Before we head down to Mobile, Ala. to kick off our coverage of the Senior Bowl, let's take one final look at some of the key match-ups we can expect in the East-West Shrine Game, which you can watch on NFL Network Saturday at 4 PM EST. The game features a number of intriguing prospects on both sides of the ball, and after watching each team practice throughout the week there are a few one-on-one battles worth highlighting heading into the game.
1. East OT Terron Armstead (Arkansas Pine-Bluff) vs West DE Wes Horton (USC)
At first glance, this seems like it should be a mismatch, right? Well don't overlook Armstead, who stood out as one of the top offensive linemen throughout the entire week of practice. The former SWAC star has quick feet and displays great movement skills as both a tackle and even possibly as a guard, where he could see a few snaps on Saturday. Horton has been a steady contributor for the Trojans throughout his career and has the length to give Armstead some trouble on the perimeter. That said, if form holds from the week of practice, Armstead should have the edge.
2. East CB Brandon McGee (Miami) vs West WR Keenan Davis (Iowa)
In a cornerback class that is pretty wide open but is inarguably chock full of talented players, Brandon McGee has flown a bit under the radar. That may no longer be the case after an impressive week in St. Petersburg. A versatile corner with top-end speed and athleticism, McGee showed good footwork and technique in practice. His week was highlighted by an acrobatic interception over tight end D.C. Jefferson (more on him later) despite giving up over seven inches to the Rutgers standout. Davis also did his part for the West this week, consistently winning one-on-one matchups in drills by making contested catches. Davis showed the ability to separate throughout the week, and was the most reliable receiver on either squad.
3. East OL Earl Watford (James Madison) vs West DT William Campbell (Michigan)
We had the chance to interview both of these talented players during the week, and both have Eagles ties. Watford, a Philadelphia native, is currently training with former Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Tra Thomas, while Campbell's early mentor during his time at Michigan was none other than defensive end Brandon Graham. Both players show similar traits for men their size, as they are both light on their feet and show natural athleticism for their position. Campbell is the more refined of the two, which he shows with exceptional pad level for the position. Watford, on the other hand, has shown that when he can finish blocks and play with a mean streak, it's hard to find a tougher match-up inside. This will be the battle I most look forward to in the trenches.
4. East TE D.C. Jefferson (Rutgers) vs West LB Keith Pough (Howard)
Personal favorites entering the week of practice, neither Jefferson nor Pough disappointed during the week of practice. Jefferson, a former quarterback who is in his fourth year as a tight end, is a rangy target who, while he is a bit stiff in and out of breaks, gives great effort as a blocker in both the run and pass games. Jefferson wasn't always targeted in the Rutgers pass game, but he shows ability as a receiver and displayed soft hands throughout the week in drills. Pough is truly a fun player to watch (and as we found out on the first day of practice, to listen to), with his explosive burst, fanatical pursuit of the football and physicality in his tackles. Pough is a straight-line player who may be at his best getting after the quarterback and chasing plays down from the backside. Watching him battle with Jefferson should be as good a reason as any to watch the action Saturday afternoon.
Final Thoughts: There were a number of players who stood out throughout the week that have bright futures ahead of them. Linebacker Gerald Hodges (Penn State) was all over the field for the East, showing good instincts and a high motor, tracking plays down from sideline to sideline. The running backs may offer the best pro potential, as Christine Michael (Texas A&M), Ray Graham (Pittsburgh) and Zac Stacy (Vanderbilt) all showed flashes throughout the week. The biggest competition for the running backs may have come from the safety group, with Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse), Jahleel Addae (Central Michigan), Earl Wolff (North Carolina State) and Cooper Taylor (Richmond) all looking to make an impact at the next level.