I really enjoy Shrine Week. Not only is it right in my own backyard here in St. Petersburg, Florida, it has such a cool feel to it. It's when Draft Season starts to get real.
Some people might not know this, but there are more All-Star events for draft prospects than just the Senior Bowl. The East-West Shrine Game is one of them, and if you haven't paid much attention to it before, you really should start this year. Shrine Week is a great way to get yourself mentally into the scouting process. All the bowl games are done, the teams left in the NFL playoffs start to really dwindle down, and it's a fun atmosphere to scout prospects in.
It's only four practices and then a game -- which is more like a scrimmage, really -- and so you're not really judging Shrine Week play more than actual game tape, but the Shrine event does have plenty of great uses for scouts. For one, you do get official measurements for these players for the first time in the draft process. Next, you can see how guys adapt to new coaching and learning on the fly. And finally, it gives you the opportunity to scout some diamond-in-the-rough guys, or just players you haven't heard of.
I'm going to give you a little head start on that last part today by introducing you to a player who you might not know yet but definitely need to keep your eye on throughout Shrine Week and that is Troy cornerback Blace Brown.
Blace has an interesting background to how he got to stardom at Troy. In high school, Brown played cornerback on varsity at Cherokee High School for three seasons before moving to wide receiver his senior year. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Brown led the entire state of Georgia with 80 catches for 1,137 yards and seven touchdowns. His 80 catches were also a school record.
Due to the position change late in his high school career, Brown didn't have many option coming out of high school. In 2014, he join the football team at Troy, but just a walk on. In his first season, he saw action in just three games before redshirting the following year.
But after that, it seemed to all come together.
In 2016, as a redshirt sophomore, Brown ranked seventh nationally and first in the Sun Belt with six interceptions. The following year he ranked 11th nationally with five interceptions and was named to the All-Sun Belt First Team. Brown suffered an ACL injury in his final game of his 2017 season, but as a senior he bounced back and started six games while playing in all 12 at cornerback. He finished his final season ranked second among active FBS players with 12 career interceptions.
What I like about Brown is that he appears to have really good instincts, especially for timing in pass coverage. Brown is most comfortable as an outside cornerback who can shuffle or play off coverage in Cover 3 roles, it appears.
In the play above, he read the quarterback's eyes very well and timed the route to come up with the pass break up. Sort of Josh Jackson-esque from last year in terms of preferred style of play.
Despite being sub-200 pounds, Brown ain't afraid to come up and lay a hit. Now, due to him being a smaller defensive back, you could certainly say he needs more consistency in tackling, since he does often go for the big hit or the strip of the ball more so than he does just wrapping his guy up, but the mentality to get physical is there, and that's what I like to see -- the rest is coachable, you hope.
14 takeaways and 16 passes defended over the last three seasons. That's some serious production on the ball for Brown.
As shown in the clip above, no ball is safe when he's around, even if it's in your hands. Brown also sealed this LSU game, an upset win for Troy, with an interception late in the fourth quarter.
Brown's tape shows the potential of a difference maker in the secondary, and for that, he'll be a prospect I'll have my eyes on during Shrine Week.