East-West Shrine Game – Players To Watch
By Alex Kozora
The East/West Shrine Game kicks off today at 4PM EST on the NFL Network under the sunny St. Petersburg skies. The rosters don’t hold many first round picks but plenty of mid to late round selections to make the game worth watching. Some of the notables for Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
Matt Hall/OT Belhaven: 6’8/5 323 – Hall comes from a NAIA school, making finding tape on him difficult. A perfect example of how useful these All-Star games are, giving an ultra-small school kid the opportunity to play against tough competition and under the spotlight.
The element I’ll be watching most closely is his foundation in pass protection. At over 6’8, is he a heavy waist bender or can he get low and still move laterally? Does he show flatback on his first punch? Does he play to his size or is he more of a finesse big man similar to Marcus Gilbert? If he performs well today, you can bet scouts will be scrambling to find extra tape on Hall.
Pierre Desir/CB Lindenwood: 6’0/7 197 – Like Hall, Desir hails from a small school – D2 Lindenwood. But he’s always had the talent to play FBS football. Recruited by Missouri and Michigan St, his grades weren’t good enough and was forced to turn to Division 2. After originally attending Washburn University, where he became a 2nd Team All-American, he transferred to Lindenwood in order to be closer to his family while raising one himself (he has two daughters).
In his last two seasons, Desir has recorded 13 interceptions . He has the length at cornerback that is becoming a popular trend among teams like the Seattle Seahawks. If he shows he can stay low in his backpedal and flips his hips with ease, he may become a Day 2 selection.
Will Clarke/DE West Virginia: 6’6 277 – Clarke is a local product. Out of Pittsburgh, he played football at Taylor Allderdice High School before committing to WVU. I’ve only watched him once making this game a good platform to learn more. He possesses long arms and a surprising good get-off. But he must get stronger and be more physical against the run. If he can show that, he could find a home as a 3-4 defensive end.
Glenn Carson/ILB Penn St: 6’2/6 244 – Another throwback Nittany Lion linebacker, Carson is a hard hitter and sure tackler. But he has to show a lot more athleticism and he’s tight-hipped in coverage. Perhaps he carves out a niche on special teams. He’s shaping up to be a late day three selection.
Sentavius Jones/WR Valdosta St: 6’3/1 209 – Jones has drawn some Alshon Jeffrey comparisons. That’s probably being generous but Jones has the size Steelers’ fans have been banging on the table for.
Jones has continued to bulk up weighing in at 193 his junior season, 200 his senior season, and now at 209 for the Shrine Game. He’s got a knack for finding the end zone too, scoring on over 22% of his career catches (33 TDs on 149 receptions). That includes a six touchdown outing this season against Delta State.
Justin Ellis/NT Louisiana Tech: 6’1/5 351 – I haven’t watched this massive one tech yet but I’ve heard good things and am excited to get eyes on him. Ellis can be had on Day Three as a project at nose tackle. While we’ve discussed the misconception that the Steelers need a nose tackle, Steve McClendon had a fine year, it never hurts to add a guy of that size onto your roster.
He recorded 5.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks his senior season.
Larry Webster/OLB Bloomsburg: 6’5/6 249 – Like Clarke, I’ve only watched one game of this D2 prospect. A former basketball player, he made the switch to football two seasons ago amassing 26 sacks over that span. His dad, Larry Sr, played in the NFL for eleven seasons.
Webster has a good burst off the edge and dominated smaller D2 tackles but can get stiff in the hips. A concern for a prospect that is much better rushing with his hand up than down. He’ll have to prove to be fluid when dropping to keep building his stock.
Max Bullough/ILB Michigan St: 6’2/7 265 – It’s been a difficult past few weeks for the former Spartan. He was suspended for the Rose Bowl and his weight has seemed to balloon, coming into the Shrine game 20 pounds heavier than what he was listed. Still, he was the clear defensive leader of the Spartans. Look to see how he carries his weight and how athletic he is today.