Started in 1925, at Kezar stadium in San Francisco, California, the East-West Shrine game created it’s first stage for young college stars to be seen in an all-star arena of sorts. Where players from lesser known school’s could battle head-to-head with those from perennial powerhouses.
Now located in St. Petersburg, Florida, both the stage and talent have become bigger, faster and stronger. But one thing has stayed the same over the years. There are always diamonds amongst these rough edged rosters found every year.
Last year over 90 players, who participated in the East-West game were invited to NFL rosters among the league. With over 70 prospects making it on to a final roster.
The Philadelphia Eagles are no different then any NFL team. Leaving no stone unturned, they spent the week in Florida last year, and every year since the start of the organization. The Eagles have seen their fair share of talent emerge in the Shrine game, most recently notable is Stanford alum, Aziz Shittu. The 2016 Tennessee Titans were one of those teams to strike gold in this game, with rookie stand out Tajae Sharpe. C
One the 21st of January this year, the Eagles may be once again looking for another under-the-radar talent. Here are 6 players that the front office may have their eyes on.
WR Stacey Coley:
A 6’1, 185 pound wide receiver out of the University of Miami, Coley was considered a top recruit at his position coming out of High School. After being named to the true freshman all-America team (1st team), he was off to a great start in his young career. Although nagging injuries plagued Coley through out his years at Miami, he would be named to the all ACC team 3 separate times in 2013, 2015, and 2016 ,and would be considered the Hurricanes biggest threat.
Equally dangerous at both the slot, and on the outside, Coley would lead his team with 63 catches for 754 yards and 9 touchdowns. Those are pretty good numbers considering the amount talent surrounding Miami’s offense.
He would end his career with Miami, catching 166 passes (2nd in team history) , 2,218 yards (Fifth in team history), and 20 touchdowns (tied for fourth in team history). If that wasn’t impressive enough, he finished 6th all time in all purpose yards, with 3,810 total yards.
CB Channing Stribling:
At 6’2 and 175 pounds, this Michigan Wolverine has the length to cover bigger receivers on the outside and plays with the grit of a 220 pound safety. Both solid in coverage and in the run game, Stribling had 3 tackles for loss and a sack this season, to go along with his 29 tackles and 4 interceptions. He returned the first of his four picks for a touchdown.
With names like Jabrill Peppers and Jordan Lewis to share a defensive backfield with, it was easy to fly under the radar. But it is safe to say Stribling was a big part of that Wolverine defense. A defense that held opposing offenses to a mere 135.9 yards a game.
He would finish his Wolverine career with 6 interceptions, and a forced fumble. Which makes the thought of the aggressive DB playing in Philadelphia very intriguing.
RB Marcus Cox:
To say this 5’10, 205 pound running-back out of Appalachian State is explosive, wouldn’t do him justice. This Sun-Belt student athlete of the year candidate is down right nuclear. The Dacula, Georgia native rushed for 1,015 yards on 158 attempts and 9 touchdowns last season..even after missing 4 games with a quad injury. Needless to say, Cox was a threat to score every time he touched the ball (which was often).
With a smooth stride, quick feet and raw strength, Cox was a nightmare on Saturdays. In 2015 he was one of only two running backs to rush for over 100 yards against the Clemson Tigers. The other being the highly decorated Dalvin Cook.
In 45 games he rushed for 5,103 yards on 901 attempts, averaging 5.7 yards a carry and scoring 52 touchdowns. Add to it his 91 receptions for 1,011 yards and 9 touchdowns and you have a prospect with the potential to change the look of any backfield. Eagles anyone?
Other notable players: QB Cooper Rush (Central Michigan), RB De’Veon Smith (Michigan), WR Kermit Whitfield (Florida State), OT Dan Skipper (Arkansas), DE Bryan Cox (Florida), DE Ejuan Price (Pittsburg) .
WR Trey Griffey:
Yes, That Griffey! The son of baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr, Trey looked to make his own legacy with the Arizona Wildcats. The 6’2, 209 pound wide-out is a big bodied, big play threat waiting to happen. The problem was the waiting. Between inconsistent quarterback play and an emphasis on running the ball in Arizona, Griffey’s Opportunities were few and far between.
Modest numbers in his career, 79 receptions for 1,241 and 6 touchdowns aren’t anything to sneeze at, but they aren’t the numbers that scream “potential star”. Despite this, he did average 15.7 yards a catch and has 15 plays of 20-plus yards, including a longest of 95. The big-play ability is evident and a chance to shine at the Shrine game could be just what Griffey needs.
Also impressive, like his Dad, he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners to play center field. So the athleticism and potential of a star is there.
CB Ahkello Witherspoon:
This 6’2, 195 pound, California native didn’t even play football until his senior year in high school. Prior to this, he was a soccer star and could have easily been playing in college instead. Luckily for us, and more so Colorado University, he chose to stay with his new love.
The 2016 all Pac-12 conference 2nd teamer was a cognitive part of the Buffalos’ defensive success. Leading the nation in pass break ups (21) and 2nd in the nation with 22 passes defensed, Witherspoon was the closest thing to shut-down corner his team could ask for.
Ahkello had a pass break up in 11 of 12 games played, with a high of 4 against Utah. His lone interception on the year couldn’t have come at a better time. Picking it in the end zone at the end of the game to seal a 41-38 win over long time rivals, the Oregon Ducks.
He has great hip movement, good feet, good top end speed, and plays with a nasty streak. Something that should get the attention of Birds’ fans.
RB Joe Williams:
This Allentown, PA native is a complete monster. At 5’11, 210 pounds and running an unofficial forty time of 4’35, this Utah Ute had defensive coordinators holding their breath every time he touched the ball. Smooth in his movement, cut capability that can shake the best of em’, and raw strength at the point of contact. These are all attributes that almost paint the picture of a younger Le’Veon Bell. Big words, but watch the tape.
This year after starting the first two games of the season, Williams shocked the football world by abruptly retiring..only to return on October 11th after the injury bug plagued the Utah backfield.
In 8 games this season, he rushed for 1,407 yards on 210 attempts and 10 touchdowns. This surge included a staggering 1,110 yards in the last six games, where he averaged 185.0 yards a game. Against the Washington Husky dominant defense, he rushed for 172 yards, only for that game to be overshadowed by his 29 carries, 332 yards and four touchdowns against The UCLA Bruins.
Needless to say Joe Williams is the type of prospect that could really help evolve at Philadelphia Offense lacking play-makers.
Other notable players-RB Dare Ogunbowale (Wisconsin), OT Sam Tevi (Utah), DE Avery Moss (Youngstown state), DE Deatrich Wise JR. (Arkansas), ILB Kenneth Olugbode (Colorado), OLB Stevan Taylor (Houston), QB Gunner Kiel (Cincinatti)
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports