Day 1 of practices at the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl in St. Petersburg wrapped up Monday, and some of the hottest names in the draft community as well as some hidden gems just starting to break through into the public eye got their first chance to strut their stuff in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and some prospects leaped at the chance to do so by dominating. Some, on the other hand, clearly showed some rust, and need to turn things around over the next few days in order to apply a Band-Aid over the open wound that is their draft stock.
Nebraska DT Khalil Davis -If you had to declare an ultimate winner from Day 1, Davis has to be at or near the top of the hypothetical list. Khalil and his brother Carlos were frequently bulldozing the West offensive lineman, with Texas' Zach Shackelford and Oregon's Calvin Throckmorton on the wrong end of some tremendous reps in 1v1s. David did his stock a world of good.
Mississippi State QB Tommy Stevens - Stevens disappointed in his only season at Mississippi State, but the 6-5, 230 pound former Nittany Lion was the most impressive of the quarterbacks on the first day of practice. He showed off an impressive arm and more accuracy than he ever did in Starkville. He's throwing against air, yes, but Stevens has looked nice.
Arkansas DT McTelvin Agim - Agim was a highly-touted recruit that never truly dominated in Fayetteville. At the Shrine game, however, he was the most explosive of the East defensive lineman, as his lateral quickness, hand usage, and versatility across the defensive line is unparalleled in this crop of players. He could be playing himself into a high Day 3 selection.
Princeton QB Kevin Davidson - This game is a great showcase for FCS quarterbacks, and Davidson looked like a totally different tier of quarterback as compared to fellow Ivy Leaguer and Yale QB Kurt Rawlings, who struggled. Davidson has the arm to make all the throws, and his accuracy was probably the best of the seven quarterbacks who threw at Tropicana today. A name to watch as the draft gets closer.
West Georgia DT Auzoyah Alufohai -The D2 product is probably the strongest player at this game, and he showcased that ability in 1v1 reps, as he was able to push several East offensive lineman back on sheer power alone. He needs a LOT of fine-tuning, but that raw power makes him such an intriguing prospect.
Illinois RB Reggie Corbin - The comp that popped into my head for Corbin was Maurice Jones-Drew, as his quads were thicker than my waist. Corbin was powerful, as he was grinding out tough yards between the tackles, and explosive, as he was reeling off chunk plays as a runner and receiver. The Fighting Illini running back should hear his name called when the draft comes around in Las Vegas.
UCF CB Nevelle Clark - Defensive back play was the highlight of the afternoon, and the 6-2 Clark made himself a lot of money. He picked off a pass from FIU's James Morgan, and used his length to constantly disrupt passing lanes, while showing off plus speed. He's an intriguing outside corner and special teams that will play in the league next year.
West CBs - Three of the top five players in the West practice were defensive backs. West Virginia's Keith Washington II was the second-most impressive player behind Khalil Davis, picking off two passes and contesting pretty much every ball thrown his was. Arizona's Jace Whittaker and San Diego State's Luq Barcoo also made some money on Day 1.
Ohio State WR Binjimen Victor -Victor was a bit of a surprise declaration in the draft this year, but he's showing that he can contribute in the NFL in 2020. the 6-4, 199 pound former Buckeye showed how deep the WR corps is at Ohio State, as his sticky hands, speed and physicality at the top of his routes, and playmaking ability make him stand out on every rep.
Some Good, Some Bad
Missouri QB Kelly Bryant - Bryant had more fanfare than any player in this game, and he has questions about his potential as a quarterback given how he played at Clemson and Missouri. The 6-4, 225 pound quarterback showed that his arm strength and playmaking ability will translate to the NFL, but he also has a weird, Blake Bortles-esque windup in his throwing motion that effects his accuracy. He should look to get that cleaned up before the draft.
South Carolina RBs Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster - The pair of Dowdle and Feaster were supposed to come in and dominate. They didn't. While their speed, lateral movement, and vision were all plus traits for them, we didn't see the consistent explosion that we saw in college. They've got three more days to prove us wrong, but their Day 1 performance was smack dab in the middle.
Oregon OG Calvin Throckmorton - One of Justin Herbert's most trusted lineman, Throckmorton was one of the best lineman in St. Petersburg, handling power and finesse with equal dexterity. However, Nebraska's Khalil Davis and Baylor's Bravvion Roy got the better of him, as they were able to beat him several times even as he was anchoring in pass protection. Thorckmorton was one of the more inconsistent players on Day 1.
Miami LB Shaq Quarterman - Quarterman was a four-year starter at Miami, but came into this showcase with an expectation that he would be nothing more than a two-down run-stuffer. He excelled in that role, but he'll need to show the scouts more if he is to break the mold that his style of play created for himself and rocket up draft boards.
The Big West WRs - The wide receivers for the West weren't lacking size, as Victor, Oregon's Juwan Johnson, and Washington State's Dezmon Patmon all were 6-4, with the latter two clocking in at 233 pounds+. They were all three of the most impressive receivers at Tropicana Field, but we didn't see them dominate or use their size to win 50-50 balls. Hopefully they can do that on Day 2 of practice.
East TEs - The East featured Georgia's Eli Wolf, USF's Mitchell Wilcox, and Western Michigan's Giovanni Ricci. None of them had a terrific first day. Ricci and Wolf both had issues with drops, and none of these three showed any sort of elite athleticism as a receiver. The game could be a pivotal opportunity for this group to show their worth to NFL scouts.
Utah QB Tyler Huntley - Huntley, who weighed in at 195 pounds and measures at under 6-1, struggled with downfield accuracy, and questions about his arm strength were validated after he didn't fit many balls into tight windows (though he did have a few nice throws late). Coming from a team that didn't throw a lot and a coach who definitely didn't want to throw a lot, this wasn't a great showing for Huntley.
North Texas QB Mason Fine - You don't get to have many bad days in front of NFL eyes when you're a 5-11, 190 pound quarterback, and Fine had a bad day. His accuracy and arm strength intermediate and short was alright, but he sailed a few deep throws and looked out of sorts going down the field. Nowhere to go but up for the record setting Mean Green QB.
Fresno State LB Mykal Walker - The 6-3 linebacker looked a bit rigid in the first few reps that came his way, which was odd given his plus athleticism on tape. Reggie Corbin juking him out of the stadium near the end of practice was a lowlight for the former Bulldog, who is looking for a strong Day 2 of practice to get back in the good graces of NFL scouts.
Boise State WR John Hightower - Hightower has speed to burn, and he could work as a special teamer, but he really struggled with running routes and catching today. Hightower had not one, not two, but three back-breaking drops. The message is simple. Catch the ball.
What to Look for On Day 2
A better day for West quarterbacks - Bryant was the best of the bunch, and that wasn't saying much. The East showed out with Stevens, Davidson, and James Morgan, while the West needs to improve on their poor start.
Continued excellence from the defensive line - Defensive line and defensive backfield has been the two best areas for both teams today. The likes of Agim and Davis can almost feel themselves vaulting up draft boards as they continue to demolish the offensive line.
Will Davis once again win the day, or will it be someone else? - Nebraska's Devine Ozigbo was the best player at last year's Shrine Bowl, and Davis could become the second Cornhusker in a row to take home the mythical Shrine Game practice MVP. Given how dominant he was on Day 1, topping him could be mighty hard.