Army All-American Bowl: West Practice Observations

The Gator Country crew spent day one at the US Army All-American Bowl watching the West All-Stars practice in preparation for the game this Saturday that will be televised by NBC. The Florida Gators have a vested interest in some of the stars from the other side of the country -- namely three at the moment.

Because of's exclusive access to the prospects all week during the US Army events, we were able to gain a real inside look at David Nelson, R.J. Jackson, and DeSean Jackson.

First, let's take a look at Nelson. He is every bit of 6-5, perhaps even 6-6. He looked to be taller than the linemen on the West squad. The Wichita Falls, Texas native may have had the best day of all the receivers in the West. He made super catches and went over the middle often to grab a pass. He rarely dropped any balls on the day and seemed to have soft hands.

With the West hitting hard on the first day, he displayed the mental toughness to take the hit and come down with the ball. Nelson is also very fluid and polished as a receiver. He may not be the fastest, but he somehow finds a way to get deep fast.

R.J. Jackson was very solid as a running back. He didn't start, but in his few carries he was certainly not afraid to put his head down to squeak out extra yards on the field. He showed the kind of fearlessness you like in a running back. Jackson didn't get a chance to display his ability as a pass catcher since the West team didn't throw too much to the backs today. Look for an interesting in-depth interview with Jackson later this week.

DeSean Jackson is probably the fastest wide receiver in the West camp. He was utilized in many ways on the first day including getting the ball to him on bubble screen plays. He lined up in the slot and outside and seemed to be the target of choice for much of the West practice. DeSean may be the most talented receiver on the team and certainly he brings an electricity to the field. Every time he touches the ball, it's exciting, even when he doesn't gain positive yards. Of the players the Gators are not in the hunt for, two really stood out. Quarterback Ryan Perriloux continues to make the throws that no one else can. The 6-3, 207-pounder from Reserve, Louisiana seems to have a slight edge over Southern Cal commit Mark Sanchez in the battle to be the starting quarterback. Perriloux throws a hard, tight spiral that gets to the receiver in a hurry.

The other player that stood out for the West was cornerback Reggie Smith of Edmond, Oklahoma. He picked off two passes and almost got a third in one span of five plays. He seems to be a magnet for the ball and he's got speed to match the instincts. He is one of the most aggressive players on the West defense.

The best running back in my opinion was the Hollywood, California native, Marlon Lucky. Lucky is 6-0, 210, with the kind of quickness you usually associate with smaller backs. When the West does some full contact work, we'll be able to see Lucky run inside to get a handle on the kind of power he has.

The defensive line was the liveliest group on day one. This bunch of trash talkers was constantly running their mouths, but they backed it up by getting constant pressure on the West quarterbacks.

"You guys better get used to this," Marcus Shavers taunted with a good natured smile after he got presure on Sanchez. "It's gonna be a long week because we're gonna keep on coming every play."

Shavers is a 6-4, 260-pound defensive end from Lucas, Texas.

Stay tuned as we visit the East players for the next two days and continue with our reports all week. Early reports from the East practice are that the Miami kids, Demetrice Morley (Killian) and Kenny Phillips (Carol City) dominated. We will be talking to both Morley and Phillips this week. Also, we'll have action photos from the practices as well.

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is played in San Antonio, Texas., at the Alamodome on Jan. 15, 2005, and broadcast nationally on NBC at 1 p.m. EST. is a sponsor, the official selection partner and exclusive on-line partner of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, as well as the associated U.S. Army Combine for underclassmen.

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