Shrine Game: Day 2 Observations – West Team

Wide Receivers Shine on Day 2

Emory Hunt

West Team Wide Receivers Display A+ Athleticism

It doesn’t take long to watch the West Team receivers and notice how ridiculously athletic the group is. I spoke about this on Day 1, but it’s just so remarkable to see the level of consistency of the athleticism throughout the receiver group. Not only are they explosive, they catch the ball extremely well. It’ll be interesting to see how this group fares in the game against the East Team.

Fresno State Pair Have Great Days

QB Marcus McMaryion and WR KeeSean Johnson had really good practices on Day 2. I thought McMaryion was the best QB of the day. For one, he didn’t turn the ball over. And two, he was accurate at all levels of the field. Johnson has been the talk of St. Pete so far this week with the way he’s performing out there on the field. He’s the West Team’s version of Terry Godwin, in how his explosive and makes everything look rather easy. It’s no surprise that the Bulldogs had an 11-2 season with these two guys spearheading their offensive attack.

Impressive Safety Play on Day 2

UCLA’s Adarius Pickett, Wyoming’s Andrew Wingard, Michigan’s Tyree Kinnel and Colorado’s Evan Worthington were solid on Day 2. Wingard had a pick six during practice, while Pickett and Worthington were real solid in both run support and taking away deep ball opportunities. I like how this group works together to also help out the corners during 7-on-7 and team periods.

OL-DL Play to a Stalemate in 1-on-1s

There were enough victories to go around during the OL/DL 1-on-1 period. The West Team has some pretty athletic tackles in Trey Pipkins (Sioux Falls), Jackson Barton (Utah), Ryan Pope (San Diego State). I thought those three did a great job all period long against defensive ends. On the interior, La Tech’s Oshea Dugas & Michigan’s Juwann Bushell-Beatty were excellent also. Dugas is quietly having himself a really strong week in St. Pete.

For the defense, Kansas Jayhawks DT Daniel Wise seemed to win his matchup throughout the period. He uses his hands extremely well and was almost Kung Fu like in his ability to use leverage to win. The same for Texas DT Chris Nelson. He’s been really good not only in 1-on-1s, but also in 9-on-7s and in team periods. He’s having himself an outstanding week. Texas A&M’s Daylon Mack was also able to find a lot of success during the period. It seemed as if they were in the heads of the OL, knowing how they were planning to attack them before the snap and being able to counter as a result.

More Practice Standouts

LB – Joe Dineen (6’2 235) Kansas: During the Team Run period, Dineen delivered a couple of good pops on the running back. I love how he just explodes on contact. Very good read and recognition skills in the running game.

CB – Ka’dar Hollman (6’0 190), Toledo: Every time you look up, you see the former Toledo Rockets corner making a play on the ball, staying in the hip pocket on the receiver, or flying up in run support to make a stop. Hollman has put out some good tape here in St. Pete all week long. He’s been playing great.

DL – Derick Roberson (6’4 250), Sam Houston State: Roberson is a very athletic edge rusher and showed a variety of moves during 1-on-1s. His speed off the ball and ability to dip his shoulder as he turns the corner, has made him a tough block this week.

LB – Justin Hollins (6’5 242), Oregon: Hollins was strong against the run during the team period segment of practice. He did a good job of setting the edge and making the plays that came his way.

CB – Blace Brown (6’0 190), Troy: Brown is looking like the best corner on the West Team. He does everything technically well and has displayed the ball skills that you covet at the next level.

RB – Darrin Hall (5’11 222), Pitt: Hall is another running back in this game with good, all around skills. On Day 2 we saw him add to that by catching the ball really well both out of the backfield, and downfield as well. He has a lot of Jeremy Hill-like skills that he brings to the table. Impressive footwork as well.

WR – Brody Oliver (6’3 210), Colorado School of Mines: You can see the polish in the game of Oliver. That is because of the offense he came out of at CSM. What’s impressive about his game is his explosiveness and body control. He’s another receiver that’s having a strong performance in front of scouts. And is another one that runs small but plays big.

TE – Kato Dillon (6’5 265), Oregon: Dillon is a powerful player. You can tell that in how he runs his routes. Very good acceleration for a 265lb guy, that shows above-average athleticism to make any type of catch.

Practice Highlights – Day 2 West Team

WRs-vs-DBs 1-on-1s

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

9-on-7 Drills


Shrine Game: Day 2 Observations – East Team

Bulldogs Dominate on Day 2

Emory Hunt

East Team Practice Notes

Georgia Prospects Standing Out

Georgia center Lamont Gaillard and wide receiver Terry Godwin II have looked like two of the best players on the offensive side of the ball for the East Team. During both OL/DL 1-on-1s and 9-on-7, Gaillard won virtually every rep. In pass rush drills, he’s able to stonewall defensive lineman, and during the 9-on-7 run drills he’s able to consistently move guys off the spot. Godwin looks to be the most explosive of the receiving corps. Everything is explosive with him, from his stem into his route, to win he snaps it off to comeback or to explode in-or-out on a cut, Godwin kills it. He also has really good hands. There’s a razor-sharp focus coming from these to Bulldogs.

Oklahoma State’s QB Sharp on Day 2

With his second consecutive strong day, Oklahoma State QB Taylor Cornelius is starting to separate himself from the pack on the East Squad. There’s a different level of both velocity and decisiveness when he throws the ball. With the way he’s throwing the ball with both timing and accuracy, you’d think these are the receivers he played with back in Stillwater. He’s been really impressive so far.

Moreland Makes Plays

Another prospect who has posted back-to-back strong days of work is James Madison corner Jimmy Moreland. I’m a big fan of corners that can find, and make plays on the ball. That’s what we got yesterday again from the former Dukes star. During team period, Moreland’s sticky coverage yielded itself to him making a couple of plays. There’s something to be said for a defensive player that always ends up with the ball in his hands.

Big Men that can Move

I do believe that once we get to the actual game, the East Team will be able to run the ball. 9-on-7 period on Day 2 was an excellent display of athleticism along the offensive line. Morgan State’s Josh Miles, Elon’s Olisaemeka Udoh and Florida’s Martez Ivey looked really good on the move. Their athleticism allows them to win in different ways, regroup-and-redirect, while also getting out on the move a well. You see a lot of the same things in Illinois center Nick Allegretti and North Carolina State’s guard Tyler Jones. Overall I think the East OL is having a strong week of work.

Jamal Custis Raises Eyebrows

What a day by the former Syracuse Orange wide receiver Jamal Custis. A 6’5 213lb receiver isn’t supposed to move so effortlessly and fluid. In 1-on-1s is where I thought he did his best work. Custis was able to easily get separation from the DB, stacking him as well, and making the reception. On one particular play you saw him explode into his route, and quickly snap it off on a perfect comeback route and make the catch. I like the versatility he’s showing as well, as a big guy who can also play inside. This has been a really good week for him.

Linebackers Have a Day in 1-on-1s

I thought the linebackers did a great job today in RB-vs-LBs 1-on-1 drills. UNC’s duo of Malik Carney and Cole Holcomb, along with Maryland’s Tre Watson made life difficult for the running backs throughout the period. You didn’t see panic from these guys during this period, as they stayed patient, trusted their own athleticism and made plays.

DTs Causing Havoc Inside

Both Tennessee’s Kyle-Lawrence Phillips and Rutgers’ Kevin Wilkins had a lot of success individually in 1-on-1s. Kyle-Lawrence Phillips hand usage was outstanding, while Wilkins ball get off and ability to use his leverage had him posting back-t0-back solid reps during this period.

More Practice Standouts

CB – Derrick Baity, Jr (6’3 188), Kentucky: Baity transitions well for a taller corner and had a really good day in 1-on-1s. Baity moves small and plays big, which is exactly how you want it to be.

RB – Jordan Ellis (5’10 225), Virginia: Ellis plays a pro game. You can tell he’s going to be a chain-mover at the next level. I was able to speak to him after practice and he explained how the offense they ran at UVa helped prepare him for the NFL. He’s got good, all-around game.

RB – Ty Johnson (5’10 212), Maryland: I really like how comfortable Johnson looks catching the ball out of the backfield. He has been showing a lot of the tools needed to have a significant role within an offense at the next level.

WR – Terry Wright (5’11 180), Purdue: The chemistry he has with his QB here David Blough is evident, but outside of that Wright still has performed really well with whoever throws him the ball. I think he matches Godwin in terms of explosiveness and athleticism. He made a fantastic catch deep downfield over his shoulder.

RB – Marquis Young (6’1 210), UMass: Young has a different burst to his game. You can see this during both 9-on-7 and in team periods. His burst and acceleration threatens angles.

TE – Matthew Sokol (6’6 255), Michigan State: I think Sokol may be the fastest Tight End here at the Shrine Game, both East and West teams. He’s such a smooth route runner, and with his speed and acceleration, he’s finding himself open a lot at practice.

LB – Takitaki Sione (6’2 240), BYU: Sione brought his A-game in 9-on-7 today, making a few big ‘thuds’ against the running backs. His run fits were where they needed to be, and he had a great period as a result.

LB – Ulysees Gilbert III (6’1 230), Akron: Quietly, Gilbert has posted back-to-back solid days during team drills. He trusts what he sees and is able to quickly react to make a play. He was solid on both ends of defense on Day 2.

EDGE – Mathieu Betts (6’3 250), Laval: The Canadian standout was much more consistent on Day 2 in attacking the leverage of the offensive linemen during 1-on-1s, now showing the ability to counter if the first move is stopped. Also, during 9-on-7, Betts had a much better showing against the run. He’s starting to really get adjusted to the American game.

Practice Highlights – Day 2 East Team

WRs/RBs/TEs -vs- LBs/DBs 1-on-1

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

9-on-7 Drills


Shrine Game: Day 1 Observations – West Team

West Team Practice Gets Underway

Emory Hunt

Initially what stands out to you about the West Team here at the East West Shrine Game, is how long and athletic they are in many areas in their personnel. What a great collection of talent put together on this team this year.

Practice Standouts

There was a lot of focus on the QBs today as Brett Rypien (Boise State), Marcus McMaryion (Fresno State) and Easton Stick (North Dakota State) took the field. I thought Rypien was slightly the more consistent today, but all seemed to throw the ball well during separate times at practice. To me, they all were about the same but Rypien probably gets the nod because of his level of consistency. I also thought he had some good pop on the ball in the intermediate range.

OT – Trey Pipkins (6’7 307), Sioux Falls: Pipkins not only looks the part of an NFL offensive lineman, but was able to play the part as well. For a taller guy, he does not struggle to get good leverage and was able to perform well on both ends of offense. I’m excited to see how he is able to build on a strong Day 1 performance.

Earlier I mentioned the length and athleticism within the personnel on the West Team and that immediately shows itself in the receiving corps.  KeeSean Johnson (Fresno State), Ron’quavion Tarver (Utah State), Cody Thompson (Toledo) and Brody Oliver (Colorado School of Mines) are all 6’2/6’3 and explosive. It was impressive to see taller receivers have no problem getting in-and-out of their breaks as if they were all 5’9. Johnson caught the ball extremely well yesterday and Tarver had an excellent showing during 1-on-1s. The other receivers like Shawn Poindexter (Arizona) and Jon Duhart (Old Dominion) have that physically imposing size that yields itself to having a home on the outside at the NFL level.

TE – Kendall Blanton (6’6 265), Missouri: Blanton has impressive acceleration for a 265lber. I thought he was solid during both 7-on-7 and in 1-on-1s.

RB – Darrin Hall (5’11 225), Pitt: Hall just has a natural feel for the running game. Patient, consistent and fluid would aptly describe how he attacks the line of scrimmage when given the ball.

OT – Juwann Bushell-Beatty (6’6 318) Michigan: I thought Bushell-Beatty was outstanding during OL/DL 1-on-1s, showcasing a powerful punch and good footwork to stonewall defensive linemen.

The one defensive lineman that proved to be a nuisance throughout the day was Texas DT Chris Nelson. He was disruptive in 9-on-7, consistently finding himself in the backfield. And in 1-on-1s, Nelson showed impressive hand usage to free himself of blockers throughout the period.

CB – Blace Brown (6’0 191), Troy: Brown was as good as advertised yesterday. What’s impressive about his skill set is that he’s patient in coverage, doesn’t panic when the ball is in the air, and has good spatial awareness. I thought he had a strong opening practice.

DL – Markus Jones (6’3 260), Angelo State: Quietly, Jones had one of the more consistent days of all the defensive lineman/edge rushers. His dip under move was on point during 1-on-1s. Jones doesn’t stay blocked for long as he finds different ways to win vs an OL.

LB – BJ Blunt (6’1 220), McNeese State: Blunt’s speed and acceleration makes him a threat at the 2nd level. You were able to see yesterday him being moved around the defense, putting him in favorable situations to have success. You saw him get better with each rep during team-vs-team.

Practice Highlights – Day 1 (West Team)

WR-vs-DB 1-on-1s

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

9-on-7 Period

Team-vs-Team Period

Shrine Game: Day 1 Observations – East Team

East Team Kicks Off Shrine Game Week

Emory Hunt

The 94th East-West Shrine Game got underway on Monday with the East Team practice. With a bevy of NFL and CFL scouts on hand, the college all-stars went through a 2-hour workout in the mid-afternoon. What was noticeably different this year was the fact that the entire practice was held in Tropicana Field, where the game will be played on Saturday afternoon.

Practice Standouts

QB – Taylor Cornelius (6’6 232), Oklahoma State: I thought he threw the ball extremely well all day long. Cornelius was able to connect consistently in the intermediate area of the field accurately through the day, in all periods. His arm strength is something that stood out significantly, especially on deeper in-breaking routes. He was really sharp in both 7-on-7 and Team-vs-Team periods.

During OL-DL 1-on-1s, despite the drill being putting the offensive linemen in a disadvantageous situation, a couple of guys were able to win the majority of their battles against the defensive line. Tyler Jones (NC State), Joshua Miles (Morgan State), Nick Allegretti (Illinois) and Ethan Greenidge (Villanova) were stellar.

OL Olisaemeka Udoh (Elon), Martez Ivy (Florida) and Bunchy Stallings (Kentucky) thrived in the team run period.

WR – Terry Godwin II (5’11 185), Georgia: Godwin looked to be playing at a different speed  on Monday. He’s very explosive out of his breaks, catching the ball consistently throughout the day. I thought he showed tremendous polish.

WR – Jesper Horsted (6’4 225), Princeton: Like Godwin, Horsted had a really good day catching the football. He moves extremely well for a bigger wide receiver, able to quickly throttle down and snap out of his breaks.  He had some really good reps in 1-on-1s and during 7-on-7s.

TE – CJ Conrad (6’5 252), Kentucky: Conrad is a fluid route runner and has above-average acceleration. He is really able to get the defender to open up his hips quickly because of it before breaking off his route to get open.

RB – Jordan Ellis (5’10 225), Virginia: Ellis had a strong day running the football. During the Team Run period, he was able to consistently find the lane both frontside and backside, and quickly get there. He ran with good balance and pad level.

DE – Mathieu Betts (6’3 250), Laval: The USports star started to get acclimated pretty quickly to the American game during 1-on-1s, getting better with every rep. His next test will be to find the same growth against the run.

Speaking of stopping the run, DL Kevin Wilkins (Rutgers), Ricky Walker (Virginia Tech), Cortez Broughton (Cincinnati) and Chris Slaton (Syracuse) were solid in that regard during the Team Run period. Both Wilkins and Broughton had excellent reps in 1-on-1s as well.

I like what I saw from an athleticism perspective during the team periods from linebackers Malik Carney (North Carolina), Tre Watson (Maryland) and Ulysses Gilbert III (Akron). The trio showed good fluidity going sideline-to-sideline, with Gilbert doing a great job attacking downhill in the Team Run period.

A couple of  guys in the secondary really stood out during the 1-on-1 period. Corners Rashad Fenton (South Carolina),  Michael Jackson (Miami) and Jimmy Moreland (James Madison) looked good throughout the period. Fenton’s speed, Jackson’s ability to play with technique and length, and Moreland’s ball skills were on display and is what stood out the most during the period.

Practice Highlights: Day 1 – East Team

WR-DB 1-on-1s

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

Team-vs-Team Period (Run & Full)

Tropical Bowl: Day 2 Observations – American Team

Secondary Leads the Way as Day 2 Wraps Up

Emory Hunt

It was an impressive day overall for the secondary as the American Team wrapped up its practice here at the 2019 Tropical Bowl in preparation for Sunday’s game. What has been consistent about the American Team practice has been the consistency of the energy level. Guys have been amped since they arrived and that yields itself to great play on the field during the practices.

Route Running Assassins

Between Robert Lewis (Washington State), Prince Gray (Jacksonville) and Ryan Schadler (Kansas), I don’t know who the best route runner is out of the three, but what I do know is all of them is the best route runner out of the three. These guys have put on a clinic this week in how to get open. Their ability in this regard has helped them look good in both 1-on-1s and in 7-on-7.

Ballin’ in the Red Zone

Inside the 20-yard line everything shrinks for an offense. What doesn’t shrink is the play of your bigger wide receivers and tight ends. WRs Kaian Duverger (6’6 212, UVA-Wise) and Quinn McElfresh (6’3 225, Mississippi Valley State) and TE Justin Johnson (6’4 238, Mississippi State) were standouts during this portion of practice. It’s all about body positioning and extending out to make the reception, and that’s what all three of these big targets were able to do throughout the day.

Running Backs Have a Day

I thought Day 2 was a good day for the running back position for the American Team. We saw guys showcase their entire arsenal today as far as running, receiving and blocking. Ryan Fulse (Wagner) is probably the most explosive of the backs and that cause problems for a defense out on the perimeter. Emmanuel Jones (Concordia St. Paul) is the best receiver out of the group. I think Jones could serve as a slot receiver if he had to. He’s been one of the better receiving backs in both the National Bowl & here at the Tropical Bowl. Both Reggie Gallaspy II (NC State) and Alonzo Smith (Miami OH) ran with really good pad level and picked up blitzes really well today. Both guys had some nice runs in team period also.

Centers Dominate 1-on-1s

The two Centers on the American Team, Byron Glass (Austin Peay) and John Yarbrough (Richmond), were flat out fantastic yesterday. Glass has excellent core strength and was tough for defensive lineman to move off the spot. Yarbrough shows really good hand placement and is patient in his approach, which lead to a lot of wins yesterday for him. Both players are creating a real buzz amongst scouts here in attendance.

Size is Not a Skill

If you follow Football Gameplan, you know this is our rallying cry. During Day 2, both defensive backs Marvin Conley (West Florida) and DeMarcus Owens (New Mexico State) were able to carry that flag in a big way. Conley, at 5’9 185, plays safety but can also serve as a slot corner. He was able to match up well against the bigger wide receivers, showing his ability to win in 50/50 situations. He already has tremendous ball skills as a Safety, showing he could effective cover 1-on-1 was a plus this week. Owens at times seems like he’s running the route for the receiver with how well his feet and hips are in coverage. He’s put together back-to-back stellar day in man coverage. Owens also does a fantastic job in playing the ball.

Practice Standouts

WR – Jaelan Austin (6’2 205), TCU: Once again Austin was the talk of the day. The former Horned Frog is able to make any, and all catches on the field. Speaking with him after practice he stated that ‘he tries to take a picture of the ball before catching it’, his attention to detail shows itself in his play.

DT – Zachary Cannon (6’3 313), Johnson C. Smith: Cannon has an effective bull rush that tends to surprise offensive lineman. His initial jolt/punch off the ball gives him an opportunity to win the rep.

DE – Chase DeMoor (6’5 250), Central Washington: DeMoor had a really good day in both 1-on-1s and in Team period. You can see him finally start to use his length to his advantage, winning multiple times because of his ability to get his hands on the offensive player first.

OL – Thomas Dennis (6’5 305), Penn: Another strong performance for the Penn Quaker. What’s interesting about Dennis is how quiet he goes about his business, showing the ability to remain consistent in his technique with each rep. He’s been impressive.

LB – Anthony Flory (6’2 235), Appalachian State: Flory made a nice play in team period, catching an interception off of a tipped pass. I’ve been impressed with how he’s moved in coverage this week.

DB – Illya Lawrence (6’0 200), South Alabama: Lawrence made some plays on the ball today that showcased his ability to be a matchup defender on the backend and not just a Safety. He has good, all-around game.

DB – Mook Reynolds (6’1 185), Texas A&M Commerce: It’s going to be interesting to see where a pro team plays Reynolds at the next level. I thought today he was excellent in press man, strong on off coverage, and drove on the ball really well. He’s versatile enough to serve multiple roles in the secondary.

CB – Darryl Randolph (5’10 190), Middle Tennessee State: Randolph was strong in Red Zone 1-on-1 drills. You can tell he understands spacing and where he is on the field. He also does a great job in getting his head around to make a play.

Practice Highlights: Day 2 American Team

Skill Positions vs Defense 1-on-1s

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

Team-vs-Team Period

Tropical Bowl: Day 2 Observations – National Team

National Team Gets Final Tune Up Before Game

Emory Hunt

If Day 1 belonged to the offensive side of the ball, then Day 2 was the defensive side’s day to take control. In the morning practice for the National Team, we saw a consistent performance defensively in 1-on-1, team-vs-team run, OL-vs-DL, and 7-on-7. It just sets the stage on what should be a really good Tropical Bowl game day.

Second Level Control

During the 1-on-1s, the linebackers did a fantastic job in coverage. JT Hassell (Florida Tech), Jerry Iweh (Fairmont State) and Bryson Allen-WIlliams (South Carolina) all stood out with their play against backs & tight ends. Allen-Williams has shown really good instincts for the position and has definitely elevated his stock with his week of work; the same for Hassell. I don’t recall seeing him lose many reps in coverage.

Speed Kills

On the offensive side of the ball in one-on-one drills, both receivers Floyd Allen (Ole Miss) and Sean Modster (Boise State) proved to be very difficult to cover because of their explosiveness and ability to quickly get in-and-out of breaks. Modster had a really good reception in 7-on-7s as he was able to split two defenders and make a spectacular grab down the rail.

Play of the Day

QB Devlin Hodges (Samford) threw a frozen rope deep down the seam in between two defenders to WR Jody Fortson (Valdosta State) where the 6’6 225lb wideout went up with one hand and was able to snag it while being draped by a defensive back for the touchdown.

Play of the Day II

During 7-on-7s, QB Vincent Espinoza (Lincoln U) threw a nice rainbow deep down the sideline where WR Marquise Irvin (Mercer) was able to go up and make an acrobatic catch to haul in the reception. Espinoza has looked solid this week, stacking back-to-back good performances in All-Star games (FCS Bowl).

Bullying Up Front

Dwayne Wallace (Kansas), Connor Dintino (Pitt), Aaron Monteiro (Boston College) and Deontae Crumitie (Troy) looked fantastic during OL/DL 1-on-1s. These were guys that dominated their reps, winning more than they lost, which is very impressive considering that the drill is essentially set up for the defensive player to win.

Practice Standouts

LB – Dah-Quan Edrington (6’2 205), Virginia-Lynchburg: Edrington consistent made plays in the Team-vs-Team run period. He’s was getting great run fits, make the right decisions, taking the right angles en route to the ball carrier. He had a really strong day.

DT – Rashad Brandon (6’2 300), Missouri: Brandon plays bigger than his size, meaning he’s a very tough DL to handle; especially when his bull rush is working. He was able to have some success in 1-on-1s.

CB – Herbert Miller III (6’2 195), Florida Atlantic: It’s been a pretty impressive week for Miller. His coverage on Day 2 was particularly strong. You don’t normally see taller corners be able to click-and-close like he does. He uses his length really well, excelling in press man coverage.

CB – Chris Westry (6’4 197), Kentucky: Inside the red zone is where Westry had a ton of success. His length allows him to take away windows, making it tough to complete passes his way. I like his footwork as he’s able to mirror-and-match really well vs receivers.

DL – Brandon Varner (6’3 268), Grambling: Varner had a very good day overall, especially in Team-vs-Team run and in OL/DL 1-on-1s. What’s been impressive about him this week has been his versatility. We’ve seen him line up inside and out on the edge. He was able to find success doing both yesterday.

DE – Walter Brady (6’3 265), Akron: Brady was very vocal yesterday, but definitely backed it up during team-vs-team run. It was his quickness off the ball and ability to use his eyes to find the ball carrier that stood out the most.

LB – Chase Hancock (6’1 230), Marshall: Hancock had a strong week at the College Gridiron Showcase, and was strong here on Day 2. His run fits are consistent and he was solid overall in coverage. I think Hancock is a good, all-around football player.

DT – Boogie Roberts (6’2 300), San Jose State: Roberts was virtually unblockable in 1-on-1s today. Between his quickness and a variety of moves, he was able to consistently win vs the OL.

OL – Matthew Pyke (6’1 301), East Tennessee State: Pyke was at his best during team periods, doing a great job of getting guys off the spot, cutting off penetration and not getting walked back in pass coverage. This is his 2nd all-star game (FCS Bowl) and is making the most of his postseason.

Practice Highlights: National Team – Day 2

Skill Positions vs Defense 1-on-1s

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

Team-vs-Team Run

Tropical Bowl: Day 1 Observations – American Team

Defense Takes Control for the American Team

Emory Hunt

As the 2nd practice of the day began, it seemed to be all about the defense as they had a fantastic day from start-to-finish. That’s not to say that the offense didn’t have their fair share of success, it just seemed as if defensively, the American Team had it on their minds from the time they got off the bus, to the time they left the field.

Ivy League Representing 

OT Thomas Dennis was outstanding in 1-on-1s on Day 1. Dennis saw a variety of edge rushers during the drill, guys that wanted to bull rush, guys that tried to beat him with speed and quickness, none were successful as the former Penn Quaker was able to stonewall guys throughout the drill. He’s the only Ivy League participant in the Tropical Bowl, and is doing a great job of representing the Ancient Eight down here in Daytona Beach, as he did back in December at the FCS Bowl.

Clanga Smooth

Mississippi State Tight End Justin Johnson (6’4 238) had a fantastic day catching the ball. For a bigger guy, Johnson moves really well and did a great job in the route running department as well. He seemed really comfortable out there in space, reading coverage well on the fly and working himself open. During the 1-on-1 periods, I don’t recall seeing a pass that was thrown his way hit the ground. Needless to say, he’s checking off a lot of boxes here in Daytona Beach.

Practice Standouts

WR – Jaelan Austin (6’2 205), TCU: Austin was money all practice long, catching everything thrown his way. I loved how he consistently attacked the ball when it was in the air. Whether it was going up high, or reaching out in front, or snatching it away from the defender, Austin came up 100% every time.

OT – Benjamin Knox (6’6 315), Colorado State: Impressive show of technical skills by the former CSU Ram. Knox uses his long arms to stymie defenders and was able to keep his feet moving effectively enough to run defenders out of the club in 1-on-1s.

QB – Tanner Mangum (6’3 210), BYU: I thought Mangum threw the ball really well yesterday. Very impressive short-to-intermediate accuracy as well. Talking with him after practice, he realizes how big this week is for him and is primed to take advantage of the opportunity.

OL – Breontae Matthews (6’4 330), North Carolina A&T: Matthews got off to a great start yesterday during 1-on-1s. He has tremendous core strength and is able to absorb and redirect defenders with ease. He’s coming off of a really strong week in Fort Worth, Texas at the College Gridiron Showcase.

OL – Shamdu Nalls (6’4 315), Virginia Union: Nalls was strong in his performance during the National Bowl back in December, which got him the invite back for the Tropical Bowl. He just consistently wins. He’s got very good feet and quick hands to reposition himself to get the block.

WR – Quinn McElfresh (6’3 220), Mississippi Valley State: McElfresh has a ton of smoothness about his game. He’s able to fluidly get in-and-out of his breaks and does a great job of tracking the ball. The FCS Bowl was a big showcase for him and he’s already off to a great start here in Daytona.

CB – DeMarcus Owens (5’9 194), New Mexico State: Compete. Compete. Compete. That’s what I like about Owens’ performance yesterday. He’s is able to stay in the hip pocket of the receiver and gets his head around to find the ball. No reception will come easy with him in coverage.

DB – Kurron Ramsey (6’3 195), Alabama State: Another strong start for an FCS Bowl Alum. Ramsey has the length that scouts covet and is able to use it really well to his advantage. I’m very impressed with how he’s able to close quickly on the ball for a taller defensive back.

WR – Ryan Schadler (5’11 192), Kansas: Schadler’s explosiveness and quickness gave defensive backs fits yesterday in both 1-on-1s and in team drills. He might be the most explosive wideout on the American Team, or at least it looked that way yesterday. He also catches the ball extremely well.

DB – Joshua Simmons (6’0 190), Limestone College: Simmons is a bigger corner with ball skills. He uses his hands well to stay with the receiver without getting grabby. Plus he’s able to get his head around and find the football. This will be the 2nd of three all-star games for Simmons as he’s off to the NFLPA game after the Tropical Bowl.

Practice Highlights

WR/TE/RB vs LB/DB 1-on-1s

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s