HOUSTON -- It's unusual for quarterbacks to thrive during early-week practices before all-star games, and after Monday's practices it's apparent that none of the six quarterbacks at this year's East-West Shrine Game will be an exception to the rule.
In addition to run-of-the-mill system and timing issues, heavy winds added a degree of difficulty during the morning session for the East trio of Chase Daniel (Missouri), Hunter Cantwell (Louisville) and Brian Hoyer (Michigan State). West QBs Tom Brandstater (Fresno State), Mike Reilly (Central Washington) and Stephen McGee (Texas A&M) had the same problem in the afternoon.
Daniel, the headliner of the group, failed to settle into a rhythm and still has much to prove if he wants to distance himself from the other quarterbacks this week. Brandstater was even worse, as he consistently threw behind receivers during drills. Hoyer's lack of arm strength really stood out when he was forced to throw into the wind.
Of the six, McGee had the best day throwing the football. It was even more impressive considering the rust he is shaking off after losing his starting job in 2008 due to injury and a system change. McGee stands to become one of the big winners from Saturday's game if he can build on his performance in Tuesday's practice. Reilly also showed flashes of quick decision-making and accuracy as a passer but he simply couldn't sustain either throughout the entire practice.
The Shrine Game's recent tradition of showcasing small-school prospects with big-league potential looks like a safe bet to continue. Present-day NFL players such as Saints WR Marques Colston (Hofstra, 2006), Giants TE Kevin Boss (Western Oregon, 2007), Texans WR/RS Jacoby Jones (Lane College, 2007), Dolphins DL Kendall Langford (Hampton, 2008) and Bengals WR Jerome Simpson (Coastal Carolina, 2008) all used this game as a proving ground.
There are more legitimate small-school prospects playing in this year's game than ever. The best of the bunch include Reilly, RB Javarris Williams (Tennessee State), DT Sammie Lee Hill (Stillman) and the tight end trio of David Johnson (Arkansas State), Brian Mandeville (Northeastern) and Jared Bronson (Central Washington).
A pair of perimeter players from powerhouse programs stood out on Tuesday. The first was USC CB Cary Harris, who was aggressive and showed above-average instincts during one-on-one drills. On one play, Nevada WR Marko Mitchell took an abnormally wide split and tried to beat Harris on a slant, but Harris read the route, stepped in front of Mitchell and picked off the pass. Harris also showed his willingness to step up in run support by delivering a big hit during the team period.
The other standout was Penn State WR Deon Butler, who exploded off the line and showed above-average burst coming out of his breaks. He also caught the ball well and showed above-average body control. Butler elevated over Norfolk State CB Don Carey on a play down the sideline and came down with the jump ball. It was a particularly unimpressive play for Carey because he is three inches taller than Butler and Butler does not possess blazing speed.
Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl all contributed to this report. Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.