The name Bob Palko should ring a bell with Michigan recruiting fans. He is the father of former Michigan QB recruit, Tyler Palko. After traveling to San Antonio for the Army All Star game as a parent and then an assistant coach, the elder Palko returned to the home of the Alamo as the man in charge of the East Squad. “It’s certainly more pressure this year…but I’m not complaining” Palko said laughing when speaking of the difference in his involvement this year. “This whole set-up is just great! The accommodations are phenomenal! It’s just a huge thing to be affiliated with this game and the U.S. Army. It’s a privilege to be involved with something they’re associated with and the fact that they take such good care of us here only makes it better.”
Palko’s time as head coach this year has been further enhanced by a class group of players. He indicated that it has been a pleasure coaching the superstar players. “Practices are going great,” Palko said. “There’s a fine line between being too physical in practice and being too light. We’ve gone hard when we’ve needed to and these players have done an outstanding job taking instruction, but I don’t want them to go into the game with dead legs.”
Though he commented that all of the players have been a treat to coach, Palko indicated that there was one position group has stood above the rest. “The group of linebackers I have is the most impressive I’ve ever seen,” Palko exclaimed! “I have Marcus Freeman, Chris Patterson, Keith Rivers, Willie Williams, Dan Connor, and James Bryant. All of those guys are big, physical, and they can run. I can’t see how any offense could rush on that group!” When asked who has been the most impressive to him, Doug Dutch mimicked his coach’s response. “Definitely the linebackers,” Dutch said! I’ve had to go across the middle on those guys! Wooooooo!” While the prowess of his linebacking unit has been extremely evident thus far…Palko was quick to single out players in other position groups as well.
“All I can say about Demario Presley is WOW,” said Palko! “That kid is very quick and has really good strength. Then in the defensive backfield I have Teddy Ginn locking things down…and he’s being helped out by Tony Carter, and Simeon Castille.” After spending time talking about the groups in general, Coach Palko shifted his attention to the one defensive player that may have impressed him the most in the first three days. “Tim Jamison is UNBELIEVEABLE,” Palko said! “I just can’t say enough about the kid!” (Check our report on Jamison for more.)
While Jamison has been the standout defensive player, QB Xavier Lee has been the most impressive athlete on other side of the ball. “I don’t know what position that kid is going to play in college…some people are talking about him at receiver…but he could play just about anywhere! That kid threw the ball 80 yards in one step! I saw it with my own eyes! 80 yards!”
Some might think that Lee being the most impressive athlete makes him the obvious choice as the starter in Saturday’s game. According to Palko, however, nothing could be further from the truth. “Brian Brohm will start,” the coach said. “That’s not any reflection on who is the best quarterback. This year isn’t like last when we had Chris Leak and he was head and shoulders above everyone else. This year with Brian, Xavier, and Chad (Henne)…the QBs are 1A, 1B, and 1C. You could choose any of those guys as the starter and come out on top.”
All others aside, the QB Michigan fans really want to know about is Chad Henne. With Michigan’s future gunslinger hailing from the same neck of the woods as Coach Palko, the East squad’s head-man offered some interesting perspective. “Chad is from Pennsylvania so I’m very familiar with him,” Palko said. “Chad is just awesome. He’s done a very nice job and you can tell why he’s so highly recruited. A few of the main things I’ve noticed watching him for some time are his intelligence and demeanor on the field. He’ll remind most football fans of a former Michigan quarterback by the name of Tom Brady. The difference between the two is Brady has a good arm, but Chad has a GREAT arm! That kid is going to be special!” Much of Chad’s potential success will depend on the viability of his front line. It just so happens that one of the future members his front wall will be playing in the game with him Saturday.
Jeremy Ciulla will be a starting tackle for the East squad, indicating that he has shown a great deal to Coach Palko during their brief time in Texas. “He’s a BIIIG kid,” Palko said. “He fits the mold of the traditional Michigan lineman. He’s already a tremendous run-blocker, but his best football days are ahead of him. When Coach Gittleson (Michigan’s strength and conditioning coach) gets a hold of him, look out!”
That Jeremy will start isn't up for questioning. Which side he will start on is. “I’m going to play on both sides of the line,” Jeremy responded when asked which tackle position he’ll be manning. “It’s been going pretty well for me. There’s one player in particular, though, that has been a load! Tim Jamison! (see more from Jeremy on Jamison in our report on the Chicagoland DE). As for the relationship between the lineman and his future QB, the future Michigan trench-man said that things are off to a good start. “We are definitely getting to know each other better,” Ciulla said. “He’s been impressive. He’s fun to be around too. I’ve also been getting to know Max Martin.”
Coach Palko made brief mention of one more lineman of interest to Michigan fans. “Kyle Mitchum has been doing ok,” Palko said. “I don’t know if he’s just a shy kid, but he hasn’t really come out of his shell yet. I think he’ll loosen up as the week goes on.” Coach Palko indicated that Kyle would not be a starter Saturday.
We’ll have more on the Army All Star game throughout the night and week. Check back frequently for updates!