There was more to the player's performance in the U.S. Army All-American than game day. The players participated in practices throughout the week. This group is primarily made up of offensive lineman, and they competed all week long against the two best defensive tackles in the country, Gerald McCoy and Al Woods. On the outside Bartley Webb was competing against Eddie Jones and Butch Lewis.
Matt Carufel – Offensive lineman: Carufel carries his 285 pounds very well. He definitely hasn't topped out with his frame can easily carry another 20 pounds. Matt appeared to have good strength and was able to battle heavier defensive tackles to a stalemate. Matt faced LSU bound Al Woods throughout practice and he graded out very well in drills that favored the defensive player.
First and foremost Matt appears to have outstanding technique. He sets up well in pass protection, and blocks with his heels instead of being on his toes and reaching. He moves his feet well and doesn't over commit. He has the strength and drive to ride the defender past the pocket. There were occasions that he got beat, but they were rare. More often than not the defender came away empty.
There weren't many occasions to see him run block as the West squad worked primarily on the passing game, but overall Carufel is a physical lineman; he fires off the ball and gets into to defender. He didn't put many defenders on their back, but effectively competed his assignment.
Notre Dame needs interior lineman that are capable of playing early in their career. I believe they have one in Matt Carufel.
Bartley Webb – Offensive Lineman: Webb is a very lean 290 pounds, and I'd have guessed he was closer to 280 pounds or less. At left tackle Webb went up against Butch Lewis and Eddie Jones and he struggled throughout the pass blocking drills, which was surprising considering the amount of passing his Springdale team did throughout his career. Bartley has the frame, and the arms to play tackle, but I think the area he needs o improve is with his strength. Once Butch Lewis got to where he wanted, he could muscle past Webb.
Several of the Scout.com recruiting experts didn't think he was agile enough to play tackle, and that was a bigger issue than his strength. Maybe it was a combination of the two. One thing I do know is that if you asked Bartley, he would have told you he was disappointed with how he graded out. I do think he played better in the game.
When I asked him what he learned about the week he said, "I know I have a lot of work to do. I learned a lot." The upside with Webb is that he is an intense competitor, and no one will out work him. When he got beat he punched the turf, got up and went back at it. He is his biggest critic and he expects nothing but perfection. He is a leader among the Notre Dame recruits and solid team guy.
Chris Stewart – Offensive Lineman: Much has been made of this kids weight, but don't fret. Chris is completely aware that he needs to drop 30 to 40 pounds to compete to the best of his ability. In order to accomplish this Stewart wanted to get to Notre Dame and work with coach Mendoza and soon as possible. This was a major reason Chris decided to enroll early. This speaks volumes to me about the individual Chris is. He is goal oriented, recognizes areas he needs to improve and then takes action.
During the first few days Stewart struggled against Gerald McCoy and Al Woods in the passing protection drills. There were several reasons for his struggles. As I mentioned above the drills favor the defensive player. Stewart's high school team rarely passed the ball, and he played tackle in high school. As the week progressed he started to gain confidence and by the end of the practice week he was the only player capable of handling McCoy on a regular basis. Stewart is modest and when asked about getting McCoy to the ground on one rep, he said McCoy must have tripped.
Stewart is very athletic for a guy his size and he has outstanding feet. I can't imagine how well he is going to move when he gets down to 320 pounds and adds strength. He won't beat many in a 40-yard dash, but in a five-yard box he can move.
Stewart is an outstanding student and it translates to the field. He listens to his coaches intently and learns quickly. On several occasions the West's offensive line coach had corrected him on a particular point and on the next rep he made the adjustment. By the end of the practice week no one was getting past him. He uses his hands very well and doesn't allow the defender's head to cross his body. Once he gets into the defender it's all over. Stewart finished the last three practices without a loss in the one-on-one drills against two great defensive tackles.
Off the field Chris is the nicest guy you will meet. On the field he is a tremendous competitor. If he got beat, or didn't do something perfectly, he'd demand another chance. As one of the Scout.com national guys said, "He's got a mean nasty streak in him."
Another sign of Chris' ability is that he played some center in practice, but guard is going to be his position and Notre Dame. He had some reservations about the change going into the week, but at week's end he was very excited about the move and actually said he prefers guard to tackle.
I had very high hopes for Chris Stewart when I headed to San Antonio and he exceeded those expectations. He is a leader on and off the field, he is respected and he is well liked by all of his future teammates. He can also do the splits.
Konrad Reuland – Tight End: Throughout the recruiting process Reuland always seemed to be the cool California guy that simply rolled with the punches. That image wasn't changed completely, but I certainly saw a different young man at the end of the bowl week. The moment the game ended I had a chance to talk to Konrad about the game and gets his thoughts on how he competed. What struck me during our conversation was how deeply competitive his is. I expected Bartley Webb and Dan Wenger to be players that were driven by their competitive nature, but Reuland probably topped them. Even though it was an all-star game, he was very disappointed that the West had lost the game and he acknowledge two plays he could have made that could have helped the team. Later that evening I had a chance to talk to him, and he was still running those plays through his mind. To me, that is a winner and that is the type of player I think the Irish have in Konrad Reuland.
I didn't get to see Reuland block during the practice sessions. The West ran a spread offense and the tight end was usually split off the line. Konrad is an accomplished blocker and Notre Dame fans will get to enjoy watching a kid that enjoys ear-holing linebackers.
Reuland runs well and might come to Notre Dame as the most athletic tight end behind fifth-year senior Marcus Freeman. He has pillows for hands as the ball seems to settle in gently even on the hardest throws. Reuland can catch on the run and showed the ability to go down for the ball when it was thrown low and still maintain his balance. I didn't see him make any spectacular catches, but I'm not sure there were any to make.
Reuland is lean at 6-6, 240-pounds. He definitely has the frame to add some weight, but he isn't too far from being able to play right away at Notre Dame. With Anthony Fasano moving to the NFL, and the way Weis likes to use his tight ends, I believe Reuland might be the best bet to see quality playing time among the incoming freshman. Konrad is a great kid, very personable and a heck of a player. This was a huge "get" for Charlie Weis.
Morrice Richardson: Morrice wasn't named to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl team, but the Georgia Gatorade player of the year did make an appearance at the game to take in the festivities and hang out with his future teammates. Morrice is much more slender than his videos show. He is roughly 6-2, 225 pounds with broad shoulders.
I like the fact that Morrice came to the game. It tells me that he's itching to be a part of the team and that he is excited about the players in the recruiting class. The Notre Dame players that were in attendance had a great opportunity to get to know each other before they made their way to South Bend and this will make their transition much smoother. Charlie Weis and his staff did a great job of finding talented players that are also fantastic kids.