Defensive players stand out on Day 4 of Shrine workouts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The fourth day of practice at the East-West Shrine Game marks the day when coaches shift their emphasis from providing evaluation opportunities to preparing for the game this weekend. While watching Bobby Ross and Brad Childress put their respective squads through more installation periods to tighten up their game plans, the situational periods used by both coaches provided one final opportunity to watch prospects display their skills.

After watching them perform in a game-like workout, here are some of my observations from the day:

» University of Regina DT Akiem Hicks has been one of the most intriguing prospects at the game with his solid performance and imposing stature. At 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, he is a big, physical defender with strong hands and sneaky athleticism. He shows surprising first-step quickness for a big man, but he remains raw and unrefined in several aspects of his game. He will need a ton of personal instruction to reach his potential, but his size, strength and athleticism makes him an interesting prospect to monitor going forward. If he can address his character concerns following his controversial departure from LSU, Hicks has a chance to be a viable option for a team looking for a rugged interior defender.

» After speaking with several of the East's offensive coaches, the name generating a buzz in their meeting rooms is RB Tauren Poole. The former Tennessee star has impressed his coaches by quickly grasping the offense and displaying a solid feel for the nuances of the blocking scheme. On the field, Poole has certainly flashed quickness and burst, but he doesn't possess special qualities as a runner. He appears destined for a future as a complementary back as part of a rotational system.

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» Oregon State CB Brandon Hardin has caught the eye of several scouts looking for a developmental prospect. He missed the entire 2011 season after suffering a shoulder injury in camp, but has been solid in coverage this week. He has a solid feel for playing with leverage and is a physical player at the line of scrimmage. While most project Hardin as a strong safety as a pro, it wouldn't surprise me to see him get a shot at corner for a team running a press system that requires big, physical corners outside.

» Oregon LB Josh Kaddu has made a strong impression on some scouts in attendance. He has displayed better than anticipated instincts at OLB and didn't look out of place making drops in coverage. Although he is at his best when playing with his hand on the ground and rushing off the edge, his versatility and athleticism could make him an intriguing candidate as a 3-4 rush linebacker at the next level.

» A West defensive assistant cited USC DT DaJohn Harris as one of the most impressive defenders on the squad. He pointed to his disruptive quickness and athleticism. Harris flashed dominant skills at times, and looks like a potential stud as a three-technique in a 4-3. While his motor doesn't stay charged consistently, his flashes have been impressive this week and will garner attention as a Day 2 prospect.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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