The first practice of the East team in the East-West Shrine was held in St. Petersburg, Florida inside Tropicana Field.
Each team at the East-West Shrine Bowl looks like it has one legit quarterback prospect, and on the East squad, that signal-caller is Florida International’s James Morgan. Morgan has a live arm with good size, and he put it on display in the opening session of the East squad. The opening practice of all-star games is usually pretty sloppy, and this one was no exception as quarterbacks and receivers with no history are working together, so there are more dropped passes, balls off the mark, and fumbled snaps from working with new centers. Those issues afflicted Morgan some in the early going, but in the team scrimmage, he threw some ropes, including a bullet Gators wideout Josh Hammond on a deep out for a nice gain. Morgan continued to drive the ball to the sideline and used Navy wide receiver Malcolm Perry for a good gain.
The 6-foot-4 230-pounder can spin the ball and has the ability to drive ball to all levels of the defense. This was a strong start to the week for Morgan, and he has a lot of teams showing serious interest in him. The Jets met with Morgan on Sunday night and then spoke with him for a long-time after Monday’s practice. Other teams that met with Morgan include the Las Vegas Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills.
The East-West Shrine does not have as high of profile prospects as the Senior Bowl, but it has been a great environment for some small-school players to show they can play against players from bigger schools. Some small-school players who have impressed here in recent years include Akiem Hicks, Josh Norman and John Brown. This year, a small-school player who got off to a good start was Ferris State defensive end Austin Edwards.
Edwards had an impressive session in the pass-rushing one-on-ones, showing speed to get upfield and run around the corner. He also was twitchy, darting to the inside to get a win over Buffalo offensive tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk. Edwards’ listed numbers of 6-foot-3, 280 pounds look inflated, but he is put together well enough to play on the edge. If Edwards maintains this level of play, he could be a riser this week in St. Petersburg.
Alabama cornerback/safety Shyheim Carter had a few nice plays in coverage, breaking up passes downfield in the one-on-ones. He had tight coverage on Georgia tight end Eli Wolf to smack a pass away and showed some recoverability to close on an out route for another forced incompletion. Carter has quality instincts and route recognition, but the issue he has is being undersized and lacking speed. Hence, Carter looks like a backup defensive back and special teams contributor.
Auburn offensive tackle Jack Driscoll had a solid start to the week. Driscoll showed some ability to move on the edge and strength to sustain blocks. He could use more work on his technique to handle speed rushers and refine his technique for the NFL. Driscoll looks a potential versatile backup that could compete at guard or tackle.
Mississippi State center Darryl Williams is a tough interior blocker, but his short stature, around 6-foot-2, leads to some limitations. In the pass-rushing one-on-ones, the length of defenders gave him issues as they used that to get leverage on Williams. In some one-on-ones, Williams did well stonewalling bull rushes. He is strong and quick, but in the NFL, he may not be the center to take on a lot of defensive tackles one on one.
Navy wideout Malcolm Perry had a nice practice showing some quickness and route-running skills. Perry (5-9, 190) is short and will have to compete as a slot receiver, but he is a tough player who had a strong start on Monday.
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.