Scouting the GridIron and Paradise Bowl

A pair of All-Star games take place this weekend when both the Grid Iron Classic and the Paradise Bowl in Utah kick-off Saturday. While each game pales in comparison to the importance of the Senior Bowl, it does offer lesser-known prospects an opportunity to show their stuff in front of scouts.

In the GridIron Classic, a pair of overlooked I-A wide-outs will garner attention on Team Florida as DeAndrew Rubin of South Florida and Iowa's Clinton "C.J." Jones both possess the size/speed numbers scouts look for in a slot receiver and each performed well as a senior. Linebacker Khalid Abdullah gets a chance to perform at a higher level of competition after what was a solid week of practice and a better game in the Cactus Bowl, and the Mars Hill product is starting to gain more attention from the league. Tim Love of Harding can only hope to perform as well as his college teammate Floyd Black did at the Cactus Bowl as he moves up to this level of competition. Another defender to watch is Ken Jones of South Carolina State. A terrific athlete that made the right move by returning to college for a fifth season when the opportunity afforded itself, Jones is a fierce pass rusher who must prove he can play against bigger, stronger offensive tackles.

Arkansas State offensive lineman Gary Johnson, a disappointing non-invitee to the Senior Bowl, has a shot to impress scouts even more after what was a productive senior campaign, while late arrival Dwight Beard of William and Mary is another small school lineman with a chance to elevate his draft status. Formerly an offensive tackle, Beard moves into guard tomorrow and may even get the chance to play center, a position many think he's best suited for at the next level. Unfortunately, the player Beard replaces, Chuck Klabo of North Dakota State, suffered a leg injury during the week and will not play. A solid small school sleeper, Klabo stood to benefit from a good performance all week.

Team USA on the other hand offers a lot of small school skill players. Fresh off helping his team win another national title, Grand Valley State quarterback Curt Anes will have his work cut out for him throwing against the likes of Vanderbilt's Rushen Jones and Will Hunter of Syracuse, but he'll have several solid pass catchers at his disposal. East Tennessee State receiver Cecil Moore is highly ranked and should benefit from a good game while many will be watching diminutive running back Ian Smart of CW Post, one of NCAA's most prolific ball carriers last season.

Unfortunately, the Grid Iron Classic has not gone off without a hitch this week with all the grumbling and finger-pointing coming into the game. Sponsored and supported by the NFLPA, the game has seen several highly ranked prospects have their invitations withdrawn, to the dismay of many.

In one specific instance a highly rated linemen (first-day pick) was notified he would be uninvited due to monetary concerns of the game. After he offered to pay his personal expenses in order to get pre-draft exposure in front of scouts, the organizers have yet to respond to him and at last count the number of players that had their initiations pulled was believed to be in the double digits.

The Paradise Bowl is played for the second time tomorrow and, although the rosters are filled with fringe free agent prospects, it also offers a good amount of small school talent.

The Mid West squad offers several solid developmental linemen including the aforementioned Floyd Black of Harding. Mammoth Ryan Terry of Miami-Ohio will also play and needs a dominating performance to jump into the late rounds, while Buck Rasmussen of Nebraska-Omaha is also a defender to watch. They have a strong receiving core which features the incredibly productive Willie Ponder of Southeast Mizzu State as well as David Kircus of Grand Valley State while the quarterback is Eastern Illinois passer Tony Romo, who's been said to be moving up draft boards. Another wideout to watch is Jermaine Lewis of Western Michigan, a terrific athlete that moved from safety last season and has seemingly taken well to his new position. Lastly, there are two interesting stories to watch from this side. Running back Arlen Harris transferred to Hofstra from Virginia in 2002 but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA and never played last season. A nice-sized runner who's been productive when healthy, he stands to gain from tomorrow. In addition, keep an eye on kicker MacKenzie Hoambrecker of Northern Iowa who made 89% of his field goals last season, including a perfect two-for-two from over fifty with a long of 59 yards.

The roster of the West looks more like a farewell to senior players of Utah's universities rather than a collection of possible pro talent. Cal-Davis offers a pair to keep tabs on as receiver Michael Olivia is a nice-sized pass catcher that makes a lot of plays down the field while Michael Gross offers size on the offensive line and looks to be a practice squad player. Finally, Casey Fitzsimmons is a solid tight end that can also long snap, which may find him a spot at the next level.

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