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East-West Shrine Game: Day 3

1/17/2014
Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo has played well during East-West Shrine Game practices. Bradley Leeb/USA TODAY Sports

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As we have each of the first two days, let's start with the quarterbacks. Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo had the best day of the three. At 6-foot-2¼ and 225 pounds, he showcased his quick release getting the ball out to the receiver in a hurry. He also did a nice job of getting through his progressions and finding the open man.

Meanwhile, 6-3⅜, 225-pound Jeff Matthews out of Cornell failed to build on Monday's strong performance. He threw off his back foot and short hopped his intended receiver coming out of the end zone. Plus, the ball came out of his hand awkwardly on more than one occasion. Wet conditions might have played a role, but he didn't spin the ball nearly as well as Garoppolo, and Matthews has 10⅜-inch hands.

It hasn't been a great week for Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch. Lynch measured 6-0⅜, and his hands measured just 8¾ inches. He carries his 220 pounds well, and he's clearly a scrambling threat, but his accuracy has been erratic and he's looked uncomfortable in the pocket.

The East quarterbacks as a group are still outperforming the West quarterbacks, who turned in underwhelming performances. Ball State’s Keith Wenning took a step back. At 6-2⅜ and 219 pounds, he has above-average arm strength but appeared to press.

He slipped on one drop, and, instead of either throwing the ball away or dumping the ball off underneath, he tried to hit 6-3⅛, 209-pound Valdosta State receiver Seantavious Jones down the left sideline. The late release gave 5-11⅞, 187-pound Notre Dame corner Bennett Jackson time to settle under the ball and high point it for the pick.

At 6-1⅜, 214-pounds, Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees continues to have an up-and-down week. He flashed nice touch on a deep throw, and, again, he can hit receivers in stride, but he misses too many throws.

After ending yesterday’s practice on a high note, 6-0½ 196-pound Keith Price out of Washington struggled during the two-minute drill to throw a ball over the middle that should have been picked off, then forced a throw that got picked off on the next play.

Here are some additional notes from each of the practices.

EAST

Undersized at 5-7⅛ and 196 pounds, it's not surprising that Northern Arizona running back Zach Bauman's hands measured just 8⅞ inches. He caught 44 passes in 2013 and showed the ability to catch the ball away from his frame today. He's also a shifty runner who is decisive in space. His frame and the level of competition he faced are still concerns, but he's already shown enough to warrant a closer look at his film.

One of 5-11⅛, 211-pound Tennessee running back Rajion Neal's runs showcased his patience, vision and lateral quickness. He pressed the line of scrimmage, getting 5-11¾, 237-pound South Florida linebacker DeDe Lattimore to commit inside and then bounced outside contain for a nice gain.

Coastal Carolina wide receiver Matt Hazel made a nice diving catch early on. He tracked the ball well, extended his arms as he dove and didn't let the ground jar the ball loose.

Oklahoma State tight end Blake Jackson has all the tools to develop into an effective F-tight end or H-back at the NFL level. At 6-3⅛ and 238 pounds, Jackson has 33⅝-inch arms, 9¾-inch hands and moves well. There's also a lot to like about the aggressiveness he showed as a blocker working against 6-2, 232-pound linebacker Johnny Millard out of Cal Poly. However, he had one pass bounce right off his hands during a team period.

Two defensive linemen flashed today. At 6-2⅛ and 316 pounds, Purdue's Bruce Gaston made life difficult for the East interior offensive linemen both today and Monday. He's quick for his size and has heavy hands. He's also playing with an edge, getting into a shoving match with 6-5, 321-pound McGill (Montreal) offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff during the one-on-one pass-protection drill.

At 6-5 and 268 pounds, Richmond's Kerry Wynn made a tackle for loss and batted a pass during team periods in addition to showing adequate get off and good power during the one-on-one pass protection drill.

The concern with Gaston and Wynn is consistency. Gaston is playing hard this week, but that's not always the case on tape. While Wynn's motor needs to be further evaluated on tape, he doesn't appear to be playing every snap with the same sense of urgency here.

WEST

No player shined more than South Dakota outside linebacker Tyler Starr during the two-minute drill. At 6-4¼, 249 pounds, he ran step for step with 6-4⅛, 263-pound BYU tight end Kane Friel on one play and broke up the pass. He then picked off Price and made a tackle for loss on each of the next two plays.

A couple of intriguing receiver-corner matchups jumped out, starting with 5-7⅝, 174-pound Toledo receiver Bernard Reedy working against 5-9¾, 191-pound Oregon State corner Rashaad Reynolds. Reynolds has played well this week and didn’t allow much separation. Reedy still got the better of him.

Reedy made a tough catch near the sideline with Reynolds closing in and shook him with a quick move after catching a screen. Reedy also showed good burst as a route-runner, and, though he catches passes with his body, he has big hands for his frame.

The other matchup is 5-8⅝, 180-pound San Jose State receiver Chandler Jones working against 5-11¼, 180-pound Texas corner Carrington Byndom during the two-minute drill, and the competition wasn’t close. Jones beat him several times underneath before separating from him on an intermediate route.

Pittsburg State receiver Josh Brown didn’t stand out like the other two but he quietly had another good day. Outside of an early drop, the 5-10, 175-pound Brown caught the ball well and showed he’s capable of catching it away from his frame despite his 8¼-inch hands.

A couple of centers are struggling working against 6-2½, 333-pound Wisconsin nose tackle Beau Allen. At 6-1½ and 292 pounds, Stanford’s Khalil Wilkes got pushed back on a run play, and 6-3⅛, 304-pound Gabe Ikard out of Oklahoma struggled to anchor during one-on-one pass-protection drills.

Another nose tackle prospect who has flashed this week is 6-1⅝, 351-pound Justin Ellis out of Louisiana Tech. He moves well for his size, and he can clog up the middle. However, the amount of weight he’s carrying on that frame raises a red flag, and he’s not an efficient pass-rusher, wasting too much motion at the point.

Watching 6-5½, 257-pound Indiana tight Ted Bolser at the end of practice raised concerns about his willingness to absorb contact over the middle. He appeared to pull up with 5-10⅛, 209-pound Penn State safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong closing in on him in the end zone.