LAS VEGAS — The 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl practices moved into their third day on Monday as 2023 NFL Draft prospects continue trying to impress NFL scouts and decision-makers. Let’s take a look at the East Team highlights from Monday’s practice.
Monday’s Shrine Bowl Practice Report Headlined by Kei’Trel Clark
Player performance always ebbs and flows across the board to a degree during all-star practices. But a few familiar names stood out from the crowd during the third East Team practice at the Shrine Bowl.
The defense once again laid claim to the practice’s biggest stars. And no one’s star shined brighter than Louisville cornerback Kei’Trel Clark. Clark has been good all week, but he’s only gotten better with each passing day. On Monday, he was near-dominant in all phases.
At 5’10”, 179 pounds, Clark isn’t the most physically imposing cornerback. But on Monday, he was absolutely sticky in coverage, using his technique, short-area athleticism, and tenacious mentality to suffocate receivers.
That same tenacity also showed up in run support. Not once — but twice — Clark exploded downhill, beat a TE block on a designed screen, and got a would-be stop behind the line. Clark’s talent is evident, but his competitive energy truly takes him a notch above as a slot DB prospect.
It was a good day for Louisville prospects in general, in fact. Outside linebacker Yasir Abdullah also impressed, particularly in team drills late in practice. He beat Grand Valley State OT Quinton Barrow on consecutive snaps with his deadly mix of explosiveness and bend, getting around the arc with ease. And on the other side, Trevor Reid pancaked Eastern Michigan edge rusher Jose Ramirez in one-on-ones with devastating power.
Speaking of devastating power, Texas defensive tackle Moro Ojomo has it. Ojomo impressed all week, but Monday was his best day yet. At 6’2 1/2″ and 293 pounds, with massive 34 3/8″ arms, Ojomo has a rare power framework as a defensive lineman. He used his burst and power to blast one blocker back 10 yards in one-on-ones. He routinely got displacement off the line with his tools.
If there was one interior offensive lineman who held strong, however, it was UCLA’s Jon Gaines. Gaines, who’s taken reps at both center and guard, has proven to have exceptional core strength, overarching balance, and hand quickness in reps this week.
One more offensive standout we have to mention is Wake Forest TE Blake Whiteheart. Whiteheart was phenomenal on Sunday, and he routed up several DBs in one-on-ones during Monday’s practice. He beat Bennett Williams with applied physicality, and he used his smooth athleticism and knowledge of leverage to beat both Tyreque Jones and A.J. Finley.
The New Guys on the East Team
The East Team added two new players to the roster on Monday: UNLV linebacker Austin Ajiake and Portland State safety Anthony Adams. Ajiake, a local product, spoke to our own Oliver Hodgkinson earlier in the offseason about how becoming a father had increased his urgency to set a standard. He wasted no time doing just that upon arriving at the Shrine Bowl.
Ajiake had a lunging pick in team drills early on. Playing in space at the second level, he tracked and pursued a crossing receiver to the boundary and undercut the pass from the quarterback. Despite finding himself in a contested situation with the boundary nearby, he was able to corral the ball and secure it, showing playmaking chops.
Adams also got on the board with a pick in team drills. His was more opportunistic than pure — it came off of a deflection by Clark. But Adams made a play when the chance came his way. More time during Tuesday’s practice should help him settle in with his man-to-man technique.
- While Clark was good today, he wasn’t unbeatable. He did have one rep in one-on-ones where Penn State WR Mitchell Tinsley bested him. Tinsley has underrated twitch for his size, and he was able to work Clark off-balance on a delayed corner route.
- A.T. Perry had another phenomenal showing at the Shrine Bowl. He’s a Day 2-caliber prospect, and he’s looked to be a tier above his opponents all week. Against Kahlef Hailassie in one-on-ones, Perry pulled in an insane one-handed grab, twirling around and protecting the ball from the ground with his frame in a display of stellar body control.
- Perry wasn’t the only one to get in on the one-handed catch action. Tulsa running back Deneric Prince reeled in a smooth one-handed grab in stride while taking a dump-off pass in team drills. He was able to quickly turn upfield afterward and get extra yards. At 217 pounds, Prince has underrated agility and receiving upside, and he’s shown that.
- Jalen Moreno-Cropper is a technician, and he’s a spry, explosive lateral athlete. That’s a dangerous combination, and Cropper has put it to use this week. After a strong Sunday showing, he was once again very hard to cover in one-on-ones and team drills. His nuance, along with his suddenness, constantly puts DBs in a bind.
- Keondre Coburn is one of the strongest defensive linemen at the Shrine Bowl. And with his explosiveness, he can be a handful. But Maryland’s Spencer Anderson held his own against Coburn, using his leverage, strong base, and composure to maintain positioning. Anderson, who’s taken reps at center and guard, has been steady for most of the showcase.
- Ochaun Mathis continues to ooze with potential. It doesn’t always translate live on reps, but Mathis’ upside is nearly unmatched. And the fact that he’s sometimes used as an interior lineman is representative of that. His overwhelming frame and 35″ arms imply alignment versatility. But he’s also very flexible at that size, and that’s helped him fight through blocks.
- At 5’9″ and 186 pounds, D’Shawn Jamison doesn’t quite have the coveted length that draws evaluators to other prospects. But he’s quietly been solid this week and capped it all off with a great Monday performance. His high-end short-area athleticism allows him to match and stick to receivers, and he’s been proactive at the catch point.
- B.J. Thompson spoke to PFN during interviews on Sunday and expressed a desire to log a vertical jump in the range of 40″. That explosiveness is evident on tape. Especially during team drills, he was able to consistently surpass the apex and stress tackles with his burst off the line. At 6’5″, 238 pounds with 34 3/8″ arms, that burst is exciting.
- Jacob Copeland can be more efficient as a route runner at times, but he had a terrific diving catch in one-on-ones versus Mekhi Garner. He was able to separate at the stem, and when the QB threw too wide to his back shoulder, he was able to extend beyond his frame and snare the pass as it entered his reach.
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