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Oklahoma TE Blake Bell impressive at Shrine Game practice

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Chris O'Meara / Associated Press
Oklahoma TE Blake Bell's experience at quarterback allows him to quickly understand an offense, Charles Davis says.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tuesday was the second day of practice for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game, and NFL Media analyst Charles Davis has already spotted a handful of prospects who are turning heads.

Here are seven players who Davis said have made an impression during the first two days of practice.


» 10 intriguing prospects to watch at East-West Shrine Game


Oklahoma TE Blake Bell: Bell (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) began his OU career at quarterback, then moved to tight end this season. He had 16 receptions for 214 yards and four TDs this season and still is learning the position. While he weighs 260, he carries the weight well and looks almost lean. Davis says that, as a former quarterback, Bell will be able to quickly understand an offense and that "he runs a route with a quarterback's eyes." For a guy who has played tight end less than a season, Bell looks at ease when running routes and has good hands. He also has good bloodlines: His dad and uncle both played defensive end in the NFL. The 2015 tight end class is not a great one, and Bell -- who is one of two tight ends on the West squad -- looks to be a promising third-day prospect.

Date: Saturday, Jan. 17
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network


2015 NFL Draft coverage:

Tennessee CB Justin Coleman: Davis, a former Vols cornerback himself, says Coleman (5-11, 190) increased his level of play during the season, and that has carried over to this week. Davis especially likes Coleman's footwork. Coleman had some entertaining and spirited one-on-one battles with Michigan State's Keith Mumphrey and Maryland's Deon Long during East practice Tuesday.

Arizona WR Austin Hill: Hill (6-3, 215) started as a slot receiver for the Wildcats in 2012 and had 81 receptions and 11 TDs. He missed 2013 with a torn ACL, then started this season as an outside receiver, finishing with 48 catches and four TD receptions. Davis likes Hill's size, hands and toughness. Another aspect of Hill's game that Davis likes is that he did not complain about offensive changes at Arizona. Hill went from being the go-to receiver in 2012 to being a complementary guy this fall, and Davis said it wasn't an issue with Hill. West receiver coach Richard Bartel also spoke highly of Hill. While Hill lacks top-end speed, Bartel noted that he has a good football IQ and is competitive. Hill comes from a family of football players -- his dad and uncle played in the NFL -- and Bartel noted that a football pedigree can be helpful: "There's a reason you pay more for a pure-bred bulldog."

TCU DT Chucky Hunter: Hunter enjoyed a big senior season with the Horned Frogs and helped them to a 12-1 finish. Hunter (6-1, 307) is stout in the middle and hard to root out once he gets settled in. Davis also noted his "deceptive quickness." Hunter had 9.5 tackles for loss this season and 21.5 in his final three seasons at TCU.

Maryland WR Deon Long: Long certainly is well-traveled; he signed with West Virginia out of high school in Washington, D.C., moved on to New Mexico, then to Iowa Western Community College and finally to Maryland, where he played two seasons. Davis thinks he can be an effective and dangerous slot receiver. Texas State CB Craig Mager has gone up against Long in East team drills and was impressed with Long's quickness off the ball.

South Alabama TE Wes Saxton: Saxton (6-4, 240) was an underutilized weapon for the Jaguars this season, finishing with just 20 receptions and no TDs. He had 50 receptions as a junior in 2013, but he didn't have a TD catch that season, either. Still, Davis notes that he has the necessary skill-set to play tight end in today's NFL: "He's a 'move' tight end who can get downfield." Saxton -- who played with Jameis Winston in high school in Hueytown, Ala. -- needs to improve his concentration level and skills as a blocker, but his athleticism makes him a likely third-day target.


» Gil Brandt: 2015 NFL Draft order, top needs for all 32 teams


Towson CB Tye Smith: Smith (6-0, 185) was a three-year starter for the Tigers and was known as much for his willingness in run support (311 tackles in his career) as he was for his coverage skills (six interceptions, 26 pass breakups). Davis likes Smith's ball skills and footwork. Smith also can lay the lumber (six forced fumbles in his career).

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Five other things we learned from the second day of practice at the Shrine Game:

» Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke is the best quarterback in the game. Heinicke threw for 14,959 yards and 132 TDs in his career, but his lack of height -- he's listed at 6-1 -- and arm strength are issues with NFL teams. Nevertheless, he looked good for the second day in a row at East practice. He throws with a noticeable zip on the ball, and given ODU's pass-happy offense, he is comfortable with every throw. Heinicke has spent time working with former NFL QB Jeff Garcia, another guy who put up huge numbers in college (San Jose State) despite lacking both height and arm strength. We're certainly not saying Heinicke is going to be another Garcia, but Heinicke does look like a guy who will hear his name called on the third day, especially given the paucity of talent in this quarterback class.

» TCU OT Tayo Fabuluje blocks out the sun. Fabuluje, the only key senior for TCU's offense this season, is absolutely massive -- 6-6 and 363. While he played left tackle for the Horned Frogs, he almost certainly will be used on the right side in the NFL. Fabuluje (his last name is pronounced "fab-BOO-loo-zhay") is a road-grader in the running game and looks to have the necessary footwork to play on the right side in the NFL. In one-on-one drills with West linemen, Fabuluje buries guys once he gets into them. Fabuluje was born in Nigeria and went to high school in the Dallas area. He signed with BYU out of high school but left after his freshman season. He started for TCU in 2012, missed the 2013 season for personal reasons, then started again this fall. Thus, he played just two seasons of college football and remains somewhat raw. But he definitely is a physical specimen and looks to have a big upside.


» Ohio State tops final CFB 24/7 Top 25 Power Rankings


» The offensive line cross-training continues. Numerous offensive linemen were moved around again Tuesday. Syracuse's Sean Hickey, who started his career at right tackle for the Orange before moving to the left side, spent time at guard Tuesday for the East, and that might be his best NFL position. (Coincidentally, he moved to left tackle from right tackle after Justin Pugh left early for the NFL.) Centers David Andrews (Georgia) and Shane McDermott (Miami) saw time at guard, and massive Louisville T Jamon Brown (6-6, 328) also played some guard Tuesday. Versatility along the line is a must these days in the NFL, and showing well at two positions obviously helps a prospect.

College Football 24/7 Hot Topics:

» Kansas State C B.J. Finney has impressed. One lineman who hasn't cross-trained is Feeney, but he still has been impressive. He began his career as a walk-on at K-State and became a four-year starter. He has good size (6-4, 312), but doesn't overwhelm you with his strength or athleticism. But he is extremely proficient technically and doesn't make many mistakes. He has a high football IQ and understands angles. He looks like a third-day pick.

» Memphis' players are looking good. Memphis was one of the nation's biggest surprises this season, winning a share of the AAC title and finishing 10-3, the Tigers' first season with double-digit wins since 1938. The defense was solid all season, and three Tigers defenders are in St. Pete -- DE Martin Ifedi (6-4, 270), CB Bobby McCain (5-11, 190) and SS Fritz Etienne (6-2, 210). All three have flashed on the first two days of West practices. Ifedi missed three games this season, but still was a first-team all-conference pick. Ifedi had a school-record 22.5 sacks (and 35.5 tackles for loss) in his career, and also did a solid job stopping the run while in college. He saw some time at defensive tackle Tuesday and did a nice job. McCain had 11 career picks, four of which he returned for TDs; he is one of three players from Oxford (Ala.) High who could go in the 2015 draft, joining LSU LB Kwon Alexander and Ole Miss SS Trae Elston. Etienne was a high school linebacker and defensive end at Miami's powerful Monsignor Pace High and also was a 400-meter and 800-meter runner. He was moved to safety in junior college and signed with Memphis in 2012. He didn't play that fall, made just one tackle in 2013, then emerged as a key player this fall.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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