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Cactus Bowl Report

You may know the East-West Shrine Game was played Saturday, and that practices at the Senior Bowl start Monday, but the most important postseason college game to the Rams the last couple years has already been played, and I missed it.

Of course, I’m talking about the Cactus Bowl, the NCAA D-II all-star game, held in Kingsville, Texas. Don’t laugh. (OK, you can laugh at Cactus Bowl mascot Spike.) The Rams love to use late draft picks on players who appear in this game, or sign them as rookie free agents.

From the 2010 game, they drafted Eugene Sims (6b), and signed Jermelle Cudjo and Dominique Curry. Not only that, current practice squad player Jimmy Saddler-McQueen was also in the 2010 game, so guess how he got on Rams Park’s radar. (Current Bears starting tackle J’Marcus Webb also played in that game.)

From 2009, the Rams drafted Keith Null (6) and signed Jarrett Byers and K.C. Asiodu. Other names I recognize from the 2009 game: TE Zack Miller (not the Oakland one) and Greg Toler. Oh, there’s recognizable names: there was a George Washington (RB, Mars Hill) and a Steven Jackson (CB, Fort Valley State). Plus, I’m bummed nobody drafted the awesomely-named Les Hammers (DE, Truman State), but I digress.

That’s two draft picks, seven players total, signed in two years from a fairly obscure postseason game. What talent may the Rams hope to mine from this year’s game? Like I said, I missed it. Back on January 7, the “Red Storm” defeated the “Blue Devils” 28-6 on the strength of 2 TD passes by Offensive Player of the Game and Harlan Hill Trophy winner Eric Czerniewski of Central Missouri. With apologies to Eric, I’m pretty sure the Rams won’t be looking very hard for a QB this offseason. What players might they go after? Let’s wing after a few…

Marc Schiechl, Colorado School of Mines. Schiechl was the Defensive Player of the Game, with 8 tackles and 2 sacks. He’s a defensive lineman listed as 6’3″ 260 by the Cactus Bowl, but NFLDraftScout lists him at 248, Scouts, Inc at 242. He’s a Division II All-American and the all-time career sacks leader at that level, with 46. He lost out on the award for Division II lineman of the year to the center at Slippery Rock. NFLDraftScout currently ranks him as the #54 DE. He thrived on outside-leverage pass rushing; he’s easily faster than most of the D-II o-linemen he went up against. Most of his success appears to come from his exceptional quickness. That’s by far his loudest note, but he’s not one-note. He’s got good change of direction, plays the run well enough and doesn’t get lost if he gets re-directed inside. You’d figure if he gets locked onto by an NFL o-lineman, he’s done. But he is impressively strong, and was a high school wrestler, so you’d also figure he’s good at getting leverage. If he’s a lot closer to his listed Cactus Bowl weight at Pro Day time, Schiechl’s the style of defensive end and the kind of D-II prospect the Rams front office likes.

L.J. Castile, Delta State. The 6’3″ 218 WR was the breakaway threat of the game, catching passes of 36, 42 and 44 yards with a TD. NFLDraftScout currently ranks him #49 at WR. War Room’s analysis: “Castille (sic) shows the ability to adjust to passes low and high, but he dropped a few catchable balls during practice for the Cactus Bowl. He shows nice quickness to separate from cornerbacks and run after the catch. He also has shown inconsistent route-running skills.” That’s still an enticing description for a 7th-round or free-agent type player. His estimated 40’s a shade over 4.5. The Rams have gone after big receivers from the Cactus Bowl each of the last couple of years, and Castile definitely fits the profile. Castile left Houston last year to concentrate on his studies, so he may get a knock from some about his level of commitment to the game.

Jessie Poku, Eastern New Mexico. He had 86 catches at ENMU this season and is the school’s all-time record-holder for receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs. He had 4 catches in the Cactus Bowl for 34 yards. Like Castile, War Room likes Poku’s ability to gain separation, but not his hands. Also not his catching technique. At 6’1″ 207, though, he definitely fits the Rams’ Cactus Bowl size profile, and unlike the first two prospects, Jessie plays in the LONE STAR CONFERENCE, which is where most of the Rams’ previous Cactus Bowl prospects played. He’s NFLDraftScout’s #193-rated WR.

Anthony Stewart, Central Missouri. Stewart was one of the offensive stars of the game, with 45 yards rushing on 8 carries and a 43-yard reception. His game matched his performance at Cactus Bowl practices, where War Room praised his quickness on outside runs and ability to get up to speed after catching screen passes. Would the Rams like him at 5’9″, 190? is the biggest question. The #133 RB prospect right now is listed at 5’7″ 176 by some sources. The UCM website, granted, not unbiased, calls him explosive, with great moves and quickness. Attributes the Rams backfield clearly needs, if Stewart has them at a pro level. For now let’s call him a very poor man’s Darren Sproles.

Tae Evans, West Texas A&M. The 6’0″, 205 corner led the “Red Storm” with 5 tackles, 4 solo. He’s NFLDraftScout’s #147-ranked CB. War Room says he plays much faster than his timed speed (4.68!?!?), makes sharp breaks, breaks up passes on all kinds of routes and moves smoothly in the hips. I mainly listed him because he sounds like a corner who’s willing to support against the run, and because I think he’s the best player the Rams can pull this year from their dreaded WTAMU PIPELINE, which has provided them a 6th-round pick the last two seasons.

I don’t know how much the Cactus Bowl will help the Rams’ searches for OLBs, guards or DTs, though since it’s the Cactus Bowl, I’m sure they’ll find a way. The on-line game rosters didn’t provide a lot of help scouting offensive linemen. They didn’t list any guards on the blue team and the ones on the red team are undersized. The defensive tackles who aren’t undersized seem exceptionally tall for the position. A couple of the OLBs rang up nice tackle totals but top out at 6’0″.

Don’t miss out on the future of your Rams; check the game and practice reports out for yourself at:

War Room’s Cactus Bowl Dish

Cactus Bowl website, where you can watch the actual game online if you dare


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