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Shrine Bowl Players Who Improved Their Stock

by Zachary Somma


Photo courtesy of Shrinebowl.com.


The 2024 East-West Shrine Bowl concluded on Thursday after a great week of practices as well as a competitive and entertaining game itself. While the game lacked some of the big-name prospects they have had in the past (Zay Flowers last year, for example), it was still a fantastic opportunity for many “under-the-radar” guys to really make a name for themselves. So, here is one player from each position that really put themselves on the map as the 2024 NFL Draft draws closer and closer.


Quarterback


Taulia Tagovailoa (Maryland)


All-Star games like the Shrine Bowl are always a tough place for quarterbacks to shine for a variety of reasons. They have to learn new playbooks essentially on the fly while trying to build chemistry with completely unfamiliar receivers and linemen. So, while a poor performance can be excused a bit, a good showing should be viewed with high regard due to the circumstances. While the overall group of QBs this year had their struggles, former Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa probably showed out the most. A late addition after getting his waiver to play an extra year of CFB was denied, Tagovailoa followed a solid week of practice with an impressive showing in the Shrine Bowl game itself. He led multiple scoring drives and showed off his escapability and mobility. While there are still questions about his overall consistency, Tagovailoa showed his ability to run the RPO game effectively, and how he can continue to operate even when the play breaks down; two massively important aspects of the ever-changing NFL offensive landscape. Apart from Tagovailoa, former UCF QB John Rhys Plumlee also had a decent showing throughout the week as well, once again showing off his mobility and ability to throw on the move.


Running Back


Tyrone Tracy Jr. (Purdue)


Another late addition to the game, and after an impressive showing in the Hula Bowl, Purdue’s Tyrone Tracy Jr. continued to have a strong pre-draft process. A former WR with both the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Boilermakers, Tracy made the transition to running back this past season. While the obvious aspects of him being valuable in the receiving game are present in his game, Tracy demonstrated a good understanding of patience and vision as a rusher at the Shrine Bowl. He brings an element of speed and elusiveness as both a runner and a pass catcher, which is incredibly desirable for any NFL RB to have. Even if he won’t end up as a “bellcow” type of running back at the next level, Tracy proved that he could be a worthwhile contributor to a running back room.


Frank Gore, Jr., the MVP of the game, showed elite cut back ability and the powerful, low pads running style his dad showed for 16 seasons in the NFL. Though still a late round or a UDFA selection, Gore opened up some eyes this week for sure. 


Wide Receiver


Malik Washington (Virginia)


Maybe the standout offensive player of the week, Washington followed up a dominant 2023 season at Virginia with an impressive showing at the Shrine Bowl. Though undersized for the position (5 '8", 192 lbs.), Washington is a dependable pass catcher who combines good route running and leverage understanding with impressive speed and RAC ability. Washington routinely makes catches outside of his smaller frame, and can high point the football consistently as well. There are some Tank Dell comparisons to make to his game, which makes Washington stand out in an otherwise very competitive WR class. There are a few other standouts at WR as well from this year’s Shrine Bowl. Jalen Coker from FCS Holy Cross really put himself on the map with a strong week of practice sessions, and Oregon State’s Anthony Gould, another undersized receiver, showed off some good speed and receiving ability, including a punt return TD during the Shrine Bowl game.


Tight End


Dallin Holker (Colorado State)


Holker was relatively unknown before his outstanding performance against Colorado this season, a highly televised game early in the season thanks to the media storm surrounding Coach Prime and the Buffaloes. His effort was enough to get him on some scout’s radars, and he came through with an impressive 2023 campaign for the Rams, which earned him an invite to Shrine. Despite the presence of the highly regarded Ja’Tavion Sanders (Texas), Holker was arguable just as, if not more, impressive. While certainly not the same level of athlete, Holker is a dependable and well-rounded tight end who can operate well as both a receiver and a blocker. He has strong hands and has good ball tracking skills, and is able to make adjustments and tough catches. 


Offensive Tackle and Interior Offensive Line


Garrett Greenfield  & Mason McCormick (South Dakota State)


The South Dakota State Jackrabbits had a huge presence at this year’s Shrine Bowl, but especially along the offensive line as two of the best performing linemen both came from the FCS National Champions. Greenfield had a dominant week as a tackle and was supremely impressive in the 1 on 1 drills against the edge rushers. He has great footwork to go along with an impressive power profile. In a stacked offensive tackle class, Greenfield may have put himself in the conversation as a potential Day 2 guy with his showing at the Shrine Bowl. Along the interior, his teammate Mason McCormick was equally impressive. He played mostly left guard with the Jackrabbits, but also has some center versatility. Again, he demonstrated a surprising amount of foot speed along with some dominant power that made him a handful to take on in 1 on 1 drills. Apart from the South Dakota State players, Christian Mahogany from Boston College also had a really good week as a guard.


Defensive Tackle


Khristian Boyd (Northern Iowa)


Despite the overall defensive tackle class looking like it lacked depth heading into the All-Star game season, the Shrine Bowl had a number of guys prove their worth during the week, but maybe none more than Khristian Boyd from FCS Northern Iowa. Boyd was a menace in 1 on 1 drills, demonstrating his ability to win quickly and easily. He mainly utilized a push/pull maneuver that seemed to win almost every time he brought it out. Boyd will be an interesting player to monitor at the NFL Combine, and if he tests well enough, he could be a quick riser into Day 2 Draft conversations. Apart from Boyd, other DTs that really stood out include Jowon Briggs from Cincinnati, Logan Lee from Iowa, and Myles Murphy from North Carolina. 


Edge Rusher


Xavier Thomas (Clemson)


A highly touted recruit that ended up sticking around at Clemson for a long time, Thomas had become a bit of a disregarded name at the edge position in this draft class. However, that likely has changed thanks to his work at the Shrine Bowl. Thomas showed off his quick get off along with some impressive pass rush wins during the week in practice. He’s a big and strong player with a lot of playing experience under his belt. Thomas is another player whose combine testing numbers will be very interesting to see. Based on his Shrine Bowl performance, Thomas could prove to be a good rotational pass rusher at the next level. There were plenty of other edge rushers who impressed down in Frisco as well, such as Sundiata Anderson from Grambling State, Mo Kamara from Colorado State, and Eyabi Okie-Anoma from Charlotte.


Linebacker

Darius Muasau (UCLA)


It was a talented linebacker class for this years’ Shrine Bowl, but UCLA’s Darius Muasau was a highlight of the week. While his coverage acumen was average, Muasau was a force in run defense. He showed a great degree of acumen in his run diagnosis, and ability to shift through traffic to attack the ball carrier at or behind the line of scrimmage. In what is a quite weak linebacker class, a good NFL Combine from Muasau could vault him into a potential draft selection come April. Other standouts from the week were Indiana’s Aaron Casey and UConn’s Jackson Mitchell.


Cornerback


Jarrian Jones (Florida State)


Jones turned in an impressive 2023 season from a coverage perspective, despite not getting a ton of national attention for it. He continued to show off his skill throughout the week at Shrine, adding his name to an already impressive corner class. He has fluid hips and great movement skills that help him stay in phase in both man and zone coverage. Things should translate very well to the next level. Also, shoutout to Qwan’tez Stiggers, the cornerback who made national headlines for being the first player to make an all-star game to have never played college football, as he played last season with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. He had a good week both in practice and in the game as well, and he has a legitimate chance of getting drafted on Day 3 of this year’s Draft.


Safety


Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (Texas Tech)


Taylor-Demerson brought a high-flying and physical playstyle down to the Frisco this past week and truly stood out from the rest of the safeties. He not only had some of the best effort plays of the week, but he also demonstrated his knack for physical play and ability to assist in run defense quite well. His testing numbers at the Combine will be important to better determine his range for sure, but DTD definitely attracted some eyeballs to him with his time at the Shrine Bowl.

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