ST. PETERSBURG – With all 32 teams well represented this week for the East-West Shrine Game, the practices are when prospects have an opportunity to really impress scouts, coaches and other front office personnel. And on the East team, a few receivers have played well and stood out, most notably Coastal Carolina's Matt Hazel and Michigan's Jeremy Gallon.
Through three days of practice, Hazel has stood out as arguably the top performer at receiver this week with his focus and hand-eye coordination to catch everything with his hands. He lacks ideal strength and has been out-muscled at times, but he shows good body control to make smooth adjustments on off-target throws. Hazel isn't a burner, but he shows good acceleration and long strides to build up speed in his routes. On Wednesday morning, he put a deadly stop-and-go double-move on Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir and Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo found Hazel deep for a big connection that drew “ooh's” and “ahh's” from scouts.
One of the shortest players on the field, Gallon has probably been told he's “too small” his entire life, but he certainly doesn't play like it, displaying a competitive chip on his shoulder in every drill and each snap. Despite his shorter stature (5-foot-7), he has good-sized mitts and is a natural hands-catcher. Gallon has excellent controlled momentum in his routes to catch-and-go in the same motion to be a threat after the reception. As one scout put it on Tuesday: “I know he's small, but look at the production. The kid's just a football player.”
Other practice notes:
- Of the various scouts and personnel men who I've spoken to this week, none have reacted positively regarding Alabama QB A.J. McCarron's decision to skip next week's Senior Bowl in Mobile. All-star games rarely hurt a prospect's grade as scouts enter the week with a strong sense of who the player is already. But one scout told me that he was “looking forward to A.J. changing” his mind on him.
- These all-star games give non-FBS prospects a chance to get on the same field as players from the SEC, Big Ten and other power conferences to show they belong with the big boys. Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir has become somewhat well known, but several other “small school” players have held their own on the East team, including Delaware DT Zach Kerr, Cal Poly LB Johnny Millard and Richmond DE Kerry Wynn.