The 2012 East-West Shrine Game is now in the books. As one of the premier annual spectacles of NFL Draft prospects, the purpose of this game is for all of the participants to showcase their skill sets to NFL scouts.
In the process, there are always players who make a big positive impression, and conversely, players who have disappointing performances.
While attention is usually given primarily to the skill position players, the battle in the trenches between the West offensive line and the East defensive line ended up being the matchup that defined this game.
On the ends, the East defensive ends completely dominated the West offensive tackles. West Virginia’s Julian Miller, Wake Forest’s Kyle Wilber, and Navy’s Jabaree Tuani all had tremendous performances in this game.
As a defensive end, Miller has often been overshadowed by teammate Bruce Irvin, one of the best pure pass rushers in the nation. Miller was not to be overshadowed by anyone in this game, as he stood out from the pack.
Miller had one sack, on which he made a tremendous change-of-direction in space to be able to track down Dan Persa. Miller brought consistent pressure as a pass rusher in this game, while also looking very athletic playing the run.
Miller’s display of athleticism, combined with his size from this week’s weigh-in (6’3’’, 256 pounds), makes him a good candidate to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. A late-rounds pick coming into the weeks, Miller should now be selected no later than the fifth round.
Like Miller, Kyle Wilber should be expected to play outside linebacker at the next level, but put on a great display in this game that showed that he could have a bright future as a pass rusher in a 3-4 defense.
Wilber may be an even better athlete than Miller, and at various times, he made West left tackles Matt Reynolds and Tom Compton look silly with his rush techniques and athleticism.
While he lined up on the line in this game, the athleticism and pass rush ability that he showed in the Shrine Game appears that it would translate to playing hybrid pass rusher. Like Miller, he came into the game as a late-rounds selection, but should have worked his way up into the fifth round.
Tuani was also very impressive in this game. Whenever Tuani was on the field, he was wreaking havoc. He did a good job of bringing pressure, is tough against the run, and deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage.
That said, Tuani remains likely to go undrafted, because as a graduate of the Naval Academy, he has a service commitment to fulfill, limiting his opportunity to play in the National Football League. However, he certainly should garner more consideration following his impressive showing in the Shrine Game.
Surprisingly, the one East player who lined up at defensive end that did nothing particularly impressive in this game was Pittsburgh’s Brandon Lindsey.
Like Miller and Wilber, Lindsey will ideally play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense at the next level, but he is the best prospect of any of them following a very good career at Pittsburgh.
However, Lindsey failed to make any significant impact on this game, which likely cost him his chance from moving up from an early Day Three pick into Day Two.
Of course, while Miller, Wilber, and Tuani looked great, they had to someone look bad. That someone was BYU left tackle Matt Reynolds, and they made him look very bad.
Reynolds came into the Shrine Game as a fourth-round pick, who would not be able to play left tackle at the next level, but could be a starting-caliber right tackle, or kick inside to guard. In this game, it was affirmed that he is unable to play left tackle, and will almost certainly have to move to guard.
Reynolds is tough and physical as a run blocker, but the East’s speed rushers completely dominated him around the edge. Reynolds should now be looked at as a guard prospect, and his poor performance will likely cause him to slide into the late rounds of the draft.
While the West offensive tackles were not particularly impressive, the West interior line was absolutely dominant, and a major reason why their squad won this game.
The West’s power running game led the way to their game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, and this was mostly due to the terrific play of the trio playing on the interior line at the time.
Miami University guard Brandon Brooks, Connecticut center Moe Petrus and Saskatchewan right guard Ben Heenan all did a great job throughout the game of lead blocking in the middle to open up holes for the running game.
The player who really helped his stock this week was Brooks. Weighing in at 353 pounds, Brooks is an absolutely massive player, and he uses his strength and power to his advantage.
Brooks really turned heads with his performance in this game, and went from a late-rounds draft selection to a player who will be selected in the middle rounds.
Petrus, a four-year starter at Connecticut, performed well as expected, and remains a player set to be solidly selected in the middle of Day Three.
The biggest surprise may have been Heenan. Typically in years past, the Canadian prospects brought into the Shrine Game on an annual basis have performed poorly, and have clearly not belonged on the field with serious NFL Draft prospects.
This was not the case this year. Heenan did a terrific job blocking up front in this game, and while he remains a long shot to be drafted, he made a very legitimate case for himself with his performance in Tampa.
The West running backs were beneficiaries of the strong interior line play, and the one who really took advantage of the holes was Louisiana Tech’s Lennon Creer. Creer was named the game’s offensive MVP, rushing for 80 yards on 15 carries, which included the game-winning 9-yard rushing touchdown.
There is nothing particularly special about Creer’s game, but he had a solid all-around showing aside from a dropped screen pass. He improved his chances of being drafted with his performance.
The best of the three quarterback prospects on the West squad, Chandler Harnish, did not have a great day. He only threw for 52 passing yards, and threw the game’s only interception. However, he was decent in limited action, and still rates as a late-rounds draft pick.
Colorado’s Tyler Hansen had the strongest performance among the three West quarterbacks in this game. The highlight of Hansen’s game came late in the third quarter.
As the East’s two defensive stars, Miller and Wilber, both collapsed the pocket around Hansen and hit him from both ends, Hansen stood tall and delivered a 41-yard downfield completion to Jarius Wright.
Hansen had an efficient game, completing 12 of 17 passes for 144 yards. He also ran the football three times: one rush was for a 10-yard gain, and the other two were touchdowns.
While Hansen remains unlikely to be drafted, he certainly worked his way up the quarterback rankings, and should at least become a priority camp invite now.
The other West quarterback, Dan Persa, did not have a good showing. Persa only played on one series, and completed only one pass.
Fresno State wide receiver Devon Wylie was also impressive. He only had two receptions, but his speciality is as a punt returner, and he looked good in that facet in this game, with 54 yards on four punt returns. Wylie has dangerous speed and quickness, and he put that on display in this game.
The defensive ends were not the only standouts on the East defense. One player who made a statement was Merrimack middle linebacker Shawn Loiseau.
Loiseau’s high motor was on display throughout the game, as he was consistently in on plays throughout the game, both defensively and on special teams.
Loiseau is not the most naturally talented player, but his motor and hustle take him a long way, and should get him selected in the late rounds of this year’s draft to be a backup linebacker and special teams standout.
In the East secondary, North Carolina cornerback Charles Brown and Duke strong safety Matt Daniels were impressive. Brown did very well locking down opposing receivers in coverage, and proved himself worthy of being drafted in this game.
Daniels showed his ability as a hard-hitter, making some great tackles in this game. Daniels needs work on his angles and is not a great athlete, but he solidified his status as a player who should be selected somewhere in the middle of Day 3.
It was actually another player on the East defense, Penn State free safety Nick Sukay, who was named defensive MVP of this game. Sukay had a solid overall game, highlighted by an end zone interception, but remains a player likely to go undrafted.
For the East offense, Tennessee-Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman was the star. The odds are against Coleman being drafted, but he certainly helped his case in the Shrine Game.
Coleman completed 10 of his 15 pass attempts for 170 yards and a touchdown. Coleman displayed that he has an NFL arm and can make tough throws. Consistency and accuracy have been a problem for Coleman, but with his performance in the Shrine Game, he should be much higher on the radar of NFL scouts.
Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis looked good in limited action. He only played for one series in the second quarter, but it was a very solid showing, in which he completed 7-of-10 pass attempts and led the East offense to a touchdown.
Davis’s college offense did not have him lining up under center, but of all the quarterbacks making that transition, he looked the most comfortable. He showed great pocket presence in his footwork, and his ability to step up into the pocket and deliver accurate throws.
Davis is not a great NFL prospect, but he continued to state his case for potentially being a seventh-round draft pick.
The third East quarterback, Florida’s John Brantley, has the most upside of any of the quarterbacks in this game, but he was unimpressive. Brantley only competed one of six pass attempts, and showed no reason why NFL teams should even consider drafting him.
After a poor Shrine Game performance, there is little reason to believe that Brantley will end up with anything more than a training-camp invitee come April.
There were not many major standouts on the East offense, but there were two others who made strong impressions.
California (PA) wide receiver Thomas Mayo made three receptions, and looked like a draftable player. As both a blocker and receiver, and both a fullback and tight end, Massachusetts’s Emil Igwenagu had a solid performance, stating his case to be drafted late.
Maryland running back Davin Meggett was a disappointment. He carried the ball six times and gained only three yards. At only 5’8’’, Meggett really looked small out on the field, even though he has solid size for a running back at 220 pounds.
Meggett failed to make any statement whatsoever in the Shrine Game, and currently stands on the outside looking in with regards to being selected in the draft.
The West defense did not have the noticeable performances on the defensive line that the East defense did, but they did have two powerful defensive tackles who performed well.
USC’s DaJohn Harris showed flashes of brilliance, but that has been his entire career, a player who fails to make a consistent impact, and therefore he remains a sixth-round value.
Missouri’s Dominique Hamilton is an explosive defensive tackle who played well in this game, but is also likely a sixth-round choice.
The West defense featured two linebackers that have received more than their fair share of recognition at the national level, those two being Arkansas middle linebacker Jerry Franklin and TCU outside linebacker Tank Carder.
Both played well in this game. Franklin did not make any big-impact plays, but was in on a number of tackles, showing the instincts and tackling ability that should make him an early Day Three selection.
Carder made some plays himself, but did nothing to either boost or hurt his stock, and also remains a Round 4 or 5 selection.
The two players in this game most likely to be Day Two picks were in the West secondary, Iowa’s Shaun Prater and Wisconsin’s Aaron Henry. Neither did anything to stand out in this game, but neither played poorly. Both hold their third-round grades on the strength of their consistent play throughout their careers.
Finally, one specialist who must be recognized for his performance in this game is California punter Bryan Anger. While Florida State’s Shawn Powell came into the game as the better of the two punters, having had the best punting average this season in college football, Anger was absolutely booming the ball in this game.
Anger was extremely consistent on his three punts, which went for 59, 60, and 61 yards. Anger was getting tremendous hang time on his punts, and he did not give the East punt returners a chance to make a play. Anger made a serious case for being drafted with his performance in the Shrine Game.
All-Star games are intended for players to gain recognition and showcase their talents, so they usually help prospects more than hurt them. Many players from this game will reap the benefits, including Julian Miller, Kyle Wilber, Shawn Loiseau and Brandon Brooks.
A few players, such as Matt Reynolds, John Brantley and Davin Meggett are losing money as a result of poor showings in the Shrine Game, but they still have opportunities at the NFL Scouting Combine and their school’s pro days to make a statement for the positive.
Thanks for reading!
For more coverage of the 2012 NFL Draft, including throughout Senior Bowl week, follow me @Dan_Hope.