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Thompson in Texas: 3 Shrine Bowl prospects to watch this weekend

The Shrine Bowl has some gems on its 2024 rosters. Can the Chicago Bears find some?

NCAA Football: Miami at Temple Andy Lewis-USA TODAY Sports

Forget the quarterback talk for a moment and have some fun leading up to the NFL Draft.

Like Chicago Bears coaches Richard Hightower and Dave Borgonzi, I’ll be down in Frisco, Texas for Shrine Bowl practices this week as scouting season kicks off in earnest.

Last year’s Shrine Bowl yielded some notable stars, like Baltimore Ravens receiver Zay Flowers and the Los Angeles Rams’ young defensive lineman Kobie Turner. The Bears even got their own young baller from the 2023 game in Minnesota cornerback Terell Smith, who had a solid rookie season.

With the Bears part of the coaching contingent on the East team — Hightower is head coach and Borgonzi is defensive coordinator — look for them to bring home some new talent from this year’s trip as well.

Here are three players I’ll especially have my eye on, with more certainly to come.

Isaac Guerendo, RB (Louisville)

Guerendo’s name was the first one a young scout I talked to dropped when I asked what players he was excited to watch.

It’s no mystery why.

You won’t find many size/speed combinations like this in the 2024 running back class. He can fly at 6-foot-plus and more than 220 pounds, striding away from angles like the former Indiana track star he was while busting through tackles like his frame says he should.

Expect him the former sprinter and long-jumper to detonate pre-draft testing, which Ryan Poles can never resist.

Guerendo’s one-cut/get-vertical style is a dream match for the outside zone scheme the Bears have run of late, and he can add more value yet as a pass catcher (22 catches for 234 yards in 2023). The Bears need more juice out of the backfield, and he could be a heck of an addition later in the draft.

Christian Mahogany, iOL (Boston College)

Whether we’re talking center or guard, the Bears need more bodies on the interior of the offensive line.

Mahogany feels like a baby Tevin Jenkins with perhaps even more ability to get out in space in the run game. You can see defenders’ heads whiplash on impact when Mahogany makes contact, which is something Ryan Poles once praised about Darnell Wright after the draft. (Poles was a BC grad himself…)

An ACL injury might have been the only thing keeping him out of last year’s draft. Now that he’s got a year of football under him since then, let’s see if he’s back to form. If he is, Mahogany could be excellent insurance for either Jenkins or Nate Davis, both of him struggled with unavailability in 2023.

Leonard Taylor III, DL/DT (Miami)

The Bears arguably don’t need to add to their young depth on the defensive line after Gervon Dexter clearly improved as last season progressed and Zacch Pickens flashed as well.

But Taylor might be a player that makes them reconsider that.

His rare combination of size and explosive movement skills allowed him to play everywhere along Miami’s defensive front during his time there, though 3-tech is probably his best spot.

He explodes off the football and regularly knifes through slower guards, but he’s also stout enough to hold his ground at the point of attack in the run game.

Taylor’s technique needs work, and his production from 2023 (19 tackles, 1.5 sacks) won’t wow anyone. But if the Bears think they can get more out of the former five-star prospect, this could be a fun Day 2 pick. He’s a well-rounded player who could fit into the defensive rotation immediately.