So here are my Top 12 Next Best for the 2005 US Army All-American Bowl:
THE NEXT GENERAL PATTON: Greg Paulus, the five-star quarterback from Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy may not be the biggest guy out there, doesn't have the fastest feet or the strongest arm, but he is the one guy you would follow on a march into hell for the battle of your life. This is as natural a leader as I've seen in a long time. He's got Wuerffel-esque qualities about him on the football field. Unfortunately, barring a change of mind induced by falling debris from the Mir Space Station, this is his last football game. He's a four-star point guard who has chosen hoops over football. Next year he'll be the point guard for Coach K at Duke. Paulus threw for 152 touchdowns and 11,760 yards in his high school career in football. He's averaging 25 points and eight assists per game in basketball. For all the stats, however, what makes him so great is the fact that he's an incredible leader. Jake Christenson and Jonathon Crompton look better physically, but the reason they're not starting Saturday over Paulus is leadership. Paulus has the gift.
THE NEXT DEION SANDERS: That would be DeSean Jackson, the mercurial wide receiver from Long Beach Poly. He's almost uncoverable as a wide receiver and thought to be a potential first rounder in baseball. He's got Reggie Bush game-altering abilities in football and as a baseball player he would be downright scary as a leadoff hitter. Sanders is the only athlete ever to play in the Super Bowl and in the World Series. Jackson could do it if he chooses to do both sports. He wants to play both baseball and football in college but he might not be able to turn down the bonus money if he goes in the top ten picks of the June baseball draft. While he says that a $2 million signing bonus just isn't enough to knock him off his chosen path of playing two sports in college, when the money is on the table, we'll have to see what choice he makes. He's still holding to it that LSU and Florida are still in the running for his signing day signature, but smart money is on Southern Cal over Cal. It will be very hard to get him off the west coast, perhaps even harder to move him up the coast to Berkeley. Southern Cal is loaded and could be in the hunt for the next two national championships.
THE NEXT JERRY RICE: That's Patrick Turner, the 6-4, 215-pound wide receiver from Nashville Goodpasture Christian. All week he's shown the ability to make big plays. There isn't a catch he can't make and he's got the kind of acceleration that you want to see. Some people see the size and the moves and think Randy Moss. This kid isn't and never will be the kind of trouble that Randy Moss is. He's a good kid who works his butt off and can make all the plays. One of the East quarterbacks told me, "[Fred] Rouse has all the hype, Turner's the one all [the quarterbacks] would rather throw to." Tennessee fans should be VERY nervous about now. Turner has become the latest target of Southern Cal's recruiting machine and there is reason to believe that he's going to head west Saturday when he makes his announcement during the game.
THE NEXT LOMAS BROWN: He's got the combination of that great personality, brains and ability to dominate at left tackle, and best of all for Florida Gator fans, he's got UF on his final list of two. That's Chris Scott of Riverdale (GA) Lovejoy, a 6-5, 315-pounder that has all the qualities we used to love about Lomas Brown when he was with the Gators and building up Hall of Fame credentials in the NFL. Scott has a big wide grin that will win you over instantly, and then he'll yes sir and no sir you to death. Put him on the football field and he'll use his quick feet and power to bury you. It's down to Florida and Tennessee for his services, but in reality, this one is going to be a battle of the engineering schools. If he checks out the schools seriously, then this one is a no-brainer. You don't compare the wanna-be's (UT) of engineering with the real thing (UF).
THE NEXT DICK BUTKUS: No question about it, that's Brian Cushing of Bergen (NJ) Catholic. He's 6-3, 228 and an absolute tackling machine who plays the game like Dick Butkus did which means he doesn't just want to bring the runner down; he wants to deliver some pain. He's got very quick feet and that instinctive ability that allows him to move in heavy traffic without getting picked off by a blocker. Once he gets his hands on the man with the ball, it's all over. He played wide receiver in high school and his speed and hands are good enough that he could do it at the next level, too. Notre Dame is trying to lure him with the chance to play both ways, but chances are he'll go somewhere that he can concentrate on the skills that will get him to the next level. If he isn't totally wowed by his visit next weekend to Southern Cal, then hold your breath. He'll visit Miami and Florida in short order after that. Some think that Notre Dame will win this battle because Cush is Catholic. Others think that Penn State wins because it's closest to home. Best guess: if he isn't wowed by Southern Cal, it's between Florida and Penn State and the Gators may have the edge because of the depth chart.
THE NEXT CHARLES WOODSON: Woodson could take one side of the field away on defense and when he came into a game on offense, he just made things happen. He won the Heisman Trophy over Tennessee's Peyton Manning with his two-way exploits. Some day in the future Dee Morley of Miami Killian could very well win the Heisman Trophy the same way that Woodson did. He is a lockdown corner who simply takes a side of the field away. When he comes into a game on offense, there isn't anyone really capable of keeping him away from the ball. Whether it's on offense or on defense, if the ball is thrown to his side of the field, he's going to go after it and catch it. He is committed to Tennessee.
THE NEXT HOLLYWOOD HENDERSON: Hollywood Henderson was the ultimate trash talker who played linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. Most of the time, Hollywood backed the talk with the walk. One of the exceptions when he didn't do it was the 1976 Super Bowl when he said that Terry Bradshaw couldn't spell cat if you spotten him a C and an A. This year's version is Martellus Bennett, the 6-7, 240-pound tight end from Houston Alief Taylor. He is a non-stop motor mouth who makes reporters try to cover him one on one before he'll grant an interview. His brother plays at Texas A&M. He's pretty much down to Oklahoma and Texas. There was talk that he had committed to Texas, but he said he's not committed to anyone yet. Expect him to announce during the game Saturday.
THE NEXT REFRIGERATOR PERRY: You see the massive girth of Jerrell Powe and the first thing you think of is The Fridge. He's 6-4 and while his listed weight is 320, he hasn't been a biscuit under 330 in months. Put him over the center and he controls two gaps. He's a bull rusher who's known for knocking opposing centers so far backward that they collide with the quarterback or running back. When he's over the center, he's known to ask the opposing quarterback, "What's it going to be? Paper or plastic?" It's down to LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss. He will announce during the game Saturday but says he reserves the right to sign somewhere else on National Signing Day. Best bet is that he'll be either in juco or prep school next year. It's said there is not enough time for him to make up the points he needs in the ACT.
THE NEXT MICHAEL VICK: His idea of touch is a 90-mile per hour fast ball from 12 yards away and if you pressure him out of the pocket, he will simply outrun you. That's Ryan Perrilloux of Reserve (LA) East St. John, whose arm strength is unmatched here at the US Army All-American Bowl Game. When he takes off running, he has Vick-like abilities in the open field. During his senior year, he passed for 3546 yards and 30 touchdowns, ran for 1460 yards and 37 touchdowns. Like Vick he throws every pass hard and on a line. He is so confident in his arm strength that he thinks he can fit the ball in to a receiver even in tight coverage. He's a Texas commit who has Florida State, LSU and Miami hoping they can pull off some signing day magic. Word is he's solid for Texas and may have convinced Fred Rouse to join him in Austin.
THE NEXT PLAXICO BURRESS: Imagine Plaxico articulate and with grades, plus a bit more speed and you have David Nelson of Wichita Falls (TX) Rider. He's got the room to put on muscle on his upper body without sacrificing his low 4.5ish speed. He's 6-6, 198 now and has the kind of hands that don't let the ball slip away once he gets a touch. He's a superb route runner who can make a jump ball throw nearly an automatic catch. He is going to be a nightmare for short corners and safeties will find he is fearless going across the middle on the slant. He is a soft commit to Notre Dame, but has Iowa and Florida on his list. The Gators get a visit next weekend. Best bet: Gator.
THE NEXT ED REED: All Ed Reed does is find the football, take it away and score touchdowns. All Reggie Smith of Edmond (OK) Santa Fe does is find the football, take it away and then it's off to the races. He played free safety, wide receiver, running back and quarterback in high school while also scaring the bejabbers out of every opponent in every kicking situation. He averaged 34 yards per punt return as a junior. He has Nebraska, Southern Cal and Oklahoma on his list of favorites and word is that Oklahoma has made it a priority to keep this 6-1, 195-pound playmaker in the state. He's not expected to announce until signing day.
THE NEXT JOHN HANNAH: Hannah was simply the most dominating offensive guard of the modern era of pro football, and perhaps the best guard in the history of the NFL. He buried people. That's what Michael Oher of Memphis Briarcrest Christian does. Oher is 6-5, 340 and built like a block of concrete. He's got exceptionally quick feet and the ability to get out in front on the toss sweep, but where he has the most fun is when he gets to overpower his opponent straight ahead. He's narrowed his choices to Tennessee and LSU. He will announce on Monday and it's likely the folks in Knoxville will be happiest when he makes it public.