The NFL playoffs are up to full-speed, the college football playoff and championship is complete, and the Senior Bowl is just weeks away. In the middle of it all is the annual East West Shrine Game.
This year in St. Petersburg, there will be a whole new collection of college football players looking to wow scouts and fans alike in hopes of gaining some traction moving towards their dreams of being a star at the professional football level.
Names like Dick Butkus, Joe Greene, Larry Csonka, Martin Gramatica, Steve Atwater, and Brett Favre all appeared in previous editions of the game.
2018 Buccaneers draft pick Justin Watson played for the East last year, and subsequently received an invitation to the Senior Bowl while Denver Broncos standout undrafted rookie, Phillip Lindsay played for the West team.
So, if you’re settling down to take in the action, here are a few guys to look for. First, let’s introduce you to the competitors.
|4||WR||TERRY GODWIN II||GEORGIA|
|14||QB||TAYLOR CORNELIUS||OKLAHOMA STATE|
|33||RB||DARNELL WOOLFOLK||U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY|
|53||OG||TYLER JONES||NORTH CAROLINA STATE|
|54||C||ALEC EBERLE||FLORIDA STATE|
|66||OG||JOSHUA MILES||MORGAN STATE|
|78||OT||TYREE ST. LOUIS||MIAMI|
|81||TE||MATTHEW SOKOL||MICHIGAN STATE|
|6||CB||DERRICK BAITY, JR.||KENTUCKY|
|15||CB||JIMMY MORELAND||JAMES MADISON|
|16||CB||RASHAD FENTON||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|18||P||AJ COLE III||NORTH CAROLINA STATE|
|23||S||LUKAS DENIS||BOSTON COLLEGE|
|25||S||CHRIS JOHNSON||NORTH ALABAMA|
|34||LB||MALIK CARNEY||NORTH CAROLINA|
|42||LB||SIONE TAKITAKI||BRIGHAM YOUNG|
|45||LB||ULYSEES GILBERT III||AKRON|
|47||LS||JACOB BOBENMOYER||NORTHERN COLORADO|
|51||LB||COLE HOLCOMB||NORTH CAROLINA|
|91||DL||JORDAN BRAILFORD||OKLAHOMA STATE|
|92||DL||KYLE LAWRENCE PHILLIPS||TENNESSEE|
|98||DL||RICKY WALKER||VIRIGINIA TECH|
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: WR, JAMAL CUSTIS (SYRACUSE)
Custis has had a solid week of practices, and a solid game this Saturday could improve his status on some NFL draft boards.
He’s got similar height to Buccaneers wide recevier Mike Evans, and then there was this tweet from Bucs staff writer, Carmen Vitali.
That leaping grab on the far side is Jamal Custis out of @CuseFootball. The 6’5 receiver says he models his game after @MikeEvans13_ ...so the kid’s smart, too #GoBucs pic.twitter.com/JiNeCijLS2— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) January 16, 2019
Anyone who models himself after the best receiver Tampa Bay has ever seen deserves a look.
Plus, there’s no reason not to look at every position on the field when considering late round draft prospects.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: DL, JORDAN BRAILFORD (OKLAHOMA STATE)
Why should you watch Jordan Brailford? Becuase the Buccaneers are.
Team-Prospect meetings Day1 of #ShrineWeek— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) January 15, 2019
OL Lamont Gillard: NO, MIA, MIN, BAL, CAR
DE Jordan Brailford: ARI, DEN, NYG, CAR, TB
QB Jordan Ta'amu: MIA
OT Tyree St. Louis: NYG, MIN
WR DaMarkus Lodge: LAC, BUF, NYG
CB Jimmy Mooreland: TEN, HOU
RB Ryan Davis: NYJ, HOU, NYG
He’s listed on the roster as a defensive lineman, but he’s an edge guy. As a defensive coordinator, you could play him standing up or put his hand on the ground and have him attack that way.
It’s fully feasible for him to do both, which makes him very valuable to a scheme-less team like the Buccaneers’ new coaching staff is claiming to be.
A solid week of practices at the Shrine Game could lead up to a solid game performance as well.
Bottom line though, if Tampa Bay is talking to him, you want to know about him.
|2||WR||KEESEAN JOHNSON||CSU FRESNO|
|3||WR||RON'QUAVION TARVER||UTAH STATE|
|4||QB||BRETT RYPIEN||BOISE STATE|
|5||RB||NICK BROSSETTE||LOUISIANA STATE|
|6||QB||MARCUS MCMARYION||CSU FRESNO|
|9||WR||JON DUHART||OLD DOMINION|
|12||QB||EASTON STICK||NORTH DAKOTA STATE|
|15||K||JOHN BARON II||SAN DIEGO STATE|
|24||RB||DARRIN HALL, JR.||PITTSBURGH|
|52||C||JOHN KEENOY||WESTERN MICHIGAN|
|66||OG||KEATON SUTHERLAND||TEXAS A&M|
|70||OT||JACKSON BARTON||UTAH STATE|
|72||OG||LANARD BONNER||ARKANSAS STATE|
|74||OG||OSHEA DUGAS||LOUISIANA TECH|
|77||OT||RYAN POPE||SAN DIEGO STATE|
|78||OT||TREY PIPKINS||SIOUX FALLS|
|80||WR||BRODY OLIVER||COLORADO MINES|
|14||CB||MAZZI WILKINS||SOUTH FLORIDA|
|18||LB||BJ BLUNT||MCNEESE STATE|
|23||CB||JORDAN WYATT||SOUTHERN METHODIST|
|43||DL||MARKUS JONES||ANGELO STATE|
|46||DL||LANDIS DURHAM||TEXAS A&M|
|49||DL||DERICK ROBERSON||SAM HOUSTON STATE|
|51||LS||CHRIS WILKERSON||STEPHEN F. AUSTIN STATE|
|95||DL||DAYLON MACK||TEXAS A&M|
|98||DL||JOEL VAN PELT||CALGARY|
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: RB, DEVINE OZIGBO (NEBRASKA)
Head coach Bruce Arians and his staff once made beautiful running back music with a young man named David Johnson.
Johnson, a third round draft pick out of Northern Iowa proceeded to become one of the best running backs in the league. In the last couple of years, Johnson has been derailed by injuries and was one of many Cardinals who underperformed in 2018.
Still, his underperforming topped any year the Buccaneers have seen from a running back in the last couple of seasons.
It’s a copycat league, and who better to copy than yourself, when you’ve had some success?
Devine Ozigbo is about the same height, size, and runs at about the same speed as Johnson did coming out of college.
Oh, and he’s projected to be a day two or early day three draft pick. Like David Johnson.
I’m not saying you should draft him first in your fantasy draft next year, but if we see some similarities, he may be a guy the Bucs look at when April comes around.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: CB, Blace Brown (Troy)
If you like cornerbacks with some length and athleticism who like to play aggressively and targets the ball on every snap, then this is the guy for you.
Credit The Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema for turning me on to him with this article on the TDN website.
Since then, I’ve only seen more of what I like to see out of a corner, and what I feel like new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will be looking for this off-season.