To quote a great coach, “We’ll start working on 2014 tomorrow.” The tomorrow he’s talking about was yesterday. Let’s get going.
We present some players the Patriots may want to take a look at after solid performances in the East-West Shrine Game last Saturday, along with high school fun facts!
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois QB (6-3, 222)
In the Shrine Game, Garoppolo completed nine of 14 passes for 100 yards and one TD. Looked smooth and comfortable on all of his passes, which comes as no surprise considering he passed for 5,050 yards and 53 scores this past season.
I don’t care if you play for Eastern Illinois or your local town rec flag football team, those are crazy numbers. Considering that – and the fact that Garoppolo has been added to the Senior Bowl roster – he’ll probably go too high in the draft for New England’s liking. Still, a guy to keep an eye on this spring.
High School Fun Fact: Garoppolo passed for 1,888 yards and 16 touchdowns his senior year at Rolling Meadows High in Illinois, earning Northwest Suburban All-Area honors. Also passed for 2,072 yards his junior year.
Chandler Jones, San Jose State WR (5-11, 175)
Jones – who would be the second Chandler Jones on the Patriots roster – had seven catches for 73 yards in the Shrine Game. This past season, he led the Spartans in receptions with 79, totaling 1,356 yards. He also set the SJSU school single-season record with 15 touchdowns. His 17.9 yards per reception this season was over four yards more than his junior year average (12.8).
High School Fun Fact: At Bishop Montgomery High in Torrance, California, Jones lettered in football and track & field, running the 100- and 200-yard dashes.
Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina WR (6-3, 190)
Hazel scored a TD on a one-yard quick slant from Garoppolo where he used his body well to shield the defender. This past season, he had 70 receptions for 990 yards for the Chanticleers (14.1 avg), totaling 183 catches and 2,553 yards for his career.
High School/College Fun Fact: Hazel represented South Carolina in the 2009 (High School) Shrine Bowl. Had 75 grabs for 1,193 yards and 18 TDs his senior year at North Augusta High in S.C. As a sophomore at CCU, Hazel completed the only pass of his college career, a 21-yard touchdown.
Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M DL (6-4, 263)
Westbrooks harassed opposing QBs all day and won the Defensive MVP for the East team (West Texas; East team. Go figure). In college, Westbrooks led the Buffaloes with seven sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He also had five pass break-ups and a forced fumble.
High School Fun Fact: At Franklin High in Oakland, California, Westbrooks was named an all-conference football player. He also threw the shot put and discus for the track & field team.
Antwan Lowery, Rutgers OL (6-4, 305)
It’s hard for any offensive lineman to set himself apart in this game, so we looked at the New England roster and decided to go with the Rutgers guy. Lowery was named to the Outland Trophy watch list for best college offensive lineman. Arrived at the banks of the Raritan as a defensive tackle out of high school but switched to offense his redshirt freshman year, playing lineman and also taking on a fullback role in Wildcat packages. Played both left and right guard.
High School Fun Fact: Lowery played at Christopher Columbus High in Florida. Participated in the Under Armour High School All-America Game. Had 35 tackles and 2.5 sacks his senior year.
Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech DL (6-2, 350)
Ellis got noticed at the Shrine Game for his surprising size/quickness combination. At La. Tech, he had 48 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss.
High School Fun Fact: At Neville High, Ellis was named a first-team all-state player by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. He also lettered in track & field and finished third in the state in the shot put as a junior.
Ross Cockrell, Duke CB (6-0, 190)
Cockrell had an interception and showed solid footwork in the Shrine Game. At Duke, he had three interceptions and 12 pass break-ups.
High School Fun Fact: Playing both receiver and cornerback at Charlotte Latin in North Carolina, Cockrell caught 29 passes for 459 yards and 11 TDs as a senior while notching 34 tackles and three interceptions. Had nine INTs and four defensive touchdowns his junior year. Also lettered in hoops and track & field.
Alden Darby, Arizona State S (5-11, 195)
Darby nabbed an interception in the Shrine Game. At ASU, Darby had 72 tackles, four interceptions, nine pass break-ups, and two forced fumbles. His play earned him first team all-league in the Pac-12.
High School Fun Fact: At Millikan Senior High in Long Beach, California, Darby had 38 tackles, 15 pass break-ups and four INTs his senior year. Also led the team in passing (593 yards, seven TDs) and rushing (702 yards, 11 TDs) while somehow ranking third in receiving (14 receptions for 149 yards).
Any players you noticed at the Shrine Game, please let us know in the comments section below.
Keep an eye out for the Senior Bowl, airing on the NFL Network on Saturday, January 25, at 4 p.m. ET. We will, because what the heck else would we be doing?
Chris Warner can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cwarn89