The 87th annual East-West Shrine game practices begin on Monday in St. Petersburg, Fla. showcasing some of the country's best college football talent. PewterReport.com take a look at several players to keep an eye on this week.
When the Alabama Crimson Tide walked off the field in Miami, Fla. last Monday night with their second straight BCS championship, in most fans' minds it signaled the end of the 2012 college football season.
But the college football world keeps spinning this month, and just seven days later, two teams of college seniors will suit up for a week of practice culminating with the 87th annual East-West Shrine game next Saturday night at Tropicana Field, benefiting the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.
The game is a great opportunity for die-hard college football fans and NFL draftniks to see a number of players who will be playing on Sundays next fall in the NFL up close and personal. The practices are open to the public, and fans not only get to see potential future stars (Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris played in last season’s East-West Game, as have Pro Football Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Gayle Sayers decades ago) but also movers and shakers from the pro personnel side of the NFL. Scouts from all 32 NFL teams attend, including several high-profile general managers, and the fans can get a glimpse of members of the NFL Network broadcast crew including draft expert Mike Mayock.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have general manager Mark Dominik, head coach Greg Schiano, director of player personnel Dennis Hickey and director of college scouting Eric Stokes along with the team's area scouts in attendance throughout the week.
This year’s game will be coached by former Buccaneers head coach Leeman Bennett (West team) and former Oilers and Falcons coach Jerry Glanville (East team). The East team will practice at Shorecrest Prep and the West team will practice at St. Pete High. All practices are open to the public and admission is free.
PewterReport.com will be at every practice and will provide detailed reports daily taking a look at who stood out and those that struggled during the practice sessions.
Below is a short list of some intriguing players PewterReport.com will follow closely over the course of the week at some key positions the Buccaneers will be looking to improve on in April’s NFL Draft.TE JOSEPH FAURIA - UCLA
The former Notre Dame transfer had a terrific season as a senior, nabbing 46 receptions for 637 yards and 11 TDs. At 6-foot-7, and 255 pounds, Fauria is a huge target and moves well for someone of his size. His TD numbers prove his skills in the red zone, but his 13.7-yard per catch average means he can also stretch the deep middle when called upon. The biggest knock on Fauria is his average-at-best blocking skills, however in the new, evolving hybrid receiver-tight end position that many teams in the league are going to, Fauria may be a great fit for those styles of offenses. RB RAY GRAHAM - PITTSBURGH
Graham struggled early to recover from a 2011 knee injury and it was obviously early in the season the Pitt senor wasn’t at 100 percent. But Graham got stronger as the 2012 season went on and had his best game against the vaunted Notre Dame defense late in the season, running for 172 yards in the Panthers overtime loss to the Fighting Irish. The 5-10, 190-pounder isn’t blessed with exceptional speed (4.55) but has enough power and agility to play at the next level. Graham finished his senior season with 1,042 yards and 11 TDs.DE DEVIN TAYLOR - SOUTH CAROLINA
At 6-foot-8, Taylor is a freakish physical specimen that made many scouts wonder why his production wasn’t better in 2012 for the Gamecocks. With defensive end Jadeveon Clowney drawing a ton of attention, many assumed Taylor would have a breakout season. But Taylor had just three sacks in 2012 after collecting 7.5 as a junior. With his size and speed perhaps no defensive player at the East-West will be watch more closely than Taylor. At 268 pounds there is some speculation Taylor could drop some weight and move to OLB in 3-4 defense, or bulk up and stay at defensive end.CB NIGEL MALONE - KANSAS STATE
With seven interceptions in 2011 and five interceptions in 2012, Malone appears to be one of those players who just seem to be at the right place at the right time. Like Tampa Bay’s Ahmad Black and even Leonard Johnson, Malone won’t wow scouts with his physical appearance or speed, but can get the job done. His junior season was better than his senior campaign, and that's why he's at the East-West Shrine game and not the Senior Bowl.CB ROD SWEETING - GEORGIA TECH
Sweeting didn’t have an interception in 2012 and that has hurt his stock somewhat. But this week in St. Petersburg, Sweeting will have a chance to show scouts that he can succeed at the next level. With 4.5-speed and a 6-foot, 188-pound frame, the Tech star has a lot to work with. Sweeting will be a second- or third-day pick, but could be a steal for an NFL team, like the Buccaneers, who need depth and players with a ton of upside.CB BRANDON McGEE - MIAMI
McGee was a solid member of Miami’s secondary and has good size and range. The Plantation, Fla. native started his last 24 games for the Hurricanes and had 54 tackles his senior season to go along with two interceptions, that tied him for the team lead. McGee is a great student athlete who graduated recently with his degree in sports administration.S JOSH EVANS - FLORIDA
Evans didn’t quite live up to his billings in Gainesville for the first couple years with the Gators but came on strong in his senior season despite being overshadowed by fellow safety Matt Elam. Evans finished his senior year with 79 tackles, three passes broken up, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions. At 6-2, 200 pounds Evans has excellent size and decent speed and could be an immediate special teams starter in the NFL while at the very least.DT ANTHONY McCLOUD - FLORIDA STATE
McCloud finished his senior season in Tallahassee as part of one of the nation’s best run defenses and as an ACC coaches honorable mention. At 6-2, 322 pounds, McCloud was a force in the middle for the Noles and could provide NFL teams with quality depth as a first- and second-down run stuffer. McCloud finished 2012 with 28 tackles and a sack, a bit of a drop off from his junior season when the Seminole finished second among the Noles interior linemen with five tackles for loss in 11 starts.OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON:
TE D.C. Jefferson – Rutgers
OT R.J. Dill – Rutgers
S Zeke Motta – Notre Dame
QB-Athlete Collin Klein – Kansas State
CB Sheldon Price – UCLA
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