It was a wet set of fields that greeted the Offense-Defense All-Americans on Thursday, and the East had the field in the morning session and worked out in helmets and shoulder pads while the West worked a walk-through in the gym.
The East was without receiver and Penn State commit Adrian Coxson (groin) and Virginia Tech-bound tight end Jerome Lewis (illness) for Thursday's practices.
Offensive tackle Skyler Schofner (Michigan State) was back on the field today after battling stomach flu. Schofner was battling today as he said he still felt miserable. His linemate Caleb Farris (Virginia Tech) was not so fortunate as he tried to go this morning but felt ill enough that he left practice.
Clemson commit DeAndre Hopkins' practice time has been limited because he is also playing in a basketball tournament in Myrtle Beach, but during the brief times he is on the practice field, he has been the East's best receiver. He catches everything thrown his way and runs tremendous routes. The problem is Hopkins the lack of practice time - he missed Thursday's morning session - will seriously limit his availability for Saturday's game.
Running back Mustafa Green (uncommitted) has established himself as the go-to running back with the absence of Ken Malcome (Georgia). Green showed some tough inside running today. Malcome was hurt during his team's playoff run and wasn't healthy enough to participate in the game.
Cameron Fordham (LSU) is a big athlete that has proven to be the East's most consistent weapon. Fordham said today that he currently weighs 240 pounds. He has lined up at tight end and fullback, and he may end up as a center for LSU. When asked what LSU expected of him, Fordham said, "It depends on how much weight I put on. So, are you going as a jumbo athlete? "Yeah," Fordham said with a bit of a laugh.
One of the best parts of these types of games isn't watching the players play; it's watching them interact with one another. Clemson commit David Beasley and South Carolina commit Tramell Williams were engaged in some good natured smack-talk about their respective future homes. Within earshot was Alabama commit Austin Shepherd, and he took great pride in asking them the rhetorical question, "Who's 13-0?".
The East has a pair of active corners on its squad in Darius Robinson (Clemson) and B.J. Bostic (Georgia Tech). Robinson showed a great break on the ball to jump and out route, but he caught a lot of grief for dropping a sure interception after making the play on the ball.
Another Clemson commit, defensive back Desmond Brown is a vocal leader and is showing great enthusiasm all week throughout practices, and his enjoyment of playing football comes across well. And not only is he a vocal leader, but apparently a big hitter. Brown's high school coach moved him star from safety to cornerback this season to try and reign in some of aggressive play. But Brown will line up at safety in this bowl game.
Uncommitted cornerback Tony Grimes of Hollywood Hills (Fla.) High had narrowed his list to Michigan, Maryland and Ole Miss, but he could be adding another school to his list. "I think I'm going to put Miami in the mix,'' Grimes said. "It's something I want to do.'' Grimes said he will visit Ole Miss in January, and also try to set up a visit to Miami. One of the interesting things with Grimes and Michigan is the fact his recruiting coach, linebackers coach Jay Hopson, left to become Memphis' defensive coordinator. "My (Hollywood Hills) coach told me that Hopson left,'' Grimes said. "I still haven't heard from anybody from Michigan since he left."
The West actually had a crisp practice Thursday, and it came as no surprise to Washington commit Erik Kohler. Because of soggy field conditions, the West decided to hold a walkthrough inside the Myrtle Beach High gym rather than share the turf practice field with the East. "It helped us understand a lot of things they were talking about,'' Kohler said.
Watching practice in sweat suits were two vital interior linemen, Nick Rowland (Oregon) and Adam Shead (Oklahoma). Both expect to play on Saturday. Linebacker Hayes Pullard (uncommitted) also missed the afternoon session after going back to the hotel with an ear infection.
The West's vocal leader is Notre Dame commit Justin Utupo, who is making sure to keep his team motivated and working hard.
West defensive tackle and Oklahoma State commit Chris Littlehead shows incredible strength in drills, but needs to reign in his penchant for jumping offsides. During a one-on-one drill, though, he simply used his left arm to shove a lineman out of his way so he could get to the quarterback.
Missouri commit and West defensive tackle Lucas Vincent is another of player who has been hard to block through practices, although he did sit out the end of Thursday's afternoon session with a right shoulder stinger. He said he will be ready to play Saturday.
Running back Brennan Clay (Oklahoma) is without question the West's most
consistent weapon. While the West boasts some big playmakers at wide receiver,
it's easier to get the ball in the running back's hands. The list of
superlatives to heap on Clay are long including effort, burst, vision, speed,
balance... Clay is the whole package at running back.
Safety Dion Bailey (USC) made two nice interceptions during redzone 7v7 passing drills. Specifically a break on a ball from the back of the endzone to intercept it at the goal line was an eye grabbing play.
Wide Receiver Kenny Stills (Oklahoma), whose speed has never been in question, showed he continues to improve as a receiver with a well run speed out for a quick touchdown strike for five yards.
However it was fellow wide receiver and Oklahoma commit Joseph Powell who had the catch of the week. Powell had a shoestring catch on a similar out route in which he didn't leave his feet but showed great flexibility and hands to catch the back end of the ball moments before it skipped off the ground and out of bounds.
Safety Corey Cooper (Illinois) is arguably the most physically imposing defensive backs on the field. At 6-2 and 200 pounds, Cooper looks like an outside linebacker on the field. Cooper pulled off what would have been a de-cleating hit during the non-contact 7v7. Future receivers may not be so lucky going across the middle against Cooper.
Tight end Caleb Southworth (Central Michigan) has proven to be a more reliable receiver through the week than more heralded teammate Alex Smith (North Carolina). Southworth is a huge target at 6-5 and has shown sticky hands while Smith has struggled with his consistency.
The Offense-Defense All American Bowl will be played at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium on Saturday, January 2 at 5pm and be broadcast live on Fox College Sports. Tickets will be $20.00 at the gate, $10.00 online. For more information on the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl or to purchase tickets you may go to www.o-d.com or call 843-903-1888.