Keion White, Riley Moss, and Shrimp: Combine Notebook

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets ER Keion White
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets ER Keion White
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - INDIANAPOLIS—Georgia Tech edge rusher Keion White knows that he's older than the typical prospect at the NFL scouting Combine.

Six years in college is long as shit," Jones said on Wednesday. "I don't know if I can say 'shit' up here, but it's long.

"I did two years at tight end at ODU when I started off, then a year of defensive end, COVID, a basketball injury, and then had a good year last year to get me here. It's been a road."

White redshirted at Old Dominion waaaaaay back in 2017. After catching 11 passes as a block-first tight end, coaches moved the lightly recruited White (he was a 205-pound center in high school) to defensive end, where he recorded 19 tackles for a loss and earned second-team All-Conference USA status. White opted out due to COVID in 2020, then transferred to Georgia Tech.

Then came that injury.

"It was a freak accident," White said. "I jumped up in the air. I came down, and there was a T-shirt on the baseline. I slipped on the T-shirt into the wall. My ankle went sideways.

"I saw it was sideways, and I was like, 'it's not supposed to be like that.' So I just put it back in place. And I was like, 'cool, I'm good.'"

White was neither cool nor good. "It was more than dislocated for sure." He missed the first half of the 2021 season. He finally bounced back to form in 2022, with 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss.

The 280-pound White looks like a top-15 pick at his best: a beefy bull-rusher who can drive blockers backward when he gets under their pads, works hard to generate sacks on his second move, and reads-and-reacts quickly to zone reads, screens, and misdirection plays. But his portfolio is full of ordinary Saturdays, both in 2021 (when he was still working his way back from baseline self-surgery) and 2022 (White, by his own admission, tried too hard to be a nifty speed-rusher at the start of the year).

White is also 24 years old, so there was a man-among-boys element to his 2022 production.

"I was on a team of people that were born in 2004," he said, when asked what it was like to play with freshmen six years younger than him. "I was like, 'Man, I was playing football by then."

One of the great conundrums of the 2023 draft class is figuring out what to do with the "overaged" prospects whose college careers were sidetracked/lengthened by the pandemic. Older prospects have lower upsides and, often, misleading production. It's tempting to issue a blanket exception for players who opted out or had their college schedules erased in 2020, but that's not exactly analytical.

General managers often think of a prospect's age as a two-way street: an older prospect might be closer to his peak, but also less likely to succumb to the many perils of immaturity. Lower ceilings often come with higher floors, especially for unique individuals such as White, who earned an undergraduate degree in real estate from Old Dominion before portalling and has a Linkedin profile full of internships so impressive that I may put him in charge of my retirement plan.

As a super-duper senior, White doesn't fit in the top 20. But he certainly fits in the FO 100 (coming soon) as a rugged all-purpose defensive end who can make an immediate contribution. Moving White too far down the draft board means missing out on a player who could emerge quickly as a locker-room leader.

And NFL teams won't need to worry about any more hardcourt mishaps. "My basketball days are over until after I am done with football," White said. "Even then, it'll all be triple-threat pump fakes and old-man basketball."

Shrimp Are Friends, Not Food

Some representatives of Indianapolis landmark St. Elmo's Steakhouse showed up at the scouting combine media workroom at 9:10 a.m. offering samples of the restaurant's legendary fist-sized shrimp smothered in incendiary horseradish.

Now, I absolutely love St. Elmo's horseradish. It's so hot that it does not so much clear the sinuses as re-channel them, blasting a dolphin-esque blowhole out the base of your spinal column moments after ingestion. I would gargle in the stuff. But I detest shrimp, preferring to eat the horseradish off an oyster cracker or my own outstretched palm.

Furthermore, between the media members who have seafood allergies, those who keep kosher, and those who are almost apocalyptically hung over every single morning at the combine, showing up at the workroom in the breakfast hours brandishing large trays of spicy shrimp was practically a microaggression. The folks from the restaurant, with photographers in tow, were fortunate that no reporter Jackson Pollock'ed half-digested Holiday Inn scrambled eggs and Scotch-scented bile across the convention center ballroom floor.

The few adventurous souls who sampled the mouth-numbing appetizer reacted as if freebasing for the first time: an initial gasp, then a dizzying rush, then pupil dilation usually associated with feral cats in darkened alleys.

The shrimp gals also showed up in the interview room about an hour later, leading to this VERY misleading viral photograph:

No, I am not eyeing up those shrimp. Nor, heaven forbid, the young ladies. I was just wondering if it would be socially inappropriate to lick the horseradish off the top of one of those crustaceans as any respected journalist would.

If the St. Elmo's folks show up at Bryce Young's podium on Friday brandishing shrimp, now that will be considered a microaggression.

Sack King Caleb Murphy, Fancy-Like

When a major NCAA record falls in the hinterlands, it barely makes a sound. So when Ferris State defender Caleb Murphy broke Terrell Suggs' all-time, all-level, single-season NCAA sack record last autumn, not only did the achievement garner little national attention, but it barely had an impact on Murphy's day.

"It was a playoff game," said Murphy, who ended last season with 25.5 sacks. "It was pretty close at the time that I broke it. So we just continued to play the game. And then after I celebrated with my family. I took the ball, but that was about it. They just made a post on social media a couple of days after."

Oh well, at least Murphy and his family celebrated someplace extra special, right? "We went to Applebee's," he said.

Not to yuk anyone's yum or chain-restaurant-shame anyone, but Applebee's? "There's not much in Big Rapids," Murphy explained with a grin.

Murphy ended last season with an overcrowded trophy case, earning the Ted Hendricks award as the nation's best defensive end (at any level), the Gene Upshaw Award as the nation's best D-II lineman, and the Cliff Harris award as the nation's best small-school defensive player, among other honors. He was a five-sport letterman in high school, pitching for the baseball team and running track in the spring and juggling basketball and wrestling in the winter.

I have not studied any Ferris State tape and would not know how to project footage from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to the NFL if I did. So I have no idea what sort of prospect Murphy is. But he came across as poised and confident during combine interviews. And anyone with his accomplishments and athletic background is at least worth a Day 3 draft pick and a long camp look.

Murphy told reporters that he wore No. 12 through college in honor of his favorite NFL player, Tom Brady. So how did Murphy feel when he heard that his idol retired?

"It was sad, because obviously I'm getting in now," Murphy said. "To sack Tom Brady was a dream that probably won't ever come true now."

Veteran move inserting that "probably," Caleb.

Riley Moss is a Fan Favorite

Iowa cornerback Riley Moss is a white guy, and also a cornerback. You might think that the press pool would shy away from asking touchy questions about race. Well, maybe it was the spicy shrimp, but my colleagues did, in fact, ask some (very marginally) hard-hitting questions.

"Obviously, I look different, but I don't play different," Moss said. "Teams will see me out there, and they'll throw the ball my way. Absolutely. Let's go! Throw me the ball! So I think it works out to my advantage."

Friend-of-Walkthrough Turron Davenport of ESPN got Moss to open up a little more about the stereotype of the not-quite-athletic-enough white cornerback. "I was a two-star recruit coming out of high school. I originally committed to North Dakota State. I had no Power 5 offers. It has always been me against the world. I wake up every morning and I remind myself that people don't want you here. I'm going to go out and prove them wrong."

Moss ranks a notch below a large cluster of elite cornerback prospects in this draft class. He's on the fringe of the FO 100. But perhaps if he moves to safety … I mean, he just doesn't fit the mold … why are all my colleagues giving me dirty looks? I DID NOT LICK THE SHRIMP I SWEAR.

Tomorrow, or maybe Saturday: Figure skating with Illinois safety Sydney Brown, cutting Footloose with Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Andre Jones Jr., tap-dancing around the Jalen Carter situation, and more.


7 comments, Last at 03 Mar 2023, 10:03pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 02, 2023 - 2:52pm

The GLIAC is to Division II what the Missouri Valley is to FCS.

It usually has two juggernauts (Ferris and Grand Valley) competing for the conference title and who has a solid chance at the Division II title, and usually a third team who can make the playoffs.

Points: 1

#2 by andeux // Mar 02, 2023 - 9:06pm

How did White become "Jones" in the second paragraph?

Points: 0

#3 by Ben // Mar 02, 2023 - 10:49pm

As an Indy native, I can verify that Mike is in no way exaggerating about St. Elmo’s cocktail sauce. It’s fantastic stuff, but it’s always amusing when a first timer tries it…

Points: 0

#5 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 03, 2023 - 9:05am

Should you ever find yourself in Charleston, South Carolina, this is a similar experience:

Blenheim is as singular as Vernors, but in a very different way.

Points: 0

#6 by EJS // Mar 03, 2023 - 10:00am

Eh, Vernor's hasn't been the same since they closed down the Cass Ave. plant and moved to Texas.   Less spice, more sugar.

Points: 0

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