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2014 Shrine Game: Five players to watch


Northern Illinois legend Jordan Lynch gets one last chance to lead his team to victory after a two-game losing streak to end his career. Photo: USA Today Sports

College football lives on this weekend, sort of, with the kickoff of the 89th annual East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Florida. While the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama next week will be the main attraction this month for college football's top senior stars, the Shrine Game is well worth your time if you are starting to look for some sleeper picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. While we will let Optimum Scouting take care of the scouting perspective for the Shrine Game (bookmark Optimum Scouting's Shrine Game Headquarters now), we will try to supplement the coverage this week with a final look at some of our favorite college football players playing their final college football games.

Here are five players college football fans will or should know in this weekend's Shrine Game.

1. QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois

How about one final game for Northern Illinois Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch? Lynch has been a massive part of the success at Northern Illinois the past two years but he ends his collegiate career riding a two-game losing streak that saw some of his shortcomings put under the spotlight. We know he is a tough runner, and there is something to be said for that, but the NFL will want to see if he is capable of leading offense relying more on accurate passing. This is something to keep an eye on in this final game. With the defensive secondary likely being the least impressive of all of the units in the game this weekend, this could be there for the taking for Lynch.

2. QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois

One of the top quarterbacks from the FCS will get a chance to play against some tougher competition, and I for one look forward to seeing it. Like most of you, I did not get a chance to watch too much of Jimmy Garoppolo this season but I was well aware of his numbers and production this season for the Panthers as they made a push for a national championship. Optimum Scouting notes he has a quick release and may be a good fit for NFL teams looking for a quick and accurate read in medium range. A strong showing here could help pad his NFL profile and get him in to the second round. Playing on the same team as Lynch could help as well if he outperforms Lynch as a passer.

3. LB Max Bullough, Michigan State

One of Michigan State's top defensive players may be looking to prove something in his final game. Bullough was suspended by Mark Dantonio for Michigan State's appearance in the Rose Bowl, and many suggest his lack of speed and movement will be a detriment for him to NFL scouts [insert Big Ten speed joke here].  There is little doubt that when the football comes right at Bullough, it is not likely to get by him. how he does in showing he has some lateral movement will be key moving toward the draft.

4. CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri

While the defensive backs may lack depth like other positions do in this game, E.J. Gaines may be star on defense this week for either team. Gaines has been an All-Big 12 and an All-SEC player during his time at Missouri, which should suggest just how good he is after being named one of the top at his position in two different regions. Gaines was a top player on Missouri's defense during their trip to the SEC Championship Game and a Cotton Bowl appearance. He will be on the West roster, which means he will be going against Lynch and Garoppolo.

5. WR Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina

If you are looking for another player from a smaller school to shine this weekend other than Garoppolo, look at Coastal Carolina wide receiver Matt Hazel. He brings solid hands to the field and should show some good speed. The 6'-3" two-time First Team All Big South receiver set a school record for career receptions and single season receptions. This is another player most of us have not seen much of this season, so getting a chance to see what he can do should be entertaining and informative.

Full East-West Shrine Game rosters: East, West

Kevin McGuire is the managing editor of Crystal Ball Run. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Google+.

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Managing editor of Crystal Ball Run and contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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