The 2019 college football season is over but over the next few weeks, post-season bowls will be occurring. Mountain West alums are taking part in the Tropical Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, and the Senior Bowl. This post will focus on the East-West Shrine Game.
These events are used primarily as camps with a game at the end. Invited players get officially measured and weighed upon checking in. Then, there are a few days of practices with NFL coaches. The practice time for players is really at the heart of these events.
This is due to the number of time players and coaches can spend together observing play and honing their craft collaboratively. It gives the players a chance to be looked at by coaches who know the NFL game. What better way to know where and how to improve than to hear it from the source. Receiving this feedback can give the players an edge as they head into their training for the NFL combine or their respective Pro-day.
Finally, and somewhat related, this gives players a chance to stand out. If a player was overshadowed on his team by other talented individuals, wasn’t featured in his offense, or in the case of those in this article, playing in a Group of 5 conference, they have the opportunity to open the eyes of the coaches with their play and jump onto the radar before draft time. While the combine and pro-days are also good opportunities for this, the more chances of coaches seeing one play and compete, the better position they put themselves in.
Seven players from the Mountain West are participating in the East-West Shrine Game this year. Below we will provide a brief description of each player and what kind of showing they need to improve their draft stock.
Thanks to the team writers for giving previews of the respective players.
East-West Shrine Schedule:
- Monday, January 13 Practice: East: 1:10 - 2:50 p.m. / West: 4:10 - 5:50 p.m.
- Tuesday, January 14 Practice: East: 9:20 - 11:20 a.m. / West: 2:40 - 4:40 p.m.
- Wednesday, January 15 Practice: East: 9:20 - 11:20 a.m. / West: 2:40 - 4:40 p.m.
- Thursday, January 16 Practice: East: 9:20 - 11:20 a.m. / West: 2:40 - 4:40 p.m.
- Saturday January 18th: The Game: 3:00 PM (Eastern Time) Kickoff. Tropicana Field, St Petersburg Florida.
Note: The weaknesses or questions described about each player below aren’t necessarily the views of the contributors or site, but rather what could be questions or concerns NFL scouts or talent-elevators or the media have about them, which are still worth discussing as they can have ramifications.
WR John Hightower (Boise State)
Hightower is an electric receiver that fits well with teams that run a more progressive system. The former track star, can spread the field with his elite speed. Hightower isn’t afraid to run routes over the middle of the field and take hits. His numbers don’t stick out like other receivers because Boise State likes to spread the ball around. Boise State liked to utilize Hightower in the run game as well. I could see Hightower being a mid-round pick, but he will need to add some muscle if he expects to be a key contributor.
TE Park Houston (San Diego State)
Houston is a strong blocking tight end that has the frame to be in the NFL, but has some questions as a consistent offensive weapon. He ended the 2018 season with two touchdowns and seemed poised to breakout in his senior year. Houston was more conservative in 2019, but still was valuable in special teams and blocking on offense. Houston is on NFL scout’s radar, but is more likely to be an undrafted prospect picked up after the draft.
OL Daishawn Dixon (San Diego State)
Dixon’s work on the offensive line created space for Aztec running backs that should lad him on an NFL roster. He started most of the 2016 and 2017 season helping Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny to the second and first most rushing yards in a single season for SDSU. Although Dixon shines in the run game, he has not been as consistent pass blocker. Dixon will remind scouts that he has the size to compete in the NFL. He will most likely be drafted in one of the later rounds on the third day.
LB Kyahva Tezino (San Diego State)
Tezino had a breakout season in 2018 that put him on watch for the next level. Although the next season didn’t live up to his 8.5 sacks, Tezino proved he is a versatile linebacker that can contribute to any defense. He is everywhere on defense and consistently finishes plays. Tezino will need to show his aggression and ability to cover multiple routes.
LB Mykal Walker (Fresno State)
Check out what Matt wrote here.
K Dominik Eberle (Utah State)
Eberle sits at 3rd place in Mountain West Conference history for total points with 359. He was a perfect 167-167 on extra points in his three years as the main kicker for the Aggies. Like any kicker, the projections for him are late rounds or undrafted, nothing unusual.
STRENGTHS: Eberle’s accuracy is on point. He hit at a 79% clip throughout his collegiate career, ending with a conversion rate of 87.5% in his senior season. After all the changes made before last season, Eberle stayed the most consistent out of any Aggie sans injury. He ended his career with the most made field goals in MWC history.
WEAKNESSES: Making the jump up to the pros is never easy, especially for a kicker. The pressure put on you goes from heavy to back-breaking. Eberle, like any good kicker should, should work on kicking under pressure. The more comfortable he can get with thousands of people screaming in his face the better of he’ll be.
WHAT TO DO TO IMPROVE RAFT STOCK: Concentrate on what he already knows. Eberle is clearly elite with his accuracy. He can translate his kicking game to the next level with ease as long as he doesn’t get inside his own head. There’s no doubt he’ll impress at least a few NFL teams hungry for a kicker, and there are a LOT.
K Cooper Rothe (Wyoming)
Cooper Rothe came into 2019 with pretty high expectations for his senior year. Cooper Rothe was the Special Teams Player of the Year in the Mountain West in 2018. He had finished as one of the three finalists for the 2018 Lou Groza Award for the best kicker in the nation. So Cooper Rothe was expected to be Mr. Reliable for Wyoming in 2019 whenever the Cowboys needed a field goal or extra-point. However, that is not how it went.
In 2019, Cooper Rothe was 15/22 (68.2%) on field goals. That was his worst percentage since his freshman season when Rothe went 13/20 (65%) on his field goal attempts. Even worse, Cooper Rothe was 37/40 on point-after attempts. Far from automatic in 2019.
To the positive, Cooper Rothe has been a reliable kicker in the past, and most of his 2019 struggles were on longer kicks as Rothe was just 3/8 from 40-49 yards on field goal attempts. If he can get back to his previous consistency, Cooper can make those kicks as he has an NFL-caliber leg. He showed just that by hitting a 53 yard field goal in the Arizona Bowl.
A good week of practice and a good showing in the game could really help Cooper Rothe secure a deal as an undrafted free agent this spring.
Your Turn: What do you think each of these players needs to do show this weekend? Which do you see as legitimate draft prospects at this time? Let us know in the comment section.