In what proved to be a nail-biting contest that came down to a final onside kick, the West team eked out a win facing a late surge led by Brown Quarterback E.J. Perry. Although overshadowed by the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine game showcases a ton of talent that could potentially hear their name called in the draft. Here is my quick reaction East-West All-Star team:
QB | EJ Perry – Brown
It took until the final quarter, but EJ Perry unseated a very solid performance from Notre Dame’s Jack Coan to claim the top spot at the quarterback position. Perry ran the ball when he needed to — even lowered the shoulder once or twice — and took risks when necessary. There were a few wide open throws, but for the most part the defense didn’t make the final quarter easy. Perry showed some poise in the pocket, and some creativity under relentless pressure from the West. Skyler Thompson out of Kansas State also had a few pretty throws.
RB | Ty Chandler – North Carolina
The West team offensive line was incredible all game long, but that didn’t stop Chandler from showing off. The 210 pound back changes direction in the blink of an eye and has the speed to beat even the fastest East backers to the edge. He read the holes well and picked and plowed his way to 69 yards on 11 carries.
TE | Jelani Woods – Virginia
Woods is a matchup nightmare — straight up. He’s a great blocker, a savvy route runner and a physical specimen. He’s long and lean and has fantastic hands to boot. His most impressive catch was corralling a game-winning onside kick with one hand to secure West the win.
WR | Tay Martin – Oklahoma State
Tay Martin was the best receiver on the field. He ran fantastic routes, showed solid hands, and found the weak spots in the East’s zone. He made some impressive contested catches and was the go-to safety valve for Jack Coan — one of the reasons he looked so impressive.
WR | Tyquan Thornton – Baylor
Thornton is a long, rangy receiver and showed every bit of it in this game. He barely missed an incredible diving effort down the sideline — without the replay, you’d swear he caught it. I was impressed by his route running for such a long receiver, and he seemed to consistently work himself open. He only caught two passes, but looked really strong throughout the game.
WR | Samori Toure – Nebraska
With 5 receptions and 2 TDs, Toure stuffed the stat sheet more than any other receiver. He made a beautiful spin move to score, making the West defenders look silly.
This spot could also go to his teammate Josh Johnson from Tulsa, who added value as a kick returner as well, but I was a tad more impressed by Samori’s toughness and route running.
OT | Kellen Diesch – Arizona State
As solid as performances come, Diesch was a steady presence at left tackle for the West team. As a run blocker, he handled his assignments admirably, but where he really impressed was in his pass protection. The 6’7″, 300 pounder moved gracefully into his kick-steps and kept almost every defender he faced at arms length the entire game.
OT | Zach Tom – Wake Forest
The East’s offensive line was certainly less impressive than their opponent, however Tom was a bright spot on the right side. It’s not very often you see a 6’5″, 295 pound man running stride for stride with his running back, but there was Tom flying down the field to guide Pierre Strong Jr. to the house. Overall, Tom showed off his athleticism and lateral movement. He was also able to push the pile on running plays.
OG | George Moore – Oregon
Another standout from a mediocre offensive line performance, Moore was an absolute tank at left guard for the East team. In pass protection, he simply didn’t move. On run plays, he moved everyone in his path. With fairly weak tackle play beside him, Moore held his own and then some.
OG | Cordell Volson – North Dakota State
Volson was a road grater, simply put. I would hate to be the person who had to line up against him on any given day. Both North Dakota State line representatives really stood out today with their effort and attitude. Volson can really move bodies, and was a huge reason why the West’s run game was ticking so well in the early goings.
C | Dawson Deaton – Texas Tech
It was no secret that Dawson was the best center on the field. He didn’t miss a snap — that could not be said for the other candidates — and was a steady presence in the middle of the better offensive line. Having to line up against a whole lot of defensive tackle in Marquan McCall, Deaton anchored down and rarely gave up an inch.
DE | Brayden Thomas – North Dakota State
Although he didn’t wow off the jump, Thomas was relentless in his pursuit of the play all game. He was always around the ball and showed the ability to close the gap when forced to chase. I loved his effort on special teams, where he was the first player down the field. Thomas has the grit and motor that will make him a solid pro player if given the opportunity.
DT | Marquan McCall – Kentucky
Marquan McCall is a large, large dude. Any team looking for a run-stopping nose tackle will likely give him a second look. He just looked like a nasty, mean guy all game. If any offensive lineman he lined up against didn’t anchor down, he bowled them over. In the right scheme, he could be a bully.
DL | Deionte Knight – University of Western Ontario
As a fellow Mustang, and Canadian, it was awesome to see Knight light up the stage. Every snap, he looked like he had been shot out of a cannon. Always the first one out of his stance, the East team were forced to throw screens in behind him just to avoid a sack. The best player in USPORTS looks like a legitimate draft candidate. He’s quick, he’s long and at 6’4″, 275 lbs, he can play multiple positions along the defensive line.
LB | Tre Walker – Idaho
Probably my favorite player to watch, Walker was in on seemingly every tackle. He shed blocks really well and showed some impressive speed and awareness in zone coverage. It was obvious as to why he racked up 105 tackles last season.
LB | Diego Fagot – Navy
The defensive MVP, Fagot’s name was being called all game. There were times I thought he looked a bit rigid, but there is no denying his ability to make plays. As a downhill run defender, he isn’t afraid to stick his nose into the middle of the pile. Plus, he looked pretty solid in the flats.
LB | James Houston – Jackson State
A 3-4 pass-rushing LB, Houston made it clear how he racked up 16.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss this season. He’s quick and fluid and does a great job converting speed to power. I also loved the way he finished plays — a hard hitter that will get involved on any tackle he can.
LB | Nephi Sewell – Utah
An undersized, hybrid linebacker, Sewell really showed out in coverage. He was quick closing on the football and I liked his activity when in zone. His click and close was impressive and he looked like an explosive athlete all around.
Norfolk State’s De’shaan Dixon deserves an honorary mention as a 3-4 backer. Long and fast, Dixon looks the part of a modern-day edge rusher.
DB | Juanyeh Thomas – Georgia Tech
My goodness. Juanyeh Thomas laid a smackdown on the East’s receivers. Time after time this man came flying out of nowhere to make a thumping tackle. He’s the type of player that makes receivers not want to catch the football around him. He may have been the meanest player on the field.
DB | Kyler McMichael – North Carolina
McMichael was sticky in man coverage and made the best PBU all game. From the jump, he was mirroring receivers with ease and was a major reason why East quarterbacks were finding it so hard to pass the football down the field.
DB | Ja’Sir Taylor – Wake Forest
Taylor manned the slot and the outside for the West team and simply looked the part. He was fluid and reactive in coverage and came up in run support in a hurry when the opportunity presented itself. As versatility becomes ever important in the NFL, Taylor had himself as solid of a performance as you’ll see.
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire