ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Although it wasn't a full-pad practice, a pair of offensive players stood out during the West team workout Tuesday afternoon. Texas A&M running back Christine Michael and Nevada tight end Zach Sudfeld both showed why they are considered among the top prospects at their respective positions at this year's Shrine Game.
With Cyrus Gray in the NFL and following a successful rehab from a 2011 knee injury, Michael was poised for a big senior season, but a few factors held him back, including some attitude issues that landed him in new head coach Kevin Sumlin's doghouse. Nonetheless, Michael is taking advantage of his time in St. Petersburg so far this week and showing why he was so highly thought of entering the year.
Michael, who is no stranger to the weight room, runs low to the ground with good pad level and lateral agility to make strong cuts, keeping defenders off balance with quickness and power. He also finished every carry with conviction during practice, running hard and giving full effort. Although the attitude and coachability questions are still there, Michael has shown this week that from a physical skill-set standpoint, he's NFL-quality.
With UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria questionable the rest of the week due to injury, Sudfeld has a chance to prove he's the best tight end prospect on the West squad. At 6-7 and 255 pounds, he is a large target, shows natural receiving skills and the ability to watch the ball into his hands. Sudfeld lumbers a bit off the line of scrimmage, but he shows his athleticism once he gets going, accelerating in-and-out of his breaks and creating some separation from linebackers or safeties. Regardless of Fauria's status the rest of the week, Sudfeld might be the best tight end prospect in St. Petersburg this week.
West Practice Notes:
- The cornerback group on the West squad has been interesting to watch through two days. With a lot of talent, it's not easy for any one guy to stand out, but Ohio State cornerback Travis Howard has been better than expected. While his game tape is inconsistent, he has looked much more athletic and fluid this week -- with good length and leaping ability to make plays on the ball. The Big Ten has a good competition going at cornerback between Howard, Terry Hawthorne (Illinois) and Micah Hyde (Iowa).
- Staying at the cornerback position, Oklahoma corner Demontre Hurst received praise on multiple occasions for his aggressiveness to break up passes during 7-on-7 drills. He broke quickly on plays in front of him and arrived with a physical thump to knock the ball away. However, this aggressive nature also got Hurst in trouble at times when he bit on double-moves and was beaten deep.
- Joining Fauria as “questionable” the rest of the week is West Texas A&M offensive tackle Manase Foketi, who didn't practice on Tuesday due to a pulled right calf. Both of these prospects are considered day-to-day. A Kansas State transfer, Foketi entered the week as arguably the top offensive line prospect participating in the Shrine Game, but this injury won't help his case.
- A riser after Monday's practice, Mount Union wide receiver Jasper Collins showed the same polished routes and excellent foot quickness in his breaks on Tuesday, creating space on short, intermediate and deep routes. However, he struggled to consistently catch the ball, allowing a few balls to bounce off his hands and hit the ground. Projecting as more of a possession receiver at the next level, his ability to finish and complete the catch is crucial to his draft value.