The first practice of the East-West Shrine was held in St. Petersburg, Fla. under sunny skies with temperatures in the low 80s. The East team is being coached by Jerry Glanville. The former Falcons and Oilers head coach didn't take it easy on the players. Glanville had both teams practicing in shells (helmets, shoulder pads and shorts) with some serious contact between the lines. Some agents were grumbling about too much physicality considering the players weren't in full pads, but NFL talent evaluators like to see the contact.
After warmups, the players broke into individual positional drills before doing a length install session. During the individual drills, a few players stood out. South Florida cornerback Kayvon Webster earned a lot of praise from the defensive backs coach for his smooth flexibility. Webster looked good flipping his hips and redirecting quickly. He had good coverage in the scrimmage sessions as well. Sources told WalterFootball.com that the Cleveland Browns scouting staff has taken a liking to Webster.
Georgia Tech cornerback Rod Sweeting earned some praise as well. He had some moments in the drills where he looked a little stiff, but scouts were saying that Sweeting (6-0, 187) is the best cornerback on the East squad with some man coverage potential for the NFL. He also looked good as a gunner in punt coverage on Monday.
The defensive backs were getting the attention of a lot of the top-level executives in attendance. Redskins' general manager Bruce Allen and Titans' general manager Ruston Webster were both watching the defensive backs intently.
Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges stood out all day. He was a natural in the linebacker drills and seemed to pick up the defensive plays faster than other players during the install session. Hodges performed well in the scrimmages defending the run and pass. It was nice to see Hodges get depth in his zone drops. He was able to get in on stops of receivers downfield as a result. His pass coverage was probably his biggest question mark, but he showed three-down potential on Monday. Clearly, Hodges is one of the most polished players on either squad.
Offensively, quarterbacks Colby Cameron (Louisiana Tech) and Nathan Stanley (Southeastern Louisiana) both looked good. They both displayed good throwing motions with some arm strength. The first practice is always hard on the quarterbacks as they have unfamiliar centers and wide receivers to work with. As a result, you see more fumbled snaps and inaccurate passes, but Cameron and Stanley had solid days.
Stanley had a good completion to Auburn wide out Emory Blake on an out route. Stanley showed good accuracy with a well-placed ball between defenders. Hodges made a good stop on the play. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Stanley has a good skill set and just needs to add some more weight while gaining experience.
Cameron worked the middle of the field well with Rutgers tight end D.C. Jefferson. They connected for a big gain as Cameron put the ball up where only Jefferson could make the reception. The big tight end walled off the linebacker to make a nice catch in traffic. He added a good reception on an out route. Jefferson (6-6, 250) had a good opening practice.
The player who may have hurt himself the most was Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. He had a horrific day and did not look anything like an NFL quarterback. To start off the seven-on-seven scrimmage session, Klein dropped back to pass and held onto the ball for ages - far longer than a typical quarterback could in the NFL. Klein telegraphed a ball downfield along the sideline and it was easily intercepted by North Carolina State safety Earl Wolff.
The very next play saw Wolff break on the ball and slap away a slant pass from Klein to Florida State wide receiver Rodney Smith. In the 11-on-11 scrimmage, Wolff intercepted Klein again on a late throw to the sideline. In a real game, Klein would've been sacked as he held onto the ball way too long again. Defensive linemen ran by Klein while he held onto the ball in the no tackling practice. A few plays later, Klein bounced a short pass into his receiver.
Klein did hit on a long completion down the field. The ball was thrown deep and just got over the leaping hand of a safety. The big Seminole Smith (6-6, 219) laid out to make a diving catch in the front of the end zone.
Overall, Klein really struggled in the first day. His throwing motion and footwork need a lot of improvement. It looks like he is shot-putting his throws. Klein doesn't have a strong arm. He is a project quarterback at best and maybe should move to another position.
Some of the receivers flashed for the East squad. North Carolina's Erik Highsmith, Virginia Tech's Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller all had good moments. They will be worth monitoring in full pads on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A few safeties stood out. Obviously Wolff (6-0, 207) had a quality practice and showed nice intelligence in reading the quarterbacks. He also had some good moments in run defense. Florida safety Josh Evans and Clemson safety Rashard Hall both had good run stuffs. They were solid in pass coverage as well. Evans has nice potential and if he improves his ability to avoid false steps he could turn into a late-round steal.