We're in the thick of things here in St. Petersburg, Florida — not just the humidity, but the intensity of All-Star practices at the 2020 Shrine Bowl to kick off the draft season.
With two days of practices under our belts, the best players are coming into clarity, the developing players are showing some quick improvements, and some of the struggling players are, well, continuing to struggle. I wrote about standouts from all three categories on the offensive and defensive lines for both teams.
John Penisini, iDL, Utah
John Penisini takes the crown for Tuesday — no player did better work on Day 2. He transitioned from a square-stance, two-gap role at Utah into a penetrating role here in the four-man front on defense. Penisini is a load and a half to handle with a powerful club and hump move to work to quarterback depth and separate into a sack. If his hands fail to locate, he uses sufficient lower-body power to continue collapsing the pocket. He's not a natural penetrator, but he's showing traits that the NFL will value.
Khalil Davis, iDL, Nebraska
Even if Penisini had the better day, Khalil Davis remains the best prospect overall. His wins were flashier — he's so good with the inside hand forklift to work a long-arm bull rush, and his outside chop regularly wins as well. His traits better translate to NFL play as he's a quick 3-technique who can rush the passer. Expect Davis to push for a Senior Bowl invite in the event of injury. Teams will want to see him against better interior offensive linemen than this.
Jared Hilbers, OT, Washington
Jared Hilbers had the best day of any offensive linemen on the West squad, which isn't saying much. These players are getting their brakes beat off by the talented West defensive line. But Hilbers, who has great measurables at 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds, showed better bend in drills and explosiveness in one-on-ones than the rest of his squad. He drew praise for his control of talented rushers all day, capping things with an impressive rep against Montana State EDGE Byrce Sterk. He was a near Senior Bowler and understandably so.
Cohl Cabral, iOL, Arizona State
Cohl Cabral is struggling out in St. Petersburg. He continues to fail to anchor against power, and his length is failing him on the interior. Plus on the outside, he fails to secure hands or generate displacement in the running game or a pass protector. As of right now, Cabral hasn't demonstrated anything against a talented West defensive line that I would "hang my hat on" — nothing that seems like it would translate to the league. He's bordering "we only call him versatile because he struggles everywhere equally" territory.
Michael Onwenu, iOL, Michigan
Michael Onwenu is a big player; he tipped the scaled 362 pounds at Monday's weigh-ins and boasts of 34 1/2 inch arms ... for a guard. Those are both astronomical numbers. Onwenu has a squattier build without a huge stride length, so I understand why he played on the interior, but the East team defensive tackles surely wish he was on the outside. Onwenu is stonewalling folks in one-on-ones; with a defensive line background, he is willing to get aggressive in the trenches with jump sets and early punches to initiate contact and generate immediate displacement.
He's likely the best offensive lineman here on either team.
Bravvion Roy, iDL, Baylor
I have a soft spot in my heart for Bravvion Roy, who is a boxy and powerful nose tackle with a ton of mass that has proven problems even for double teams at the Shrine Bowl level this week. Roy impressed in pass rush drills more on Day 2 than Day 1, following the model set for him by Penisini. Roy even had some nice little tilt in the hoop drills that illustrates why he's better in a gap than you'd expect. If anything, he's just super fun.
McTelvin Agim, iDL, Arkansas
McTelvin Agim is a five-star dominating at Shrine Week, which is problematic. Even for all of his good reps in the last two days of practice, you know the reason he's in the Shrine Game is that his college tape was generally underwhelming relative to the expectations of a 5-star recruit. Agim bounced positions and enjoyed big ups and downs during his time at a Razorback, but in a new context and a practice setting, it's not hard to see what made him such a valued recruit.
Agim dominated with quickness and power off the snap and looks the part of a penetrating 3-technique at the NFL level. We know that underachieving 5-stars often find more forgiving homes in the league. Expect Agim to remain a Day 3 projection with upside for coaching staffs who, you know, trust themselves more than they do Arkansas.
Frederick Mauigoa, iOL, Washington State
I want to like Frederick Mauigoa more than I think I do. He has some really impressive movement skills and excelled in the bull-pull-bull drill that forced offensive linemen to continually drop and re-drop their anchor. Mauigoa continues to have anchor issues however and functionally doesn't seem like anything other than developmental prospect for a zone team. But I'm still intrigued and willing to take on a lot of risk for his movement skills.
Darrin Paulo, OT, Utah
I like what I've seen from Darrin Paulo, who's another big winner on the "off the bus" scale for his 6-foot-5, 305-pound frame. Paulo is a stiffer player who can struggle with explosiveness out of his kick-slide, but he has impressive grip strength and length to survive initial rushes and take opponents where they want to go. Paulo has been beaten by the smarter rushers here, but in terms of tools to develop, he's shown he has the goods.
Matt Womack, OT, Alabama
Matt Womack has had a weird career at Alabama with starts and backup fills at various positions plus some time lost due to injury as he tried to hold down those starting gigs. However, being a sufficient sixth man for a team isn't a bad thing for your evaluation — the ability to fill in multiple spots effectively matters. The East offensive line coach has been vocally supportive and positive regarding Womack, who looks the part and is clearly well coached. For a position that generally has up-and-down play, he's been steady in the week.
Kendall Coleman, EDGE, Syracuse
Kendall Coleman's far from a complete player, and during his time at Syracuse, he struggled in certain contexts — mostly dealing with power. But Coleman flashed the ability that turned him into a starter for the Orange: the speed rush. He hit multiple speed dips and ghost dips across the course of one-on-ones and full team scrimmage, which lead to immediate pressure and embarrassing reps for the opposing tackles. Coleman is winning from a 2-point stance so far and is a good fit for outside linebacker play in 3-4.
Kyle Murphy, iOL, Rhode Island
It was an okay day for Kyle Murphy on Monday; on Tuesday, not so much. Murphy comes from an FCS program and had some dominant reps there, but he's struggling mightily in pass protection against some of the bigger rushers in the East, like Agim and Joe Gaziano. Murphy may have enough value to develop but currently looks to have a liability in his anchor that will be difficult to ignore.
Alex Highsmith, EDGE, UNC-Charlotte
I liked Alex Highsmith as a Day 1 winner on weigh-ins alone; on Day 2, the film really backed up what you see coming out of the weight room. Highsmith is an urgent and dynamic rusher who was more willing to rush through and inside of tackles than I expected off of his deployment at Charlotte. Highsmith won with an inside spin on Charlie Heck and a bull rush on Jake Benzinger during one-on-ones, and both Heck and Benzinger are some of the better tackles for the East. Highsmith is showing out.
Joe Gaziano, EDGE, Northwestern
I'm glad to see Joe Gaziano — the Northwestern all-timer leader in sacks and general yeoman — finally get an opportunity to really rush the passer. Gaziano was heavily used in college in two-gapping responsibilities and with a square stance; here in St. Petersburg, he's getting strong-side EDGE rushing opportunities and looks more twitchy than you ever saw when he was a Wildcat. Gaziano is a Day 3 lock for a team that likes big ends and needs depth across the defensive line.
Auzoyah Alufohai, iDL, West Georgia
Auzoyah Alufohai is out-classed here at the Shrine Game, and that's okay. He has little juice to his pass-rush reps and when he tries to throw a pass-rush move, it typically falls flat at the hands of the best interior offensive linemen for the East. Alufohai is a developmental prospect who shouldn't have been expected to dominate at this level, and will require time in the league to cash in on his upside.