching at the 85 year old All-Star game.
Two well known ex-NFL head coaches will be doing the honors of coaching this year, with Romeo Crennel taking the East squad under his ample wing, while longtime Bronco foe, Marty Schottenheimer will be leading the West into battle (on a related note, ex-bronco and charger Marlon Mcree will be coaching the DBs...ruh roh).
These two teams have been practicing against eachother all week, and while the Shrine game hasn't lately been the place to see the best prospects, the rosters are significantly upgraded from last years, and already players are starting to climb draft boards. Below we'll take a look at both some risers, as well as noting some of the disappointments who may still be able to flash come gametime. There is also one special kid who deserves a hard look at NT, but first, lets break down some of the more well known, and higher ranked, players:
OT Kyle Calloway, 6-6 322, University of Iowa #110 Overall: One of several offensive linemen who have been playing well at the practices, he has started at both left and right tackle, and could be effectively moved inside to guard. Projected 3rd Round
DT Torrel Troupe, 6-3 310, Central Florida #106 Overall: Excellent NT prospect, with good brute strength who can effectively batter double-teams early in games. Has a tendency to wear down, still causes fits for defenders, and is too strong to be consistently singled up. Projected 3rd-4th Round
FS Kam Chancellor, 6-3 232, Virginia Tech #113 Overall: Very physical, big, hard hitter. Has been having decent practices, but is known for the well timed hit and is a solid tackler. Not the speed you like for the deep safety role, but impressive playing the middle and closing. Projected 3rd-4th Round
OG Mitch Petrus, 6-3 315, Arkansas #124 Overall: Good guard prospect with exceptional pulling ability and quickness. Very reliant on turning defenders for the advantage, and can struggle with straight on bull rushes. Projected 4th Round
OG Brandon Carter, 6-6 326, Texas Tech #146 Overall: Big, physical mauler with a strong hand punch and nice, quick feet. Played at RG, and sustains his blocks well. Projected 4th-5th Round
OT Rodger Saffold, 6-5 312, Indiana #93 Overall: Has started at tackle, and has the quick feet and balance to make a stab at it in the NFL, but may be a better prospect inside. One of the best players so far in the Shrine practices. Projected 4th-5th Round
WR Freddie Barnes, 6-0 212, Bowling Green #149 Overall: Broke numerous records at Bowling Green, and has taken advantage of the erratic Shrine Game passers to show that he can catch anything that comes near him. Has practiced impressively, and is moving up the draft board. Projected 5th Round
SS Darryl Stuckey, 6-0 207, Kansas #162 Overall: Great safety player in the mold of David Bruton, someone who isn't afraid to get his hat in the mix, and who is tenacious about bringing down the ball carrier. Actively goes after the ball, developing quickly as a starter, with 2 FFs and 5 INTs his junior year. Projected 5th Round.
TE Andrew Quarless, 6-4 248, Penn State #167 Overall: Underrated blocker who has improved steadily in that area, and who makes an impact when given receiving opportunities. That growth is evident so far in the Shrine practices. Some character issues in 2007 and 2008. Projected 5th Round
RB Andre Anderson, 5-11 205, Tulane #203 Overall: Plays a patient style, has been effective running behind FBs and pulling guards, does a little of everything, including blocking, catching out of the backfield, and lining up as a WR. Projected 5th-6th Round
WR Alric Arnett, 6-2 183, West Virginia #206 Overall: He has been an effective target for WV, and all through the practices he has shown great route running, good hands, and solid speed. Will start climbing boards if it carries over into the game. Projected 6th Round
DT Nate Collins, 6-2 279, Virginia #205 Overall: An undersized DE prospect, would occupy more of a situational role in trying to split double teams. Plays with great leverage and strength, and has been impressive on the practice field. Not a perfect fit for Denver, but hard to ignore his production. Projected 6th Round
QB John Skelton, 6-5 244, Fordham #195 Overall: The good news is that Skelton has stood out at the Shrine practices. He clearly has the strongest arm of the group, and is more accurate, but not impressively so. Gametime will be a good time to watch him, since it usually takes the QBs and WRs a little while to get on the same page at these all-star games, but so far Skelton isn't hurting himself. Projected 6th Round
ILB Reggie Carter, 6-0 238, UCLA #197 Overall: A hard hitter and good tackler, he has been called a "tone-setter" by scouts at the practices. Reminds me very much of Wesley Woodyard, with the same nose for the ball, but more of a penchant for causing fumbles, and an even better tackler. Will play with emotion, and is tough. Projected 6th Round
OG Marshall Newhouse, 6-3 326, TCU #225 Overall: Big guard who pulls well and is adept at turning defenders. Playing well in the practices at G, and was moved around a little to see how he adjusted. Has the versatility to play outside on either side as well, making him extremely valuable. Projected 6th-7th Round
OT Chris Marinelli, 6-7 300, Stanford #226 Overall: Has flashed at practice but has not been consistent, and his draft stock may be dropping. Another versatile player who met with Denver scouts earlier in the year. His latest performance has been disheartening, but there is still gametime to make it right. Projected 6th-7th Round
OG Thomas Austin, 6-3 315, Clemson #311 Overall: Moved to center late in his career, he saw his draft stock take a hit, only to see it go up again based on his performance, and trek right back down again when he was moved back to left guard to finish up his senior season. While he was a center, he was often ranked at the top of the center lists, sometimes as high as #1, but his move back to LG has threatened him with obscurity. He played inconsistently there as of late, but has practiced well so far at the Shrine game. A good project with nice measurables and a good blend of versatility. Projected 7th Round.
WR Seyi Ajirotutu, 6-3 211, Fresno State #237 Overall: I first noted this big receiver at Boise State before he transferred to get more playing time. The result was great production and a surprising deep threat. I'll be watching his timed speed at the combine closely, but he has a deceptive speed going for the deep ball. He has turned heads at the Shrine practices,and Schottenheimer made a point of comparing him to SD's current big WR corp. Legedu Naanee, another BSU recruit, took a little time to develop in SD, but the results were worth waiting for. Seyi may be the same story. Projected 7th Round.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, 5-11 182, Southern Methodist # 323 Overall: Has had a few bad moments in practice, and has an unnerving habit of trying to test the lateral waters before getting upfield, he has nonetheless proven to be a solid all around WR, effectively blocking downfield and laying out for errant passes. Hasn't kept his routes as crisp as scouts would like to see, given that the DBs all pretty much know what is coming, but has gotten a few guys to "yo-yo" (think Eddie Royal double move on Hall). Could have a big game on Saturday, and is clearly the fastest WR on the field at the Shrine game. Projected College Free Agent.
College Free Agents of Interest
DT Ekom Udofia: He probably won't play much tomorrow, but he is a big kid (6-1 326) who might be able to transition to NT with time. He is recovering from a fractured ankle, so if he plays well, it should be telling.
QB Matt Nichols: While the Shrine QBs have generally been less than inspiring, Nichols has gotten more and more comfortable as each day passes. While the "top school" guys ahead of him struggle, this Eastern Washington University product has gotten more confident, and is showing that he has the better arm, better size and better accuracy. He is worth watching when he gets his chance to come into the game.
SS Klint Kubiak: Not a particularly talented prospect, I just thought the coloradoans and Kubes fans would want to here what he is up to. This is essentially a last gasp for him, and if he plays well, he could still earn a combine invite, despite a bad luck history with injuries. What I found interesting was how excited he was when he learned he got the invite... His dad must be helping him sort out what matters from what doesn't, and if Kubes thinks that the Shrine game matters, than it might speak a bit to where pros rank it. Interesting to think about...
TE Riar Geer: A Colorado Buff this time, Greer has been impressing in practice with his solid blocking. He is also a decent receiver, and would make a solid reserve prospect. Where he seems to have impressed the most is in effectively holding up and anchoring against good, heavy outside pass rushers, no small feat. If he keeps it up he may just find his way into the draft.
DT Martin Tevaseu, 6-1 329, UNLV #461 Overall: This kid really seems like he might have the special something. He managed to come down from 420 pounds and earn a scholarship, playing at 335 for UNLV. His Dline coach Andre Patterson (used to be the Broncos Dline coach) realized that the kid could do something special, and convinced him to train to be a NT (he was originally a penetrating havoc-wreaker). Martin had taken on double teams all the time, so the transition was a simple one for him. Fast forward to the shrine practices, and he is playing his heart out, pushing top quality olinemen back, and improving daily on his hand technique. The result? Marty Schottenheimer took the time to meet up with Tevaseu in the parking lot after a long day:
The 66-year old coach left the parking lot, ran up to Tevaseu, introduced himself and then said the words Tevaseu will never forget.
“I want to tell you, son,” Schottenheimer said, “you are doing a hell of a job. A hell of a job.” Moments later Tevaseu took a step back to reflect.
Said Tevaseu: “Coming from him ... especially to an unknown guy ... wow ... I guess I'm turning people's heads.”
Something to think about, anyways.
Quick Guide to Notable Players
|QB||John Skelton||Matt Nichols|
|TE||Andrew Quarless||Riar Geer|