Five Former Beehive State Stars To Take Stage At East-West Shrine Game

Jan 17, 2019, 4:21 PM
Utah Utes offensive lineman Jackson Barton (70) yells as the game comes down to the end as BYU and ...
Utah Utes offensive lineman Jackson Barton (70) yells as the game comes down to the end as BYU and Utah play at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Utah won 35-27. (Scott Winterton, Deseret News)
(Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The East-West Shrine Game will feature six former stars from the Beehive State. For these players and their teammates in the game, it’s an opportunity to showcase their skills and create some buzz among NFL scouts.

The all-star game of sorts will kick off from St. Petersburg, Flor. and be broadcast on the NFL Network on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The game will not feature former BYU offensive lineman Austin Hoyt, who previously accepted an invite from the game, but recently announced his intention to withdraw from the contest and from a future in professional football.

Here are the players from Utah that are slated to play in the game and how the game may impact their NFL Draft stock:

Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU

Takitaki was a late addition to the East-West Shrine Game but has already made his visit to St. Petersburg count. Reportedly he met with officials from the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys following practice on Wednesday.

“[Takitaki] provides ideal pass rush off the edge and appears flexible when bending the corner, and can win with his hands as well,” according to Draft Wire’s Gavino Borquez. “The BYU product is a disciplined defender that is cognizant of his run gap responsibilities and edge containment.” has Takitaki projected as a sixth-rounder. Time will tell if the Broncos or Cowboys will call his name then.

Jaskson Barton, OL, Utah

Barton has comparable size to Hoyt at 6-foot-7 and 313 pounds. It’s not a stretch to assume that he also faced stiffer competition in the Pac-12 and did a fantastic job, earning first team All-Pac-12 honors.

RotoWorld spoke glowingly of Barton, saying, “Barton has played both left and right tackle for the Utes, and has been a solid — if not spectacular — performer for the Pac-12 South champions. He’ll likely get looks at both positions, but he profiles best as a right tackle at the next level.”

Cody Barton, LB, Utah

Barton is the younger brother of Jackson, and plays on the opposite side of the field at linebacker. He also was a strong performer for the Utes last season, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.

Scouts seem to like his intuitive play-recognizing skills and have him slated as a potential fourth-round pick or day three draft selection.

He’ll need to demonstrate improved athletic abilities during this evaluation period if he wants to solidify his draft stock and the Shrine Game is the perfect starting point to doing so.

Matt Gay, K, Utah

Making in the NFL as a kicker is tricky business. It’s all a matter of timing and fit. Some guys like Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens can lock down a spot in the league for 15-plus years, other guys get just one chance and may not even make it out of training camp.

Gay is in that boat. He clearly has the power and accuracy to make it in the league, but he’ll need to be virtually flawless on both place-kicking and kickoffs in the Shrine Game to show that he has the chops to last as a kicker on Sundays.

The former Lou Groza Award Winner has the ability, it’s all about execution from here on out.

Ron’quavion Tarver, WR, Utah State

Tarver was Utah State’s leading receiver in 2018, leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He has the size and speed to make it as a wide receiver in the NFL, but perhaps was a victim of how effective Utah State’s offense was last season.

The Aggies’ offense has hardly on the field last year, as they quickly destroyed opposing defenses. Perhaps being so good and not facing stiff competition is a major reason why Tarver hasn’t been talked about much concerning his draft status.

Roto World said this about Tarver: “Tarver was a decent player in 2018, but he hasn’t been a highly talked about prospect early in the draft process. Perhaps the East-West Shrine Game can create some buzz for Tarver. Consider him a Day 3 candidate for now.”

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Five Former Beehive State Stars To Take Stage At East-West Shrine Game