East-West Shrine Game practice report: Wednesday
Tennessee RB Tauren Poole has been the clear-cut top back at practice
Hawaii's pair of DTs have different styles, but both pleased scouts
Bryan Anger made a rare good impression at punter with his leg strength
The pace picked up on Wednesday, the final day of practice in pads at the East-West Shrine Game. More of the game plan was implemented for Saturday's contest, as the college players on hand in St Petersburg were put through the rigors of an NFL-type practice regiment. After Tuesday's practice produced some standouts, here are nine more players who put scouts on notice with outstanding performances.
Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee -- Poole established himself as the top running back at the Shrine Game on Tuesday, then further affirmed this opinion in the minds of scouts today. He displayed incredible quickness and elusiveness every time he touched the ball, and also showed the uncanny knack to get past the line of scrimmage and through open running lanes without being touched by a defender. In the open field he showed a burst of speed and the ability to catch the ball. It was another terrific day for the Volunteer product.
Darius Hanks, WR, Alabama -- Hanks' stock has been moving north since his terrific performance in the BCS title game, and he kept the momentum going in St. Petersburg. Hanks is not fast, rather a sure-handed possession wideout. He ran good routes all week and used his frame to box out defenders from the action. Hanks' 40 time will be the ultimate decider as to where he lands in the draft, but his play here has affirmed the opinion that he'll be a solid fourth receiver at the next level.
Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon -- Kaddu lined up at defensive end for most of his Oregon career, but looked effective in space when his athleticism was unleashed the past two days at linebacker. He's both quick and fast, displaying the ability to take away the corners from ball-carriers. Kaddu's coverage skills need polish, but he showed the ability to run with tight ends all over the field. There's always a need for versatile linebackers who can rush the passer and drop into coverage, a pair of skills Kaddu successfully displayed.
Vaughn Meatoga, DT, Hawaii -- Meatoga is an athletic big man who beat opponents the past two days with quickness and power. He was able to exploit lesser blockers off the snap with his first step and also showed power and leverage in his game. He's more a conventional defensive tackle in a four-man line, and scouts walk away pleased with Meatoga's display this week.
Kaniela Tulpulotu, DT, Hawaii -- The other defensive tackle from Hawaii, Tulpulotu showed many of the same skills as his Warrior teammate. He may be a bit more athletic, and easily chases the action in pursuit. Tululotu has set himself up for a rise up draft boards if he performs well in workouts.
Kyle Wilber, DE-OLB, Wake Forest -- An undersized college defensive end who many project to outside linebacker in the NFL, Wilber confirmed those projections today. When lined up in a three-point stance during practice ,Wilber struggled getting off blocks and rushing the passer. But when he was allowed to play in open space the story changed. Wilber displayed the athleticism and speed necessary to get down the line and pursue the action. He's fluid with a burst of speed and a sure-handed tackler. Wilber was never asked to drop into coverage, but showed enough skill to make scouts believe he'll be successful in the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.
Emil Igwenagu, TE-FB, UMass -- The small-school tight end has been the jack of all trades the past two days. Igwenagu has lined up at tight end, H-back and as a lead blocking fullback. He's done well at each position, showing a variety of skill. Igwenagu is a good athlete who catches the ball well and gets after blocking assignments to seal defenders away from the action. The ability to grasp the duties of new positions he never played in college has impressed scouts this week.
Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech -- Benford is slim in stature, but was persistent on the field. He ran terrific routes all day and displayed the ability to consistently come free from defenders. Benford caught everything thrown his way, displaying very sure hands. He did not show great speed on the field, but Benford left no doubt he's an NFL-caliber receiver.
Bryan Anger, P, California -- Punters don't usually impress at postseason bowl games, but then again none have the leg strength of Anger. To plainly state it, Anger kicked the stuffing out of balls every day. Watching his moon shots into the clear sky made eyes hurt. Anger now heads towards the draft as the top-rated punter.
Notes: The afternoon practice, which featured the West squad, was shortened by 40 minutes this afternoon. A steady rain turned into a downpour, which made it tough to get any real work done.
Cornerback Josh Norman of Coastal Carolina and Travian Robertson of South Carolina both performed well again this morning. Miami-Ohio guard Brandon Brooks and Michigan tight end Kevin Koger repeated their top performance from yesterday in the afternoon's limited practice. All four head towards Saturday's game with much higher draft grades.
Monday is the first day of practice for the all-important Senior Bowl. One player on the mend who won't be attending is fast-rising receiver Michael Floyd of Notre Dame. In a statement released to SI.com, the big pass-catcher attributed his absence to injuries suffered during Notre Dame's bowl game.
"I was honored to receive an invitation to the Senior Bowl and was looking forward to participating in the game. Unfortunately, the injuries I sustained during my bowl game in late December brought into question whether I would be cleared by my trainers in California in time to participate in the full week of practices. Due to my respect for both Steve Hale and the Senior Bowl, I did not want to make a last-minute decision so I regretfully declined the invitation. I am disappointed I won't be in Mobile next week, but look forward to meeting with the NFL teams at the Combine in February."