Pregame Army Notebook

Notre Dame fans have their bowl game this January. However, it's just not the traditional season-ending college game they're used to.

With 14 verbal commits set to play in this Saturday's U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio, Irish followers still have a holiday football game with some meaning to tune into.

The team's bright future will be on display inside the Alamo Dome. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. (EST.), and NBC will have the coverage.

"I think it's exciting not only for us Notre Dame guys getting to play in it, but for Notre Dame fans across the country," East center Michael Golic Jr. said. "We're giving them a preview of another class trying to help take Notre Dame to the next level. I know the guys I've talked to are really looking forward to getting down there together and bonding together."

Players arrived in San Antonio on Sunday. Practice begins today.

Golic will be joined on the East team by future Domers, running back Jonas Gray, defensive back Robert Blanton, defensive tackle Brandon Newman, tight end Kyle Rudolph, defensive lineman Sean Cwynar, linebacker Steve Filer, linebacker Darius Fleming, offensive tackle Lane Clelland, and receiver John Goodman.

Dayne Crist is one of three quarterbacks suiting up for the West. Notre Dame pledges, receiver Michael Floyd, offensive guard Trevor Robinson and linebacker Anthony McDonald, Crist's prep teammate, join him on the squad.

"It's true," East offensive tackle Lane Clelland said of the bowl analogy. "We have a lot of guys playing in the game. It's just going to be basically what Notre Dame's future is going to turn out to be. Everyone is going to go out and give their best and perform."

***One Notre Dame commit not performing in Saturday's game is defensive end Ethan Johnson. The five-star Portland, Ore. product was selected to play for the West, but opted not to in favor of further rehabbing a knee injury that kept him out nearly his entire senior season. It was a family decision, and Johnson won't even make the trip to hang out. He said is focus is to be 100 percent when he reports to South Bend in June.

***The teams will practice from 11:30 to 4 p.m. (EST.) on Monday and Tuesday. There will be an intra-squad scrimmage from 3-6 p.m. (EST.) on Wednesday. Practice will resume at it's regularly scheduled time on Thursday. Friday is day one of the U.S. Army National Combine, showcasing some of the nation's top juniors. They will wrap that up on Saturday morning before the game.

***While Irish fans will be keeping tabs on the 14 Notre Dame guys during the week, they will also be keeping a close eye on uncommitted four-star prospect Gerell Robinson. The receiver from Chandler, Ariz., is set to announce between the Irish, Oregon and Arizona State at the game.

***Clelland has been aware of national high school all-star games for awhile. His brother Lance, a former offensive lineman for Northwestern's Big Ten championship team in 2000, played in one before the Army game even existed back in 1997. The first Army Bowl was in fact played in 2000.

"My brother played in the early version of it," Clelland said. "Tom Lemming helped choose for it, and it was down in Florida. I always wanted to play in it, and now it's just a heightened version of what he played in."

***A few Notre Dame guys are up for awards.

Crist is one of six finalist up for the U.S. Army National Player of the Year Award. The other nominees include Arthur Brown, Terrelle Pryor, Patrick Johnson, Nigel Bradham and Darrell Scott. Notre Dame freshman Jimmy Clausen won the award last year.

Gray is one of four finalists up for the EAS Sports Walter Payton Speed and Strength Award, joining Bradham, D.J. Monroe, and Covaughn Deboskie.

Blanton and Gray are finalists for the Doc Blanchard Award given to East player who best epitomizes the Army's high standards of excellence in community service, education, and athletic excellence.

***Golic was looking at the East roster earlier in the week and noticed an asterisk next to Michael Brewster's name. An Ohio State commit, Brewster is the only other true center on the team, and will not play because of an injury.

"It's a shame he's going to miss playing in a game like this, but it looks like we are running only one deep at center," Golic said, looking forward to the extra opportunity. "Obviously that's not the way you want to do it. Whatever opportunity comes about, you have to take advantage of that and enjoy that."

***Quotes from a few of the Irish All-Americans.

Crist on throwing to Floyd: "That's going to be pretty cool. I'll get a little taste of what's to come. I'll get to work with him for a whole week, so I'm really excited to see what we can do. It will be fun to look into the future."

Fleming, who finished his final prep season at St. Rita High in Chicago with 86 tackles, 12 ½ sacks, seven batted passes, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, on the upcoming experience. "I watched the game last year when I was down at the combine," he said. "It was really neat watching all of those guys get to go through that. I think it will be even more fun actually getting to play in the game and be on the field. I'm really excited about it.

"I know there are a lot of kids out there right now who'd like to be in the game. It's an honor just to be one of the (84) picked. I'm really looking forward to the week and hanging out with everyone and getting to play in the game."

Fleming on playing against Crist: "Yeah, he's going to be sacked a couple of times."

Blanton had over 100 tackles, seven interceptions, six blocked kicks and two defensive touchdowns this fall.

"I'd never really given it much thought before this year," Blanton said of the Army game. "Anyone would love to play in the game, but I never really thought that may be me some day. Last year was the first year I watched. I was hoping I'd get picked.

"I think it's quite an honor just to be in the game. I'm looking forward to representing my school and the state of North Carolina."


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