Best of the Best from US Army All-American Bowl

Other than the very conspicuous absence of the best football player in the nation, Antone Smith of Pahokee (see comments at end of the story), the US Army All-American Bowl Game proved a tremendous showcase for some of the top high school football talent in the country. The San Antonio game was televised nationally and drew a crowd of more than 30,000 to the Alamo Dome.

Here are the best players I saw at each position during the week along with some other superlatives:

QUARTERBACK --- The smoothest is Mark Sanchez of Mission Viejo, California, who is headed to Southern Cal, but the best is Ryan Perrilloux of Reserve (LA) East St. John. Sanchez is a very good quarterback who has a very good future, but I think he will look better than he really is at Southern Cal based on the talent that he will have surrounding him. I think Perrilloux is a kid who can elevate everyone's game. He's got a super strong arm and he has the great feet that will make him a nightmare to contain. Once he gets out of the pocket, he can flat out fly. Perrilloux is committed to Texas.

RUNNING BACK --- The kid with the best all-around game is RJ Jackson of Houston (TX) Westside, but the best runner is Marlon Lucky of North Hollywood, California. Jackson is going to be a tremendous multi-purpose back who can run the ball, catch the ball out of the backfield and has the capability of lining up at wide receiver and running great routes to get open. Lucky is the kind of kid who you line up in the I-formation and give him the ball 25 times a game. Lucky is committed to Nebraska. Jackson has Texas, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, LSU and Florida still on his list.

WIDE RECEIVER --- Desean Jackson of Long Beach (CA) Poly is downright scary good. He is a touchdown looking for a place to happen every time the ball comes his way. He has the ability to make moves and accelerate without breaking stride, a very rare talent. He's got a bit of hot dog in him, but he's not the kind of kid who will ever put himself over the team. He gets the nod over Patrick Turner of Nashville (TN) Goodpasture Christian. Turner may be the better receiver, but Jackson is a greater threat on reverses and he showed with a touchdown pass to Perrilloux that he can throw the ball. Jackson is also a frightening kick returner. Jackson has Southern Cal, California, LSU and Florida on his list. In the end, expect Southern Cal. Turner is down to Southern Cal and Tennessee.

TIGHT END --- Martellus Bennett of Houston (TX) Alief Taylor doesn't just run his mouth all the time. He actually backs it up with his presence on the field. He's got great feet and good hands although he didn't get the ball thrown to him in the offense the West ran. Bennett is 6-7, 250, and a two-sport star who says he would like to play both football and basketball wherever he goes. He's narrowed his choices to USC, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M. It is thought that this is a Texas-OU battle but he has a brother who plays at Texas A&M and the Aggies have a basketball program on the rise so this could be a surprise choice. This is one recruiting battle that Southern Cal will likely lose. Second best TE prospect was Dajleon Farr of Galena Park (TX) North Shore, a 6-6, 240-pounder who is a verbal to Miami.

OFFENSIVE LINE --- Chris Scott of Riverdale (GA) Lovejoy has the best long range potential of any offensive lineman that was in the game, but the best bet for immediate impact is Michael Oher of Memphis (TN) Briarcrest Christian. Scott will likely redshirt or else eased into things at OT. He's got great size, good feet and nice long arms, plus he's very smart. Oher could play more quickly because he'll be a guard and he's a pure drive blocker who will solidify the middle of the OL at Ole Miss, where he committed Monday afternoon. Scott is making his choice between Florida and Tennessee. He says engineering schools could be the difference. His decision could come as early as the weekend, as late as middle of next week.

DEFENSIVE LINE --- Jerrell Powe of Waynesboro, Mississippi simply collapses the center of the offensive line. He's 6-3, perhaps more than 350, and a Vince Wilfork clone in the way he just bull rushes, simply overpowering centers. There were other good defensive linemen there such as DeMarcus Granger (6-3, 325 DT) out of Dallas (TX) Kimball and Marcus Shavers (6-3, 250 DE) of Allen, Texas, but Powe was consistently the best. Powe shocked the Auburn fans who thought he was a mortal lock when he announced for LSU. Best bet is that he'll be prep school or Pearl River Junior Collge in the fall. Powe had one of the best lines of the week when he said when he lines up over center, he says to the quarterback, "What's it going to be? Paper or plastic?" Shavers has committed to Arkansas, while Granger is deciding between Oklahoms, Arizona State and Tennessee.

LINEBACKER --- Brian Cushing of Bergen (NJ) Catholic was the best linebacker consistently throughout the week, but a close second is Travis Beckum of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Cushing is a 6-3, 228 tackling machine with great ability to move in traffic without getting picked off. Cushing is the true middle linebacker with a nose for the football, able to roam from sideline to sideline. Beckum is a 6-5, 225-pounder whom some project to eventually move to DE where he could be a Jevon Kearse-type, a freaky combination of speed and power. He has a frame that will allow a lot of weight to be added without sacrificing speed. Cushing visited Southern Cal Monday. He'll visit Miami and Florida before announcing his decision, although he should be considered a Southern Cal leaner. Beckum is a Wisconsin commitment.

DEFENSIVE BACK --- If you had asked me on Tuesday who I thought was the better DB prospect, I would have said Dee Morley, but after watching the game Saturday, my choice would be Reggie Smith of Edmond (OK) Santa Fe. Smith is an Ed Reed-like safety in that he rarely is out of position to make plays. Smith is 6-1, 195, hits very hard and has the closing speed to go with ball hawking abilities. Morley has the speed to make all the plays, but for the second straight weekend (also last week in the CaliFlorida Bowl Game), he got burned by DeSean Jackson for a touchdown. Smith has Oklahoma, Nebraska and Southern Cal on his list but it's said that Bobby Stoops has made keeping him in the state of Oklahoma is priority number one in this recruiting class. Morley originally committed to Florida but is now a Tennessee commitment. While Smith is fully qualified with a 3.4 GPA and a 19 ACT, there are questions arising that Morley may have to go prep school or juco first.


BEST ARM --- Perrilloux. His touchdown pass was incredible. He threw the ball on a rope from his hip. In the skills competition, you should have seen him throw a 30-yard out like it came out of a gun. Has to learn touch, but no question he has NFL arm strength.

BEST LEADER --- Greg Paulus of Syracuse (NY) Christian Brothers Academy. He will play basketball at Duke, but spend a day watching him and you can understand why it is that people will follow him anywhere. Based on size and strength, he's making the best move to play hoops at Duke. He should have a long career in basketball.

BEST OUTSIDE RUNNER --- Jonathon Stewart of Olympia (WA) Timberline makes every carry outside the tackles an adventure because he can take it the distance. The 5-11, 218-pounder has three on his list, Washington State, Oregon and Tennessee. Most observers thought Oregon had the inside track.

BEST INSIDER RUNNER --- Lucky. He is a load coming through the line and he just bowls tacklers over. If you need a tough yard, he will get it for you. Nebraska commit.

BEST HANDS ---- David Nelson of Wichita Falls (TX) Rider doesn't drop passes, whether going deep, outside or over the middle. The 6-6, 198-pounder is down to Florida, Iowa and Notre Dame. Considered a Florida leaner.

BEST MOVES --- Fred Rouse of Tallahassee Lincoln has every move in the book. When it comes to shake and bake, this 6-4, 198-pounder is a whirling dervish. Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas are still in it although he strongly hinted to the Alamo Dome crowd that he would be a Longhorn when he twice gave the crowd "Hook Em Horns." Don't count FSU out on this one, however.

BEST BLOCKER --- Josh McNeil of Collins (MS) may not be the best offensive line prospect for long term, but the 6-4, 275-pounder showed he was the best trained offensive lineman at the game. He rarely missed an assignment in practice or the game. McNeil is a center, committed to Tennessee.

BEST PASS RUSHER --- Beckum. When he turns on the speed, he is unblockable.

BEST RUN STOPPER --- That would be DeMarcus Granger, the 6-3, 325-pound immovable object fom Dallas (TX) Kimball. He gets his pads low and digs his feet in so he just can't be rooted out by offensive linemen. He's narrowed his choices to three: Arizona State, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

BEST COVER CORNER --- Derek Pegues of Batesville (MS) South Panola was not the best publicized defensive back in the game, but he proved consistently that he is the best in coverage. Although not very tall, he's a great leaper and has impeccable timing. His final three are Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

BEST HITTER --- Rey Maualuga of Eureka, California hits people and they go down for the count. This 6-2, 240-pounder of Samoan descent is heading to Southern Cal.

TOP SLEEPER --- Jimmy Barnes of Los Alamitos, California was thought to be a throw-in to this game since his dad was the coach of the West, but he showed that he can make all the throws in addition to having tremendous touch on the deep ball. Sanchez and Perrilloux got much more publicity, but Barnes is very, very good. He's 6-4, 225 and heading to Alabama.

FRANCHISE PLAYER --- DeSean Jackson is a human highlight reel who can change a game every time he touches the ball. This is a Reggie Bush-like difference maker. He might end up one of the top ten picks in the baseball draft, though, so it's not 100 percent certain he'll ever suit up in a college football uniform.

MOST UNDERRATED --- Todd Walker of Pflugerville, Texas was a quarterback in high school. At Texas Tech he'll play wide receiver in Mike Leach's throw it till your arm falls off offense. He's 6-1, 174 and very deceptive. More than one DB during the week got burned deep by Walker, whose brother is a quarterback at Purdue.

MOST NOTICEABLY ABSENT --- Lucky, Stewart and RJ Jackson are all great backs, but the best back in the country wasn't there. That's Pahokee's Antone Smith, the 5-8, 187-pound combination of speed, moves and elusiveness. Tom Lemming is to blame for overlooking Smith. This bonehead of a decision by Lemming ranks up there with Max Emfinger calling Emmitt Smith a "plugger." Fortunately, for all of football, Lemming's influence in the selection process will be diminished next year and there will be far more input by the scouts and site managers.

Fightin Gators Top Stories