Two defensive players were stars of the East-West Shrine on Saturday afternoon. South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor and Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne both finished off impressive weeks with a dominant game. Both had multiple takeaways to highlight their day.
The 6-foot-7, 275-pound Taylor was a relentless animal. Although it didn't start out that well for him, Kansas offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson had an easy block on Taylor as he blew containment on a short touchdown run by Middle Tennessee State wide receiver Anthony Amos on an end around. Taylor came back to play some good run defense and make a big splash play. Maryland tackle A.J. Francis had Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege in his grasp when Taylor came up from behind him to slap the ball away.
Later in the first half, Taylor caused another fumble when he tracked down Texas A&M running back Christine Michael from behind and slapped the ball out.
In the third quarter, Taylor made two impressive plays. The first was a tackle of Alex Carder on a run to the perimeter. Taylor just showed more speed and athleticism on the play. A bit later, Taylor tossed aside Hawkinson to sack Carder and finish off a superb game. Taylor could add weight to his frame and be a power 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 defensive end. He looks like a third- or fourth-round pick.
Hawthorne got involved quickly as well. On the first play from scrimmage, Pitt running back Graham fumbled the ball away. He was switching hands and let go of the ball untouched. Hawthorne recovered the fumble for the West team. In the third quarter, Hawthorne had perfect coverage on Rutgers tight end D.C. Jefferson in the end zone. Hawthorne beat the 6-foot-6 Jefferson on a jump ball to make a leaping interception. It was a thoroughly impressive play by Hawthorne.
Teams rarely threw at Hawthorne in 2012 so this was a nice display of ball skills. He could be a second-day pick with his size, length and man coverage ability.
With the exception of his fumble, Michael had a quality game. He had a nice run for seven yards on a third-and-6. In the fourth quarter, Michael powered his way into the end zone from six yards out. Michael showed nice power, balance, vision and cutting ability. He used the East-West Shrine to really help his draft stock and put himself into the mid-rounds.
Doege struggled on Saturday. Maryland defensive tackle Joe Vellano almost sacked Doege but a bad throw that was almost intercepted by Rod Sweeting. He made a diving pass breakup and was close to hauling it in. On the next play, Doege had a 14-yard gain on third-and-9 to Chad Bumphis who got open on a curl route in front of Sweeting. That was the only good throw from Doege as he finished 4-of-8 for 30 yards. He also missed some receivers open downfield.
Two linebackers stood out with good games. Connecticut's Sio Moore and Iowa State's A.J. Klein both made their presence felt. Moore had an impressive tackle on the perimeter and showed good speed. He had a strong week overall. Klein made a ton of tackles on Saturday. He showed nice instincts to get in position and good tackling fundamentals. Moore and Klein could be third-day picks after their solid East-West showings.
Another player that impressed was Utah State running back Kerwynn Williams. He ran the ball pretty well even those his totals (8-28) didn't really reflect it. He also had a 38-yard kick return and some good runs. Williams (5-8, 196) may not get drafted but he could be a good signing as an undrafted free agent.
Georgia cornerback Brandon Smith had a bad missed interception. The ball flew into Chad Bumphis who made the catch and ran down the field for a 57-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Smith had an interception sail to him on a bad throw by Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder. Smith had a good week overall and could be a third-day pick.
One prospect who didn't help himself last week and on Saturday was Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron. A poorly thrown ball by Cameron flew right into the breadbasket of Nigel Malone who returned the ball down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown. It was a terrible throw without much zip and with terrible ball placement.
Meanwhile, a player who did help himself in St. Petersburg was Mount Union wide receiver Jasper Collins. He had a disappointing game due to a muffed punt in the third quarter. Collins had 92 receptions for 1,694 yards with 22 touchdowns as a senior. He averaged 18.4 yards per catch. He is fast and a crafty receiver. Aside from the fumbled punt, Collins performed well and improved his chances of getting drafted.
North Carolina State safety Earl Wolff also showed well. He started out the week on fire in practice. In the fourth quarter, Wolff had an excellent interception with great coverage on Bumphis. Wolff went up and attacked the ball. He had a good week and really helped himself.
Bumphis (4-92) played well on Saturday to finish off a strong week. He proved to be worthy of a third-day pick.