The 81st Shrine Game: East practice
Bruce Gradkowski was the player who wowed the scouts the earliest by excelling at the passing drills. The quarterbacks coach asked the players to call out a part of the receiver's body before he threw the ball and hit them there five times in a row. Gradkowski was up to eight times in a row by unofficial count while no other quarterback reached five. Tavaris Jackson had a difficult time adjusting to the speed of his receivers and missed many throws by only a few feet. Several wide receivers benefited from Jackson's errant throws by making great catches. The most impressive of the skill position players on the day was Wisconsin receiver Brandon Williams. Williams displayed fantastic athleticism at every opportunity and caught everything thrown in his direction. His collegiate teammate, Jonathan Orr, also practiced well running good routes and making strong plays on the ball. Orr also demonstrated good hands and had neither drops nor body catches throughout the practice. The best route runner was Western Michigan receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings, however, made several body catches and appears to lack the speed to get open without a perfect route. Both East tight ends Cooper Wallace and Matt Henshaw had solid practices as well. On a day when the East's offensive line was destroyed during scrimmages and one-on-one drills by their defensive line counterparts they can take some solace in knowing that the most impressive player of either practice was LSU offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth dominated everyone he faced all day and was very popular with most of the teams in attendance after practice was over. The only other offensive linemen that stood out were Wisconsin center Dominic Raiola and South Carolina tackle Jabari Levey, who both showed good speed and quickness but played too upright. Defensively, the standout on the East squad comes again from Auburn University, and again plays defensive tackle. Tommy Jackson was unblockable during lineman drills and was constantly disrupting the offense during scrimmage. After practice Jackson spoke with a scout from the Philadelphia Eagles for almost half an hour. Linebackers Rocky McIntosh and Anthony Schlegel, from Miami and Ohio State respectively, both looked good in pass coverage. Notre Dame linebacker Brandon Hoyt struggled against the pass, however. Alabama safety Charlie Peprah was the class of the defensive backs. Peprah displayed an explosive break on the ball and showed great speed in all directions. Pittsburgh defensive back Josh Lay showed a nice recovery but was a half step slow in reacting to the routes. Army defensive back Dhyan Tarver had difficulty in transition and was badly beaten by double moves several times. Dion Byrum, from Ohio, also had difficulty staying in his backpedal and appeared to be more of a side shuffler. Overall, the East team appears to be solid with good athletes at all positions. Much of scrimmage was lost due to an abundance of bobbled snaps but that is to be expected on the first day of practice. With their first day jitters behind them the offensive players should be a little more comfortable playing next to each other and have more productive practices for the rest of the week.
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