The Texas vs. the Nation Challenge can become an afterthought on the postseason all-star game circuit, primarily because it is held in El Paso the week after the heralded Senior Bowl.
The success of recent participants has helped raise interest in the game among scouts and administrators.
Twenty-five players who participated in the Challenge last season were drafted in April, including immediate NFL contributors such as Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox (Abilene Christian), Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang (Eastern Michigan), Bengals running back Bernard Scott (Abilene Christian) and Ravens cornerback (Nicholls State). Alumni from the 2008 game include left tackle Demetrius Bell (Bills/Northwestern State), wide receiver Pierre Garcon (Colts/Mount Union) and running back (Cardinals/Richmond).
The 2010 rosters -- no longer fully tied to geographical boundaries -- are filled with small-school stars and solid players from major programs not invited to the East-West or Senior Bowl.
Quarterback Ryan Perrilloux (6-feet-2, 228 pounds, 4.87 40-yard dash) went from LSU wunderkind to Ohio Valley Conference star at Jacksonville State. Off-field issues were at the root of his problems in Baton Rouge, and he'll have to wow with his performance to earn a look from NFL teams.
Quick receiver and return specialist Preston Parker (5-11, 195, 4.49) had a similar road to North Alabama after initially attending Florida State.
Defensive end/rush linebacker Junior Galette (6-2, 255, 4.63) transferred from Temple to Stillman for his senior season after an off-field incident.
The performances of that trio at Texas vs. Nation practices and team interviews during the week will have a large effect on their final draft standing.
Players from outside the Football Bowl Subdivision (former Division 1A) to watch this week include hustling South Dakota State defensive end Danny Batten (6-3, 250, 4.68), agile end/linebackers Tim Knicky (Stephen F. Austin, 6-4, 236, 4.64) and Adrian Tracy (William & Mary, 6-3, 243, 4.70), strong but quick running back Deji Karim (Illinois State, 5-9, 204, 4.48), productive receiver Juamorris Stewart (Southern University, 6-1, 196, 4.56), and tall, athletic offensive tackle Jared Veldheer (Hillsdale, 6-8, 321, 4.89).
Several talented SEC players will draw attention. Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton (6-4, 228, 4.79) and Ole Miss safety Kendrick Lewis (5-11, 195, 4.59) are likely to receive the most attention from scouts.
Big East champion Cincinnati is represented by intriguing end/rush linebacker prospect Alex Daniels (6-3, 259, 4.74) and aggressive safety Aaron Webster (6-2, 211, 4.54). Penn State's first-team All-Big Ten left tackle, Dennis Landolt (6-4, 306, 5.26), will also be in attendance.
Others with a lot to gain from non-automatic qualifying FBS schools to watch include New Mexico center Erik Cook (6-6, 318, 5.36). He's a two-time All-Mountain West pick, brother of NFL offensive tackle Ryan Cook and is looking forward to making a name for himself.
Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller (6-4, 234, 4.98) earned second-team All-MAC honors in 2009 and has the size and tools to earn a job at the next level.
Dominique Lindsey (5-10, 202, 4.57) is coming off a big bowl performance for East Carolina, rushing for 150 yards and a score against Arkansas -- another SEC school represented in this game by active defensive lineman Adrian Davis (6-4, 252, 4.79).
Chad Reuter is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.
Can't make it to El Paso?
26 January 2010
Catch the 2010 Hall of Fame Texas vs the Nation All Star Game , 6 2010 at / on CBS College Sports.
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