ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Like every player at the East-West Shrine Game this week, Jadar Johnson has ended practices hoping to be approached by an NFL scout for an interview. He's been one of the most impressive draft prospects of the week, so it's no surprise that scouts have made it a point to track the Clemson safety down.
But Tuesday, Johnson was extra excited to speak with one club in particular.
"I'm a Miami Dolphins fan. I've been a Dolphins fan since I was a little boy, so when they came up to me, that was a big deal for me," Johnson said. "It was like the career mode on the Madden (video game) where you can pick your team. I wanted to say, 'C'mon man, please pick me. It would be perfect.' I didn't tell them I was a Dolphins fan -- I wanted to keep it business-like. But I so wanted to tell them."
"Johnson had a good practice (Wednesday) and he has the size like teams like. I don't know where his draft stock is, but I can tell you scouts have started talking about him quite a bit," Zierlein said.
Zierlein also identified Arkansas DL Deatrich Wise as one of the top prospects in attendance, along with several tight ends. Toledo TE Michael Roberts, Oklahoma State TE Blake Jarwin, Drake TE Eric Saubert and Laval TE Antony Auclair each have draft-worthy physical traits, per Zierlein.
Here are five other things we learned from East-West Shrine practices Wednesday:
2. Buckner in command. East coach Brentson Buckner is fully embracing the chance to cut his teeth as a head coach, even if it's just for a week. The Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach was selected as a head coach, along with West squad coach George Edwards, under a new format meant to develop some of the NFL's most promising assistant coaches. They were chosen by a committee from a group of assistants nominated by their respective NFL clubs. Buckner and Edwards then built their Shrine Game staffs from remaining nominations.
"Having a chance to do this from the head seat, you get a greater perspective of what the head coaches go though, and I'm embracing every second of it," Buckner said. "I think it's great because if you're blessed to get your own staff, you are bringing in pieces from all over that haven't worked together. Now you get a chance to see what it's like to get everyone on the same page. Are people going to work together and be open to ideas? I'm a D-line coach. When will I ever have an opportunity to run my own staff? It's a great breeding ground for guys who want to elevate their game, and it was fun to pick the staff. They're all highly qualified and there are no big egos."
3. Williams mum on hiatus. Utah RB Joe Williams declined to discuss specifics about why he left the Utes program midseason, only to come back four weeks later. But he's discussed it in depth with NFL scouts this week, and said his explanation has been well-received.
"I'm handling the question with complete honesty. It's a genuine answer that I knew I would have to be ready with, and I don't hold back on it," Williams said. "It's clearing up some ill-will that came out through the media or online or whatever. I'm telling the truth from my point of view and I'm getting great feedback from scouts."
An NFC scout told College Football 24/7, however, that Williams' hiatus isn't easily explained. The scout said it raises flags about his ability to handle stress and adversity. Williams' play was brilliant upon his return to the Utes, as he rushed for 1,332 yards in just seven games, including 332 against UCLA and 222 against Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl.
4. Watson on WakeyLeaks. Wake Forest DB Brad Watson played in the game that served as the origin of the "WakeyLeaks" scandal, in which elements of Wake Forest's game plan were provided in advance to the Louisville coaching staff by a Wake Forest radio announcer. Watson said Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson did the right thing by not telling his players about the incident until after the Cardinals' 44-12 win.
"Nobody knew what was going on until coach told us after the game. I don't think the players really sensed anything was wrong at halftime. We were just trying to stay in the game. It would have been a mess from the mental side if we had known before the game, so I appreciated coach Clawson (for waiting)," Watson said. "But it was definitely shocking, for (the leak) to be somebody so close to the program," Watson said.
5. Kalis quiet on wrestling. Michigan OL Kyle Kalis has expressed some interest in a pro wrestling career, but he's not blurring that goal with his aspirations for pro football.
"I don't have much to say about that any more, the media likes to speculate it on it a lot," Kalis said. "If it comes one day, it'll come, but right now I'm focused fully on training for the NFL."
6. Who's talking to who? NFL clubs don't wait around to interview potential draft choices at the NFL Scouting Combine when they can begin that process at the East-West Shrine Game and, next week, at the Reese's Senior Bowl. Here are just of few of the conversations between clubs and players that College Football 24/7 took note of following Wednesday's practices:
Los Angeles Chargers: Florida DE Bryan Cox, Appalachian State RB Marcus Cox,Charleston Southern OLErik Austell
Los Angeles Rams: Wake Forest DB Brad Watson
Green Bay Packers: Clemson DBJadar Johnson
Atlanta Falcons: Villanova LB Austin Calitro