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January 14, 2008

Scouts looking for sleepers at Shrine Game

More Shrine Game: Ten to watch | Monday Galleries: East Practice | West Practice
VIDEO: Nebraska's Zack Bowman | Penn State's Anthony Morelli

HOUSTON NFL scouts at the East-West Shrine Game are on the lookout for another Jacoby Jones or Marques Colston.

In last year's East-West Shrine Game, Jones couldn't even bring Division I-AA clout to practices. He spent his college days at Division II Lane College, in Jackson, Tenn.

Nevertheless, Shrine Game practices and a strong performance in the game itself helped him become a third-round NFL draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2007. Hampton linebacker Justin Durant, too, helped build his draft stock during his week in Houston; he was a second-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Colston, a receiver out of Division I-AA Hofstra, also played in the Shrine Game before making good on the New Orleans Saints' seventh-round draft pick. Colston has two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his two years in the league.

Most of the projected high picks either are seniors headed to next week's Senior Bowl or juniors who are ineligible for the all-star games, leaving the Shrine Game with second-round picks, second-day selections and potential free agents. The highest pick in last year's Shrine Game was BYU quarterback John Beck, who was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the ninth pick in the second round. Two other Shrine players, Durant and Oregon State safety Sabby Piscitelli, also were taken in the second round.

One prospect who won't catch anyone by surprise is wide receiver Dexter Jackson, who gained notice with 92 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Appalachian State's upset of Michigan in the first week of the season. On the first day of practice, he was one of the fastest players.

"I have less pressure coming from that level (Division I-AA) because I can just play and compete," Jackson said.

University of San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson, from a non-scholarship program, also impressed in the West practice. He drew one of the largest groups of scouts in post-practice interviews.

Late replacements

Two quarterbacks were among the most visible players absent on the first day of practice.

Delaware's Joe Flacco, considered by most as one of the top five quarterbacks in the draft, was listed on the original roster but will instead participate in the Senior Bowl. LSU quarterback Matt Flynn, the national championship game offensive MVP, also was on the original roster but instead will rest an injured shoulder.

Taking their place on the East team are Tulsa's Paul Smith and Marshall's Bernard Morris, who both played in Saturday's Hula Bowl.

Other changes on the Shrine Game rosters:

Additions to the East: Grand Valley State offensive lineman Brandon Barnes, Virginia Tech defensive lineman Barry Booker, South Florida defensive lineman Richard Clebert, Vanderbilt linebacker Curtis Gatewood, Syracuse linebacker Jameel McClain and Connecticut offensive lineman Donald Thomas.

Subtractions from the East: Auburn offensive lineman King Dunlap, Virginia Tech linebacker Vince Hall, Arkansas defensive lineman Marcus Harrison, Illinois linebacker J Leman and Clemson offensive lineman Chris McDuffie.

Additions to the West: Texas linebacker Scott Derry and defensive lineman Derek Lokey, Oregon State defensive back Derrick Doggett, Kansas wide receiver Marcus Henry, Idaho defensive lineman Jesse Nading and linebacker David Vobora, TCU defensive back David Roach, UTEP running back Marcus Thomas and Arizona State defensive back Justin Tryon.

Subtractions from the West: Arizona State defensive back Josh Barrett and linebacker Robert James, Nevada linebacker Ezra Butler, UCLA defensive lineman Bruce Davis, UTEP defensive back Quintin Demps, Oklahoma State running back Dantrell Savage and USC defensive back Terrell Thomas.

Position switches

NFL draft preparations also mean position switches for some prominent players.

Kansas' Brandon McAnderson, a Rivals.com second-team All-Big 12 running back, worked out at fullback, as did Washington State's Jed Collins, a Rivals.com second-team All-Pac-10 tight end.

Oregon State's Derrick Doggett, a three-year starter at linebacker for the Beavers, worked out at safety.

Dawg-ing the Tigers

Georgia running back Thomas Brown used Monday's practice to jaw with LSU cornerback Jonathan Zenon.

Brown teased Zenon about playing in the national title with two losses, the same amount of defeats Georgia had. Ole Miss tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis appeared to enjoy the exchange.

Sam I Am

Nebraska's Sam Keller was perhaps the most animated of the Shrine Game quarterback's Monday. Before his first snap, he drew a laugh from coaches and the defense when he asked if the drills, run in shorts and without pads, were to be run at full speed.

More Shrine Game: Ten to watch | Monday Galleries: East Practice | West Practice
VIDEO: Nebraska's Zack Bowman | Penn State's Anthony Morelli

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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