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2023 East-West Shrine Bowl: How to watch and which players to watch

Your open thread for the 2023 Shrine Bowl

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 03 East-West Shrine Bowl Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the two big pre-draft All-Star games is here with the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl.

The Shrine Bowl extends invitations to top senior prospects around the country, offering them the opportunity to practice and compete in front of scouts, coaches, and GMs from around the NFL.

And while the Shrine Bowl is often seen as the “lesser” of the two big All-Star games by the media, teams still take it very seriously. Case in point, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy distinguished himself in the week of practices leading up to the game.

The New York Giants will be searching high and low to find players to improve their roster in 2023. Will any future Giants be on the field tonight?

How to watch

Time: 8:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: NFL Network
Streaming: NFL Network app, NFL app, FuboTV

Players to watch

East Team

Aidan O’Connell (QB, Purdue)
The quarterback from Purdue caught scouts’ eyes immediately in the first day of practice. He drew praise for his accuracy and how quickly he developed a rapport with receivers he had only just met. O’Connell mentioned after practice that he watched extra tape before traveling to the Shrine Bowl to familiarize himself with his new teammates, which is likely to appeal to the coaches in attendance.

A.T. Perry (WR, Wake Forest)
One of several receivers with an intriguing blend of size and speed. Perry flashes good route running to go with his physical traits and could be a mid-round sleeper for some wide receiver-needy team. Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network remarked that “In a nutshell, Perry could not be covered.”

Jordan McFadden (OL, Clemson)
The former Clemson offensive tackle will likely need to move inside at the NFL level. At 6-foot-2, 295 pounds he just isn’t big enough to hang on the outside at the NFL level. However, he does boast 34-inch arms and near-tackle movement skills, both of which would be great assets for a guard.

[McFadden prospect profile]

Moro Ojomo (iDL, Texas)
Ojomo is going to be an interesting player to follow through the draft process. He’s an undersized defensive tackle who has limited utility in short-yardage situations, so he won’t be for every scheme or team. However, Ojomo could be a weapon for aggressive teams with attacking, one-gap defenses. An All-Star game team that’s thrown together in a week might not be able to scheme Ojomo to be as disruptive as possible, but his athleticism might still cause problems for opposing offensive linemen

[Ojomo prospect profile]

B.J. Thompson (EDGE, Stephen F. Austin)
Speaking of stand-out athletes, B.J. Thompson might be the small-school star of the week. Thompson has the traits to catch scouts’ eyes at 6-foot-5, with 34-inch arms and a spot on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List”. Thompson reportedly runs a 4.5-second 40 with a 40-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump. He could see his draft stock rocket upward if that athleticism transfers on the field.

Mekhi Garner (CB, LSU)
Garner doesn’t have the buzz usually associated with LSU cornerbacks, but he has traits that will intrigue defenses at the NFL level. Weighing in at 6-foo 112 inches, and 220 pounds with 32-inch arms, Garner is a massive cornerback who might get asked to move to safety at the NFL level. He appeared instinctive in zone coverage in college and his sheer size could make him a good press-man corner with some improved technique.

West Team

Dorian Thompson-Robinson (QB, UCLA)
Thompson-Robinson (DTR) is the smallest quarterback on the property, but he might be the most exciting. The 6-foot-1, 191-pound passer has electric athleticism, a potent arm, and impressive competitive toughness. He racked up an incredible 12,500 yards and 116 touchdowns over his 49 games for UCLA, and he has the ability to make plays in and out of structure.

Jake Bobo (WR, UCLA)
DTR’s receiver is also on this list as another intriguing height/weight/speed player. Bobo transferred from Duke to UCLA in 2022 and immediately became Thompson-Robinson’s go-to option. Bobo has intriguing fluidity for a big (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) receiver and was frequently used out of the slot at UCLA. More NFL teams are adopting the “big slot” as a way to create mismatches against smaller cornerbacks, and Bobo’s experience in the slot could be an asset.

Justin Shorter (WR, Florida)
Shorter stood out in practices thanks to his own combination of size and athleticism. He is a big (6-foot 334-inch, 225-pound) receiver with explosive athleticism. Shorter reportedly impressed in practice with his explosiveness in and out of breaks, as well as how well he took coaching in practice.

Zay Flowers (WR, Boston College)
So far I’ve been mentioning the receivers who impress just getting off the bus, but Zay Flowers definitely isn’t one of those. The 5-foot-9, 181-pound receiver is more likely to get lost in the crowd getting off the bus than he is to impress anyone with his physique. That said, Flowers is probably the quickest and most athletic player on the property, and his ability to beat defenders before and after the catch has already stood out. Flowers is already a good route runner who use his routes as weapons in and of themselves. He’s also dangerous with the ball in his hands, and could spark fireworks in run-after-catch situations.

[Flowers prospect profile]

Ricky Stromberg (iOL, Arkansas)
Stromberg is a highly-regarded interior offensive linemen with has plenty of experience going against the top defensive tackles in the nation. He’s played multiple first rounders in games against Alabama and Georgia. Stromberg has great size at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds and experience at both center and guard.

Brenton Cox (EDGE, Florida)
Cox might be the most intriguing player on the field this week. The 23-year-old red-shirt senior transferred from Georgia to Florida following the 2018 season and had to sit out the 2019 season (due to the NCAA’s transfer rules). He had a good 2020 season and emerged as an impact player in 2021 with eight sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, and four passes defensed. However, he was dismissed from the Florida team in November of 2022 — in part due to throwing a punch at a Georgia offensive player. Cox has the traits to be an important piece in an NFL defensive rotation, and perhaps even a starter. But he will need to reassure teams that he has learned from his mistake and isn’t a problem player or a problem in the locker room.

As so often happens, playing well and being a dominant defender on game day will go a long way toward answering teams’ questions about his character.