LAS VEGAS — The 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl moved into the fourth and final practice on Tuesday as 2023 NFL Draft prospects continue to try and impress NFL scouts and decision-makers. Let’s take a look at the East Team highlights from Tuesday’s practice.
Tuesday’s Shrine Bowl Practice Report Headlined by John Ojukwu and Antoine Green
It was the final practice of Shrine Bowl week, and it didn’t disappoint — at least, not for a few opportunistic prospects.
The last practice before the game is often more of a walkthrough, and such was the case today. The tempo was a little slower. There was an alleviated sense of pressure, as players worked to preserve themselves ahead of the main event. But nonetheless, several prospects took advantage of their chance to end on a high note.
The top performers of the day were both rostered on the offensive side of the ball. Many players had their bright moments, but Boise State offensive tackle John Ojukwu and North Carolina wide receiver Antoine Green were both truly phenomenal in the week’s final action.
What’s exciting about Ojukwu and Green ending on a high note is that both prospects have the natural tools. Ojukwu is an athletic 6’5 1/2″, 317-pound tackle with 34 3/8″ arms, 10 5/8″ hands, and a wingspan over seven feet. Green, meanwhile, is an explosive long-strider at 6’2″, 201 pounds, with arms nearly 33″ long.
Ojukwu, in particular, has dominating size. And it’s not hyperbole to say he was dominant on Tuesday. He kicked off the day with a brutal pancake in 1-on-1 run-blocking drills, swallowing up his man against the turf. Later in 1-on-1s, he effortlessly directed Ochaun Mathis outside the pocket with smooth footwork, good knee bend, and active hands.
Synergy was a common theme for Ojukwu in pass protection, which is very encouraging given that he struggled with balance earlier in the week. In team drills, he locked up multiple rushers with fast, steady feet and independent hands, including Derek Parish — a smaller, faster type of rusher that Ojukwu can struggle to lower his pads for.
It’s only one practice, and there weren’t as many reps to go around today. But every time Ojukwu came onto the field, he did something great. With his size, if he can continue to maintain leverage, keep his technique sound, and maximize his length with hand usage, he can be a very good player.
Just like Ojukwu, Green was opportunistic, both in 1-on-1s and team drills. He kicked off the day on an extremely strong note, beating the arguable East Team MVP Kei’Trel Clark on an end-zone fade. Green set up the route with smooth throttle control, then exploded to the corner and made a fantastic focus catch with Clark crowding him in recovery.
Later in the practice, Green won again in team drills, this time against Cincinnati’s Arquon Bush. Green’s explosive athleticism and length proved to be a deadly combination for opposing cornerbacks, but he’s very good at using pace adjustments to make the best use of space.
Green flashed all week, but Tuesday was his most complete performance yet. He won’t go nearly as high as his teammate Josh Downs in the 2023 NFL Draft, but there’s a good chance he upped his stock a fair amount in Las Vegas.
Other Standouts From Tuesday’s East Practice
One of the week’s biggest standouts on the East defense was Texas’ Moro Ojomo, who didn’t slow down on Tuesday. Right away, in 1-on-1s, Ojomo led off with a bulldozing display against UCLA’s Jon Gaines II. Gaines has been solid all week, but Ojomo’s elite power element was too much for him.
Ojomo’s ability to extend and drive with brutal physicality made him money this week, and winning against Gaines, in particular, was no small task. Wake Forest’s Kobie Turner also notched a win against Gaines in 1-on-1s, using his flexibility and active hands to splice around the interior blocker.
Elsewhere on the defense, Lance Boykin stood out, finally converting on his size with two picks. His non-elite athleticism was exposed at times throughout the week, but he’s undoubtedly a smart defender with actionable ball skills. And at 6’2″, 202 pounds, with arms over 32″, he has the length to squeeze passing windows and hawk on risky throws.
Boykin wasn’t the only defensive back to finish strong after an inconsistent week. Boise State’s Tyreque Jones also had a nice play during team drills. Managing space in the end zone, he was able to track the quarterback’s eyes on the scramble drill and blast Mitchell Tinsley at the catch point on a lofted end-zone throw, forcing an incompletion.
Jones needs to improve his man technique, as his 1-on-1s made clear. That said, his length and physicality serve as valuable foundational traits.
All these names aside, the strongest performer past the top two was Maryland WR Jacob Copeland. Copeland is clearly a high-energy athlete who can separate independently. Beyond that, on Tuesday, he was able to consistently convert on catches by extending beyond his frame. He beat both D’Shawn Jamison and Nehemiah Shelton in coverage, using his athleticism to create space and his coordination to finish.
- It was a rough week for Western Kentucky’s Brodric Martin overall, but he did have a nice moment in 1-on-1s against Tennessee’s Jerome Carvin, using his heavy hands to club the interior blocker aside. Martin’s length can be overwhelming when he applies it downhill.
- Dante Stills upped his win count on Tuesday. He used his athleticism, flexibility, and motor to rip past multiple blockers, including Oregon’s Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. One blocker got the better of Stills, however: Maryland’s Spencer Anderson. Anderson is well-leveraged and was able to corral Stills with a wide base and strong, active hands.
- BJ Thompson’s combination of length and explosiveness gave blockers trouble all week. But when he faced off against Louisville’s Trevor Reid, Reid was able to stonewall him in 1-on-1s with forceful, well-timed hands. Consistency has been an issue at times for Reid, whose pad level can be streaky. But when he’s on, Thompson has the talent to lock down rushers.
- Earl Bostick Jr.’s week was up and down, but the Kansas product had a monumental win against Ikenna Enechukwu, a lineman who can be a handful with his raw traits. On that rep, Bostick was able to effectively square up and latch against Enechukwu, and his strength showed up when properly applied.
- Nehemiah Shelton took his lumps all week. However, he achieved a confidence-building victory in 1-on-1s over South Carolina State’s Shaquan Davis. Davis has a notable size advantage over Shelton, but with his proportional length (32″ arms at 6’0″, 186 pounds), Shelton had the disruption radius and physicality to contest Davis at the catch point. Davis would later rebound, however, with a great end-zone grab in the corner.
- As mentioned earlier, Ojomo’s power was once again nearly overwhelming for blockers. One offensive lineman, however, was able to latch and absorb against Ojomo. That blocker was Luke Haggard. Haggard is on the lighter side, but he displayed surprising core strength at under 300 pounds, locking down Ojomo by keeping him within his frame.
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