East-West Shrine Game: practice notes

ORLANDO — Here’s a breakdown of Wednesday’s action from day three at the East-West Shrine Game. The game is scheduled for Saturday, 3 p.m. EST, at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Two downs only

Central Florida defensive tackle Torrell Troup possesses good size and overall strength when asked to clog up run lanes inside. He’s tough to move off the ball, does a nice job holding the point of attack and possesses an above-average first step for his size. But he’s a linear athlete who struggles to change directions with any type of fluidity and isn’t much of a pass-rush threat. He’s more of a push/pull guy only who can eat up space inside on run downs and looks like a physical rotational body at the next level.

Wideout notes

Blair White, Michigan State

Showcases impressive range and body control when asked to go get the football. Does a nice job getting his head around quickly and adjusting to throws, but he needs to learn to become more efficient vs. press coverage. Allows receivers to get into his frame too easily and consistently gets jacked off the line and slowed into routes.

Naaman Roosevelt, Buffalo

Is a frail looking wideout who isn’t real explosive off the snap and doesn’t possess a real second gear to his game. Struggles to break down and cleanly change directions vs. man coverage. Has a tendency to waste a lot of motion trying to collect himself before his breaks and has not been real impressive this week.

Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green

Has the most impressive body of all the East wideouts. Possesses a thick lower half and good overall muscle definition through his legs. Doesn’t exhibit a second gear down the field but is a coordinated wideout who displays good body control as a route runner and adjusts well to throws away from his frame. Will struggle to beat press on the outside vs. more physical defensive backs but looks like a solid sub-package receiver in the Jason Avant mold.

Lineman notes

Rodger Saffold, Indiana

He’s the one guy this week who’s really starting to separate himself from the rest of the pack because of his ability to dominate off the edge. He again did a number on LSU’s Rahim Alem during one-on-one drills and displays the best flexibility, footwork and overall coordination of any tackle here. He’s been a clear winner so far this week.

Greg Hardy, Ole Miss

A gifted athlete who showcases natural body control and generates a lot of power on contact with little wasted motion. The guy is fluid, has a compact arm-over move, and when he wants to get dirty, he’s got the power to consistently create on his bull-rush. However, he just hasn’t put it all together at this stage and allows himself to get blocked on the edge too easily at times. There’s no doubt he’s a talented kid who can be a legit player at the next level. The question is: How badly does he want it?

Sergio Render, Virginia Tech

A powerful, squatty offensive guard who showcases natural strength in his base and can really anchor when he locks out. However, at times he fails to extend his arms on contact and will allow opposing linemen to get into his frame and fight their way off his blocks. There’s no denying this guy can hold his own in a phone booth vs. the bull-rush – just ask Mike Neal -- but maximizing his reach on contact is something Render needs to work on if he hopes to develop into a starter.

Willing to work

I love the attitude and overall willingness of South Carolina safety Darian Stewart to do whatever is asked of him, even if it means lining up at cornerback. By no means am I projecting Stewart as a corner at the next level, but he’s improved his stock this week by making some playing during one-on-one drills in coverage. He isn’t a real gifted straight-line athlete, but the guy is surprisingly fluid when asked to change directions, has a nose for the ball and accelerates well out of his breaks. I still wouldn’t grade him out as a potential starter at safety, but his ability to show well in coverage this week makes me think he could definitely work his way on to the field in some nickel/dime packages in the NFL.

Quick learner

The more I watch Fordham quarterback John Skelton, the more I become a fan of his game. There’s no denying his physical skill -- he has the strongest arm down here by far, effortlessly spinning throws outside the numbers with impressive overall zip. However, the game finally looks to be slowing down a bit for him, as he seemed more comfortable during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills Wednesday and even led an impressive two-minute drill at the end of practice. He’s still a long way away and, like any strong-armed passer, he gets sloppy with his footwork and trusts his arm too much at times. But the fact that he’s made some strides this week makes me think there’s some significant long-term upside to his game.

Where can you play him?

I came into this week high on Utah’s Robert Johnson and thought he had the skill set to mature into a future starting-caliber safety at the next level. However, the more I watch him, the less thrilled I am about his physical skill set and overall game. Besides the fact Johnson has a rail-thin lower half, he struggles when asked to transition out of his drop and turn to run down the field. It takes him far too long to get his long legs unwound and he doesn’t have the type of balance/footwork to turn and cover in the deep half. He’s a FS/SS tweener who isn’t fluid enough for a center field type of role and lacks the overall girth to play as an “in the box” defender. He does have some range as a straight-line guy once he gets going and will create collisions on contact, but after watching him this week, he looks more like a special teams player in the Pat Watkins mold.

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