Big33 Practices in Full Swing

The Grand Daddy of all the summer All Star Games is set to take place Saturday evening at Hershey Park Stadium. Ohio has brought another good group of athletes highlighted by All American CB/WR Ted Ginn, Jr. Pennsylvania will field a team highlighted by a pair of golden armed quarterbacks in Chad Henne and Anthony Morelli.

I attended the Big33 practice sessions for both the Pennsylvania and Ohio squads today. It was very nice bumping into a lot of old friends that were hanging around the practice fields, but that's not what you want to know. Without further comment, here are some of the impressions I took from those practices.

The Pennsylvania squad is highlighted by the quarterbacks. Sure, there are a lot of very high end football players on this 2004 Pennsy squad, but it is the QB's that stand out. Chad Henne and Anthony Morelli threw one laser beam after another today. Though different in style, both of them lived up to the hype.

Chad Henne is a much thicker kid than is Anthony Morelli. Neither QB will be running in this game, but if Henne has one advantage over Morelli it's that he might be a little tougher to tackle in the pocket just because he's very strong. Chad isn't quite as polished as Morelli, but he throws a beautiful ball anyway and is a very smart quarterback.

Anthony Morelli has some of the best footwork you'll ever see from a 6-5 high school QB. He also has a textbook throwing motion that allows him to throw the ball almost 70 yards. Everything he throws he can get their in a hurry, or he can put some air under the ball. Both Henne and Morelli threw the ball both short and very far downfield today with superior accuracy.

Andrew Johnson is running first team tailback. He's still got the super speed you like at tailback. Curtis Brinkley is running number two tailback. Johnson is the obviously bigger and quicker back of the two. Of the two, you'd figure him to get more carries in the game.

Dan Lawlor and James Bryant split duties at fullback. Both of these guys are studs. Dan has big broad shoulders and just looks great at the fullback spot. Not only does he look like a bigtime lead blocker, he's got great hands catching passes out of the backfield. He caught one of Chad Henne's sinking lasers today with one hand and without missing a step. It was a thing of beauty.

James Bryant was the guy on this squad who's name came up most when some of the players were asked who the top dog was. Some of the guys kidded that "the kid that never shuts up" was the top player out there, but make no mistake, James backs it up with some hellacious play at both FB and LB.

Of the several PA wideouts, the two that stand out above all others are Ohio State signee Devon Lyons and Pitt commit Darrell Revis. Lyons is noticeably bigger than he was at the 2003 Nike camp. He looks about 6-4 220lbs right now, and he's looking a little faster than he was then too. This kid will play early at Ohio State. Revis is a much smaller player than Lyons, but he's extremely quick and athletic. He'll be involved in a lot of this game, and I'm sure that PA head coach George Chaump will use Darrell to try and help out in the effort to stop Ted Ginn.

Rory Nicol and Matt Parkhurst will man the TE spot for the PA team this year. Both of these players are high quality athletes, with Nicol holding an edge in size and a slight edge in speed. Rory is no Kyle Brady or Kellen Winslow type athlete, but he's a good looking athlete who I would fully expect to start at Ohio State someday. Rory is slimmer today than he was last fall. He looks to me to be about 235lbs to 240lbs right now.

Among PA linemen, the two guys that really stand out are Ohio State signee Kyle Mitchum and Penn State commit A.Q. Shipley. If Nicol got slimmer over the past 6 months, Mitchum became broader. In both cases it's a good thing. Nicol has picked up some speed while Mitchum now has that broad stature that you like to see in your down linemen. His technique has never been a question mark, and now his size won't be questioned either. Kyle Mitchum will be on the fast track early at OSU. A.Q. Shipley is a great athlete for his size. He reminds you very quickly of former Penn Stater Anthony Adams. He's a fireplug with athletic ability and superior strength and desire. He's another kid who looks like he is going to make an impact in the Big10. Both Shipley and Mitchum played OG today.

Ben Iannachionne (WV) is playing one of the OT spots, Jon Skinner (OSU) is at both OT and OG, Jamie Thomas (Md) is at the other OT spot, Brian Hentosz (Villanova) and Dave Deallessandro (Villanova) are moving around at all three spots, and Manheim Central grad Mike Byrne is at center. These players round out the offensive line, but none were quite at the level of Mitchum and Shipley.

Both squads are required to play a 5-2 base defense, and in that scheme Shipley and Mitchum also lined up on defense. Part of the reason for that might have been due to an injury to projected NT Tyree Suber (WV). Suber tweaked a knee in practice and has yet to be cleared to play. As expected, the PA defense looked better when Mitchum and Shipley were plugged in on that side of the ball.

Hentosz, Deallessandro, and Michigan commit Chris Rogers all helped out Shipley and Mitchum in the middle of that 5-2 front. The PA squad had a trio of nice looking defensive ends in this practice in Tyrell Sales (Penn State), Leyon Azebuike (Temple), and Doug Slavonic (WV). Sales is headed to Penn State, but I'd have been happy with any of these three players. Slavonic has a very similar build and athleticism when compared to Rory Nicol, and Azebuike looks like a very nice speed rusher. On ability alone, he's going to play early and often at Temple.

The Pennsy team will field a trio of bona fide linebackers in this game in Donte Brown (Penn State), James Bryant (Miami) and Chris McKillop (Pitt). Brown is a big time MLB prospect who possesses both good size and good athletic ability. Bryant is just super fast and, like Brown, delivers a big blow when he gets to the ball. McKillop is a pretty darn good LB too. All of these guys can play, with Brown and Bryant being very high caliber recruits.

Pennsylvania will put a lot of nice players on the field in their secondary, but the best will be Darrell Revis. He has the best combination of speed and football instincts and athletic ability of all the skill players on the PA squad. Steffan Brinson, also headed to Pitt, will be playing another corner spot for the PA team. After Revis, the PA team doesn't have any marquee names in their secondary, so their role players will need to step up in this game.

The Ohio squad has fewer kids that look like big time impact players than they did last year. That squad was one of the all time great teams in Big33 history. This one has a couple of major league bona fide stars in the making, but nowhere near the depth of last year's squad.

The major star on the Ohio team is Ted Ginn. If he can score 3 or 4 TD's then Ohio will win this game. If not, this will probably be a PA win. Not that PA should win big or anything like that, just that it's my personal view that PA has better depth of talent than Ohio does this year. Enough to be the favorite in this game, even if young Ted Ginn, a super talent, is on the Ohio squad.

Some of the other players that stood out to me on the Ohio squad were Ben Person, and offensive guard headed to Ohio State, Chad Hoobler, a linebacker, also headed to OSU, Tony Davis, a corner coming to Penn State, Brandon Underwood, another corner but headed to OSU, and maybe Eric Haw and Alex Barrow, a pair of OSU recruits.

Person is 6-4 and 300lbs and looks strong as an ox to me. He also has good feet, something that is hard to teach. He's wearing a few extra pounds in his midsection right now, but they'll work that off him pretty quickly at Ohio State and he will become a fixture on their O Line pretty quickly.

Chad Hoobler reminded me a lot of a kid Ohio had last year named Curt Lukens. Both were fast closers on the ball, and needless to say, I was very impressed with Hoobler today. He looks like he will definitely play at OSU, and one of the OLB spots seems like a good fit for him.

Tony Davis is a 6-0 180lbs cat quick corner who was lined up in a lot of one on one's with Ted Ginn today. While it's virtually impossible to totally check Ted Ginn, Tony Davis acquitted himself extremely well. He's got great feet and I expect him to do well in the Big10.

Brandon Underwood is another corner who can do well at this level. He's not quite at the level now that his brother E.J. (also at Ohio State) was when he played in this game a few years ago, but he's on his way and looks like a solid prospect.

Erik Haw is a quick tailback with both size and speed. I don't expect to see Haw go off in this game because I think the PA front seven is better than the Ohio offensive line, but he can play. He's not a Kevin Jones type talent, but he'll play at OSU.

Alex Barrow is a 6-4 240lbs DE recruit for Ohio State. He'll play DE in C'bus, but he plays on the interior here for the Ohio Big33 team. He has a nice combination of size and speed and is somewhat similar to Tyrell Sales. I think he might be a tad quicker than Sales, but I think Sales is a tad stronger right now.

Michigan State recruit Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback for the Ohio squad this year with Bowling Green signee Anthony Turner backing up. Hoyer is clearly the more polished of the two right now. He's a nice quarterback prospect who, while not quite at the level of Chad Henne and Anthony Morelli, has some great targets to throw to in this game, most notably Ted Ginn.

Penn State OT recruit Gerald Cadogan looked like a nice big athlete out there today, but he still needs some coaching on his technique. He's a big athletic kid who needs to get better footwork and better leverage before he can play here, but he does have some good athletic ability to work with.

Some of the other names for the Ohio squad this year are Tony Howard, a Michigan State RB commit, Brandon Smith, an OSU LB commit, defensive ends William Brody (Minn.) and Justin Kershaw (MSU), Sirjo Welch, a d back headed to Ohio State, Chauncey Incarnato, an OL going to Notre Dame, and Mike Massey, a defensive end headed to Michigan. None of these players just jump out at you when you see them, but all of these recruits are quality players who should fill in nicely at their respective schools.

Recruiting note - Rumors were swirling around the Big33 practice field in regards to two high end skill players that Penn State is recruiting. Both rumors were very favorable towards those recruits ultimately ending up at Penn State.

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