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Cunningham, Sukay among Shrine stars

1/23/2012

Michigan State receiver B.J. Cunningham and Penn State safety Nick Sukay were among the stars at Saturday's East-West Shrine Game, a showcase for potential NFL draft prospects.

Sukay won defensive MVP honors after grabbing an interception in the end zone with 5:51 to keep the score tied, though his East team lost 24-17 to the West squad. Cunningham, who had a strong week of practices leading up to the game, had a 17-yard touchdown catch and another nine-yard reception.

Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa was 1-of-3 passing for 10 yards, while Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins was held without a catch. Jenkins rushed one time for no gain. But the Sporting News said Jenkins and Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater were among the players who helped their draft stock the most during the week in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Here are some more notes on Big Ten players from the game by our ESPN Scouts Inc. staff:

  • Penn State's Nick Sukay did a good job of tracking the ball and making the play on an interception, though Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish put too much air on the ball and made it a much easier play. Sukay is a former strong safety now playing outside linebacker, and at only 211 pounds he needs to add 15-20 pounds. Still, he showed coverage range and ball skills on the pick.

  • Wisconsin DS Aaron Henry laid out Massachusetts H-back Emil Igwenagu and got flagged for unnecessary roughness, but at least he led with his shoulder and not his helmet.

  • Northwestern QB Dan Persa's lack of size is coming into play, but he's moving around well and creating passing windows. He overthrew South Dakota State WR Dale Moss on a fade down the left side, and Alabama WR Darius Hanks down the right side two plays later. He later rolled to his right and took a sack when he couldn't find anyone, but Persa has to throw the ball out of bounds to avoid unnecessary contact in addition to not losing yards in that situation

  • Iowa DC Shaun Prater got to Mayo a split second early and was flagged for pass interference near the goal line, nullifying SS Duke Ihenacho's interception. Prater also got away with holding Mayo on another play.

The East-West Shrine Game wasn't the only all-star showcase on Saturday. The inaugural NFLPA Collegiate Bowl was held in Carson, Calif., and some Big Ten players stood out there, too.

Minnesota's Da'Jon McKnight led all receivers with four catches for 49 yards. Michigan State Hail Mary hero Keith Nicol had one catch for 37 yards. Illinois' Jason Ford, who was suspended for the team's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl win, paced the American team with five rushes for 27 yards. Indiana's DaMarlo Belcher, who was dismissed from the team mideason, had two catches for 27 yards.