Sunday 2023 Shrine Bowl East Team Practice Report: Kei’Trel Clark and AJ Finley Dominate in the Secondary

    The defense -- led by the secondary and defensive line -- headlined the Day 2 practice report at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl.

    Sunday 2023 Shrine Bowl East Team Practice Report: Kei’Trel Clark and AJ Finley Dominate in the Secondary

    LAS VEGAS — The 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl practices moved into their second day on Sunday 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 Sunday’s practice.

    Sunday’s Shrine Bowl Practice Report Headlined by Secondary and Defensive Line

    On Day 1 of the East Shrine Bowl practice, A.T. Perry was a headliner. He was dominant that first day, and he did have a couple nice plays on Sunday. But Louisville CB Kei’Trel Clark was able to clap back, showing off his competitive fire.

    Clark isn’t the biggest cornerback. But he’s a twitchy short-area athlete who can stick to receivers and stay in their grill with his physicality. He had a pass breakup in team drills on account of his sticky coverage and also made a nice run-support play, coming downhill without hesitation on the boundary.

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    Clark’s aggression and authoritative mentality for his size are very appealing, but he wasn’t the only DB to make plays during the East’s practice. Houston safety Gervarrius Owens had a great interception in team drills, tracking a lofted pass and extending to snare it. And Ole Miss’ AJ Finley had two picks — both of them opportunistic plays on which he used his length to convert.

    Talent Clashes in the Trenches

    The battles in the trenches garnered the most buzz on Saturday. On Sunday, the talent once again shined through, with several prospects coming away with standout performances.

    The contingent of defensive linemen on the East Team is absolutely brimming with natural talent. Rice’s Ikenna Enechukwu was a constant disruptor on his second day. After struggling with hand placement at times on Saturday, he came back with a vengeance, engineering a violent swim in 1-on-1s and using his length to pry through gaps.

    Enechukwu is a high-energy athlete, but he isn’t the only one. Ferris State’s Caleb Murphy toasted Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu with his lateral agility on an outside-inside move in one-on-ones. Murphy was so quick, he didn’t even have to make contact with his opponent to penetrate the pocket. After struggling in coverage drills on Saturday, Murphy looked right at home as a pass rusher.

    The standout performers don’t stop there on the defensive line. Brevin Allen once again distinguished himself with his raw tools. He was also able to beat Aumavae-Laulu in 1-on-1s, this time wth a rip move that featured impressive ankle flexion.

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    Length and flexibility is a combination that Ochaun Mathis also proved himself to possess. Beyond that, he has the length to splice through gaps and plow through blockers. He flashed that ability on the interior, as did Texas’ Moro Ojomo. Ojomo was a handful in 1-on-1s. His natural leverage accelerates his elite power generation and makes him very hard to stall.

    The defensive line won the day for the East. That much is hard to dispute, but the offensive linemen weren’t devoid of strong reps.

    Juice Scruggs was once again a quality player, anchoring with ease against Keondre Coburn and Dante Stills. And UCLA’s Jon Gaines II, who played at both guard and center, showed off great balance and violent hands, at one point using independent hands to stall a rush from Brodric Martin.

    Quick Hitters

    • Deneric Prince is drawing more eyes with his play. He had a few very nice runs during Sunday’s practice. Prince weighed in at 217, but he’s surprisingly slippery for his size. More than once, he used swift footwork to navigate through congestion and also showed off good instincts upon encountering early rushers in the backfield.
    • It’ll take more than one day for Cincinnati DB Arquon Bush to make an impression at the Shrine Bowl, but he’s absolutely a player to watch after arriving on Sunday. Late in practice, he had a nice coverage rep on Antoine Green, who tests defenders with his explosiveness. Bush has the physicality and slot versatility to earn fans down the stretch.
    • Jadon Haselwood is an exciting prospect, with the size and athleticism to pique interest from teams. A problem for him on Saturday was focus drops. But on Sunday, Haselwood was not only able to separate, but also convert when the ball came his way. He’s starting to use his hands more naturally away from his frame. Now, all that’s left is to maintain consistency.
    • At 6’4 1/2″, 317 pounds, with 34 3/8″ arms, Boise State’s John Ojukwu has overwhelming size, and it checks out on the field. At the moment, playing controlled and keeping his balance at that size is an issue that Ojukwu will have to correct. But at a position where length is so important, Ojukwu has it in spades.
    • Speaking with Leonard Taylor in person, you hear how important the details of separation and route running are to him. He showed a little bit of that on Sunday and also converted at the catch point with strong hands. Taylor is a natural hands catcher who extends beyond his frame and uses his physicality to compound separation as well.
    • Fordham QB Tim DeMorat has an opportunity to get himself on the map at the Shrine Bowl. It’s still early, and he has more ground to gain. But one thing DeMorat did show on Sunday was underrated mobility for his size. He was able to roll downfield and use his scrambling ability to find space.
    • Sunday was the first day for Penn State WR Mitchell Tinsley. It was an up-and-down debut for the Nittany Lions product. Tinsley is a visibly crisp route runner, and his natural separation ability lifts his floor. He did have a focus drop on a designed screen, however. That’s something he’ll have to iron out in the days to come.
    • Louisville’s Trevor Reid is a player to watch in the days to come. He had a quiet Saturday practice, and he wasn’t perfect on Sunday. But Reid did flash the size-relative athleticism that earned him his Shrine Bowl invite. He was able to anchor effectively versus Caleb Murphy in 1-on-1s, and he displayed good recovery capacity against Jose Ramirez.
    • Anfernee Orji is explosive and physical. That much has been very clear through two days, just as it was clear on his Vanderbilt tape. He’s fearless as a run fitter and has the frame density to hold his own in congested areas. The Commodores product has put forth a complete showing at the Shrine Bowl thus far.
    • Michigan State’s Daniel Barker has quietly been very good in Las Vegas. At 6’3″, 241 pounds, he’s an underrated athlete for his size, with visible twitch as a route runner. But he also has the ability to extend beyond his frame to secure acrobatic catches and has soft hands when taking passes in stride over the middle of the field.

    Ian Cummings is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Ian’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @IC_Draft.

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