As a general rule, all-star game practice is what makes or breaks a player's NFL hopes. That's when the scouts and coaches are in attendance. Without a good week, NFL scouting departments won't bother charting a prospect when the game rolls around.
That's not to say the game doesn't matter, however. Showing up when every player is going full tilt can sway GMs. During Saturday's NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, more than few players stuck out as superior prospects.
Roy Finch - RB - Oklahoma
He may not have won the game MVP -- that honor went to LSU fullback J.C. Copeland -- but no running back looked more impressive or athletic than Oklahoma's Roy Finch. Finch displayed exquisite athleticism, juking past multiple defenders and creating extra yardage. Despite battling multiple defenders behind the line of scrimmage on far too many rush attempts, Finch accumulated 60 yards on 14 carries. However, what stood out the most was his return ability. On his only punt, Finch juked out of two tackles before scampering for 51 yards, the longest return for any player.
While his size (5-7, 160 lbs.) may prevent him from being more than a situational player, Finch has enough tools to carve out a niche in the NFL. He compares quite favorably to the Broncos' Trindon Holliday.
J.C. Copeland - FB - LSU
J.C. Copeland won the NFLPA Bowl MVP because of his two one-yard touchdown runs. While that's nothing to sneeze at, it doesn't tell you much about the kind of player Copeland is. At 270 pounds, he's a bruising lead blocker who can eliminate linebackers. Leading National team rusher Anthony Wilkerson rarely saw a defender until well after the line of scrimmage. That's a credit to Copeland, who plowed open big holes for his tailback all game. For the man Dick Vermeil affectionately called "Beefsteak," Saturday night was a tour de force.
When asked how he sees himself being used in the NFL, Copeland responded, "I feel I can do anything that God lets me do number one, and whatever they want me to do, I'll do. You want me to block, I'll block. If you want me to run, I'll run. Anybody you want me to run though, I promise you I will."
Asante Cleveland - TE - Miami (Fl.)
As a receiver, Asante Cleveland was only targeted once. Late in the third quarter, quarterback Brendon Kay rainbowed a pass to the back corner of the end zone. Out-leaping his coverage, Cleveland high pointed the ball and managed to land both feet down just before the defender toppled him out of play. It was easily the most impressive touchdown of the night.
While Cleveland was seldom utilized as a receiver during his college career, he appears to have some considerable upside at the next level. His 6-5, 260 pound frame could allow him to develop into a starting-caliber tight end.
Mike Marry - LB - Mississippi
When Mike Marry is on the field, it's hard not to notice. His athleticism and hustle flash frequently, and big plays follow.
On one such play, the defensive called for Marry to rush against left tackle Dallas Lee. Marry bull rushed Lee right into the lap of quarterback Kolton Browning. Browning managed a check down pass to the flat, but Marry wasn't done. Despite being one of the front seven players farthest from the ball carrier, it was Marry who made first contact and recorded the tackle.
Isaiah Burse - WR - Fresno State
Another explosive returner, Burse's play is reminiscent of former Chiefs wide receiver/returner Dante Hall. While his straight-line speed might not match Hall, his size (6-0, 187) makes up for it. Burse's change of direction separated him Saturday from the rest of the wide receivers. Rarely does the first defender end up with more than a few fingers on Burse, a valuable quality for a league always hungry for playmakers.
Because of his versatility, the National team found many creative ways to utilize Burse. Early in the game, Dick Vermeil used him on multiple bubble screens. After a prolonged period of offensive struggles, Burse was moved to the outside in an attempt to develop a big play. That play came on a go route that resulted in a 33-yard completion that ended one yard short of the goal line. Burse also led the Nation team with 41 return yard.
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