Remember the Alamo

Several key figures in the PSU-Notre Dame game practiced together in San Antonio while preparing for the 2006 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Rob Riva recalls the matchups and talks about how they could come into play again Saturday.

One of the key matchups in Saturday's showdown between Penn State and Notre Dame will be the Nittany Lions' defensive line against the Fighting Irish offensive line. While both teams' respective lines have drastically changed from only a year ago, several players who will go head to head are already familiar with one another.

At the 2006 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, which pitted the West's top high school football players against the East's top talent, current Penn State defensive linemen Jared Odrick and Maurice Evans squared off against Notre Dame offensive linemen Dan Wenger and Sam Young in a week's worth of high intensity practices.

All four are starters for their respective college teams now.

Sam Young.

Even though all four were on the same team (the East) in San Antonio and as such did not match up in the game, they did have at it in the practice sessions that were not seen by a national television audience.

Reporting for, I was on hand for the practices. Outside of the goofy “Riva on The River” graphic FOS ran while I was filing stories from San Antonio, watching these linemen knock heads was one of the more memorable parts of my trip.

Here is how it went down.

U.S. Army All-American Matchup: Odrick vs. Wenger

Then ranked by as the nation's No. 8 defensive tackle, Odrick shifted from defensive end to defensive tackle early on in the week leading up to the U.S. Army All-American game after the East team was left thin at the position because of injuries. As a result of the move inside, he matched up frequently with Wenger, a guard who was a four-star prospect and ranked as the No. 20 player in the nation at his position.

Odrick absolutely dominated Wenger throughout. Odrick routinely got past him or pushed Wenger into the backfield all week. On one running play on the Thursday before the All-American game, Odrick knocked Wenger to the ground and tackled the ball-carrier, giving Wenger a bloody nose in the process. The two blue-chip prospects will match up once again on Saturday, as Odrick is slated to start at a defensive tackle spot and Wenger is set to start at right guard.

U.S. Army All-American Game Matchup: Evans vs. Young

When it came to the one-on-one matchup of Evans and Young, it was Young who came out on top. At the time, Young was a five-star prospect and ranked No. 2 at his position. Evans, who committed to Penn State during halftime of the All-American game, was a four-star prospect and ranked as the nation's No. 6 defensive end.

Maurice Evans

Young practiced much of the All-American game week at right tackle — the position he currently mans for the Irish — and saw action during practice against several elite defensive players. Evans switched end positions regularly during the week, but when he faced Young, Evans had minimal success. On one running play, Young pancaked Evans. The other times Young was able to lock on and neutralize Evans. It was clear that Young won the battle.

What to Expect

Three of the four players listed above saw meaningful playing time as true freshmen for their respective teams. Wenger is the only redshirt freshman among the group, with Evans, Odrick and Young all in their true sophomore year of eligibility. Evans saw time at defensive end in 12 of 13 games last year for the Nittany Lions, where he recorded 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Odrick played in 10 of 13 games and registered 3 tackles and a sack. Young started as a true freshman at right tackle, where he has remained ever since. Both Odrick and Evans are coming off solid performances against FIU, with Odrick making three tackles and a sack and Evans garnering two tackles and a sack.

Wenger and Young.

The likely key matchup among the four players will be Odrick vs. Wenger, as Evans and Young will probably not see other on an every-down basis. Heading into the game, Odrick has the edge in game experience and historical — albeit only a week's worth — advantage against Wenger.

Meanwhile, Young is set to start at right tackle for Notre Dame while Evans will line up at defensive end for Penn State. Since the Lions flip-flop their ends at times, the two figure to go head to head on occasion but it won't be a day-long battle. It will be interesting to see if Evans, who has added about 20 pounds since arriving at Penn State (he now checks in at over 260 pounds), has more success this time around against the massive Young (6-foot-8, 310).

Other 2006 U.S. Army All-American Bowl Alumni

Both the Irish and Nittany Lions were well represented at the 2006 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

In addition to Odrick and Evans, the Nittany Lions were represented by cornerback A.J. Wallace and wide receiver Chris Bell, all four of whom played as true freshmen for Penn State last year.

In addition to Young and Wenger, Notre Dame rounded out its representation on the East squad with quarterback Zach Frazer, cornerback Raeshon McNeil, running back James Aldridge and wide receiver Barry Gallup. On the West team, the Notre Dame prospects included offensive lineman Matt Carufel, tight end Konrad Reuland, offensive lineman Chris Stewart and offensive lineman Bartley Webb.

Frazer, a Pennsylvania native, has since transferred to UConn. The other players are all reserves for the Irish.


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