Shrine Game Standouts

Houston's Anthony Alridge (AP)

These are not the kids whose names you'll be hearing in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. It's quite possible that no player who participated in this East-West Shrine Game this year will hear his name on the first day. Some of them have played their last football games, while others will fight to stick on practice squads and bemoan the death of NFL Europe.

The stars will come out in next week's Senior Bowl, but while you're waiting for the marquee players to arrive on the scene, here are ten who followed their excellent collegiate careers with good showings in this game. They have three months of workouts, Pro Days and Combine participation to break away from the rank and file and make a real name for themselves. For these ten, this was a step in the right direction.

Nebraska QB Sam Keller -- Slightly funky delivery betrayed him at times, but he led drives and showed good composure. Pocket passer with good size (6-3, 223) and intelligence. A broken collarbone suffered in November may have been a reason behind his delivery and inconclusive practices this week.

San Diego QB Josh Johnson -- Displayed intriguing characteristics. Excellent pocket presence, able to progress through reads even under pressure, had some good throws. Kept a live tempo for the West offense when he was in there. Looks like a hybrid running/throwing quarterback in that he's learning not to pull the ball down at the first sign of trouble, but when he does take off, he can gain some real estate in space. One major scouting site compares him to Tarvaris Jackson, which seems hilarious to this observer. He's far more efficient, and the influence of Jim Harbaugh is evident. Johnson may have put up his prolific numbers in the Pioneer league, but he is one to watch.

Houston RB/WR Anthony Alridge -- Made a major cut right on the West's second touchdown, a four-yard run in the third quarter. Showed the power of home field advantage, but it's unknown what sort of player he'll be at the NFL level. His size (5-9, 174) works against him as a running back, and he's still developing receiving skills. He could shine in a thunder-and-lightning system, but remember what happened to Reggie Bush when Deuce McAllister was lost for the 2007 season. Speaking of the "thunder" component…

Georgia RB Thomas Brown -- Undersized back has a great combination of power and speed. More powerful than Alridge; more a Warrick Dunn than Reggie Bush. He looked very quick in space and can bounce outside from the line in a hurry. Great long run with three minutes left in the third quarter when he bounced through trash and made extra yardage happen. Brown suffered a torn ACL in 2006 and a broken collarbone last season. His health will be an asterisk even if he's fully medically cleared at the Combine, but that means that someone could take a chance and get a second-day steal.

South Carolina RB Cory Boyd -- Scored a late rushing touchdown for the East squad. Boyd led the Gamecocks with 180 carries for 903 yards in 2007. He might get lost in a huge draft class for running backs, but he's got the size (6-0, 218) and downhill running ability that NFL teams require. Might be a good change-of-pace runner in tandem with a smaller back like Brown.

Utah State WR Kevin Robinson -- His 72-yard punt return touchdown was an example of his physical tools. Outstanding shiftiness in short areas, quick cuts and breakaway speed. Also caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Josh Johnson with 11:00 left in the game. Robinson is known for his sure hands, but he also impressed those in attendance for the practices with some excellent blocks. Robinson had four touchdown returns in 2007 -- three on kickoffs and one on a punt. Stat to remember: Robinson has the NCAA's best all-purpose yards per play average -- 16.16 (6,479 yards on 401 plays).

Appalachian State WR Dexter Jackson -- Made some nice fourth-quarter catches. Very smooth in his routes. Steve Smith-sized, and with some of the same attributes, though he might be even more fluid. Jackson was the poster child of the upset over Michigan, and one of the players that East coach Dick Vermeil singled out as a player he wanted to feature. Jackson scored seven touchdowns on only 29 receptions in 2007, including two in the Michigan game. .

Boston College SS Jamie Silva -- Showed some real play-ability. Was in on just about every play for the East defense on the West's first drive of the second half. Recovered a late kickoff return fumble by Dwight Lowery. With eight tackles and that recovery, Silva's reputation for always being around the ball grew a bit. A Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist, Silva has a great feel for the game. He's a sure and solid tackler who will stand out on special teams at the next level. In 2007, he led his team with 115 tackles and tied for tenth in the nation with six interceptions. Silva had a less-than-spectacular practice week, but when he gets on the field, things happen. He might be a player who isn't talked about a lot at the Combine but gets results in the NFL. A better player in pads than in shorts.

San Jose State CB Dwight Lowery -- Lowery can read and make plays, which was evident as he bedeviled opposing quarterbacks in this game. The aforementioned kickoff return fumble was a debit. The NCAA is full of stories of "tweener" defensive backs with safety-level deep cover skills and cornerback-level tackling ability. Lowery's next challenge will be to overcome such a fate.

Wisconsin K Taylor Mehlhaff -- Kicked field goals of 42 and 28 yards in this game. Scouts like his 23 touchbacks in 2007, which led the Big Ten. Wisconsin also led their conference in net kickoff average. Mehlhaff booted 20 of 24 field goals and 40 of 41 PAT in 2007. He finished second in Wisconsin history in scoring (290 points), was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, and was named to the AFCA All-America Team.

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