The third day of practice for the East-West Shrine Game was held in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday under sunny skies with temperatures in the low 80s. The West team was in shells (helmets, shoulder pads and shorts) and had a physical practice.
The practice started with some installation, and Arizona quarterback Matt Scott had a fumbled snap. That wasn't the first one from him this week but he is trying to get used to going under center rather than staying in the shotgun. Scott isn't the only one struggling as a number of the other quarterbacks have had issues with taking the snap from under center.
A couple of the defensive backs stood out with strong practices. Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne, Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde and Oklahoma cornerback Demontre Hurst had nice sessions. All three of them looked good in the change-of-direction drills and showed nice flexibility to turn and run.
Hyde had an especially impressive day. He made a great play on the ball during the seven-on-seven scrimmage after reading the quarterback to undercut the throw to intercept the ball along the sideline.
Hyde didn't get tested much at Iowa, so it was good for him to show some ball skills at the East-West Shrine. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder looks like a potential mid-round pick who could play safety or cornerback in the NFL.
Two safeties made their presence felt on Wednesday. Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas had a hard hit on Michael during the nine-on-sevens. Thomas was flying around the field and popping people. Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta showed improvement by getting deep to slap away a pass away from Eastern Kentucky wide receiver Tyrone Goard.
There were a number of other highlights from the team scrimmage. Middle Tennessee State wide receiver Anthony Amos made a leaping sideline reception after UCLA cornerback Sheldon Price mistimed his jump. He should've had an interception on the play. That was the case for Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein. He tipped a ball away in the flat, but should've been able to catch it for pick-six. There was nothing but grass between him and the end zone.
Two of the smaller speed receivers made splash plays. Mississippi State's Chad Bumphis had a good gain on a deep cross after he got wide open for Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege. Mount Union wide receiver Jasper Collins got open downfield after running a nice route. He was open for another gain, but the ball was bounced in front of him by Wester Michigan quarterback Alex Carder.
Both Bumphis and Collins are sleeper slot receivers who could surprise in the NFL. Both are very quick and run good routes with reliable hands. They also could contribute return skills. Bumphis and Collins could provide a nice value as third-day picks.
A few other players stood out in the team scrimmage. Virginia linebacker Steve Greer had a good day. He showed nice pass-coverage ability to run with a receiver in the flat and force him out of bounds. Greer was also tough against the run.
Texas A&M running back Christine Michael continues to impress. He runs hard with vision and balance. Michael is generating a real buzz around Mobile and a lot of teams are showing serious interest in him. WalterFootball.com will have more on specific teams in the days to come.
SMU running back Zach Line had a nice day with a good run off left tackle. Line (6-1, 230) looked better on Wednesday, but he still should move to fullback in the NFL.
The West team did not wear any pads on Monday, so Wednesday was only its second and final practice with pads. As a result, many of the scouts focused on the one-on-ones between the defensive line and offensive line. They started out with some two-vs-two matchups, and the defenders had a lot of success with stunts.
Michigan defensive tackle William Campbell and USC defensive end Wes Horton had some good battles. The first came as Horton bull rushed through UCLA guard Jeff Baca for a sack. The defensive duo won again with a collection of bodies at the quarterback marker and massive disruption going against Utah guard Sam Brenner and Kansas tackle Tanner Hawkinson. The duo of Brenner and Hawkinson came back to stuff a stunt cold near the line of scrimmage.
Baca and Calgary tackle Kirby Fabien got a win against Campbell and Horton by using their momentum against them to ride them around the quarterback marker and maintain a clean pocket. Both Horton and Campbell have helped themselves this week, Campbell especially.
TCU guard Blaize Foltz performed well on Wednesday. He showed off a strong base to stop bull rushes, but still needs some development. Foltz (6-4, 315) lost a one-on-one rep by losing his feet and not staying balanced. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that the Saints have taken a liking to Foltz.
During the one-on-ones, Brenner was beaten by a rip move to the inside from Mississippi State defensive tackle Josh Boyd. Brenner bounced back and stopped cold a bull rush from Boyd. Brenner had another win against Campbell. It was nice to see Brenner bounce back after a humiliating day on Tuesday. He may not get drafted, but could make it on a roster as an undrafted free agent.
Hawkinson had his best day of the week and won some one-on-one reps. His wins came against Arkansas Pine-Bluff end Brandon Thurmond and Montana State end Caleb Schreibeis. Hawkinson (6-6, 300) has some length to him, but needs to work on his feet. Too often, he isn't moving his feet and is simply lunging at edge-rushers. Hawkinson must get quicker on his feet to mirror.
One offensive lineman who has really struggled this week is Iowa center James Ferentz (6-1, 288). One rep in the one-on-ones was a microcosm of his problems. Campbell tried a swim move that Ferentz was ready for. After that was stopped, Campbell (6-5, 310) just bull rushed Ferentz about eight yards straight back before dumping him on the ground. Ferentz doesn't pass the eyeball test either since he is very undersized. Ferentz will need a lot of work in a strength and conditioning program. It wouldn't be surprising if he goes undrafted.