With the 2013 Texas A&M football season officially over, you'll have to get your football fix this offseason from reading about Spring Practice and following a group of five former Texas A&M football players on their path to the NFL Draft. For one of those five, former running back Ben Malena, his chance to make a statement takes place this weekend in the 89th East-West Shrine Game being held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The game will be aired on the NFL Network at 3:00pm CT on Saturday.
While many are more familiar with NFL's Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game is the longest running college all-star game in the country. Its participants have had successful careers in the NFL as well: in 2013, 100 players from the 88th East-West Shrine Game would sign with a professional football team and there are, on average, 275 East-West Shrine Game alumni on current NFL rosters. More importantly, the East-West Shrine Game serves a purpose of benefiting the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Ben Malena, better known as the "CASH OUT KING" (you can buy your official CASH OUT KING headband HERE by the way), is originally from Cedar Hill, Texas. In his career at Texas A&M, he totaled 1,618 rushing yards on 320 carries (a 5.05 average) and scored 22 times. He also caught 49 passes for 353 yards (7.20 average) and scored 3 touchdowns. His best performance of this past season came against Rice when he rushed for 82 yards on 12 carries and scored once on the ground and on an 18-yard reception. Malena's carries sharply fell in the second half of the season, only 34 in the final six games compared to 73 in the first six. Numerically, he had a better season in 2012 rushing for 808 yards on 138 attempts for 5.9 yards per carry.
Ben Malena 2012 Highlights (via Tamuhighlights Whoop)
As an NFL prospect, Malena ranks in the late teens to early twenties of eligible running backs in the 2014 NFL draft. His size will be somewhat of a concern as he only stands 5'8" and weighs 195 pounds. However, it is a very compact 195 pounds. Malena exhibits great acceleration and can be shifty. He could immediately compete for kick return duties which may be where he finds his home, at least early on the next level. Some concerns include his up-right running style and his pass blocking capabilities. I personally would like to see Malena lower his pad level when running and focus on becoming a better blocker, which will lead to more third down opportunities in the NFL.
Malena will compete for the West at the East-West Shrine Game and be coached by former Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel (also rumored to be the new defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans).
While practices for the East-West Shrine Game have been ongoing this week, there has been very limited buzz about Malena. Instead, Sam Houston State's Tim Flanders has been the West running back gaining the most attention. However, some notes on Malena have stated he was working on planting harder to cut with more explosion while also working on his pre-snap stance and footwork.
You can read all of SBNation's reports from the East-West Shrine Game HERE.
Date: Saturday, January 18th
Time: 3:00 PM Central
TV: NFL Network