Crider, Johnson selected for East-West Shrine Bowl

Like many talented football players before them, Indiana seniors Harry Crider and Jerome Johnson have received the honor of being selected for the East-West Shrine Bowl.

Only in this strange year, there will be no actual game for them to play in. And while being selected for an all-star game usually marks the end of a senior’s career, that doesn’t have to be the case for Crider and Johnson, either.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all fall athletes have the option of returning for the 2021 season. Crider, for one, hasn’t made up his mind.

“That’s a decision I’m going to make for sure soon after the bowl,” Crider said. “The Shrine Bowl, that’s a huge opportunity. I know the game itself is canceled, but I know they are still giving opportunities to meet virtually with NFL scouts and so forth and the whole training process. Even getting invited is a big opportunity, and I’m super thankful for that.”

The organizers of the Shrine Bowl, originally scheduled for Jan. 23, canceled the game because athletes will have already gone home for the holidays when it’s played.

“It’s difficult enough currently for these college teams to provide some sort of a bubble during the regular season, but our game occurs after all players have gone home for the holidays,” Bob Roller, the game’s executive director, said in a statement. “It presented too many potential issues for this one year.”

The Shrine Bowl, along with the Senior Bowl and other all-star games, usually offer players an opportunity to showcase their skills during a week of practice and then a game. In another release, the Shrine Bowl confirmed there would be “virtual training sessions in preparation for the NFL Draft” for those selected.

But again, both Crider and Johnson have one more game to play, with the Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl, which is their primary focus at the moment. After that, Crider, Johnson, and their teammates will have to make decisions about what’s best for their future.

IU coach Tom Allen spoke on this subject two weeks ago after signing day, because which players the Hoosiers lose will affect what the staff may do to fill holes on the roster. At the same time, seniors who return will not count against a team’s roster limit for the 2021 season.

“We’d love to have these guys back because it was such a choppy offseason. We had a brand new strength staff that joined us right before spring break and then that’s when the pandemic hit,” Allen said. “That’s something to consider in your development, your ability to leave here and go on to whatever is next for you so you’re most prepared for that.”

IU has several players who could stay or could opt to explore opportunities at the next level. Receivers Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor, in particular, come to mind. The Hoosiers also have other veterans on the line, such as grad transfer defensive tackle Jovan Swann and offensive guard Mackenzie Nworah.

Crider is a true senior, but he graduated midyear as a junior. He is pursuing a master’s in criminal justice. Johnson is a fifth-year player who redshirted the 2016 season. He is also a criminal justice major.

Both have been key parts of IU’s success the last two years. Crider, the Columbus native, started at left guard last season before moving to center in 2020. Johnson was a first-team All-Big Ten selection this season, despite being a lightly recruited player out of Bassfield, Miss.

“This was a late pickup, they got me on signing day, actually,” Johnson said. “I think I had this offer and Jackson State, things were slow. But in the end, things worked out.

“I always knew I was a good football player, I think Coach Allen and Coach (Mark) Hagen, when he was here, and (Kevin) Peoples now, they helped me see my potential and helped me to see I could be this player, and it also helped me build my confidence to do so.”

Now, both Crider and Johnson have the option to go and present their skills to NFL teams, though in a modified way. Whether they head to the next level or return to IU, that’s a question to be answered another day.

“It’s one more opportunity to play with the guys,” Johnson said of the Outback Bowl, “and one more opportunity to show what I can do and what I can be.”

3 comments

  1. If Crider gets feedback that he’ll be drafted, he should go pro. Johnson may benefit from another year in college, but he’ll have to weigh that against the risk of injury. Fryfogle will likely be drafted in the first five rounds, so I doubt he’ll return. But maybe Philyor, who had relatively modest season, will come back for one more. It will be interesting.

  2. Po, I like your evaluation of the players but wonder about Ball too. There are several players with decisions to be made and I hope they make the right choices. Players that need to help out their families should try the NFL while players wanting to show the football world how legitimate this season was should come back and finish and advanced degree. There are other factors such as the risk of injury but insurance can alleviate that concern.

    The other likely one to move on is Scott but IU has quality RBs behind him to take over.

  3. Scott should go to NFL because he’s a running back and they have shorter careers in NFL. Ball won’t get drafted because he didn’t play this season, so he should come back. My feelings have always been that if you get feedback that you’ll be drafted in the first five rounds, enter the draft. If not, get your degree and then try to make it in the NFL. These young men shouldn’t come out of a college FB program without something to show for it, something that gives them a chance to be successful in life. Either they have the opportunity to play in the NFL, they’ll have their degree, or they’ll have both.

Comments are closed.