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Shrine Bowl: Bill Belichick’s hands-on approach pays dividends immediately for prospects

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is serving in a supervisory role for the West squad as it prepares for Thursday's East-West Shrine Game.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

LAS VEGAS — Bill Belichick saw something that needed to be corrected, and he went right into teaching mode.

Seeking out Habakkuk Baldonado midway through Sunday morning’s West squad practice at the Shrine Bowl, Belichick had a quick chat with the Pittsburgh defensive end. The Patriots coach was quick and direct with what he wanted to see.

A snap later, Baldonado tore through a crease in the offensive line and was poised to make a play in the backfield, except tackling to the ground is verboten at Shrine Bowl practices. Baldonado made his point, however: he is a quick learner.

Heading to the sideline, Baldonado was again summoned by the Patriots coach, who gave the 6-foot-5-inch, 260-pounder a thumbs up and a nod.


“He was just coaching me. He’s really hands on with the D-line. He loves guys that set the edge, guys that can gain ground and strike right,” Baldonado said after practice wrapped up. “So, he was just coaching us to be a little more physical and work better with our hands. Then I had a good rush and he told me, ‘Good rush.’ ”

Minutes later, Belichick had a similar chinwag with another edge rusher, Florida’s Brenton Cox, again driving home some technique points.

In a neat moment, Baldonado passed on the tips Belichick had delivered with a hands-on tutorial with fellow edge rusher Andre Jones (Louisiana) on the sideline.

Habakkuk Baldonado got some quality time with Bill Belichick this week.Barry Reeger/Associated Press

“He’s coaching me. I’m trying to get better, we’re all trying to get better,” said Baldonado. “That’s what we need.”

Belichick, who is serving in a supervisory role for the West squad, has been very active through the first two practices at UNLV’s Fertitta Football Complex.

In addition to his work with the defensive lineman, he has had side sessions with the wide receivers, quarterbacks, and punt coverage units while many members of his staff put the rest of the players through the paces.


Dream come true for Bobo

North Andover native Jake Bobo is living a dream week as he gets coached by the Patriots, the team he grew up rooting for. It’s been surreal for the receiver, as he takes instruction from Belichick, Troy Brown, and others.

“If you had told 9-year-old me that I’d be on the field with these guys, I would not have believed you,” said Bobo, a Belmont Hill product who played four years at Duke followed by a fifth season at UCLA.

The 6-5, 215-pound Bobo has flashed excellent quickness and hands, especially at Sunday’s full-pads workout. He played a lot in the slot in college but has been working “mainly at the X” or split end spot during the two sessions.

“I’m fine with it,” he said. “I feel like I can kind of play anywhere on the field, so it’s been fun to get there and play out wide.”

Bobo said the coaches have been specific in what they want to see from him in the practices leading up to Thursday’s game.

“Kind of command the middle of the field,” he said. “A lot of deep dig [routes], a lot of overs, so commanding that 5- to 25-yard range between the hashes and then the hash to the sideline.”

Everyone gets involved

In addition to Belichick, Patriots staffers Bill O’Brien, Jerod Mayo, Steve Belichick, and Joe Judge have been at practices taking things in and pitching in in their supervisory roles … Boston College receiver Zay Flowers flashed his speed and quickness Sunday (he sat out Saturday). He is exceptionally smooth in and out of his breaks, and it’s easy to see why some have projected him to go in the first round of April’s draft … In a “got to have it play” at the end of practice, Appalachian State quarterback Chase Brice hit Florida receiver Justin Shorter with a deep touchdown pass. West co-defensive coordinator Brian Belichick immediately dropped to the ground and joined his players in doing pushups … Liberty receiver Demario Douglas is a blur. The kid is a “jet sweep” touchdown waiting to happen … Nebraska tight end Travis Vokolek is a really fluid athlete who moves way quicker than you’d think a 6-7, 260-pounder should … LSU cornerback Mekhi Garner and Clemson receiver Joseph Ngata had some entertaining battles during both individual and team drills … Interior defenders Keondre Coburn (Texas) and Kobie Turner (Wake Forest) showed off some really nice quickness through the A gaps … Georgia Tech linebacker Charlie Thomas swooped in out of nowhere to make an acrobatic pass breakup during a late full team period.


Jim McBride can be reached at Follow him @globejimmcbride.