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2023 East-West Shrine Game Preview

Take a look at the Mountain West players participating this week.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Mountain West Championship - Fresno State at Boise State Photo by Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 college football season is over, but post-season bowls will be occurring over the next few weeks. Mountain West alums are taking part in the Tropical Bowl, the Hula Bowl, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, and the Senior Bowl. This post will focus on the 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 practice with NFL coaches. The practice time for players is really at the heart of these events.

This is due to the time players and coaches can spend together 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 understand 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, played 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.

This year, there are seven players from the Mountain West is participating in the Shrine Game. Below we will provide a brief description of each player and illustrate what kind of showing they need to improve their draft stock.

East/West Shrine Game Schedule (all times Pacific):

Note: All Mountain West players are listed on the East Roster.

Friday, January 27

  • 1:00-5:00PM Media Access to Players

Saturday, January 28

  • 8:15-9:45AM East Team Practice
  • 10:00-11:30AM West Team Practice
  • 2:00-5:00PM Media Access to Players

Sunday, January 29

  • 8:15-9:45AM West Team Practice
  • 10:00-11:30AM East Team Practice
  • 2:00-5:00PM Media Access to Players

Monday, January 30

  • 8:15-9:45AM East Team Practice
  • 10:00-11:30AM West Team Practice
  • 2:00-5:00PM Media Access to Players

Tuesday, January 31st

  • 8:15-9:45AM East Team Practice
  • 10:00-11:30AM West Team Practice
  • 2:00-5:00PM Media Access to Players

Wednesday, February 1

  • 9:00-11:30AM Media Day featuring Shriners Children’s Patients:

Thursday, February 2

  • 5:30-8:30PM 98th East-West Shrine Bowl: Allegiant Stadium: NFL Network

The Players:

OL John Ojukwu (Boise State)

The big man who has served as the Broncos’ left tackle for multiple years has matured, becoming a leader in the locker room over the summer of 2022. The biggest change is that Ojukwu has filled into his frame since arriving in Boise. At 6’6” and 315 lbs, conference and national media took notice prior to the 2022 season, placing Ojukwu on the Outland Trophy Watch List and having him as a Mountain West preseason 1st team selection for multiple publications. Beyond the gridiron, he has excelled in the classroom as he was placed on the Academic All-Mountain West team four times during his career. With two opportunities to bolster his stock, Ojukwu needs to show he won’t be beaten by skilled edge defenders and that he can move his frame around without much issue.

DB Tyreque Jones (Boise State)

As the 2022 season approached, we learned that Jones would be moving over to the nickelback position instead of his safety role alongside JL Skinner. It appeared like a good decision when it was first announced, and, in his new job, Jones was able to play a much bigger role in stifling the running attack of opposing offenses. There were multiple games, including their bout with Air Force, where he was in a zone and able to dissect any motion and see it in its purest form. Jones did miss two games late in the season due to an apparent ankle injury, but he served well as a utility man when on the field. For Jones, being able to show he can do a variety of jobs in the Shrine Bowl would add some positive momentum to his draft stock. For all the players that are coming from Boise State this draft cycle, it really comes down to can you do your job at a high level. All of these guys will be great in the interview process, but you don’t want to give scouts a series of bad film to be overly skeptical. Keep an eye on the Dallas Cowboys as the rounds get later and later in April.

RB Jordan Mims (Fresno State)

Jordan Mims spent the first 5 years of his career in Fresno, splitting time with Ronnie Rivers, and this year was his chance to really shine as his own back. On his own, he delivered a 1,400yd rushing season, and the 5th most touchdowns in the country. He finished his career on a truly high note, delivering an elite performance against Washington State in the LA Bowl, running for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has shown that he can run the ball between the tackles, off the edge, run sweeps, as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. While he shares a lot of the same skillset as his former backfield partner Ronnie Rivers, Mims does a bigger frame, which might lead to more NFL looks. I see him as a later Day 3 selection, but I would not be surprised to see him move a bit higher. His injury history may scare teams off, but he’s been healthy this year when it mattered most.

WR Jalen Moreno-Cropper (Fresno State)

After spurning multiple P5 programs to stay home, Jalen Moreno-Cropper lived up to his 4* billing at Fresno State. While he did struggle with ball security during his younger years, his last season showed far better skills at securing the ball, both as a runner and receiver. He lined up all over the field, and was used on gadget plays as an edge runner as well as the deep threat. His 1,093 yards was the most by a Bulldog receiver since 2014, but it still signals room for improvement. Right now, I think he’s hovering somewhere in the mid-rounds, but I could see that slipping to the back of the draft. The drops and fumbles of 2021 will definitely raise some eyebrows, so he’ll have to show his very best in bowl practices and work with the scouts to prove that he can be a reliable receiver.

WR Nikko Remigio (Fresno State)

Cal’s loss was Fresno State’s gain, as Nikko Remigio was a revelation on offense this year. His ability to play from the slot, as well as field punts, made him a versatile weapon, and his punt return against Boise State propelled the Dogs to the MW title. 2022 was his most productive year in college, and he led the team in receiving touchdowns. His speed and versatility would make him an asset to a team looking for a good slot receiver, a team like Green Bay perhaps, that is probably losing Randall Cobb to retirement. His numbers might not jump off the page, but he proved on multiple occasions that they can make something out of nothing, both in his punt return against UCONN and the miracle comeback TD against San Diego State.

DL Viliami Fehoko (San Jose State)

The Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year goes into the East-West Shrine game with a long-standing, force majeure reputation. Fehoko was essentially a multi-year starter with all the stats and recognition that goes with it. Fehoko is a local kid done good for his family, culture and future. Going into this bowl game, there should be nothing coaches already won’t expect, but to quickly up his stock, the 6’4” 260 lb. Fehoko should show his game-wreckability with the key to be relevant on every play out there in Las Vegas, even if it is to decoy, hold the edge or pursue. If Fehoko’s doing all of the above against bigger, faster competition, that’s going to bode well “on tape.” For a smart NFL team who can develop talent, Fehoko still has a big upside to be seen, and that’s just on the field.

DB Nehemiah Shelton (San Jose State)

First, second and third impressions have always held true for Shelton for this writer. As a dynamic, acrobatic freshman cornerback to a mature, confident, two-time All Mountain West Honorable mention, the biggest thing Shelton can showcase is his football knowledge and field application before and during the Hula Bowl game. When Shelton was an upstart corner, the raw talent was exciting to witness. As Shelton became a mainstay and his physicality blossomed, it became more clear he could have NFL potential. What Shelton will need to showcase is certainly speed, instincts and toughness, but equally important, how disciplined and intelligent he is between run support and coverage.