Position BattlesSeveral great match-ups are expected in this weekend's Shrine Bowl, but the game is likely won or lost in the trenches. The studs on each side of the ball have been outstanding this week. North Carolina's defensive front with Tar Heel commitments Devonte Brown and Shawn Underwood have been completely dominant. South Carolina's squad features the nation's top recruit in Jadeveon Clowney who didn't practice much Tuesday, and Phillip Dukes. Both teams have offensive linemen committed to BCS schools including Brandon Shell (South Carolina), Dylan Intemann (Wake Forest), Jarrod James (North Carolina) and Shaq Anthony (Clemson).
"Our defense is coming along pretty good," said North Carolina defensive tackle Shawn Underwood. "We put in new blitzes and coming along with our technique. I am doing good playing a position I haven't played in over a year. I have been playing defensive end, but now defensive tackle. I'll either play the nose or three technique in college.
"I think the South Carolina team has a lot of talent. It will be a fun game. It's one of the best games in the nation. There is a lot of talent on both sides. We have to come out and go hard. We have to show up and play."
"Our team is coming along pretty good," said South Carolina and five-star offensive tackle Brandon Shell. "We are really building our team chemistry. It's a new offense so we are having to get used to the new plays. I am having to get used to playing in a two-point stance. I am looking forward to getting after the North Carolina guys."
"At first we had to learn all the plays, and everyone was a little uncertain," said North Carolina offensive tackle Dylan Intemann. "We are starting to play together now. At first I didn't think I was doing well. Now I am playing very up-tempo and doing really well to help the team out.
"This weekend is going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be a lot of fun going up against some of the best players in the nation. I haven't seen anything like it. I just have to go out there and do well."
Another great match-up is the wide receivers and secondary for both teams. North and South Carolina each have talented athletes on both sides of the ball. South Carolina is definitely led at the receiver position by guys like Charone Peake and Shamier Jeffery. The North Carolina stars in the secondary have been Domonique Noble and Jerrell Armstrong.
The North Carolina receivers who have elevated their play include our top performer of the day T.J. Thorpe and Sherman Ragland. They will have a tough secondary to battle with guys like Pat Martin, Adam Humphries and Ronnie Martin.
"I went up against some of the guys in the Badger Sports 7-on-7 tournament," said T.J. Thorpe. "You always want to go up against the best competition. I want to get after them a little bit. We have already been talking junk. It will be a lot of fun come game time."
"The first day we were installing the plays, but now we are coming together as a team," said Adam Humphries. "The defense is looking real good. I feel like I am playing better. All these guys are fast. The North Carolina team beat us last year. I am looking for revenge. They are eating first, and get to do everything first out here."
"The wide receivers are coming along real good," said Charone Peake. "We have a different variety of tall along with speed and quickness guys. They are all good. I think Shamier Jeffery is real good. I am really looking forward to the game. They go first on everything here. I am going to make sure the South Carolina team goes first on everything next year by getting the win."
"Our team is coming along great," said cornerback Domonique Noble. "We have had to get over a few obstacles like the weather, but it was a little warmer today. We got after the receivers. The ground is pretty hard though. I am ready to play those South Carolina guys. The are the same as any other receiver to me though. It's the same thing just a different day."
Making a statementKris Frost can line up almost anywhere on the field and do well. He has been outstanding the first two days of practice playing the linebacker position. He flies to the football and makes plays in pass coverage. He is soaking it all in and having fun with his teammates.
"It's been great out here," said Frost. "The guys are great especially the talent level. It's great to be out here with everyone on my talent level and speed. We are all getting after it. We are all friends and know each other well. We are getting closer each day. We are leaning and depending on each other. It really feels like we are a team and have been playing together for a while.
"The talent of our linebacker group is outrageous. I come from a high school with great linebackers, but I have never been around such a talented group of guys. It's really great to experience it. They are not just talented in a physical aspect, but they have a great understanding of the game. I love it. I feel like they are making me better. I feel like they help contribute to me as much as I help them."
Top Performers of the DayIt's no easy task when both teams are loaded with playmakers. The North Carolina defensive line was outstanding led by Shawn Underwood and Devonte Brown. Shamier Jeffery has been great the first two days catching the ball for South Carolina. Tuesday's top performers include North Carolina wide receiver T.J. Thorpe and South Carolina linebacker Dexter Staley.
Thorpe caught every ball thrown his way. The effort Thorpe displayed Tuesday was even more impressive. He had two great catches during the morning session where he smoked the cornerback and made an outstanding diving catch. The frozen ground is like walking on concrete, and Thorpe continued to display that type of effort throughout the day. He is by far the best route runner on the North Carolina team, and several times left defensive backs stuck in the ground.
"Today we just wanted to be more focused," said Thorpe. "Yesterday we were trying to get adapted to everything. We were all still a little bit rusty. We just had to get back into it. I think I am doing a lot better than I expected. I had a few drops yesterday I wish I could have gotten back. I am just out here trying to make plays.
"All the corners on our team are pretty good. I would have to say Dominique Noble is the best. With his size and speed he is tough. He is giving me some good work. I think I got the best of him today though. Yesterday he got me a few times. It's fun to know I'll be going up against him when I am at North Carolina, and he is at Georgia Tech."
A lot of eyes have been focused on Jadeveon Clowney, and for good reason. Clowney hardly practiced Tuesday for the South Carolina team, and that gave another player an opportunity to shine. Tuesday's top performer was Dexter Staley. The four-star outside linebacker had a great day on defense and made plays all over the field. It was the big hits he had on a few of the running backs which really opened some eyes. Staley also was used on offense in the 'Wildcat' formation.
"The first day was kind of rough because we didn't really know the plays, but we have learned them," said Staley. "We are getting better and better. I feel like I have been doing good out here. I like offense a whole lot, but I have to play where they put me. When they said for me to go in on 'Wildcat' it really put a smile on my face."
"I am looking forward to going up against the North Carolina team. I think they are all pretty good. We can't slip on them. They have the same amount of talent and athletes that we do. We have to play the hardest in order to go out with the win."
Masters of dodgingA few players have mastered the art of leaving the practice field before any media member collects an interview. These prospects spend the majority of the year answering the same questions from dozens of reporters, and they know these All-Star events are a feeding frenzy.
It's great to have some players who are so accomodating. Guys like Kris Frost are happy to spend time answering questions. Most players who are already committed are easy to grab for an interviews. A lot of the commitments have not been called since their announcement and don't mind a little attention again.
It's a different story with Jadeveon Clowney. Everybody wants an interview. The nation's top recruit remains uncommitted and will take visits in January. A signing day decision is anticipated. Clowney is the first player off the practice field. It's really comical to watch him walk as quickly as possible to the locker room and avoid the media.
Others have mastered getting out of any interviews. Phillip Dukes flat out said he doesn't like doing interviews. He told one media outlet to call his head coach. Dukes has reasons, but we'll leave it at that. A few Scout.com media members did manage to grab a few quotes from the four-star.
No. 1Jadeveon Clowney is the one recruit everyone wants to see on the field. The five-star defensive end was stellar on his first day of practice, but appeared bothered with an ankle injury Tuesday. Clowney did not practice much on the second day and was held out through most of the physical contact drills. Possibly a game-time decision.
Coaches' Quotes"These are some of the best kids I have ever been around," said South Carolina head coach Mickey Moss (Blacksburg). "The chemistry is great. I am very pleased with all of these guys. They all have great attitudes. We got a little fast yesterday, but this afternoon practice went real smooth. Hopefully we will get better every day.
"I have been very pleased with how the team has come along the first two days. This is as good of a group of kids as I have ever been around, and I have coached in three All-Star games. There are always one or two who don't fit in to what we are doing. All of these guys are trying to learn and have been going full speed. It's really been a joy to be around these guys the first two days."
"This has been by far the best day of practice we have had," said North Carolina wide receivers coach Johnny Sowell (Monroe). "Sometimes guys will sit around and get a little bit lazy, but they have turned it up. It's been very intense out there.
"I have really been focusing in on the receivers. I feel like I have a great group of guys out here that we brought. They all bring something to the table. They all have really impressed me."