USC senior safety Demetrius Wright got an opportunity to be coached up by former All-Pros Darrell Green and Robert Griffith and be seen in front of NFL scouts this week at the NFL Player's Association Collegiate Bowl practices and game.
Wright made the most of his experience, recording a team-high six tackles and recovering a fumble on his first play after entering the game. However, it wasn't enough for the American team as the National squad won 31-17 behind two touchdowns from LSU fullback JC Copeland, who was a master of efficiency carrying the ball twice for two yards -- both into the end zone.
Stanford running back Anthony Wilkerson also ran for a National touchdown on a smooth 27-yard scamper that saw Wilkerson take a handoff right, make one quick cut to get outside and out run the defense to the right pylon. Wilkerson celebrated his birthday with a game-high 67 yards on eight carries.
Tulsa's Trey Watts added 52 yards on nine carries for the National team, but had the first half fumble that Wright recovered.
For the American team, the diminutive Roy Finch from Oklahoma led the way on the ground with 58 yards on 12 carries. He also caught two passes for eight yards and had a 56-yard kickoff return. Bloomsburg running back Franklyn Quiteh added 50 yards on nine carries and had the first score of the game with a 20-yard touchdown run.
After Copeland's two touchdown runs put the National squad ahead, Hawaii quarterback Sean Schroeder tied the game with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Spencer, a McNeese State receiver who was a last minute addition after Texas Tech's Eric Ward left earlier this week. Spencer caught three passes for 29 yards. Tony Washington led the American team with four catches (27 yards) while North Dakota's Greg Hardin had a team-high 51 yards receiving, including a 34-yard reception -- the longest of the game by either team.
The National team's receiving leader was Fresno State's Isaiah Burse, who had four catches for 51 yards, including a 33-yard catch that set up Copeland's second score. Burse also helped set up the National squad's go-ahead score when he returned a punt 26 yards into American territory. Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay finished the drive off with a beautiful throw on a well run flag route by Miami tight end Asante Cleveland. Cleveland's only catch of the game went for a 27-yard touchdown.
Wilkerson's touchdown and a field goal on the following drive put Team National up 31-14 -- a lead it did not relinquish.
One of the most talked about prospects leading up to the game, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, finished 5-of-7 for 71 yards, but he and fellow SEC signal caller James Franklin from Missouri (5-of-9, 78 yards) both threw interceptions. Schroeder threw for a game-high 138 yards, finishing 13-of-17.
The players, all seniors, will now continue training in preparations for the 2014 NFL Draft, which will be held in New York City beginning May 8.