The 92nd East-West Shrine Game takes place Saturday in St. Petersburg, Florida (3 p.m., NFL Network). This college all-star game has produced current Eagles such as defensive tackle Beau Allen and kicker Jake Elliott among others. PhiladelphiaEagles.com will be on site to cover the practices starting later today. On Sunday, I scouted the offensive prospects. Here's a preview of the players to watch on the defensive side of the ball.
Top of the Heap: Trey Hendrickson (FAU)
A two-time All-Conference USA selection at defensive end for Florida Atlantic, Hendrickson won't have to travel far from home for this game where he can further improve his standing in the NFL Draft. At 6-4, 264 pounds, the senior from just outside Orlando, Florida may never be a star in the NFL, but I think he's a lock to stick in the league for a couple of reasons. First, he's a technician as both a pass rusher and a run defender, displaying a clear and precise plan with his hands when he's attacking blockers. Second, he's got the mindset of a pass rusher, which is as important as the physical traits. Hendrickson knows how to set up pass rush moves and how to counter once he's initially blocked. Lastly, his relentless nature as a pass rusher is infectious, and I think his intensity will shine through in the week of practice in St. Petersburg.
Practice Standout: Ejuan Price (Pittsburgh)
Undersized rushers like Ejuan Price go one of two ways at all-star events like this one when it's time for one-on-one drills. Either they get overwhelmed by the mismatch in size against some of the bigger offensive tackles in attendance, or they impress because of their explosive first step and ability to get past those big blockers. Obviously, I'm banking on the latter. Price, a former linebacker, stands just 6-0, 255 pounds, but his first step and quickness off the ball paired with his skill as a pass rusher make me think that he will win his fair share of battles during the week of practice and that he will be a name people will be talking about this time next week. The former linebacker was a team captain as a senior at Pitt, and despite his smaller frame don't be surprised if he gets an offensive tackle on his heels with one of his speed-to-power bull rushes this week in practice.
Most Productive College Player: Karter Schult (Northern Iowa)
For small-school players in the NFL Draft, there are two ways for you to get noticed. Either you have to be a physical freak with great size or outstanding athleticism, or you have to have posted eye-popping numbers at your level of competition. Schult has the second part down for sure. The senior started just two seasons for Northern Iowa (one of Carson Wentz's old rivals at North Dakota State), but posted 191 tackles, 36.5 sacks and 55 tackles for loss over 28 starts. That's outrageous production as a defensive end, and a lot of it came thanks to his high motor in pursuit.
Best Story: Bryan Cox, Jr. (Florida)
Whenever you're the son of a former NFL player, there's always a certain amount of expectations you have to live up to. Bryan Cox, Jr. had to deal with that his whole life as the son of former NFL vet Bryan Cox (who played in Miami, Chicago, New York, New England and New Orleans throughout his career). A former big-time recruit out of legendary St. Thomas Aquinas high school in South Florida, Cox has athletic upside and the versatility to line up at a couple of different positions. He wins with his first-step quickness and short-area burst coming off the corner. One of the bigger names in attendance, the production wasn't always there for Cox, but the former teammate of Eagles rookie Alex McCalister has always been a presence on that Florida defensive front.
Philly Connection: Jeremiah Ledbetter (Arkansas)
At 6-3, 280 pounds, Ledbetter has the body type that gives him the versatility to line up at different spots in a variety of situations. He lined up out wide as a defensive end, inside as a 3-technique defensive tackle and even over the center as a nose tackle in some subpackages. A good athlete for an interior pass rusher, Ledbetter has a solid motor and will look to improve his stock with a strong week of practice at the Shrine Game with more NFL coaching, which is not something foreign to him. His position coach at Arkansas? Former Eagles special teams coordinator Rory Segrest.
Rest of the Pack: Avery Moss (Youngstown State), Hunter Dimick (Utah), Deatrich Wise (Arkansas)
Top of the Heap: Josh Tupou (Colorado)
He may not necessarily be a fit for the Eagles, but Tupou is probably the best defensive tackle prospect at this game. A nose tackle with a strong anchor and a nasty demeanor, the four-year starter is stout against the run and flashes the ability to be disruptive against the pass. In a lot of ways he reminds me of a poor man's Danny Shelton, a former first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns.
Practice Standout: Joey Ivie (Florida)
The players who typically stand out at these games are the ones who win those one-on-one drills as pass rushers, and no one fits that bill more than Ivie. He only started one season for the Gators, but he's quick off the ball, knows how to use his hands and was fairly disruptive in the SEC as a senior. Keep a close eye on him this week, as the one-gap penetrator looks to help himself in the eyes of talent evaluators across the NFL landscape.
Most Productive College Player: DeAngelo Brown (Louisville)
You wouldn't normally expect a player who started just two years at his school to be listed as the "most productive" at an all-star game, but Brown has the numbers to back it up. The senior posted 107 tackles, 22 stops for a loss and five sacks during his time with the Cardinals. A strong run stuffer inside, Brown is widely known for his remarkable feats in the weight room, but his work on the gridiron deserves praise as well. I expect Brown to look pretty good when we get to the game next Saturday.
Best Story: Jason Carr (West Georgia)
Carr isn't just your typical "Johnny-try-hard" small-school player. A former big-time recruit who committed to Tennessee after a late push from Nick Saban and Alabama, Carr played one season for the Volunteers before Butch Jones tried to move him from defensive line over to offense to play tackle. That didn't sit well with Carr, and the two sides decided to part ways. Carr took the junior college route before transferring to West Georgia. With NFL size and athleticism, don't count out Carr as one of the surprise players of the week during practice.
Philly Connection: Matthew Godin (Michigan)
A one-year starter at Michigan, Godin has NFL size at 6-6, 294 pounds and plays to that frame. A strong run defender inside, I see Godin as a "plug-and-play" option in short-yardage situations in the NFL, and what he lacks in top-end athleticism he makes up for with strength and power at the point of attack. Godin grew up in the heart of Michigan and graduated from Detroit Catholic Central High School - a path similar to former Michigan defensive lineman Brandon Graham.
Rest of the Pack: Josh Augusta (Missouri), Ralph Green (Indiana)
Top of the Heap: Marquel Lee (Wake Forest)
A high school quarterback who developed into a three-year starter for the Demon Deacons, Lee isn't the most athletic prospect at the position, but he's probably the "safest" linebacker at this event from an NFL Draft perspective. Lee is a bit of a throwback thumper who can play on run downs but will have to prove to teams he's athletic enough to play in passing situations. He is a sound tackler who displays good instincts and play-recognition skills inside. I feel good about his ability to stick in the league because of his toughness and instincts at the second level.
Practice Standout: James Onwualu (Notre Dame)
While Lee is the "safest," I view Onwualu as having the highest upside of any of the linebackers this week. In high school, the Minnesota native played running back and safety. Upon arriving in South Bend, he turned into a receiver. Just three years ago, coaches asked him to switch to linebacker and he thrived, posting 145 tackles, 20 for a loss and seven ball disruptions as a three-year starter. He's explosive, rangy and can play in coverage. I think he will fit best in a scheme that allows him to "run and chase" at the linebacker position. Keep an eye out for this prospect during the week of practice.
Most Productive College Player: Calvin Munson (San Diego State)
At 6-1, 239 pounds, Munson found time to be extremely productive for the Aztecs while also pitching for the San Diego State baseball team. A pretty good blitzer with a tough, relentless nature who enjoys the physical aspect of the game, Munson has a lot of areas where he needs to improve but will get one last chance to prove his wares on the field after posting over 300 tackles and 36 tackles for loss in college.
Best Story: Jimmie Gilbert Jr. (Colorado)
Every year we see an influx of NFL prospects with extensive basketball backgrounds, and Gilbert certainly falls into that pool - just look at his family tree! His father (Jimmie Sr.) was a 6-9 center for Texas A&M and went on to play in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls. His mother, Nelda, played basketball at North Texas. His sister, Karla, was the team MVP as the starting center for A&M just a couple of seasons ago. The youngest Gilbert himself was a four-year starter on the hardwood in high school and still goes back to his dad's gym to volunteer with youth in the area around College Station, Texas.
On the football field, Gilbert was a pass rusher by trade for the Buffaloes as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. He has a long and wiry frame at 6-5, 230 pounds frame. He just looks like a basketball player with shoulder pads on running around and chasing quarterbacks. A potential strongside linebacker in the NFL, Gilbert will need at least one "redshirt" season to further develop his body for the NFL, but he has a great opportunity this week to show that he has what it takes to create his own legacy on the gridiron.
Philly Connection: Austin Calitro (Villanova)
Calitro isn't the best prospect on his team (he'll be at the Senior Bowl next week), but he's been a very productive player during his time on the Main Line. At 6-0, 245 pounds, Calitro is rangy enough to play sideline to sideline and big enough to handle himself between the tackles. He'll have a big stage to further prove his worth to NFL teams.
Rest of the Pack: Kevin Davis (Colorado State), Richie Brown (Mississippi State), Paul Magloire (Arizona), Hardy Nickerson (Illinois), Kenneth Olugbode (Colorado), Andrew King (Army), Javancy Jones (Jackson State)
Top of the Heap: Brad Watson (Wake Forest)
Watson (above, left) may never be a full-time starter on the outside, but he's got pretty good size (6-0, 194 pounds) to go along with some of the best ball skills of any defender at this event. A very productive run defender who was also a good blitzer at the college level, Watson could potentially even slide to safety in the NFL, but I think he'll get a shot at corner to start off. His combination of toughness and instincts will bode well for his pro future.
Practice Standout: Channing Stribling (Michigan)
Stribling will likely be one of the leaders of the "looks great off the bus" team at the Shrine Game, as his 6-2, 175-pound frame makes him one of the more physically imposing defenders at the event. The senior from just outside Charlotte, North Carolina has great length and is one of the best pure cover corners in this draft. I'm anxious to see how he does in one-on-one drills against the receivers. If he's able to stifle them at the line of scrimmage consistently, he'll have scouts buzzing all week long. If he gets beat early, he'll need to prove he has the top-end speed to play catch up.
Most Productive College Player: Aarion Penton (Missouri)
Penton is probably the most decorated cornerback who no one talks about in college football. The first-team All-SEC cornerback has started 36 games in his career and has the numbers to show for it. Penton racked up 153 tackles, 10 interceptions and 31 pass breakups in his career with the Tigers. His quickness in and out of breaks as well as his instincts in off coverage make him a good fit for both man and zone schemes at the next level, as long as coaches and scouts are willing to look past his height (5-10, 185 pounds).
Best Story: Treston DeCoud (Oregon State)
Treston DeCoud has taken quite the journey to being a two-year starter for the Beavers. The Louisiana native began his career at Chadron State, but moved on to junior college to try and gain exposure and move to a higher level of the game. It worked, as the 6-2, 209-pound defensive back got Pac-12 interest and transferred to Corvallis, Oregon with two years of eligibility remaining. He responded by posting 108 tackles, two interceptions and 15 pass breakups in 21 starts. DeCoud, the cousin of veteran NFL safety Thomas DeCoud, could play a couple of positions in the secondary down the road, so this is a big week for him in front of NFL scouts.
Philly Connection: Nate Hairston (Temple)
Nate Hairston didn't have to travel as far as DeCoud on his journey to the game, but the Frederick, Maryland native certainly proved that he can hold his own in the secondary in his brief time on defense. A receiver through the end of the 2014 season, Temple's coaches felt that Hairston's size (6-0, 185 pounds), athleticism and ball skills would be better served on defense. Hairston responded in a big way in his first year as a starter. The redshirt senior made a number of big plays at Lincoln Financial Field this fall, and is looking to prove that he has what it takes to stick on the back end of an NFL roster in 2017.
Rest of the Pack: Tyquwan Glass (Fresno State), Ashton Lampkin (Oklahoma State), Jalen Myrick (Minnesota), Fabian Moreau (UCLA), Jack Tocho (N.C. State), Tony Bridges (Ole Miss)
Top of the Heap: Xavier Woods (Louisiana Tech)
For my money, Woods may be the best prospect at the East West Shrine Game this year, and I'm very excited to see him in action. A good athlete and very reliable tackler, Woods is a four-year starter, a three-time first-team all-conference pick and was incredibly productive during his college career thanks to his ball skills, instincts and motor. Woods fits best as a free safety at the next level, and it wouldn't shock me at all if the former teammate of Paul Turner ended up at the Senior Bowl next week as well.
Practice Standout: Orion Stewart (Baylor)
When it comes to defensive backs, the plays that typically stand out most during practice are the ones with athleticism and ball skills, and Stewart can do both. The Texas native was productive in four years with the Bears, showing the quickness and change-of-direction skills to hang in man coverage with receivers and the ball skills to finish on throws down the field. With 12 career interceptions (along with another 14 pass deflections), Stewart could be one of the biggest standouts during the week, regardless of position.
Most Productive College Player: Tedric Thompson (Colorado)
Twelve career interceptions for Stewart is impressive, but how about 13? That number belongs to Thompson, who also racked up 26 pass deflections in four years with Colorado. His 39 ball disruptions (combining interceptions and pass deflections) lead the safety group at the Shrine Game, and his aggressiveness downhill along with his above average instincts lead me to think he could develop into a potential starter at the free safety spot down the road.
Best Story: Weston Steelhammer (Air Force)
Forget the fact that he is a three-time all-conference player, a third-team All-America and was recruited to play two sports at the Academy out of high school (baseball and football). I couldn't leave Steelhammer off this list. "Weston Steelhammer!" Best name in the country, by far. The Louisiana native was very productive for Air Force throughout his career as a three-year starter, and gets to prove his mettle on the gridiron after passing a survival training course and an astronautics course last summer in preparation for life after football.
Philly Connection: Delano Hill (Michigan)
Woods is my favorite player from the safety class, and I think Thompson is a better prospect as a centerfielder, but Hill may be my favorite pure strong safety at this year's Shrine Game. A confident run defender who runs the alley with discipline and sound tackling technique, Hill is also an effective press coverage player that can be relied on to cover tight ends in the NFL in time. His secondary coach at Michigan? None other than former Eagles safety Mike Zordich.
Rest Of The Pack: Randall Goforth (UCLA), Leon McQuay III (USC), Jamal Carter (Miami), Damarius Travis (Minnesota), Fish Smithson (Kansas), Dymonte Thomas (Michigan), Jadar Johnson (Clemson)
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.