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.
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.
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.