Shrine Game 2013 NFL Draft watch notes for prospects on defense

Justin K. Aller

While the Shrine Game rosters on offense are tilted toward the running backs, the talent on defense is spread out pretty evenly. Penn State outside linebacker Gerald Hodges should be the highest drafted player from this year's game. He's an excellent coverage linebacker who is strong enough to play the run.

Full Shrine Game coverage | Practice schedule

Here are some notable players on defense to follow during Shrine Game practices

Craig Roh, DL, Michigan (West roster)
It's worth noting anytime someone is a four-year starter at Michigan. For Roh, it's notable because he started at outside linebacker before shifting down to end. He was also pushed inside to tackle during games and has played on special teams. Roh projects as a 3-4 end because he has a powerful base and long arms.

Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina (East)
Taylor never had quite the career most expected at South Carolina. He was outshined by both Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney. While that's nothing to frown upon, Taylor has the kind of intriguing size (6-foot-8, 267 pounds) to expect much more. The knock on Taylor is that he has stiff hips and doesn't get around the edge particularly well.

AJ Klein, MLB, Iowa State (West)
Like a lot of college middle linebackers, Klein wracked up tackles in bunches. That's not what makes him a potential mid-round draft choice. It's Klein's ability to shift outside and cover the slot that will get him into the NFL.

Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State (East)
There are few better weak-side linebackers in this year's draft than Hodges. For teams needing a linebacker that can naturally drop into coverage, Hodges is a good one. This season he not only led Penn State in tackles but pass breakups as well. Hodges flows quickly to the ball if he can keep off blockers.

DeVonte Holloman, OLB, South Carolina (West)
Speaking of linebackers that can drop into coverage, Holloman is experienced doing that for South Carolina. Holloman often played a hybrid safety/linebacker spot for the Gamecocks and is a devastating hitter. he led South Carolina in interceptions this season with three and can get into the backfield.

Lerentee McCray, OLB, Florida (East)
Of all the pass rushers Texas A&M star left tackle Luke Joeckel faced this season, he said none was better than McCray. That's high praise for a player who had just 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks this season. McCray played the Buck defensive end position for Florida, which was a hybrid linebacker/end spot. McCray has a powerful punch at the point of attack and looks to have good pure sped. He has a future as a 3-4 outside linebacker if he can improve his hand usage.

Sio Moore, OLB, Connecticut (East)
Although Moore was often lined up on the strong side of Connecticut's defense, he was frequently used in coverage. Moore had one of the better stat lines in football this season with 72 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 11 pass breakups. Moore is a stellar pure athlete for a linebacker who will have to continue developing his technical traits.

Melvin White, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette (West)
With the success of Seattle's big cornerbacks, White will get plenty of looks early in the draft. He's a big cornerback at 6-foot-3 and can use his long arms to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. White may not have had any interceptions this season, but that's partially due to teams avoiding the receivers he covered.

Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse (West)
Thomas is a physical safety who can play the run at the line, but he's athletic enough to drop into coverage. While his coverage technique is in need of improvement, Thomas can play both zone and man.

Players on offense that need to stand out:

Travis Johnson, DE, San Jose State (West)
The names at the top of sack and tackles for loss leaders are obvious: Jarvis Jones, Jadeveon Clowney and Will Sutton. But amongst them is Johnson, who finished his career with 27.5 tackles for loss and 19 sacks. During Shrine practices he'll have to prove he has a quick enough for first step to make it in the NFL. For linemen, that can often be a make or break trait.

Brandon McGee, CB, Miami (East)
While McGee may have never lived up to his blue chip status, there is talent there. He's arguably the most naturally gifted player in the Shrine Game this year and the kind of player who could be better in the NFL than college. To get the chance, though, he'll need to turn heads this week.

Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois (West)
Hawthorne didn't have quite the season most expected, but he has a nice combination of size and speed to play on the outside. He's a sure tackler as well and can be used to rush from the corner. What he needs to show during practice week is the ability to stick and run with opposing receivers.

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