The first of several showcase games for NFL hopefuls was played at Tropicana Field on Saturday, and as expected, some young men rose to the occasion, while others faltered. In the end, the West wound up with a 28-13 victory over the East, but this all-star game was all about individual performance in anticipation of the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.
Following the Tim Tebow debacle with the New York Jets, a lot of NFL eyes were on Heisman finalist Collin Klein of Kansas State. Like Tebow, Klein enters the draft with an unorthodox throwing motion but a fantastic set of running legs.
But also like Tebow, Klein is adamant about his abilities to play quarterback — as opposed to running back or upback on punt team, just to pull an example out of thin air — at the next level. Thus, the East-West Shrine game was seen as the first opportunity for Klein, by far the most decorated player on the field in terms of awards and accolades, to prove to NFL scouts that the 6-foot-5, 226-pound passer has what it takes to perform at the next level.
But Klein wound up leaving the game without giving those scouts any answers after completing just five of his 13 passing attempts for 43 yards and an interception. Obviously, after coming so close to the Heisman and then suffering a beat down at the hands of Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, Klein could have used some good news. Once again, however, it is back to the drawing board, according to the Associated Press.
“I felt pretty good. We were a little rough, made a lot of mistakes and penalties that kept getting us in bad down-and-distances,” Klein said. “But I think I got better and I learned a lot this week. We’re moving on.”
While he struggled, however, one of Klein’s former Kansas State teammates thrived for the West. Former K-State cornerback Nigel Malone returned an interception 30 yards for a score. Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne was the man who picked off Klein, but he was not done there. Hawthorne also recovered a fumble that led to a touchdown for a West defense that tallied four turnovers.
Offensively, the West — not to mention NFL scouts — had to be impressed by former Texas A&M running back Christine Michael. After racking up 844 rushing yards in 2009, Michael was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. However, Michael was forced to undergo season-ending surgery in 2010 following a cracked right tibia and he had struggled to reach the potential folks saw from his freshman year.
Supposedly fully healthy as a senior in 2012, Michael only took 88 rushes for 417 yards. The 4.7 yards per rush was a nice average, but the workload left a lot of people scratching their heads.
Unlike Klein, Michael left the Shrine Game having made a fantastic impression after rushing for 42 yards and a touchdown. He has the talent and could wind up a second-round pick following this effort.
Arizona’s Matt Scott hit Mississippi State receiver Chad Bumphis on a 57-yard strike that wound up being the only passing touchdown of the game.
Western Michigan’s Alex Carder also looked good, passing for 95 yards, although he did throw a late interception.
He will obviously need to continue to look good in pre-draft workouts, and so will Klein, if he wants to be drafted early.
These athletes will now turn their preparations to individual pro days ad the 2013 NFL Combine, which is being held Feb. 20-26.