A game that ended 10-3, featured multiple fumbled snaps, shanked punts, and missed field goals doesn’t exactly signal “All Star Game”, but here we are. The East and the West finally squared off Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field, and provided us with…. well the best football game this weekend – January has been awful for the sport.
Eli McGuire of Louisiana-Lafayette scored the game’s only touchdown of the day where he burst through the middle untouched before making Michigan safety, Dymonte Thomas, miss near the goal line. For a game that lost viewers’ attentions early and often, a handful of guys stood out.
5) Cooper Rush, Quarterback from Central Michigan (EAST) – Rush was not spectacular, but he was the only East QB to do much of anything. He showed flashes of quick, solid decision making and accuracy on short to intermediate routes. Rush finished the game 11/17 for 94 yards and led most the East’s best drives. Throughout the week of practice, Rush many times looked like the East’s best QB.
4) Dymonte Thomas, Safety from Michigan (EAST) – Though he didn’t look great on the game’s lone score, Thomas made a number of open field plays against the West’s stable of running backs that saved touchdowns or long gains. One particularly impressive tackle was a 1-on-1 situation against Utah back, Joe Williams after Williams broke free to the third level.
3) Trey Griffey, Receiver from Arizona and Karel Hamilton, Receiver from Samford (WEST) – The West’s two leading receivers showed speed, athleticism, and fantastic ball skills catching 5 balls for 95 yards between the two of them. Griffey was the most targeted receiver, though quarterback play left a lot to be desired. Hamilton made the two best catches of the game and was clearly showcasing his ability as a big play threat. The first pass of the game was a go-route up the left sideline that Hamilton abused Nate Hairston on.
2) Wes Lunt, Quarterback from Illinois (WEST) – Lunt cooled way down in the second half, but was far and away the best quarterback in this game – not a high bar. He showed arm strength and accuracy and was seemingly the only one interested in going downfield. His first throw to Hamilton was an absolute beauty of a strike laid in perfectly for the receiver to make a play on. He finished 11/14 for 101 yards.
1) Trey Hendrickson, Defensive End from FAU (EAST) – Throughout the week of practice, Hendrickson was the best player on the field for the East. His jump, his violence, and use of hands were too much for the offensive lineman who faced him in 1-on-1s and team drills. The game was no different. Hendrickson beat the West’s left tackle for a strip sack and added two more run stuffs to his total as well. Particularly after the sack, there weren’t many plays where he wasn’t facing a double team. If there’s someone who can be this year’s Josh Norman from this game, it’s probably Hendrickson.
Honorable Mention: Dare Ogunbowale, Joe Williams, and Eli McGuire. Kermit Whitfield and Bryan Cox Jr.
Didn’t Do So Great: Eric Keena, the East’s punter struggled throughout the week and horribly shanked a punt off of a bad snap in the game. Temple corner, Nate Hairston couldn’t cover much of anyone during the practices and that trend continued into game where the West targeted him early and often both in the run game and the pass. Minnesota’s duo of DBs, Jalen Myrick and Damarius Travis struggled as well.