2014 East-West Shrine Game: Practice Report

2014 East-West Shrine Game: Monday’s East Team Practice Report

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

The first practice of the East-West Shrine was held in St. Petersburg, Fla. under sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s. The East team is being coached by Jerry Glanville, and the former Falcons and Oilers head coach didn’t hesitate to show scouts what they came to see. Glanville had both teams practicing in full pads with some serious hitting.

The most noteworthy player on the East team could be Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. In the early going, Garoppolo showed some rust including some fumbled snaps. But after some time, he gave scouts something to think about. Garoppolo displayed a good arm with some nice field vision. In the team scrimmage, he did a nice job of looking off a safety to come back to the other side of the field for a completion. Garoppolo needs to get faster, but he has a good understanding for a starting point.

Garoppolo had an impressive throw to Army wide receiver Patrick Laird that was juggled before it was broken up by Vanderbilt cornerback Andre Hal. It should have been a completion as Garoppolo fit the pass into a tight window.

Garoppolo missed an opportunity for a long completion down the middle seam with an overthrow of Colorado State tight end Crockett Gilmore. A starting NFL tight end probably would have been able to run that pass down, but Gilmore was still open with a few steps of separation on his defender. Garoppolo, at least, knew he should have hit that pass.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pounder looks smaller than his listed measurements, but he’s big enough to play in the NFL. In order shoot up draft boards, Garoppolo needs to dominate the weak competition over the next two practices, but he showed off a good arm on Day 1.

The other East quarterback who had a positive start was Cornell’s Jeff Mathews. Mathews (6-4, 229) has good size and is aggressive to push the ball downfield. Early in practice, he laid out a pass about 30 yards down the field for a nice near completion; Miami wide receiver Allen Hurns dropped the pass.

In the seven-on-seven session, Mathews had a good throw to Bowling Green tight end Alex Bayer. Cal Poly linebacker Johnny Millard had close coverage, but Bayer couldn’t control the catch for a completion. Mathews came back to throw a fastball to Coastal Carolina wide receiver Matt Hazel, who had Hal on him.

Mathews threw the ball well during the 11-on-11 red-zone scrimmage. He fired a bullet to Hurns for a diving catch just past Hal, who had tight coverage. Mathews had Oklahoma State tight end Blake Jackson streaking through the end zone, but the pass was dropped. It should have been caught, but Mathews’ ball placement and timing helped lead to the drop. He needed to throw the pass sooner and put more air underneath it to drop it in rather than throwing the pass on a line.

Mathews came back to loft a pass into Gilmore for a touchdown. For the first practice of the week, Mathews had a productive day. He is coming off a disappointing senior season, so he needs a strong week of practice to help treat the damage.

Elsewhere on the offense, Tennessee running back Rajion Neal had a strong opening to the week. He showed nice balance and shiftiness to create his own yards. In both the run scrimmage and the team scrimmage, Neal ripped off some good gains. If he continues to run well, his stock could rise.

Vanderbilt cornerback Andre Hal showed nice agility and quickness to run with receivers out their breaks. Hal had good coverage throughout the day and broke up a few passes through being in good position. He could stand to improve his ball skills to turn more pass breakups into interceptions.

Louisville safety Hakeem Smith had a good debut. He laid the wood to stop a runner cold a yard in front of the end zone. On a goal-line carry, the back tried to bounce the ball around the left tackle, but Smith came over to flatten the runner. The massive hit drew a lot of “ohhs” and “ahhs” from the scouts. Smith also broke up a pass intended for Michigan speedster Jeremy Gallon. Smith could be a nice value pick on Day 3.

There were a few players who stood out on the line. Defensively, Georgia defensive tackle Garrison Smith and Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston were impressive. Smith (6-3, 297) is compactly built and plays with good pad level. He is a good athlete with quickness off the snap.

In the pass-rushing one-on-ones, Smith beat Youngstown State’s Kyle Bryant with an impressive speed rush. Bryant was able to contain Smith on one rep after Smith jumped offsides and Tennessee center James Stone stonewalled a bull rush from Smith long enough for a pass to be thrown. Smith flashed in the team scrimmage as well. He fired through the line along the goal line to blow up a run in the backfield for a loss of a few yards.

Gaston and Rutgers tackle/guard Antwan Lowery both flashed. Gaston beat Lowery with a spin move, but Lowery came back to ride Gaston around the pocket. Gaston had his way with Toledo center Zac Kerin. Gaston shoved Kerin to the ground to get free to the quarterback marker on the first rep, but then on the rematch, Gaston bulled Kerin back before tossing him aside. Gaston is a sleeper lineman to watch.

Penn State guard John Urschel had a rough first day as he struggled with the rush from Syracuse defensive tackle Jason Bromley. Bromley used a rip move and speed to win one rep and rode Urschel down the pocket on a rematch.

An interesting prospect on display was Belhaven right tackle Matt Hall. The massive 6-foot-10, 320-pounder has some power to his game. He did better in run blocking than pass protection as West Virginia’s Will Clarke gave him some problems with speed rushes that incorporated swim and spin moves. If Hall can show improvement over the course of the week, he could be an interesting developmental prospect.

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.

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2014 East-West Shrine Game: Tuesday's East Team Practice Report - 1/14
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