ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Entering this week, Richmond safety Cooper Taylor and Howard linebacker Keith Pough were the two small school defensive prospects that scouts were most eager to see on the practice field. And while Taylor has held his own on the East squad, Pough has looked like one of the best prospects on the West side.
Pough has impressed with his natural athleticism and fluidity, displaying the coordination and smooth hips to play in space. At 6-2 and 241 pounds, he has a lean, athletic frame and does a nice job playing balanced and low to the ground. Pough has room to improve his instincts and get stronger to improve his stack-and-shed ability, but he has shown improvement throughout the week.
While his physical attributes are noteworthy, Pough has also impressed with his terrific approach to the game of football with his non-stop motor and competitive attitude, showing the same on-field intensity whether it's practice or a game. From a scouting perspective, Pough represents himself like a prospect who gets "it", tweeting after Wednesday's practice: "To all the rising seniors who will participate in an all star game next year. You make your money during practice."
Pough has easily been the loudest player on the field during practice this week. And yes, that includes the coaches. He brings a lot of energy to the defense and isn't afraid to tell a teammate when he needs to improve, although his critiques are much more uplifting and supportive, not insulting. And with his physical, violent playing style, Pough's bite matches his bark.
Although he's still a tad rough around the edges, Pough is a player on the rise and it wouldn't be a shock if he ends up as one of the first players drafted from this year's Shrine Game.
--All three of the running backs on the West squad had a rough practice when it came to the blocking drills. Kerwynn Williams (Utah State), Zach Line (SMU) and Christine Michael (Texas A&M) all struggled to sustain blocks and hold defenders at bay, lacking the technique or base to properly pass protect. One area where running backs have an opportunity to separate themselves during the draft process is the ability to block, something that isn't a strength right now for the West backs.
--While Mount Union's Jasper Collins has separated himself as the top "small school" receiver here (maybe the top wide receiver altogether), Eastern Kentucky wide receiver Tyrone Goard has had his ups and downs, struggling to consistently catch the ball. He has made some impressive grabs, using his length (34" arms) and natural size (6-4) to pluck the ball out of the air, but he has also dropped some easy ones. Goard has the size/speed combination that will intrigue NFL scouts, but until he proves he can be a reliable pass-catcher, his scouting report will continue to have the "project" label.
Dane Brugler is a Draft Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.