By Matthew Postins
The Shrine Game invites players from all three levels of NCAA football, which gives players from big-time programs and small-programs a chance to rub shoulders for a week to try and impress NFL scouts.
So who impressed scouts last week? Which players might be a good fit for the Dallas Cowboys? We tackle that question in this Shrine Bowl review.
WR Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State: Statistically, Bumphis had a big day. He caught 4 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Right now Bumphis is not considered a draftable player and it’s probably due to his size. He’s 5-foot-10, 202 pounds. The guy is a burner, though, and he catches touchdowns (12 scores out of 58 receptions) at a pretty steady clip. He’s a special teams star in the making, as he led MSU in receptions, receiving yards, punt return yardage and all-purpose yardage in 2010. The Cowboys will bring in at least one guy to compete with Dwayne Harris on returns, especially if Kevin Ogletree leaves in free agency. Bumphis earned the game’s top offensive player award.
CB Nigel Malone, Kansas State: Malone was given the award as the top defensive player in the game. Malone picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown. One issue with drafting him for a Cover 2 defense is his height. At 5-foot-9, he’s borderline. But he’s always around the ball. He had 12 interceptions in 26 career games. That’s nearly a pick every other game. Right now he’s a borderline seventh-round pick.
RB Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Michael rushed for 42 yards in the contest. Plus he was the only back in the game to record double-digit carries. Michael didn’t have a great year to end his career at Texas A&M, rushing for only 417 yards. But his career numbers were quite good, rushing for nearly 2,800 yards and 34 touchdowns. He ran with power and good vision in this game, earning praise from the announcers. Mike Mayock, who called the game, said Michael had the best week of any back in the game and enhanced his third-round draft stock. Injuries will be a concern, as he had a history of them while at A&M. At 5-foot-10, 221 pounds, he has a good NFL frame. Mayock said Michael has to get better in pass protection.
CB Terry Hawthorne, Illinois: Hawthorne entered the game as a sixth-round value and he may have enhanced his stock in this contest. Hawthorne recovered a fumble to set up a touchdown and picked off a pass in the contest. At 6-foot-4, 194 pounds, his size is a bit more in line with what Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin likes in his corners. He’s a borderline sub-4.5 in the 40-yard dash. One question you have to have is whether he can consistently be around the ball. He only had five career interceptions at Illinois.
LB Matt Evans, New Hampshire: Sometimes you need to look beyond the big leagues for players. Evans was the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award winner, given to FCS’s top defensive player. Evans had more than 400 career tackles, which is nearly impossible unless you play every game in your college career. Evans did. At 6-foot, 227 pounds, he fits the size Kiffin looks for in his linebackers. The question is whether he’s quick enough. His best 40 time right now is 4.67. He must also prove that he’s not just an inside linebacker, because if he comes to Dallas he’ll most likely play outside. Mayock remarked on Evans’ production and upside during the broadcast and Evans always seemed to be around the ball.
DE Devin Taylor, South Carolina: If the Cowboys are looking for an upgrade with upside up front, Taylor might be a great choice. He finished his career with the Gamecocks No. 2 in tackles for loss, an area the Cowboys need improvement in for 2013. Now, he was playing next to Jadeveon Clowney, but without his big-time running buddy he was dominant in this game, forcing two fumbles and sacking the quarterback twice. He was productive at an SEC school and that’s something scouts have to pay attention to. Additionally, Mayock mentioned that he felt Taylor could put on 15-20 pounds. If that’s the case that could make him a perfect left end in the Cover 2 Kiffin is preparing to install in Dallas. Right now he’s a fifth-round value. That probably went up after this game.
DE Brandon Thurmond, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: This is a player who really benefitted from this game. Thurmond led FCS with 17 sacks in 2012 and he had a sack in this game. He was the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, but right now he’s ranked outside the draft. It could be scouts consider him undersized. At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, he’s a bit borderline for a rushing end in a 4-3. But he’s productive and you have to pay attention to that during the scouting process.
LB Sio Moore, Connecticut: His coach at the Shrine Bowl, Jerry Glanville, loved him. In spite of that, Kiffin might want to pay attention to Moore on tape. At 6-foot-2, 229 pounds, he’s the right size for the Cover 2. Right now he’s a fourth-round pick. He might be a candidate to be a future strong-side linebacker in a Cover 2. He has to show he’s quicker than his 4.64 40 time suggests, though.
RB Kerwynn Williams, Utah State: Williams was a Top 20 back in all-purpose yardage, rushing yardage, and scoring, all in per-game averages. That something for a 5-foot-8, 189-pound back. He showed on Saturday that he can handle special teams, too. There’s one additional thing. Mayock mentioned during the broadcast that Williams, despite his size, understood pass protection and was willing to block. That’s a rare combination from a rookie running back, especially one that will have to play in passing situations. Something to consider if Felix Jones leaves in free agency.