CARSON -- A few hours after former UCLA tight end Cory Harkey took part in the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, four fellow ex-Bruins played in another college all-star game in Southern California.
Receivers Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree, safety Tony Dye and defensive tackle Justin Edison all played in the first NFL Players’ Association Collegiate Bowl in L.A. on Saturday, held at the Home Depot Center in Carson. Edison performed the best of any of them, recording two tackles for a loss and a sack and impressing his coach, former NFL head man Dick Vermeil.
Known as the Texas vs. the Nation game until 2011, the NFLPA game allowed select underclassmen to participate and NFL scouts were not allowed to attend because of a rule preventing them from scouting such players at college All-Star games. But all teams are getting copies of the game film from the game, and, in past years, a number of the players who took part in this game ended up being late-round selections in the NFL draft.
UCLA has a history with players climbing up draft boards at this point the process. Last year, David Carter went without a Combine invite but got himself selected in the sixth round by the Arizona Cardinals after an impressive performance at the Shrine Game and at UCLA's Pro Day.
Rosario is hoping he'll see a similar fate the next three months. The 6-5 receiver didn't record a catch in Saturday's game and didn't appear to have any passes thrown his direction, but he maintained that playing in the game was a good experience for him.
As to his draft status, he said expects to be picked anywhere from the third to the seventh round in April after catching 64 passes for 1,161 yards for the Bruins in 2011.
Dye could have been eligible for a fifth year had he sat out the final few games of the 2011 season because of a neck injury and applied for a medical redshirt, but he chose to come back in time to suit up for the last two games of the regular season.
But he got hurt in the first quarter of the USC game, missed the Pac-12 championship game with an ankle injury and then missed the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl while academically ineligible.
He said he has "the lowest of expectations" for his draft stock but continues to be confident he'll be able to latch on in the league at a later point.