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Devlin aiming to follow Flacco from Delaware to NFL


The college all-star game circuit provides small-school prospects with opportunities to display their talents on a big stage. Their performances in these games are critical in their overall evaluations because scouts finally get to see these standouts compete on the same playing field with major-college stars.

While some of these small-college players started their respective careers at Division I schools, they must still overcome the stigma of piling up gaudy production against lesser competition.

In this year's East-West Shrine Game (Saturday on NFL Network), Pat Devlin is vying to be the next small-college standout to emerge as a franchise quarterback.

East-West Shrine Game on NFL Network:
On Saturday, Jan. 22, NFL stars of tomorrow compete in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, Fla. Coverage begins on NFL Network at 3:30 p.m. ET.

» NFL Network broadcast schedule

As a star at Delaware, Devlin is following a similar path to his Blue Hen predecessor Joe Flacco. Both transferred from major colleges after failing to win the starting jobs at their respective schools (Flacco transferred to Delaware after losing the battle for the starting job to Tyler Palko at Pittsburgh, while Devlin left Penn State following his sophomore season after spending the year as Daryll Clark's backup), and guided Delaware to an appearance at the Football Championship Subdivision title game.

Devlin, who connected on 68 percent of his passes for 3,032 yards with 22 touchdowns and three interceptions, is regarded as a smart player with outstanding intangibles. He is an excellent decision maker who shows good poise and patience in the pocket. He gets the ball out of his hand quickly, and is fairly accurate. Although he doesn't possess a big arm, he compensates for this deficiency with good anticipation and touch.

In watching Devlin during his first workout, his poise and patience in the pocket stood out. He didn't appear rattled by rushers in close proximity, and repeatedly delivered the ball before the pocket collapsed. While most of his throws hit his receivers in stride, he had problems connecting on the deep outside routes, which require exceptional arm strength and velocity. Over the next few days, he must start to connect on those throws or scouts will view his arm strength as a liability that could hinder his ability to thrive on the next level.

The physical part of Devlin's game undoubtedly will be picked apart by scouts closely watching every attempt in individual and team drills, but evaluators will also pick the brains of the East's coaching staff to assess his ability to learn and retain a pro-like playbook. This will play a huge part in his evaluation as scouts attempt to determine whether he has potential to take information from the board to the field with minimal repetitions. With backups often receiving few opportunities during the practice week, this skill is essential for all quarterbacks set to enter the league.

Devlin left the big stage to become a star on the small-school level, but a solid week at the East-West Shrine Game could make him the next unheralded passer to emerge as a potential franchise quarterback candidate.

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