Rumble on the River

SAN ANTONIO — U.S. Army forces of football nature will collide Saturday deep in the heart of Texas and Tennessee fans should have more than a passing interest in some of the individual performances.

Of certain interest is UT commitment Gerald Jones, an outstanding athlete from Oklahoma City who is ranked the nation's No. 9 running back prospect by Scout.com. Jones has an array of skills including the ability to run, throw or catch the football. He's also athletic enough to be a star of defense.

Then there's the terrifically talented Eric Berry, who is rated the nation's No. 1 cornerback, but could play on either side of the ball as well as being a wizard on special teams. Berry's unique ability to change directions, stop on a stripe and accelerate like a six-figure sports car earn him a special place in the Class of 2007.

Of course, his 4.33 speed propels this Big Orange legacy to a rarified realm at this prestigious gridiron gathering of the country's top high school football players. Berry picked off consecutive passes in Monday's scrimmage and effectively neutralized every East squad receiver he matched up against. It doesn't take much imagination to see Berry as a dynamic cover corner from the first day he walks on UT's campus.

Most analysts believe Berry is far ahead of Jai Eugene who was ranked the nation's No. 1 cornerback in the Class of 2006. That's remarkable for a prospect who rarely played the corner in high school.

"He's the best defensive back to come out of Georgia since Champ Bailey," said Scout.com head analyst Jamie Newberg. "He's the best cover corner we've seen in several years."

If a draft was held among the 80 U.S. Army All Americans in San Antonio, Berry would be among the top three to come off the board. Yeah, he's just that good. More to the point, he's that valuable as a true shutdown corner that can effectively neutralize an opponent's top receiver without any help. Imagine if every opponent Tennessee played this year had that type of ability?

Although all-star games are normally bad barometers of a player's potential, Berry's ability should translate well Saturday since it will essentially be a one-on-one match.

In terms of value, Washington D.C. defensive tackle and prospect Numbero Uno on Scout.com's Hot 100 list Marvin Austin offers a lot. However he has stepped up in competition this week and has had his head handed to him a couple of times. That's understandable. It happens. Still it points out how hard it is for a true freshman to be a difference maker at defensive tackle — particularly in the SEC.

Tennessee has a serious need for a player of Austin's ability, but many believe his commitment with be a Seminole event. He visits Florida State later this month and it wouldn't be a great surprise if he committed on his visit to Tallahassee.

The news appears more favorable where Chris Donald of Huntingdon is concerned. He's rated the nation's No. 1 strong side linebacker by Scout.com and will announce between Tennessee and Notre Dame during the game. Most believe he will pick the Vols. With that said: there are Notre Dame insiders that still believe he will choose the Fighting Irish.

Donald has been shaking off rust this week after rehabbing from an ankle injury but has managed to display his gift for flow and blow. He has the talent to impact the depth chart in Knoxville or South Bend. It is easy to imagine him fitting into a future UT starting lineup that would feature Jerod Mayo at middle linebacker, flanked by Donald and Rico McCoy. That's why Vol Nation will breath a sigh of relief when he puts on a Big Orange hat during Saturday's NBC telecast. And if he doesn't? Perish the thought.

Other players UT fans will want to watch are Louisiana wide receiver Ahmad Paige, who is regarded by some as a Florida lean while others believe Tennessee is still a viable contender for his considerable services. The Vols also remain in the hunt for 6-foot-5, 225-pound defensive linemen Ben Martin of Lasalle, Ohio, as well as Sidell Corley of McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile. Ala.

There should be some interest in Big Orange Country in the performance of top quarterback prospect Jimmy Clausen whose brothers Casey and Rick started at UT for parts or all of six full seasons. The youngest of the sibling signal callers committed to Notre Dame long ago.

Players that were selected for the Army All-American Bowl that are injured and won't play are: Marc Tyler (RB), Martin Coleman (OL), Josh Oglesby (OL), Richett Jones (DL) and Matt Summers-Gain of the West squad. Running backs Caleb King and Armando Allen will miss the contest for the East squad as will tight end Mike Ragone. Both Allen and Ragone are committed to Notre Dame. Tyler and Coleman are pledged to USC. Notre Dame has seven all-Americans committed while USC has seven.


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