2014 Shrine Game: Defensive line prospects shine on Tuesday

By Dane Brugler | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

Louisiana Tech DT Justin Ellis hasn't disappointed scouts so far in practice.  (USATSI)
Louisiana Tech DT Justin Ellis hasn't disappointed scouts so far in practice. (USATSI)

More Draft: 2014 NFL Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Latest news | Underclassmen

ST. PETERSBURG -- With the East practices moved indoors due to rain, NFL scouts and those in attendance were eager to see the West squad in the afternoon, especially with Romeo Crennel's group in full pads for the first time this week. And while the quarterbacks struggled, several defensive line prospects stood out on Tuesday.

Entering the week, my top defensive tackle prospect participating this week was Louisiana Tech DT Justin Ellis (6-2, 351) and he hasn't disappointed so far. He used his active hands and quick feet to beat blockers during drills, putting spin moves on Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard and also steamrolling him on a few occasions. To no surprise, Ellis weighed in as the heaviest prospect here at 351 pounds and he uses that girth well to bully blockers and surge through the line of scrimmage.

UCLA DE Cassius Marsh (6-4, 254) also had a good day, including a strong finish in the final drills of the day that had his teammates chanting his name. For a tall, well-built athlete, he showed very good movement skills and was fast to react off the snap, winning with quickness and strength off the edge. Marsh flashed his nonstop motor and finishing attitude to make plays away from the line of scrimmage and fight through the whistle. As he showed at UCLA, when the flip is switched and he's playing motivated, Marsh is a disruptive force and tough guy to handle 1-on-1 at the line of scrimmage.

While he's not as polished as Ellis or Marsh, Bloomsburg DE Larry Webster (6-6, 249) has an athletic and intriguing skill-set that is tough to ignore. He displayed excellent quickness, natural bend and the flexibility to play in space and win with speed off the edge. Webster, who starred for four years on the basketball court in college, needs to get stronger and add meat to his lean, lanky body type, but I expect Webster to essentially take a “redshirt” year as a rookie to take advantage of a NFL weight room and pro coaching. His future in the league is likely at linebacker or maybe even tight end, but regardless, he has exciting potential.

Other practice notes:

  • With only 11 catches in 2013, BYU TE Kaneakua Friel (6-4, 263) has been more flash than substance over his career and those raw qualities have showed in practice. He has looked sluggish in drills and hasn't shown much burst in his breaks, lacking any type of route urgency. Friel received heavy attention from coaches on Tuesday regarding his routes and timing in drills.
  • Ball State QB Keith Wenning (6-2, 219) isn't quite on the same level as Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo or Cornell QB Jeff Mathews on the East side, but he's separated himself as the top quarterback on the West squad. While he lacks a howitzer, Wenning's arm strength is good enough and his placement and timing has been top notch, despite a light afternoon wind. While not a lock to be drafted, Wenning has certainly helped himself through two days of practice.
  • Pittsburg State has a pair of prospects in St. Petersburg this week competing on the West team and both have turned in positive results so far. WR John Brown (5-10, 175) has displayed excellent quickness in his breaks with strong cuts and focus to finish catches. On defense, LB Nate Dreiling (6-3, 236) plays tall, but he has a flexible lower body and showed obvious instincts during drills. Both Brown and Dreiling have helped their chances of getting drafted through two practices.
 
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