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June 2, 2012
Five things to watch at the Nebraska Shrine Bowl
When the 2012 Nebraska Shrine Bowl kicks off later this afternoon, a total of 13 future Huskers and a slew of other college football commits will be playing in their final high school game ever.
For those who plan on going to Memorial Stadium for the game or to watch it on NET at 1:30 p.m., here are five things to watch in the latest edition of Nebraska's annual high school football all-star game.
Battle of the QBs
Today's game will pit the two top quarterback prospects the state has to offer against each other for the very first time, as Grand Island's Ryker Fyfe will go head-to-head with Crete's Derek McGinnis.
Fyfe has generated quite the buzz over the last couple days of Shrine Bowl practice, as the Nebraska walk-on has shown enough potential that some think he might have a legit shot at competing for playing time at quarterback for the Huskers within the next five years. The North will run a pass-heavy version of the spread offense, and with Islander teammate and favorite receiving target Sam Foltz on his side, Fyfe could be in for a breakout day.
As for McGinnis, he'll have the benefit of having a dominant offensive line in front of him and a cast of power running backs behind him to take the pressure off a bit. While the South plans to run somewhat of a Wing-T offense, McGinnis should still get his chances to show off his arm, especially with Lincoln Southwest receiver and Husker walk-on Brandon Reilly to throw to.
Shoff has something to prove
There may not be a more hot-button player in this year's Shrine Bowl than Cambridge offensive tackle Mike Shoff. Once regarded as possibly the best player in the state after a stellar sophomore year, the 6-foot-6, 290-pounder had an offer from Iowa in hand with many more expected to come his way.
However, an ACL injury dealt him a huge blow during his junior season, and after a couple rough showings at college summer camps, Shoff ended up without a single Division I offer to his name.
While he was still able to land on his feet with a scholarship to South Dakota State, there's no doubt Shoff hopes to put on one last strong showing on Saturday to cap off his high school career.
The South's power
If there's one clear advantage in this game in favor of the South squad, it's the obvious size and power disparity up front on both sides of the ball between it and the North team.
Behind the likes of Nebraska walk-ons Trey Foster, Dylan Utter, Garret Johns and Ross Dzuris, Iowa commit Drew Ott (Giltner), South Dakota State commit Shoff and North Dakota State commit Sam Hahn (Tri-County), the South should have full control of the line of scrimmage on offense and defense.
Not only that, it also has a talented linebacker corps and offensive backfield in Husker walk-ons Brad Simpson, Andy Janovich, Navy commit Kyle Cuddeford (Adams Central) and North Dakota State signee Bo Liekhus (Bellevue West).
The North's kicking game
The South squad might have the upper hand in its size on the line, but the North definitely has the edge in terms of special teams play. With Norfolk Catholic's Drew Farlee, a Nebraska-Kearney commit who was regarded as the best kicker in the state last season, the North can pretty much consider anything inside the 30-yard line as scoring position.
Then there's Foltz, who on top of being a standout wide receiver and an all-state defensive back at Grand Island could also be best suited at the college level as a punter. During practice this past week, Foltz was booming punts an average of 40-50 yards with plenty of hang time.
Foltz never really got a chance to punt much in high school because of Grand Island's prolific offense, but he has a chance to put his talents on full display today should the North see a few drives stall out.
All eyes on Ott
It's not often that a Shrine Bowl doesn't feature a single Nebraska scholarship player, but such is the case this year since Lincoln Southeast tight end Sam Cotton had to miss the game due to an injury.
As a result, Iowa-bound Ott becomes the most high profile player in the game as the lone BCS commit. There are many Husker fans who view the 6-5, 247-pound defensive end as maybe the best college prospect in the state this year, and he very well could be one that NU regrets letting get away when all is said and done.
Ott will play both outside linebacker and some tight end for the South team today, and there's no doubt fans will be keeping an eye on how well the 8-man star at Giltner plays at the 11-man level against the best competition the state has to offer.
Earlier this week, Ott said he introduced himself at the Shriner's picnic and actually had a few people in attendance boo him when he said he was going to Iowa. He'll obviously want to put on one last show in his last game in Memorial Stadium until the Hawkeyes come to Lincoln in 2013.