The first Shrine Bowl was played in 1925, and on Thursday, February 3, the 97th game is set to kick off. This year’s game will be played in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada at 8 p.m. EST. (6 p.m. local time.)
This game has a major selling point for the players that some of the other all-star games don’t have. These guys are going to have at least some input on the draft process and who to bring in as an undrafted free agent.
Most of the coaches participating in this game are current NFL assistants, with Baltimore Ravens defensive backs coach D’Anton Lynn tabbed head coach for the East team and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady for the West.
There is a major opportunity to get noticed here, as the game will be aired on the NFL Network.
The MAC players that have accepted invites are an interesting group. Dustin Crum and Ali Fayad are two of the best in the MAC. Armani Rogers and Clint Ratkovich have come to the MAC via transfer and certainly left their mark in a short window of time.
- Dustin Crum, QB, Kent State
Dustin Crum has been the starting quarterback for the Golden Flashes since the 2019 season. For three years, Crum has been a dual-threat quarterback leading the high tempo Kent State offense. Crum lead the MAC in 2021 in total offense with 3,187 passing yards and 703 rushing yards. In his career, he passed for 7,449 yards, 55 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, and rushed for 2,071 yards with 24 touchdowns.
It’s a real shame that 2020 wasn’t a full season. Crum averaged 295 passing yards per game with a stellar 74% completion percentage. That was good for First Team All-MAC in 2020 and he did it again in 2021. Crum also won the Vern Smith Leadership Award in 2021, which is given to the most valuable player in the conference as voted on by the coaches.
Dustin Crum is a former two-star recruit from Grafton, Ohio, and has had some truly special performances as the quarterback of the Flashes since beating out former four-star SEC prospect Woody Barrett III for the starting role in 2019. In a three-way race for the MAC East title against Miami and Buffalo, Crum passed for 325 yards and two touchdowns and 407 yards and three touchdowns in wins against both teams. Crum lead Kent State back to their first MAC Championship Game since 2012.
Crum has an outside chance at getting drafted in Day 3, though he will more likely be an undrafted free agent or minicamp tryout.
- Ali Fayad, EDGE, Western Michigan
Ali Fayad is listed at the Shrine Bowl as a linebacker, but his time at Western Michigan was spent as a defensive end, where he was an absolute sack machine. Over five seasons with the Broncos, Fayad totaled 32.5 sacks and 55.5 tackles for loss.
He is quite the development story for Western Michigan. A product of Dearborn, Michigan, Fayad was not highly touted out of high school. He chose Western Michigan over Eastern Michigan and D-II Saginaw Valley State. As a freshman, he saw time in the defensive line rotation and registered at least one tackle for loss in five games. In 2021, by far his best season, he got to the quarterback 13 times.
Fayad has pretty high floor as a pass rusher in the MAC. His 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss earned the 2021 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Award and First Team All-MAC to add on to his Second Team All-MAC honors form 2019. His performances were extremely consistent, with game highs of two sacks and 4.5 tackles-for-loss, registering at least half a sack in 30 of his 49 games played.
He’ll get some looks as a potential 3-4 outside linebacker, standing at six-foot-two, 250 lbs., which will affect his draft status.
- Armani Rogers, QB/TE, Ohio
Armani Rogers is attempting an even more drastic position change to get to the next level. He was recruited originally to UNLV as a dual-threat quarterback. After the 2019 season, Rogers transferred to Ohio to finish his career as a Bobcat. He split time at the quarterback spot over the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Rogers is entering the Shrine Bowl as a tight end.
As a quarterback in 2021, he attempted 47 passes and 92 rushes. He passed for a total of 334 yards and ran for 552 yards. He is clearly an athletic football. In his college career, he rushed for an average of 5.5 yards and 2,215 yards total. Against Buffalo, he ripped off a 99-yard touchdown run. He finished that game with 183 total rush yards.
Rogers has two career receptions for a total of two yards. With the ball in his hands, he can clearly take off and make plays. It’s some of the other skills that a tight end should possess that are going to be raw coming into the Shrine Bowl.
He has the height of a tight end, standing at six-foot-five, but is under the average for tight end weight. Luckily, that is the one of those two that can be changed. He is a prime candidate at 225 lbs. as of this season. He’ll be looking to take advantage of working with current NFL assistants.
Rogers doesn’t have to look far for a success story for the QB/TE transition, as former Buffalo dual threat QB Tyree Jackson has recently done the same at the professional level for the Philadelphia Eagles after three years at QB between the NFL and XFL.
- Clint Ratkovich, FB, Northern Illinois
There aren’t many teams who roster fullbacks anymore, but Clint Ratkovich did more than enough to earn himself a roster spot at NIU. True to the position’s potential, he is a touchdown machine, scoring 15 total touchdowns in his lone season in DeKalb. He came to the Huskies via FCS Western Illinois, where he was a versatile back with 66 rushes and 111 receptions.
Ratkovich was named to the Third Team All-MAC in 2021 after a 104 rush, 461 yard season, adding on 13 receptions for 113 yards. He had a three-touchdown game against Wyoming and broke a 96-yard touchdown run in the season finale against Western Michigan.
He came from Crete, Illinois and was a consistent performer all season. His totals might not be towards the top of the MAC, but he was third on Huskies in all-purpose yards, doing anything the team needed him to do from the fullback, halfback and quarterback positions.
Ratkovich could be a true fullback or pass-catching H-back at the professional level, and will get some looks in minicamps due to his versatility.