The high school all-star game season may be finished with the exception of the International Bowl in Austin on National Signing Day, but it's just getting in to full swing for former Longhorns prepping for the NFL Draft in April.
Offensive lineman David Snow and safety Blake Gideon competed in the East-West Shrine game last weekend, while linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are currently in Mobile along with defensive tackle Kheeston Randall preparing for the Senior Bowl. Fullback Cody Johnson was slated for the East-West game as well, but was unable to participate.
The games are important measuring sticks for evaluators, who get accurate measurements of height and weight and a chance to see the players in person in advance of the NFL Combine and school Pro Days in the spring.
For the two East-West Shrine game participants, one player elevated his stock, while the other probably hurt it with his performance.
The Longhorns infamously haven't had an offensive lineman selected since Tony Hills was drafted in 2007 (and was a member of the 2002 class as a tight end), but Snow increased his chances of breaking that streak with a solid week of practice:
Snow looked dominant at two positions; guard and center. He's feisty, strong and football smart. Snow does not necessarily look the part, but gets the most from his ability and did not give up an inch to opponents this day. The versatility to play intelligent football at two offensive line positions helped his stock greatly.
Draft analyst Wes Bunting of the National Football Post saw similar things from Snow:
Snow displays the ability to bend, move his feet laterally in pass protection and has sneaky heavy hands once engaged. Now, he does have a tendency to get a bit upright and overextend through contact. But, overall in a weak center class, I think Snow is an intriguing later round flyer.
Snow will need to test well at the Texas Pro Day to consolidate whatever momentum he generated by flashing a bit in practice while in St. Petersburg, but is does sound like he at least gave himself a chance to sneak into the last part of the draft.
For Gideon, it sounded like a very Blake Gideon performance in the actual game:
Two plays in the first quarter were very indicative of Gideon's limitations. On the first one, the former Longhorn had time to square up to tackle running back Alfred Morris on a perimeter run, but whiffed terribly. He later went up for a high (Chandler) Harnish offering in the middle of the field and had every right to make a play on the ball, but tight end Chase Ford beat him to it. Instead of tackling his man, Gideon gave up on the play and let Ford rumble downfield for about a 40-yard catch and run down the seam. Those who have watched the overrated safety this past season know that Gideon easily falls prey to ball fakes and lacks the power to be a force run support. At this point, I don't know if he even gets drafted.
For a guy who would need to catch on as a special teams player to even have a shot, it's not exactly a good sign that he tackles so poorly in space, as evidenced by his 33 missed tackles as a senior, roughly equating to a 40% miss rate in the open field (opportunities = solo tackles + missed tackles).
As expected, Keenan Robinson has flashed some of his ability in pass coverage, but also had a strong day Wednesday as a blitzer going against the running backs:
Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson excelled in this portion of practice and looked very aggressive as a blitzer. He shoved Ganaway into the ground on a rep early in the drill that drew a "wow" from the crowd. Robinson had a solid day of practice, in which he was effective against the run and pass. He covered a lot of ground in pass coverage and moved very well laterally.
The day before, it had been a bit of a different story for Robinson, who did make some plays, but got caught holding several times as well late in plays, something he had a tendency to do at Texas, too. Robinson reportedly had a conversation with representatives of the San Francisco 49ers following one practice (as well as the Eagles' defensive coordinator) and was named as a stand out by FS Ohio's Zac Jackson.
Robinson also drew some rave reviews from draft analyst Tom Melton, a draft analyst in attendance:
I think my favorite linebacker in all of Mobile is Keenan Robinson (Texas). He's got experience playing all three linebacker positions but I think his best position is probably the weak-side. He's a helluva hitter, a very good tackler and he has ability in coverage. He's a complete linebacker and he's going to be a riser after this week.
Unfortunately for fellow linebacker Emmanuel Acho, at least one observer saw him as a loser on the third day of practice:
Acho was solid but not spectacular as a huddle presence and between the tackles against the run. But he struggled terribly in coverage at times and looks limited to a base defensive role.
Acho also measured in at just over 6-1 at the Senior Bowl, so he'll have to address the same concerns about being undersized as his brother did last season. Add in the perception that he's a bit short on speed as well and Acho will need to run well at the Combine and the Texas Pro Day. However, Acho still has the ability to impress some observers with the instincts Texas fans have come to know and love from both Acho brothers:
Emmanuel Acho is just a smart, instinctive football player. He's not the greatest athlete but does a great job diagnosing the action and putting himself in a position to make plays on the ball. Acho has looked good against the run and pass.
DT Kheeston Randall of Texas has shown a lot of power the past two days. He just drove center Ben Jones of Georgia four yards deep into the backfield. Randall then came back and threw a terrific move on Philip Blake and again got into the backfield.
Tom Melton, however, has not been impressed with Randall, at all:
Kheeston Randall (Texas) continued to disappoint today. He got pancaked by Ben Jones, a player I am not high on, and struggled consistently against everyone he went up against. He won a couple of battles, but his stock has been slipping all season and nothing I saw today will change that. He looks like a guy who will go in the 4th round range to me. He's got the size you'd love in a defensive tackle but he has limited length and he weighed in at under 300 pounds. He's got potential, but he hasn't lived up to it at all.
Randall will need a strong performance during the game to help boost his stock, as there seems to be a perception out there that he doesn't maximize his potential. The good news is that he still has a chance to go higher than currently expected in the draft if some team falls in love with his upside.