The 2023 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 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 five 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: Check out the roster.
Thursday, February 1
- 7:00-10:00PM (CST) 99th East-West Shrine Bowl: Allegiant Stadium: NFL Network
DB Trey Taylor (Air Force)
Taylor is the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winning, given to the top defensive back in the nation. He has already proven a lot in his career, and the award provides him some national recognition as well. Taylor is a team player who can is skilled at defending the run and the pass, evidenced by the 74 tackles and 3 interceptions he put up from his safety position in 2023 in one of the best defenses in all of college football. He doesn’t have ideal NFL safety size at 6’0”, so Taylor will have to display enough versatility to be a nickel corner who can keep up with quick slot receivers and blitz or stop the run when needed. Or, if he can show enough special teams prowess, he can be a backup safety who have special teams value. Either way, the goal for Taylor is to showcase his ability and convince NFL coaches and scouts that he has a future position and role to utilize his talent.
TE Dallin Holker (Colorado State)
In a tight end class without any guaranteed first-round picks, besides Georgia’s Brock Bowers, Holker could be one of the first couple of tight ends off the board. The 23 year old BYU transfer made quite a name for himself in his only year in Fort Collins, leading the country in catches and yards by a TE. He also made the play of the year, catching a deflected Hail Mary attempt as time expired to give the Rams their first ever win against Boise State. He’s got elite speed, incredible hands, and his after the catch ability is off the charts. His efforts made him a Mackey Award finalist, given to the best TE in college football, but he did finish as the runner-up, behind the earlier mentioned Bowers. He was also a 1st team All-American. Similarly to Trey McBride, expect Holker to be drafted somewhere in the top four rounds, to a team that’s going to start him right away.
DL Mohamed Kamara (Colorado State)
The Newark native fully realized his potential this year, leading the Mountain West in sacks (13, good for 3rd in school history) and TFLs (18) on his way to winning the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award. He was also named a 2nd team All-American. He leaves Colorado State as their second most prolific sack master ever, trailing only the late great Clark Haggans. Kamara has a high football IQ, fantastic speed rushing ability, and acceleration unlike anyone else. His draft stock will change after he inevitably goes through the NFL combine, and I cannot wait to see how he performs, specifically with his 40 time. Like Holker, he’ll likely hear his name called somewhere in the second to fourth round range, and he has the talent to contribute immediately.
DB Chigozie Anusieum (Colorado State)
A former four-star recruit and Orange County native, Anusiem is a tall (6’1”), twitchy, and versatile corner that can also play nickel and safety if needed. He began his career at Cal, before transferring to the Green and Gold for the 2022 season. He’s been the Rams CB1 from the jump, and racked up 93 tackles, 11 deflections, 3.5 TFLs, and an interception, along with consecutive All-MW Honorable Mention selections, before his time in the college ranks came to an end. Anusiem projects as a day 3 pick or undrafted free agent, but he’ll definitely find himself with a team for the start of training camp. The ability to help at multiple positions and length will be valued highly at the next level.
LB Levelle Bailey (Fresno State)
The captain and leader of the Fresno State defense, Levelle Bailey made game-sealing plays in 3 games for the Bulldogs this year against Purdue, Eastern Washington, and UNLV. He may not be the flashiest player on the field, but he is a shining example of, “as Bailey goes, the defense goes”. He has played better in passing protection than as a run-stopper, so that certainly could be something that he will need to improve on in bowl practices if he wants to get on draft radars