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January 18, 2007

Shrine Game East notes: A jack of all trades

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HOUSTON An NFL scout at the Houston Texans training center stayed after Thursday's East-West Shrine Game practice to interview a receiver, running back, defensive back and quarterback from South Carolina.

Fortunately for the scout they were all the same person.

Syvelle Newton is nothing if not versatile. Yet, that versatility is matched by his confidence. Indeed, Newton is convinced that because he's concentrating on a conversion that he should be considered as a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

All the "cons" in the previous paragraph may make him a good pro.

Last season Newton played receiver, quarterback and even defensive back for the Gamecocks. He played tailback earlier in his career. Now that he has a chance to concentrate on one position presumably receiver he's confident that he can continue his playing career on the highest level.

"It's been good converting back to receiver," Newton said after Thursday's practice in which he lined up wide, in the slot, and in the backfield. "I got a couple of snaps at running back and they put in a couple of other plays for me.

"I feel like my whole career I've been different than any other athlete. I started at quarterback then receiver then running back then back to quarterback and back to receiver and I finished on defense. I think that shows what kind of athlete I am."

Obviously, the scouts agree. A Kansas City Chiefs representative offered a business card and asked Newton to telephone him.

The Gamecocks called on Newton whenever there was trouble this season. When quarterback Blake Mitchell was suspended early in the season Newton stepped in and passed for 1,316 yards and 12 touchdowns.

When Mitchell returned, Newton went back to receiver and finished the season with 12 catches for 99 yards.

Had he stayed at receiver, Newton thinks he would be as highly regarded as teammate Sidney Rice - who led South Carolina with 72 receptions last season and is considered a probable first-round draft choice.

"There's no telling what I could have done if I could have stayed at one position," Newton said. "I would be one of the guys they're speaking of being first round draft choices. If I had played one position the whole time I would have been up there with the best of them."

That could be up for debate. However, Newton can still make a case on why teams should consider taking him in the first round.

"If I went in the first round the team that took me would not have wasted their pick," he said. "There are only 53 players on a roster and only 45 dress out to play. I can play running back, receiver, quarterback and defensive back.

"That's like getting four players in one. If you pick one player and he gets hurt, then what have you got?"

You've got a problem. That is, unless you've got Newton.

A Category One: Miami's Tyrone Moss isn't a big Hurricane, but a few scouts liked what they've seen from the 5-foot-9, 232-pound running back. He impressed scouts with his quick cuts and burst of speed, especially considering that they questioned whether he has fully recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that he suffered in 2005.

Tate's fate: There seems to be no consensus about the prospects of Iowa quarterback Drew Tate. One scout suggested Tate has not helped his draft status during this week's practices because his arm strength is suspect and he's not very big at 6-feet, 192 pounds. However, another scout raved about the tight spirals Tate threw and praised his ability to quickly pick up his receivers.

Looking good: Among the East players that were singled out by scouts for their performance this week were Clemson offensive linemen Nathan Bennett, Idaho State quarterback Matt Gutierrez, Alabama State cornerback Michael Coe, Delaware tight end Ben Patrick , Florida State tackle Mario Henderson and Lane college receiver Jacoby Jones.

Noteworthy: Notre Dame guard Dan Santucci got an offensive linemen's dream when Michigan State defensive tackle Clifton Ryan deflected a screen pass into Santucci's arms. Santucci ran about 30 yards with the ball, though none of the defensive players seemed too motivated to tackle him. Virginia Tech fullback Jesse Allen was a favorite target on passes into the flat when the East was running plays from the 5-yard line, but on one throw to him Georgia Tech cornerback Kenny Scott stepped in for an interception. LSU's Daniel Francis and Jesse Daniels, Hampton's Travarous Bain and Scott all got looks as kickoff return men.

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