Get excited football fans, TDN is primed to provide you with unparalleled coverage of the East-West Shrine Game. We have five members of our staff (JC Cornell, Trevor Sikkema, Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino and Jon Ledyard) credentialed for the week to deliver you the most comprehensive analysis possible on the practices and games.
Don't sleep on the significance of the Shrine Game and the NFL talent that is on display. 70 participants from the 2018 Game made final NFL rosters last season. More than 300 East-West Shrine Game alumni are on NFL rosters on a yearly basis. The Shrine Game has produced 77 Pro Football Hall of Famers.
It's time to give this important event the media coverage it deserves. Practices begin on January 14th and the game itself is on January 19th. To get ready for the event, we're going to spend the next two weeks previewing the rosters on a position-by-position basis. First up are the edge defenders.
The headliner on the East Roster in terms of the EDGE defender group is Boston College's Wyatt Ray who delivered a breakout senior season where he racked up 11.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. His ability to provide speed off the edge is very appealing. He has the juice to put considerable stress on offensive tackles to keep pace around the arc. He has long arms and plays with a high level of urgency. I expect him to run circles around the offensive tackles in 1v1 drills. I'll be paying close attention his hand usage and rush variety which were lacking on film but are paramount to taking his game to the next level.
Tennessee's Kyle Phillips is another intriguing name I am eager to see in St. Pete. A five-star recruit, Phillips was destined to be labeled a bust until he blossomed as a senior under Jeremy Pruitt. Phillips is a strong run defender that does well to maintain his fits and has found success rushing from the interior on passing downs. His frame and play strength are excellent and I'm eager to get a feel for his athletic ability in person.
The other two EDGE defenders on the East roster are Michael Dogbe from Temple and Laval's Mathieu Betts. Dogbe delivered 12.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks in 2018 and was awarded a single-digit jersey number which Temple reserves for the nine toughest players on the team. According to the CFL Scouting Bureau's December Rankings, Betts is the top prospect available for the CFL draft in May. Betts is the first player in U Sports history to win the JP Metras Trophy multiple times which is given to the most outstanding lineman in the league.
All eyes will be on Texas A&M's Landis Durham who racked up 21.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks over the last two seasons for the Aggies. While his production and pass rushing technique standout, Durham offers only modest physical traits in terms of size and athletic ability. If he's going to making a living as a long and late down pass rusher in the NFL, he needs to pop in St. Pete.
A University of Texas transfer and four-star recruit, Sam Houston State's Derick Roberson has a real chance to turn heads at the Shrine Game. An FCS All-American, Roberson is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award which honors the best defensive player in the FCS. Past Buchanan Award winners include NFL standouts Dexter Coakley, Rashean Mathis and Jared Allen. As a senior, Roberson tallied 68 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and 5 forced fumbles.
The other EDGE defenders on the West Roster are University of Calgary's Joel Van Pelt and Markus Jones from Angelo State. Van Pelt produced 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 10 games for the Dinos this season, earning first team All-Canada West Honors. He was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 2018 CFL Draft but did not sign a contract, aiming for a chance in the NFL. Jones had a historic DII career, racking up consecutive Lonestar Conference Defensive Player of the Year Honors, claiming the Gene Upshaw award which honors the beset DII lineman and was a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy which is given to the most valuable player in Division II. Jones led all NCAA players with 34 tackles for loss in 2018 which is 12.5 more than any other player in DII. He also chipped in 77 tackles, 15 sacks and 3 forced fumbles as a senior. He has a massive opportunity to showcase his skill set on a big stage in St. Pete.