The third practice for the West team of the East-West Shrine was held in St. Petersburg, Fla. under sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s. The players were practicing in full pads.
There were some good one-on-one battles on Wednesday for the West squad. Colorado nose tackle Josh Tupou finished off his strong week with some wins in the one-on-ones using his bull-rushing skills to power through multiple offensive linemen. Tupou would fit well as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. He could be a player like Clemson's D.J. Reader who was a fifth-round pick and had an excellent rookie season for the Houston Texans. Tupou has a burst to go along with size and power that can overwhelm offensive linemen.
Missouri nose tackle Josh Augusta also impressed during the one-on-ones. He showed a serious burst to close the pocket in an instant as he had Louisville center Tobijah Hughley (6-2, 295) on roller skates. Augusta (6-5, 375) needs to continue to lose weight and improve his conditioning, but he has a surprising burst and nimbleness for such a heavy lineman. He also carries the weight a little better than expected. Augusta had a quality week, but his weight needs to continue to decline throughout the lead-up to the draft to help his draft stock.
South Carolina defensive end Darius English had an impressive rep in the one-on-ones with an excellent speed rush to the inside to beat Toledo right tackle Storm Norton. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound English needs to get stronger to be a run-down defender in the NFL. English is a sleeper who could be a nice backup outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense with some DPR (designated pass rusher) potential.
Arkansas defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter has had a quality week of practice. In the one-on-ones, he used a swim move to get the better of Charleston Southern tackle Erik Austell. Swim moves often aren't as effective in the NFL, but Ledbetter showed a nice rip move to work to the inside for a win over Oklahoma State offensive tackle Victor Salako. The 6-foot-4, 278-pound Ledbetter is a thick base end in a 4-3 defense who could move inside to tackle in passing situations. He also could play some five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense.
Ledbetter's collegiate teammate Deatrich Wise Jr. has had a mixed week, and that continued on Wednesday. Wise tried a bull rush against North Dakota State's Zack Johnson (6-4, 331) and that went nowhere as Johnson stood up Wise with ease. However, Wise came back to get some wins including one on a swim move where he pushed Wyoming center Chase Roullier into the turf. In the goal line team scrimmage, Wise had a good rush and swatted down the pass in the backfield. Wise has some quickness with size but gets in trouble when he plays too high, and he has a hard time bending. At one time, some draft analysts were projecting Wise to the first round, but he looks like a day-three pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He needs to work out well at the combine and pro day to help ensure he doesn't slip.
Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel (6-4, 225) looks the part with good size and legit arm strength, but he has been inaccurate at times and mistake prone. That continued on Wednesday with a fumbled snap and some overthrows. In the team scrimmage, he had a nice play where he scrambled to avoid the rush and hit Louisiana-Lafayette running back Eli McGuire in the flat for a nice gain.
Kiel is a real developmental project for the NFL after barely playing as a senior, but the new collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the players� union reduced the number of offseason spring practices (OTAs), training camp practices, padded in-season practices, along with the length and intensity of practice. As a result, developmental players like Kiel don't get many reps in practice and don't have the opportunity to work with coaches as much in the spring. Scouting sources across the league are unanimous that the new CBA has been a career killer for players like Kiel who have some physical talent but need time to grow. Thus, Kiel faces an uphill climb to make it in the NFL.
Eli McGuire has been the best running back on the West squad, and he finished his final practice in front of scouts in impressive fashion. In the team scrimmage, he showed his speed by gashing the defense up the middle. McGuire is a shifty runner with some explosion. Teams think the 5-foot-9, 205-pounder could have mid-round potential. This is a talented class of running backs, but McGuire is a good receiver out of the backfield with speed to slash through a defense. He had his third straight good practice and definitely helped himself. Sources said that McGuire is a good kid and he interviewed well with teams as well.
The West team has two tight ends who played well this week in Oklahoma State's Blake Jarwin and USC's Taylor McNamara. Jarwin had the best catch of the practice and one of the best all week with a diving reception down the middle of the field in between three defenders. He showed soft hands to hold onto the ball after a hard landing. Jarwin also is a quality blocker. McNamara had an impressive over-the-shoulder catch running down the seam past Oregon State cornerback Treston Decoud. McNamara hauled in the well-thrown pass from Western Michigan's Zach Terrell. Both tight ends could be nice value picks.
UCLA cornerback Fabien Moreau is a player some team sources like. He had a mixed practice on Wednesday. On the positive side, he was running with receivers and preventing separation. He also had an excellent pass break-up on a crossing route. However, he was called for a suspect holding. Rather than shaking it off, he got into it with the official and continued to jaw at the official later in practice. Moreau should show more composure and concentrate on the next play. Having a short memory is an asset for a cornerback, and Moreau will need to learn that.
Baylor safety Orion Stewart (6-0, 210) had a hard hit and good run fill on the goal line to stop cold Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale. Stewart could be a backup safety and special teams contributor.
WalterFootball.com will have more recaps from the East-West Shrine practices on Tuesday and Wednesday along with a run-down of the post-practice team interviews. Follow @walterfootball for updates.