At the East-West Shrine Game, prospective athletes need to remember these may be the biggest job interviews of their entire lives. You can't hold back because you might not get a combine invite, and no one is coming to your pro day if you stink it up here.
On the second morning, it was easy to tell who was ready to step up and who was ready to pack it up and go home.
Five On The Rise
The player of the morning practice was Chase Ford (TE Miami). The former Hurricane has an athletic looking basketball body and a set of long arms. He used those arms to grab a couple of highlight passes during the East's second session. One catch—shades of Tyrone Prothro—was over and behind the defender's head. Another catch was right on the sidelines, and Ford managed to get both feet in bounds.
He needs to be more consistent, but Ford put together a top-10 reel today and clearly has the talent.
West lineman Brandon Brooks (OG Miami OH) was considered "just a guy" last year but put together a fine season for Miami of Ohio and is putting together a nice week of practices here in Tampa. Running with the first-team line, Brooks is lean, strong and has a nice wide base. Most impressive is his ability to pull and find his man at the second level. Brooks will be a solid find in the mid-rounds for a lucky GM.
One guy climbing up boards this week is B.J. Cunningham (WR Michigan State). While he doesn't have elite speed to gain separation, Cunningham can create all the separation he needs with a variety of polished moves within his routes. He left many of the East's defensive backs guessing today as he trotted into the end zone with the football.
Dan Persa (QB Northwestern) has everything you'd like out of a quarterback except for the unofficial minimum height requirement for the quarterback position. He struggles throwing deep because it's a guessing game, but the mechanics, strength and touch are all there. Those who questioned Persa's arm strength were treated to a couple of ropes he threw, completing two 20-yard post routes. He may never be more than a third-string QB, but he should have a long NFL career.
On defense, Matt Daniels (DB Duke) had a couple of big plays in the morning practice. Decent in zone coverages, Daniels needs to shake the soft label before any teams feel comfortable drafting him higher than the seventh round. However, he can make plays while reading the quarterback's eyes and turnovers tend to draw a lot of attention.
Five Who Need to Step Up
Thomas Mayo (WR Cal-PA) was my least favorite player during the morning practice. Not only did he drop a number of easy passes, he also loafed around like his day couldn't possibly get any worse—then it did.
On two straight plays, Mayo found himself jawing with the defensive back and even threw a mini-jab after he was stoned on a pass play. It was nothing that would've drawn a flag in a game but not a good sight at the biggest job interview of his life.
On the same practice field, Kevin Hardy (WR Citadel) was doing his best to make Mayo look like a heady and polished receiver. Yesterday, Hardy dropped a few passes and that trend continued today. Over-the-middle, Hardy alligator-armed the ball numerous times when he should've come up with it against soft coverage. Like Mayo, Hardy is very vocal with his self-frustration and needs to control his emotions better when things aren't going his way.
The consensus among everyone here is that Moe Petrus (OC Connecticut) doesn't have much of an NFL future if he doesn't dramatically change his approach to the game of football. A senior from a major conference, Petrus seems too raw to have gotten to where he has.
Petrus has trouble getting in and out of a natural-looking 3-point stance and consistently needed more coaching and reps to match what many of his peers were doing naturally. He will get drafted because he can move smaller interior linemen on strength alone.
While he has the pedigree, Davin Meggett (RB Maryland) doesn't have a ton of pro potential. Thick bodied, stiff and not overly fast, Meggett is a linear athlete who runs at one speed. Because of that, Meggett looks like he might top out as a second/third back in a zone-blocking system.
Meggett could possibly gain some wiggle if he loses some bulk, but a drastic change of running style is unlikely. Concerns about his attitude don't help his draft stock either.
A favorite of West OL coach Mark Mangino, Marcel Jones (OT Nebraska) got a lot of extra instruction today and he needed it. As a huge guy, Jones just needs to lumber through these practices without being noticed to get drafted in April.
Instead, he's found a way to stand out with mental errors and a serious lack of aggressiveness. Fundamentally unsound, he was unable to move smaller defenders who consistently got leverage on him and has one of the weakest punches in pass protection I've ever seen.