Today represents the kickoff to the draft season. The East-West Shrine Game kicks off at 1pm with some quality senior talent. The primary purpose of the game is to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Of course, over the past few days that doesn't stop the scouts from checking out the week long practices.
These All-Star Games can be considered good and bad for scouting talent. On the one hand, you get to see these guys in pro-style offenses and working with an assortment of talented players. Of course, then you get the inevitable "Player X raises his draft stock" storyline (Rice WR Jarett Dillard in thie case). However, the chance to see this talent on one field makes it hard to resist checking it out.
On 49ers game days I'll open up a game thread and the discussion in the thread is usually good enough for keeping track of plays for the most part. For today's Shrine Game I'm going to do a bit of live-blogging. It won't be play by play, but I'll definitely do what I can to get in the high and low points of the game in terms of player scouting.
Due to the length of the game, I'll be doing the first quarter or so on this front page, and then the remaining three quarters of the game will be after the jump. If you're not watching the game but want me to keep an eye out for somebody in particular, drop a note in the comments. For now, here are the rosters in pdf form:
And so begins the hype....
1:02pm - ESPN Draft mini guru Todd McShay in the house. That should make for some very interesting information.
1:05pm - Penn State's career reception leader Deon Butler will be in action. He's not getting love in the wide receiver projections right now. Also, they're talking about Bobby Ross. I forgot he coached the Georgia Tech national title team from 1990 before taking the Chargers to the Super Bowl. One of the few college to pro success stories (we'll forget his time with the Lions).
Offense: No motion or shifting, 2 feet in for wide receivers, only 2 running backs
Defense: Only 4-3, no blitz, only man-to-man
1:11 - Tom Brandstater threw a nice little slant for the first down. ESPN projects him as the #17 QB. That throw and his next throw show some quality arm strength. We'll see what kind of accuracy he has.
1:13 - Gartrell Johnson, CSU running back, with a big rush into East territory. He rushed for 285 yards in the New Mexico Bowl. McShay says he's one of the fastest rising performers. He's 5'10, 227. Definitely a baby bull type of player it looks like.
1:17 - How's about a 285 pound fullback (5'11). Yes I'm talking about Jorvorskie Lane of Texas A&M. The announcers (McShay and Andre Ware) are ripping into him for being overweight. On that drive he got the ball on 3rd and goal form the 2 and 4th and goal from the 1 and couldn't get it in.
1:22 - Wow. HORRIBLE call on a pass interference. The defender hit the receiver square just before the ball got to him. I really don't see how that wasn't pass interference. Anybody??? Hopefully Bobby Ross (the East coach) is unhappy with that call
1:30 - Well, the Brandstater question above has been answered. He can hit the short slants, but anything beyond 10 yards has been overthrown.
1:33 - Chase Daniel is 0/3 so far with some under throws and over throws. One downside to All-Star games is the lack of chemistry between quarterbacks and receivers.
1:35 - Gartrell Johnson is really impressive so far. They've said over and over that he lacks speed (4.7 40 they actually said), but he just seems to break through for the solid runs. McShay: "I think elite speed is the most overrated aspect of evaluating running backs. As long as you're quick enough to get through the line of scrimmage you can play at the next level."
1:40 - Apparently Brian Hoyer, Michigan State QB, looked awesome in practice this week. For the season he had a 51% completion percentage. Apparently the MSU receivers had a lot of drops and scouts might use that as a discount on his completion percentage. Making excuses or will he be solid? McShay says he's a great fit for a West Coast offense as a 4th or 5th round pick. Might be worth doing some more research.
1:43 - Penn State receiver Deon Butler (mentioned above) finished his PSU career #1 in receptions, #3 in receiving yards and #3 in receiving touchdowns. McShay sees him as a potentially solid slot receiver and a mid to late round pick.
We've reached the end of the first quarter, so i'm going to pick this up after the jump. No scoring so far, but some solid performances thus far.
1:47 - McShay says the 5 players who improved their stock the most are: Gartrell Johnson (RB), Sebastian Vollmer (OT), Brian Hoyer (QB), Stephen McGee (QB) and Jarron Gilbert (DT). Apparently Gilbert is turning into a YouTube sensation in part because of this video.
1:50 - Marlon Lucky with the 7-yard rushing touchdown and the East goes up 7-0. Lucky is a Nebraska running back and is ranked 23rd among running backs. I'm curious how often they adjust the Scouts Inc rankings.
1:55 - McShay says the All-Star games are a bigger bonus for players than the Combine. I definitely think the games are important, but it seems like a lot of players get big bumps from Combine performances. Maybe really they're equal?
1:58 - The East defensive line has impressed at times. They stopped the West on a goal line stand and have done well against Ian Johnson and Aaron Brown. Of course, Gartrell Johnson chewed them up with ease.
1:58 - David Buehler, USC's kicker, just drilled a 49 yarder with ease. 7-3 East.
2:04 - Hunter Cantwell, Louisville QB, just completed a pass to a wide open Deon Butler. Butler solid so far.
2:04 - Marlon Lucky with a 47 yard rush to the West 3, followed by Javarris Williams running it in for the TD. 14-3 East.
2:08 - Michigan DB Morgan Trent just picked Central Washington QB Mike Reilly. NFL contact rules are in play so after falling to the ground with the pick, he hopped up and returned it to the West 17. The East looking to blow this open.
2:12 - Marlon Lucky with a big 11-yard gain on a draw to the West 6. Lucky isn't huge but is showing some solid burst, leading both teams in rushing yards.
2:15 - The West stiffens up and holds the East to a field goal. 17-3 East.
2:17 - 2 minute warning. I do like the idea of using more NFL rules for these games....Any idea why they don't use more NFL rules in other college games (2 minute warning, no stopping the clock on first downs, 2 feet in bounds for receptions)?
2:22 - Gartrell Johnson apparently came out of nowhere this season, as he wasn't expected to be the starter. His yards per carry is exactly the same as last season with 97 more carries. It's hard to make an exact assessment yet, but that has to be a good sign.
2:26 - Fresno St QB Tom Brandstater brought back in for the final minute to run the quick drill for the West. He just made a nice throw across the middle to get a first down. Due to NFL rules, they had to use a timeout with 34 seconds left. Brandstater follows the timeout with a beautiful toss to Boise St RB Ian Johnson on a corner route and out of bounds. First and goal.
2:30 - The West ran the ball and then threw a quick incomplete fade leaving 6 seconds left. The 3rd down play was a slant that bounced off the defender. The West finished off the first half with a David Buehler field goal.
After one half, the running backs have looked the best, which isn't surprising given the short week of practice and the fact that everybody is playing with people they've never played with. Thus, QB-WR combos haven't looked all that great. That also makes it hard to assess cornerbacks and safeties since a lot of passes have been bad overthrows and underthrows. We'll be back soon for the second half...
2:53 - McShay and Ware have been pointing to the East's defensive pressure on the QBs. They've gotten in the QBs' faces, but they have had problems at times stopping the run. Of course they've held the West to two field goals, so I suppose they're doing just fine.
2:55 - McShay ranks Sanchez the #1 QB, followed by Matthew Stafford, Nate Davis (Ball State), Josh Freeman (Kansas State) and Graham Harrell.
2:57 - Andre Ware thinks Mark Sanchez is #1 and it's not even close to Stafford as #2. He thinks he's the "complete package." Interesting.
3:00 - Brandstater hit his fellow Bulldog, TE Bear Tascoe, who made a phenomenal catch in traffic. The 49ers don't need a TE but Tascoe brings some solid size to the position.
3:05 - I have to say, I really like Tom Brandstater. He's 6'4, 215 pounds and has a real live arm. His biggest problem seems to be accuracy. He completed 59.6% of passes, down from 62.6% last season. And just like that Brandstater completes a 22 yard touchdown pass to Mike Thomas. On that drive he was 5/7 for 74 yards and the touchdown. 17-13 East.
3:15 - A&M QB Stephen McGee apparently had a solid week of practice, but hasn't had much of anything happening so far. He's 3/6 but his drives have involved big runs from Marlon Lucky, so not much to show so far.
3:17 - They're discussing how McGee looks solid as an under the center QB. Apparently Mike Sherman brought some of that in when he took over at A&M. Contrast that with Chase Daniels. Daniels played a lot of shot gun and McShay pointed out that he's struggled under the center this week. Sounds a little like Colt Brennan's All-Star game issues last season.
3:25 - MSU QB Brian Hoyer scrambles 13 yards for a first down. McShay said he thought he was the worst of the 6 QBs in today's game coming into the week's practice. He quickly changed his tune.
3:30 - Deon Butler just made a really nice 20-yard catch inside the West 10 yard line. He's not a big guy (5'9, 173 - not a whole lot bigger than me), but he's shown some really solid hands. That was followed by Northwestern RB Tyrell Sutton rushing in for a 2-yard touchdown. Sutton is 5'7 206 pounds. Now, THAT is a bowling ball with legs.
3:34 - Best line so far: Nothing says the 84th East-West Shrine Game like a giant dancing fez.
3:37 - Stephen McGee with a beautiful toss to Jarett Dillard to cut the lead to 24-19 (failed 2-pt conversion). Dillard ran a go route and McGee dropped it right in there.
3:48 - West gets the ball back after a punt and can take their first lead of the game. They opened with a nice 10+ yard run to get things rolling. Central Washington QB Mike Reilly is in for the West. He has struggled so far today (and that's why you come here for amazing insight!).
3:53 - West got a roughing the passer penalty that has really helped the drive. They're inside the East 40.
3:54 - And the West benefits frm NFL pass interference rules as Dillard gets knocked around on an incompletion. West down inside the 10.
3:56 - Dillard went up on a fade route and almost had the ball but the defender did a great job knocking the ball away. We're down to the 2-minute warning and this is coming down to the wire.
4:00 - And the West turns the ball over on downs after a jump ball in the end zone. The receiver jumped just a second too early I think. East gets the ball back and is looking to run out the clock.
4:02 - Javarris Williams with a 16 yard rush for the first down. The West is out of timeouts and the East can run things out. The East just called a timeout for some reason with 46 seconds left. Maybe make sure they get the victory formation right?
4:05 - And that'll do it. Bobby Ross's East squad pulls out the victory 24-19.
All in all a pretty solid game. The running backs dominated early, but the quarterbacks stepped up late. I suppose the in-game QB/WR chemistry took a little time to develop. Once it did, there were some solid plays on both sides.
There will be plenty to assess about the draft possibilities in the coming months, but this game at least gave me a few more guys to look at at a variety of positions.