East-West Shrine Bowl West Practice Notes, Final Day

Just like that, the fourth and final day of practices here in Las Vegas for the 97th edition of the East-West Shrine Bowl is in the books.

Unlike the first three days of practice between the Fertitta Football Complex at UNLV and Allegiant Stadium — the home of the Las Vegas Raiders — Tuesday’s final practice was rather slow and lacked any sort of tempo as it was a true walk-through with players in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts .

With the game scheduled for Thursday night on NFL Network at 8 p.m. EST, coaches and players were focused on getting some work in and getting out of practice with full health, which made it a tough day to evaluate overall. That said, a handful of guys continued to grab my attention.

-I started off the final practice of the day watching the offensive and defensive linemen work on run fits and pass protection drills under the watchful eyes of Cleveland Browns’ assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters. Once again, North Dakota State’s Cordell Volson, Florida’s Jean Delance and Baylor’s Xavier Newman-Johnson continued to stand out along the offensive line, while Penn State’s Derrick Tangelo and Tennessee’s Matthew Butler flashed along the defensive line. Tangelo has a really quick get-off and uses his hands very well at the point of attack, while Butler brings a ton of power and explosion to the interior defensive line. It was astonishing how powerful he is in tight.

-Volson really opened a lot of eyes this week with his work at left and right guard after playing a ton of right tackle the last few years for the Bison. He is a large human with good length and strength and just clamped up guys left and right all week long. On Tuesday he really did a nice job staying in front of guys, using his length to gain control of defenders quickly and then using good footwork to stay in front of them.

-Delance continues to flash his power in pass protection as he rag-dolled a defensive lineman to the turf in the team scrimmage portion, resetting his hands quickly to gain control inside and win the rep. I would have liked to see him get some work at guard this week, but he really piqued my interest at right tackle this week with his footwork and power.

-Newman-Johnson may not have the measurables, but the guy is pretty darn good along the interior. He’s played mostly center this week and has really stood out with his ability to move laterally and get onto blocks, then showing his leg strength to move some guys. He’s a cerebral center that just has a great feel for what defensive fronts are attempting to do against the offense. I’m really forward to watching him live in the game on Thursday.

-After spending some time watching the offensive and defensive linemen, I shifted my attention to the 1v1 reps between wide receivers, tight ends, cornerbacks and safeties. That’s always fun to watch up close and in person. Once again, Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton and Oklahoma State wide receiver Tay Martin stood out in a big way.

-Thornton is so shifty as a route runner and does a nice job creating separation in his routes. He finishes through contact too, which is very impressive considering his slight frame and small hands. Martin does not have much of a route tree at his disposal at this point, but he just consistently gets a clean release and wins.

-Western Kentucky Jerreth Sterns had a great day in individuals as well. He’s a crafty route runner that gave defenders fits all week long. He isn’t the biggest or fastest, but he just has tremendous feel for getting open out of the slot.

-At tight end, Virginia’s Jelani Woods made himself a ton of money this week. He is coming off of a terrific season at Virginia and showed up in Las Vegas this week and flat-out dominated. He showed off some serious route running skills and is just an insane mismatch in the middle of the field. I can’t wait to see where he lands at the next level.

-Defensive backs were mostly playing on air throughout the day, but once the West team went into the team scrimmage guys like Arizona State’s Chase Lucas, UNC’s Kyler McMichael and Baylor’s Kalen Barnes stood out once again. Lucas just never stops talking, which is a ton of fun. He’s a great communicator and really picks up his teammates. He really held his own on the boundary and in the slot today, providing a ton of sticky coverage throughout the session. Name to watch.

-McMichael boosted his stock big-time this week. He has great feet and long arms that allows him to get physical with receivers, disrupt routes and is able to stay in the hip pocket consistently. As for Barnes, he just has that ideal height/length for the position that catches your attention immediately.

That does it for the practice notes here from the Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas. What a blast this was. Thank you to all for reading and following along. You make this gig possible! Make sure to follow the Steelers Depot crew of myself (@ByJoshCarney), Owen Straley (@owenstraley21) and Dr. Melanie Friedlander (@girlsurgeon) for coverage from Thursday’s game inside Allegiant Stadium.

Be sure to keep checking in on the site throughout the rest of the draft process for draft profiles and interviews with some of the prospects the Steelers Depot crew came across here in Las Vegas.

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