2019 East-West Shrine Game practices are underway! With Monday's practices in the books, here are my main takeaways from today's slate of action.
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-The best Shrine crop of quarterbacks in years has been the talk of the event, but the West crew didn't exactly show out. Lots of buzz has been generated about North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick, but he struggled mightily in his first practice of the week.
These were throws on air, but in team sessions and 1v1s things were even worse. Stick consistently misfired, through the wrong route once, waited far too long to pull the trigger in 1v1s and let a semi-high snap go through his hands. In 11v11, the ball slipped out of his hand once (maybe twice, or it was just a bad throw), and he was rarely on target.
For my money he was the worst of the six Shrine quarterbacks today, and I had zero opinion on Stick coming into the week. Brett Rypien threw a couple gorgeous balls today and impressed more than any of the other passers, but he was also intercepted by D'Cota Dixon late in practice.
Marcus McMaryion wasn't perfect, but he was vocal and threw a couple pretty balls on the run. His arm strength looks solid, but he's definitely short of stature for the position. He was easily better than Stick on Monday, despite the NDSU quarterback entering the week with more hype.
-The best player I watched in either practice was Kansas' defensive tackle Daniel Wise. He nearly scrapped with O'Shea Dugas in 1v1s, bringing that same energy and intensity to every drill throughout the day. He attacked team periods, showing a nasty bull rush and creative hand usage to work over the top of blockers as well. Unblockable is not an over-exaggeration. Kansas moved him around their defensive line on tape, but he seems to have found a home at 3-technique this week.
-I was really impressed with a couple of wide receivers from the West team today, but none more-so than Toledo's Cody Thompson. His route-running is superb, showing outstanding attention to detail in his releases and at the apex of his patterns. Thompson also caught the ball well away from his frame, showing the ability to dominate short-to-intermediate.
-I don't know how athletic he is, but Old Dominion's Jon Duhart caught the ball really well in team periods, making a couple smooth adjustments at the catch point. He and Utah State's Ron'quavion Tarver both have big, power forward type frames, but I don't know that either will star in the athletic testing.
-The West offensive line is BAD. Like, really bad. They got torn up all day, but one edge rusher on the West team still really stood out to me. Angelo State's Markus Jones showed off a long-arm and the ability to bend the edge, albeit against pretty pathetic pass sets. I haven't seen a second of his tape, so I'm excited to dive into him. I don't think he's 6-foot-3, 260 pounds like he's listed, so his weigh-ins will be big, but he was consistently flushing the pocket during Monday's practice.
-I don't think either are very good, but two of the best-looking players on the hoof here at Shrine: Missouri tight end Kendall Blanton and Arkansas right tackle Brian Wallace. 6-foot-6, 265 pounds and 6-foot-6, 320 pounds. Both have unbelievable length and extremely pro-ready looking frames, but neither have inspired much confidence with their play on tape this season.
-He's listed 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, which is small for a linebacker, but McNeese State's B.J. Blunt was one of the more fun players to watch in practice. Super explosive with good speed and the range to drop in coverage and cover some ground. High-energy player who danced all through warm-ups and was consistently chirping. Great first day.
-Daniel Wise may have been the best player on the field today, but Daylon Mack wasn't far behind. His burst and power are just overwhelming for quality offensive lineman, let alone the group here. He tore through the inside run period and basically ruined the offense single-handedly. This performance, coupled with his improved tape as a senior, has me wondering if Mack will get the bump up to the Senior Bowl next week.