Mike Alstott marvels at increase in activity for prospects

In the infamous "Crying Game" Mike Alstott celebrates a 16-yard run in the first quarter.

  [Toni L. Sandys | Times]
In the infamous "Crying Game" Mike Alstott celebrates a 16-yard run in the first quarter. [Toni L. Sandys | Times]
Published Jan. 19, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — It has been 20 years since Mike Alstott was a college star at Purdue preparing for the NFL draft, and his lead-up to being selected by the Bucs wasn't as busy as it is for the prospects he's coaching this week in preparation for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.

"I never did an all-star game," said Alstott, spending this week as the running backs coach on Charlie Weis' East team. "I just trained for the combine and then it was waiting. Times have changed, though. … It's all (on) network now, NFL Network. We can see what you're doing at any given moment. A lot of things have changed, but I'm glad to be involved, to try to help these kids continue their dream."

There's a Bucs flavor to Weis' staff, with former TE Dave Moore coaching tight ends and Bill Muir, offensive line coach on the Bucs' Super Bowl team, working with the same unit this week. Alstott has a talented group, including Illinois' Josh Ferguson, Maryland's Brandon Ross, Marshall's Devon Johnson and former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, now working as a running back.

Alstott said Monday he is excited that the Bucs promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to head coach.

"I thought it was great," he said. "He's done a lot of great things, with Jameis (Winston) and the whole offense. Broke every Buccaneer record and all that stuff. … He had the offense in tune, and hopefully we get that defense, because there's a lot of great talent on defense. I don't think they're far."

WATCHING CLOSELY: Bucs general manager Jason Licht was on hand at East practice, and the former scout said the Shrine Game remains a memorable part of the buildup to the draft.

"It's one of our favorite events in the scouting process — you never know what you're going to find," Licht said. "In this setting it's competitive, and that's what we're looking for. They're trying to make their mark and trying to impress the whole league here."

Three players from last year's Shrine Game — WR Andre Davis (Jefferson/USF), DT Derrick Lott and DE Martin Ifedi — spent time on the Bucs' practice squad and are on the roster to compete for jobs in 2016. Licht said this week is a key opportunity to evaluate late-round draft picks.

"And priority (undrafted) free agents, too," Licht said. "This is where (my scouting staff gets) excited. Those guys are the ones doing all the digging, turning over rocks and kicking the weeds."

STILL TOGETHER: Both teams boast quarterback-receiver combos that were prolific this past season.

The West team has Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty, who led Division I-A with 5,055 passing yards and 48 touchdowns, and one of his top receivers, Jared Dangerfield (82 catches, 844 yards, eight TDs). The East has UMass receiver Tajae Sharpe, who led I-A with 111 receptions, and teammate Blake Frohnapfel, a 6-foot-6 quarterback.