Day 2 of the East-West Shrine Bowl brought some cooler temperatures but more intense practices overall at the Fertitta Football Complex on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Once again, this year, myself, Joe Cammarota, Melanie Friedlander, Owen Straley and Joe Clark are in Las Vegas to cover the Shrine Bowl for Steelers Depot. The crew jumped in an Uber again and headed to the football complex for the second day of practices.
With five sets of eyes this year, we were able to fully cover practice. Below, all five us of will offer our thoughts on what we say on Day 1 of the East and West practices. The West team hit the field first, led by the New England Patriots’ coaching staff, following by the East team and the Atlanta Falcons’ coaching staff.
JOSHUA CARNEY’S NOTES:
West team —
One day after having a rather physical, intense practice, the West team got things started quickly, mixing it up in walkthroughs. You can just sense a different level of intensity and compete level with the West team on the field compared to the East team.
Prior to practice starting, the West team made some changes on the roster, adding Cincinnati running back Charles McClelland, Oklahoma interior OL Chris Murray, and Boise State defensive tackle Scott Matlock. Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers returned to the field, too, putting on a show.
Things heated up quickly in offensive line/defensive line drills. Ole Miss offensive lineman Mason Brooks really caught my attention in individual and team drills. He is an explosive lineman overall that saw reps at tackle and guard. He really has some power to his game and really can dominate the point of attack.
William & Mary offensive lineman Colby Sorsdal had another strong day. He has good footwork overall of the position and is really adjusting to the talent present here in Las Vegas. He had a strong rep against Pitt’s Habbakuk Baldonado in 1v1, one of the only wins for the West OL against Baldonado on the day.
Florida EDGE Brenton Cox Jr. had another very strong day overall rushing the passer. He’s an explosive player overall, one that has great short-area quickness and a very difficult spin move to deal with when rushing the passer.
Flowers looked every bit the part on the day. He is so smooth in and out of his routes as a receiver and just moves differently. He’s on a different level compared to guys here. Have a good feeling he’s going in the back end of the first round in April.
Arkansas iOL Ricky Stromberg and ULCA iOL Atonio Mafi really impressed in individual and team drills on the interior. Stromberg is just an absolute tank on the inside. Plays with terrific leverage and strength. Mafi is a bully. Former rugby player that has great feet and powerful hands. Having a great week so far.
Ohio State iDL Jerron Cage and iDL Taron Vincent lashed quite a few times on Day 2. Both had some great power in 1v1 and showed great hand usage and spin moves in pass rush drills. Short, squatty guys with some movement skills. Vincent is the son of former NFL cornerback and NFLPA President Troy Vincent.
East team —
The East team practice felt rather sloppy overall, which occurred for the second straight day. A little disappointing honestly.
Prior to the start of practice, the East team added Penn State wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley and Cincinnati cornerback Arquon Bush to the roster.
South Carolina State wide receiver Shaq Davis had a strong second day overall. Showed the ability to create separation, strong hands and made a highlight-reel catch on a crossing route in team session, tapping his feet inbounds after leaping high near the far sideline.
Penn State iOL Juice Scruggs is the best lineman here for the East team. He’s a dominant force in the middle. Great power, hand usage and overall footwork. Center and guard capable. Dominant last two days.
Same for Texas iDL Keondre Coburn. A fire hydrant in the middle of the defense, he is eating up blockers time and time again, dominating at the point of attack. Guys simply can’t move him, and he has some juice to his game as a pass rusher.
Ole Miss cornerback AJ Finley stood out during team session. Recorded three picks on the day: one a diving catch, one a great job sinking in zone coverage reading the quarterback’s eyes, and one off of a deflection off great coverage from Tennessee linebacker Jeremy Banks on a seam route.
West Virginia iDL Dante Stills and Nebraska EDGE Ochaun Mathis had terrific days overall. Great athletes at the position. Mathis might be the twitchiest pass rusher here. Just so smooth rushing the passer and eats up yardage with his stride. Underrated guy to watch. Stills has been great first two days. He is a bully at the point of attack. Guys are having a tough time blocking him.
JOE CLARK’S NOTES:
West team —
Ole Miss OL Mason Brooks was a stud throughout the day. He has great feet and a powerful first punch which helps him gain leverage. He was good in both 1v1 and team sessions. He’s one of a few offensive lineman on the West side that caught my eye today, but he definitely stood out the most.
William & Mary OL Colby Sorsdal was another guy who caught my eye today. His hand usage and quick feet were impressive. He’s strung back-to-back good days together and is someone that’s been a lot of fun to watch.
Florida S Trey Dean was impressive in coverage. He was good at helping receivers over the top and playing underneath routes.
OL Atonio Mafi out of UCLA is an absolute dude. He has quick feet, good power and a great base that allows him to limit pretty much every opposing defensive lineman he’s faced. Definitely one of my favorite plays I’ve watched over the last two days.
Arkansas iOL Ricky Stromberg might be the best offensive lineman in Las Vegas. His ability to get leverage and control his opposition at the point of attack is impressive. He’s had a ton of good reps in 1v1 and has continually impressed in team work as well.
Washington OL Jaxson Kirkland had some nice reps today. He’s someone I want to keep my eye on more as the week continues.
Oklahoma P Michael Turk absolutely boomed some punts today. He struggled a little bit with consistency, but when he got ahold of one it was bound to be a very good punt. Turk was definitely a standout among the specialist groups.
Tulane RB Deneric Prince is super quick and shifty. Been a fun guy to watch move.
Wagner EDGE Titus Leo had a very nice spin move in 7v7 to get in the backfield and rush the quarterback. Leo has the requisite burst/power to succeed in the NFL, but he has to put it all together and work on his consistency. But when he does, his reps are good.
Georgia Tech LB Charlie Thomas played well for the second day in a row. Showed off his coverage ability with a couple of nice plays. Name to watch.
British Columbia OT Theo Benedet struggled. He was overpowered in his matchup on a few occasions.
UAB CB Starling Thomas V is a speed demon. He was able to keep up with Boston College WR Zay Flowers and is a very impressive cover corner. He had some really nice reps again today.
Minnesota CB Terrell Smith made nice plays in coverage in 7v7 and in team. Has stood out among defensive backs.
Boston College WR Zay Flowers was as good as advertised. His speed and acceleration, especially when it comes to turning upfield after making the catch. He’s going to be a YAC monster in the NFL. Should be a first-round pick in April.
Toledo DL Desjuan Johnson’s burst getting off the line is special. He’s light for an iDL but his quickness off the line really causes havoc for the offense. Someone else to monitor as the week continues.
Pitt EDGE Habakkuk Baldonado showed off his pass-rushing chops today. He had some solid reps in 1v1 but it was the final team session where he really stood out and made some impressive plays.
East team —
As a whole, the group’s wide receivers struggled during individual drills. When it came to getting off the line cleanly or making the catch, not many guys were able to do so successfully. Fresno State WR Jalen Cropper and Maryland WR Jacob Copeland were exceptions.
Nebraska EDGE Ochaun Mathis popped today. Some really nice plays during 1v1 and team. He’s an athletic freak and that athleticism should play well at the next level. He was continually the quickest guy in individual work.
Texas DL Keondre Coburn is an absolute beast. He continually takes on 2-3 blockers at a time. He’s got a ton of power and is athletic for his size. One of the best players in Vegas.
UCLA OL Jon Gaines packs a lot of power in his punch at the point of attack. Someone I want to keep watching.
West Virginia DL Dante Stills had another really impressive day. Won a couple of reps in 1v1 and his awareness was high during team and 7v7. Read and was able to blow up a few plays. One of the standouts.
Oregon OL Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu looked strong and stood a few guys up. Someone to keep monitoring
Penn State OL Juice Scruggs is the best offensive lineman on the East Team. For the second day in a row, he was able drive guys back during 1v1 and was really solid. His base is really strong.
Indiana OL Luke Haggard was inconsistent, but had a good rep against Stills. His footwork is pretty strong, but he hasn’t been able to consistently put good reps together.
South Carolina State WR Shaq Davis made the plays he should have today. The big-bodied receiver is an intriguing prospect who needed a solid day after a little bit of a down day yesterday. Found himself open today on a number of occasions.
Wake Forest DL Kobie Turner showed off his ateral quickness and his hand usage is impressive. Someone I’m going to continue to keep an eye on. Definitely a talented guy.
Ole Miss CB AJ Finley had not one, not two but three interceptions today. Very good ball skills. Made a nice adjustment to make a diving catch on an underthrown ball on the first one. Player of the day.
Texas CB D’Shawn Jamison had some really nice coverage reps again. Somebody who’s stood out over both days so far.
MELANIE FRIEDLANDER’S NOTES:
West team —
Several roster changes today but the most notable addition was Boston College WR Zay Flowers, who joined his teammates on the field after spending yesterday out of his pads (which he loaned to TE Thomas Greaney). Zay showed why many project him as a first rounder. His quickness, shiftiness, and reliable pass catching were all on display. He had originally said he would only do non-contact 1 on 1 drills but wound up participating in team drills and punt returns. It isn’t clear yet if he will practice again tomorrow or return to spectator status for the rest of the week to stay healthy for the NFL Combine at the end of the month. I would give it a 50% chance he puts on his helmet one more day. He seems to have a true passion for the game.
Other WRs continued to build their resume today. Liberty’s Demario Douglas has sure hands, a quick release off the line and great route running. His cuts serve him well for YAC and will give him an advantage on punt returns on game day. UCLA WR Jake Bobo is Mr. Consistent. Other than bad throws that sail over his head, he catches nearly everything. He looked sharp in 1 on 1s and was able to create separation.
On the defense, it was a productive day for a couple of pass rushers. Pitt EDGE Habakkuk Baldonado was able to create pressure and Wagner College EDGE Titus Leo was disruptive at the line of scrimmage.
UAB CB Starling Thomas V had another solid day of reps. In 1 on 1s, he routinely won the battle. Ohio State CB Cameron Brown was on the sideline today in sweatpants, but told me he was just a little tight and expects to return to practice tomorrow.
East team —
The day belonged to Ole Miss S AJ Finley, who may have set a Shrine Bowl record with three INTs in a single team session, including a diving catch, a great read, and a grab of a deflected ball.
In the WR group, Fresno State’s Jalen Cropper and Maryland’s Jacob Copeland stood out again today. Both are reliable pass catchers who remain aggressive in their match-ups. Cropper can shift direction quickly and may break a few ankles on the defense in scrimmage. South Carolina State WR Shaq Davis had a quiet start yesterday but put together a nice series of plays during team drills. He hasn’t separated himself from the competition yet but it will be interesting to see if he can keep building on a good day.
In the TE group, Cincinnati’s Leonard Taylor stands out for his pass catching, blocking and route running.
Eastern Michigan EDGE Jose Ramirez caught eyes today both lined up as a DL and rushing from the edge. If the QB wasn’t in a red jersey, he might have had a sack. I was underwhelmed by the play of Louisville EDGE Yasir Abdullah and Vanderbilt LB Anfernee Orji. We’re only two days into practice but the playbook has been fairly vanilla and they have both missed on assignments.
JOE CAMMAROTA’S NOTES:
West team —
Ole Miss OL Mason Brooks really stood out when watching online play. He played tackle and guard and looked good in both positions. He has a good punch.
William & Mary OL Colby Sorsdal was another West lineman who stood out. He is quick out of his stance and doesn’t let rushers get around him. He also anchors well.
Moving to the defense, Georgia Tech inside linebacker Charlie Thomas looked really good, especially in coverage. One play he was sitting in zone and read the QB’s eyes and was able to knock a ball out of the TE’s hand sitting underneath his zone. Boston College LB Jaiden Woodbey also was a standout today. He just moves really well. A really good coverage linebacker, he can play either zone or man and he looks excellent.
East team —
Moving to the East the WRs and DBs were who I watched a lot today. Once again, Fresno State’s Jalen Cropper was impressive. He has such a smooth release the creates what feels like acres of space. On one play in particular he blew past one of my defensive back standouts in San Jose State’s Nehemiah Shelton and had at least three yards of separation.
Another receiver who was good today was Arkansas’s Jadon Haselwood. He struggled yesterday with catching but that wasn’t an issue today. I didn’t see any drops and he even made a couple of contested catches. He once again showed off a good release and pretty good route running ability.
On the defensive side, Shelton stood out. He allowed a contested catch in full team but was in great position, just a better play by the WR. He was also one of, if not the best DB, in the press coverage drill. He pressed every receiver and allowed no space for them to get around him.
Ole Miss safety AJ Finely was probably the biggest winner of the day. Three picks showing his ballhawk skills. He was always in the right place and looked good when dropping in zone and reading the QB’s eyes.
Louisville’s Kei’trel Clark was another winner for me. He was aggressive and was good in the press coverage drill. He also is feisty. His highlight for me was blowing up a screen to Cropper by fighting through multiple blocks to make the tackle in the backfield.
I was a little disappointed in Vanderbilt linebacker Anfernee Orji. He looks good in coverage but he was reading plays slowly today and minus on play in the first team session, wasn’t that great in the run game.
OWEN STRALEY’S NOTES:
West team —
Louisiana Tech CB Myles Brooks is physical with his re-routes in Cover 2. UAB cornerback Starling Thomas V continues to stand out in hip to hip breaks, clearly having quicker and more explosive breaks than his counterparts, dominating the drill.
In WR/DB 1v1 drills, Liberty WR Demario Douglas opened things up with a nice slant route, creating easy separation against Myles Brooks, who was in press coverage. Boston College WR Zay Flowers surprisingly worked in 1v1s at full capacity, opening things up with a nice dig route, beating Starling Thomas V for the catch. On their second matchup, Flowers once again created separation from the slot vs Starling Thomas V with a nice release at the line of scrimmage, leaning to create separation at the top of the route and making a leaping contested catch along the sideline.
UCLA WR Jake Bobo, despite lacking game breaking speed, got open consistently throughout the period. Thomas V then closed the session out with a nice close and breakup on a whip route from Dallas Daniels, his close to the ball and violence at the catch point have stood out all week.
In 9v7 team drills, Minnesota cornerback Terrell Smith jumped a curl route early in the session for a nice PBU. UCLA QB Dorian-Thompson Robinson had some nice moments in the session, including a nice throw up the seam vs a Cover 3 look.
Georgia Tech LB Charlie Thomas had a solid pass breakup, coming up from his hook/curl zone in a Cover 3 look. Florida safety Trey Dean III showed some range working as a post safety during the period, showing the ability to range from there middle of the field to the sideline.
East team —
On a day in which the Falcons’ coaching staff installed Tampa 2 coverage, Louisville DB Kei’Trel Clark continuously performed the best of all defensive backs, staying square and using physicality to stay on top of the receivers.
In WR/DB 1v1 reps, Wake Forest’s A.T. Perry kicked things off with a nice deep ball touchdown catch over Texas CB D’Shawn Jamison, who was a Day 1 standout. Clark locked up a curl route early, finishing with an impressive pass breakup. Overall, I’ve been a bit disappointed with Coastal Carolina CB Lance Boykin, he has struggled to flip his hips in space when playing from off-man coverage alignments.
Western Kentucky CB Kahlef Hailassie has done solid work at the line of scrimmage through two days, he is really physical and looks to jump receivers at the line of scrimmage.
In team 11v11 session, Kei’Trel Clark was active in the run and screen game throughout the session, showing great physicality and pursuit from the backside. Ole Miss CB A.J. Finley then secured his first of three interceptions on the day, a diving pick, coming up from his deep 1/2 zone in as Cover 2 scheme. He was aided by a nice sink from the corner, Kahlef Hailassie, who forced the quarterback to put air on the throw with his body presence.
In team 7v7, Arizona State LB Kyle Soelle was extremely vocal, helping get teammates aligned pre-snap, throughout the session.
San Jose State CB Nehemiah Shelton had a better day after struggling on Day 1, competing at the catch point for multiple pass breakups. Arkansas WR Jadon Haselwood had the play of the session, a nice contested catch over Nehemiah Shelton, who was in tight coverage down the sideline.
Kei’Trel Clark came downhill with violence, fighting through a blocker to blow up a bubble screen in the backfield. A.J. Finley grabbed his second INT off the day, baiting the quarterback as the flat defender in a Cover 3 scheme and sinking for a nice bait and interception, which he returned for a healthy gain.
Working as a post safety in a Cover 1 scheme, A.J. Finley concluded practice with his third interception of the day off a tipped ball from Jeremy Banks, who was in coverage up the seam. Great safety play includes turning tips and overthrows into interceptions. Finley showed the ability to secure two of those today while adding a nice bait and sink as a flat defender. He had a great day for himself.
Day 3 of practices kicks off Monday morning at 8:15 a.m. with the East team. We’ll have Day 3 practice notes once again after Monday’s practices.