East-West Shrine Game 2016: Highlights, Top Performers Who Boosted Draft Stock

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2016

West quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., (3), of Oregon, throws a pass against the East during the second quarter of the East West Shrine football game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

While the NFL will celebrate its glorious presence with the AFC and NFC Championship Games on Sunday, fans had a chance to get a look at some potential future studs in the 2016 East-West Shrine Game Saturday. 

The West rolled over the East 29-9, and Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was responsible for the majority of the scoring. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Adams accumulated his monster total in less than two quarters of play, as he was subbed out before halftime and would not return to action.

Adams' best play was this Shrine Game record 93-yard touchdown pass to Purdue wide receiver Danny Anthrop:

A stunning play, but it wasn't even the longest of the game. That honor would belong to Florida cornerback Brian Poole, who picked off Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown, one of the few highlight plays for the East squad:

Poole compared his play to New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler's famous theft from last year's Super Bowl. 

"It was similar to the play that happened in the Super Bowl last year," Poole said, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

"I saw the one receiver line up on the ball and the other line up off the ball, so I knew he was going to try work in the slot and I just jumped the route," Poole added, per the AP. "The quarterback didn't see me."

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JANUARY 23:  Michael Caputo #42 from Wisconsin playing on the West Team returns an interception against the East Team during the first half of the East West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on January 23, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Florida
Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Poole wasn't the only defensive back with some notable thievery on the day.

Suiting up for the West, Wisconsin safety Michael Caputo nabbed two interceptions and defensive MVP honors. One of those interceptions came off his teammate, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave, who played for the East. The strange situation was not lost on Caputo.

"How weird was it? It wasn't weird. It was cool,'' Caputo said, per UWBadgers.com. ''Whether it would stop my former QB or not, I just read the play and I just jumped it.''

The game was indeed a lopsided affair, but the score is mostly irrelevant. Those individual highlights, along with the insights gleaned from the exhibition and the practices leading up to it, are what really matter for the players involved and the scouts looking on.

Here's a quick rundown of the three players who did the most to improve their draft stock, taking into account both practice buzz and their in-game performances.

Top Performers Who Boosted Draft Stock

Vernon Adams Jr., QB, Oregon

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

After his magnificent display on Saturday, NFL scouts are surely going to take an extra-hard look at Adams' game film from this season, and they should like what they see for the most part.

The senior signal-caller improved as the season wore on, finishing with 26 touchdown passes and six interceptions. His 407 yards and six touchdowns against USC on Nov. 21 was one of the best performances by any quarterback in 2015.

While he only threw nine passes in the Shrine Game, West coach June Jones assured folks Adams was pinpoint in practice as well, per College Football 24/7:

CollegeFootball 24/7 @NFLDraft

June Jones says V. Adams didn't just put on good show on game day. Says his completion percentage in practice during week was unbelievable.

"I just showed (scouts) I can play this game. ... Hopefully I can get a chance with some team. I've overcome (size questions) my whole life. It's not new to me, and I know how to play the position," said Adams, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread.

Detractors will look to Adams' relatively slight build (5'11", 201 pounds) and the fact that he doesn't appear to add much value as a runner. However, he did show he's capable of buying time in the pocket on the 93-yard bomb to Anthrop, and the likes of Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have proved short QBs can get it done at the next level. 

Adams doesn't appear to be the type of player who can step in immediately at the next level. However, with the right system and some seasoning he could turn out to be a serviceable pro quarterback. 

Victor Ochi, DE/LB, Stony Brook

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

It can be tough to get noticed playing football at Stony Brook. The school is tucked away on the North Shore of Long Island in New York, and the football program plays in the FCS's Colonial Athletic Association, not exactly a hotbed of NFL-caliber talent. When Seawolves (that's the Stony Brook mascot) get an opportunity to shine in front of scouts, they have to show up.

Defensive end/linebacker Victor Ochi did exactly that in both practices and the Shrine Game itself. Check out his strong first steps and closing speed on this sack, per Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko: 

Eric Galko @OptimumScouting

Victor Ochi is really good. #StonyBrook #ShrineGame https://t.co/Xh6A1OH9qS

He was a menace on several other plays, displaying the kind of relentless motor that commands respect from offensive lineman and attention from observers. Ochi's burst and pass-rush moves were evident in practice as well, impressing First Coast News' Mike Kaye:

Mike Kaye @mike_e_kaye

Impressed by Victor Ochi from Stony Brook. #Jaguars looking for pass rushers. https://t.co/TlEBfZKijU

CBS Sports' Dane Brugler noted how Ochi makes up for his lack of size:

At only 6-1, Ochi obviously lacks ideal height, but he has longer arms (33 1/2-inch) than most players his size, shooting his limbs at the point of attack and using his violent hands to fend off blockers. His lack of ideal measureables will take him off the board for several teams, but he has the talent to contribute in sub-package situations and a smart defensive coordinator will figure out how to use his strengths.

With the obvious caveat that the level of competition in the CAA is a far cry from that of a Power Five conference, to say nothing of the NFL, Ochi had little trouble overcoming his disadvantages for Stony Brook. He racked up 32.5 sacks in his collegiate career, 24 of them coming in the last two seasons.

History is not on Ochi's side, as Brugler also points out that a Stony Brook player has never been selected in the NFL draft. That said, NFL teams can always find use for a guy who can come in on third downs and create chaos. Based on the Shrine Game, Ochi would appear to have an excellent chance of doing exactly that at the next level.

Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JANUARY 23:  Geronimo Allison #8 from Illinois playing on the West Team celebrates his touchdown as Joe Bolden #34 from Michigan playing on the East Team reacts during the second half of the East West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on
Mike Carlson/Getty Images

It didn't matter who was playing quarterback, Illinois wide receiver Geronimo Allison found a way to make plays on Saturday. Playing for the West, Allison caught two touchdown passes, one from Adams and another from Indiana's Nate Sudfeld.

Real GM's Jeff Risdon felt Allison did more than most to improve his draft stock: 

Jeff Risdon @JeffRisdon

Few players here made more money for themselves than Geronimo Allison. Handily the best WR on the West, and they're not a bad group overall

West wide receivers coach Terance Mathis predicted Allison would have a good outing, per NFL analyst Bucky Brooks: 

Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks

West WR coach Terance Mathis told me on Tuesday that Illinois WR Geronimo Allison & Oregon QB Vernon Adams would kill it.. He wasn't lying

The signs were definitely there in practice. NFL Draft Bible's Christian Shanafelt provided video evidence of Allison using his smooth stride and solid route running to get open in practice: 

Christian Shanafelt @ChrisShanafelt

Vernon Adams finds a wide open Geronimo Allison. #ShrineGame @nfldraftbible https://t.co/7WJDWc5gil

There is plenty more where that came from.

Unlike Adams and Ochi, Allison is blessed with the size (6'4") that is coveted at his position—though he could stand to pack a few more pounds onto his lanky frame.

The senior wideout caught 106 passes for 1,408 yards and eight touchdowns over the past two seasons. If he can put in a good combine and keep impressing the scouts, it would seem Allison could fashion himself into an early-round prospect by the time the draft rolls around.


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