Patriots Reportedly Wanted To Coach These Players At Shrine Bowl

Are the Patriots looking to draft a running back?


January 30

The New England Patriots could be looking to find their James White replacement in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Bill Belichick and his staff are in Las Vegas this week, coaching a collection of draft prospects in the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl. As the rosters were being compiled for that all-star showcase, the Patriots reportedly had a request.

According to a tweet from RosterWatch, the scat-back-type running backs were assigned to New England’s West Team, with the bigger, burlier backs playing for the Atlanta Falcons-led East Team, because that was “what each organization wanted.”

The Patriots have one of the NFL’s top all-around backs in Rhamondre Stevenson, who’s coming off a breakout sophomore season. But they never truly replaced White following the longtime third-down back’s retirement last summer.

Ty Montgomery initially filled that role but suffered what proved to be a season-ending injury in Week 1, and fourth-round rookie Pierre Strong — projected as a potential White successor after last year’s draft — wasn’t ready for a full offensive workload, totaling just 10 carries and seven receptions over 15 appearances.

Most of White’s passing-down duties fell to Stevenson. He was productive in that role, leading the Patriots in both rushing yards (1,040) and catches (69), but his heavy workload coupled with multiple injuries to early-down running mate Damien Harris caused the 2021 fourth-rounder to wear down late in the campaign. Harris is an impending free agent, while Stevenson, Strong and 2022 sixth-round pick Kevin Harris are under contract for next season.

If the Patriots aren’t confident Strong can fill the White role in Year 2, it would not be surprising to see them target another versatile or receiving-focused running back in this year’s draft. They’re getting an up-close, hands-on look at the following players during Shrine Bowl week:

Kazmeir Allen, UCLA (5-8, 176)
Allen played both running back and wide receiver at UCLA, posting a 49-403-2 receiving line in his final season. He also has kick-return experience and played for head coach Chip Kelly, a friend of Belichick.

Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota (5-7, 203)
Ibrahim is Minnesota’s all-time leader in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns despite missing nearly the entire 2021 season with a ruptured Achilles. An older prospect at 24, he wasn’t used much in the passing game in college but reportedly has flashed potential there in Shrine Bowl practice.

Xazavian Valladay, Arizona State (5-11, 199)
Valladay played four seasons at Wyoming before transferring to ASU. He put up big numbers in his lone season in the Pac-12, rushing for 1,192 yards (5.5 per carry) and 13 touchdowns and catching 37 passes for 289 yards and two scores.

Travis Dye, USC (5-10, 204)
A season-ending ankle injury suffered in November limited Dye’s participation this week. He was productive as a rusher (884 yards, 6.1 per carry, nine touchdowns) and receiver (21-202-0) in 10 games before the injury after accounting for 1,673 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns for Oregon in 2021.

The Patriots also are working with Jack Colletto, a fullback/tight end prospect out of Oregon State who also played linebacker and quarterback in college. If New England plans to reintroduce the fullback position into their offense this season after hiring coordinator Bill O’Brien, Colletto would be a name to watch. He won the 2022 Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football — the same honor Patriots All-Pro rookie Marcus Jones won the previous year.

Patriots offensive assistant Evan Rothstein is serving as the West Team’s running backs coach this week, working under head coach Troy Brown and offensive coordinator Ross Douglas.

The Atlanta-coached East Team’s roster features running backs Jordan Mims (Fresno State), Deneric Prince (Tulsa) and Tavion Thomas (Utah) and fullback Derek Parish (Houston).

The Shrine Bowl will be played Thursday night at Allegiant Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

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Thumbnail photo via Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports Images
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