U.S. Army Bowl: West Practice Report

With the U.S. Army practices kicking off Monday, half of us took the East and the other half took the West All-Stars. The majority of the West squad's workout was more of a walk-through, however, some contact was allowed. And, it provided a glimpse of what we might see going forward. Expect the hitting to pick up a bit more Tuesday and Wednesday. Until then, when we can learn more, we wanted to pass along a few notes/thoughts on Monday's first workout...<p>

When checking out the All-Americans making up Team West, I primarily focused on prospects from the Southwest and Midlands regions, but also couldn't keep from noticing other standouts as well...

Quarterbacks:
As if you didn't already know, Reserve, Louisiana's Ryan Perriloux (soft Texas verbal) and Mission Viejo, California's Mark Sanchez (USC verbal) are absolutely incredible. And, I got the opportunity to watch both of them in drills today. One word for ya: Accuracy. Both can put it on the money, throw with touch, and put some spin on it when they need to. But what stood out the most about their abilities is the fact that they were so incredibly accurate, loose, and up for today's practice. For the record, Sanchez is closer to 6-0/6-0.5 and Perrilloux is closer to the 6-1/6-1.5...

Running backs:
Not much to assess when it comes to the running backs because they weren't able to showcase their abilities, usually going half-speed and later about 3/4-speed. That aside, Lacey, Washington TB Jonathan Stewart, moving at 3/4 speed, looked very impressive. Cannot imagine how difficult it might be to stop him when he's allowed to go full speed.

Wide Receivers:
The wideouts were able to get in some work today and I spent most of my time watching Kansas City, Kansas WR D.J. Hord, Pflugerville, Texas WR Todd Walker and Wichita Falls, Texas WR David Nelson. While these three may not match the hype of their counterparts representing the East All-Star squad, make no mistake they will do just fine.

On Walker: With the quarterback position being more familiar to him than that of wide receiver, I wondered how well the Cen-Texas standout would take to the wideout position. Of course, he's played a little WR in high school. But this was at the U.S Army AA practice, and he fit in quite nicely. He showed the ability to move in and out of his cuts, almost effortlessly, and also looked the ball into his hands, save just one throw where he used his body to haul it in...

On Hord: The Missouri product is very fluid, quick, fast and showed off an excellent pair of gloves, always bringing the rock in with his mitts only. He has, so far, met the hype. An extremely capable receiver, one who will definitely garner minutes as a true frosh...

On Nelson: I must confess, of course it's probably a bit too early to tell, but we probably do not have the Wichita Falls Rider senior ranked high enough. He's tall, has gained some weight, and catches everything, and with his hands. He shows off nice body control, twisting and turning his body to make the off-target catches, though, there really weren't too many passes off-the-mark today. The few that were, Nelson hauled in...

Tight Ends:
Galena Park, Texas TE DajLeon Farr was asked by the West coaching staff if he wanted to play a little tight end, fullback and H-back because they want to run an offense that relies on a FB/H-back type of player, and Farr agreed. He'll still play a little tight end also, but is working out at fullback/H-back position. It'll be interesting to see what kind of an impact he can make. He caught every single ball that came his way...

Houston, Texas TE Martellus Bennett is pulling double-duty also, working out with the wide receivers and tight ends. He, of course, also caught everything. Bennett was trying to work one of the lady trainers, doling out some good-nature smack to his teammates as well as the Scout.com team, cracking everybody up...

Offensive Line:
Most impressive offensive lineman, at least in terms of handling the West All-Star DL talent, was Seminary, Mississippi C/G Josh McNeil, who will start at center for the West. Not only did he get almost every rep in at that position, but he stood out, dishing some pancakes, and smack along the way...

How could you not talk about the best the West has to offer without mentioning Houston, Texas OT Reginald Youngblood, who was put to work today for the first time in his prep career. For the most part, he showed his ability to dominate, but he needs to get out of his stance a bit quicker. It'll be interesting to see how he bounces back tomorrow. That said when he sets up and extends his arms/hands, you're done. And, he showed that today against top-level comp. Looking forward to seeing how he adjusts to the speed/physicality of the West's right-side DEs: Aaron Lewis and Raymond Henderson.

Jesse White (OU commit) -- playing LG for the West -- is no taller than 5-11, and may actually stand 5-10.5. That definitely makes him a center on the next level. He's also going to need guard-help most of the time because a bull rush by a large and/or strong DT (Roy Miller, DeMarcus Granger, Jerrell Powe) usually had him back-pedaling in pass-protection. In the run game, however, he did a very good job riding his opponent's momentum out of the play and/or getting in front of him, staying in front, and making it difficult by keeping his feet moving. He is playing out of position, at least in terms of where he is projected to play on the next level...

Ada, Oklahoma G Craig Roark (Nebraska commit), playing RG for the West, is a lot closer to 6-feet, than the reported 6-3. He had more talent to handle today than ever before seen and had his hands full. He responded a lot better as the practice went along and looking forward to see how he bounces back Tuesday/Wednesday.

Defensive Ends:
Checked out the right-side defensive ends (La Cueva, New Mexico DE Aaron Lewis (Texas verbal), Milwaukee, Wisconsin DE Raymond Henderson ) more so than the left-side defensive ends (Allen, Texas DE Marcus Shavers, Walnut, Iowa DE Tyler Blum), and let me tell you something, those RDE-dudes gave Reginald Youngblood fits at least a few times. Lewis, with an outside, inside move, left a couple of scouts gasping as he logged a couple of would-be sacks. Henderson, also drew praise, breaking free a few times...

Defensive Tackles:
Opinions vary on just who represents the top DT on the West. So, who deserves the No. 1 spot? Good question. At this time, three stallions are fighting for top honors: Killeen, Texas DT Roy Miller, Dallas, Texas DT DeMarcus Granger and Wayneco, Mississippi DT Jerrell Powe.

On Miller: Lived up to the hype, and more. His determination to make the tackle, each and every rep he got, was refreshing. Not to mention that it cemented his reputation for having an outstanding work ethic. Whether he made the tackle 2 yards-deep in the backfield, or fought through trash to the opposite side of the field, 7-10 yards downfield, he was in on every possible tackle he could get on his own or assist on. His hand-technique is another facet of his game that stood out. His ability to take on the double-team, and move the double-team either back or to the left or right, in order to try to make the play, drew praise as well. Miller playing second-team due to ranking position before the U.S. Army All-American practices, does not sit well with him. And, he has come out with a vengeance to prove he belongs on the first-team D-line. Kid has been a load to handle...

On Granger: Seems like he's just getting warmed up out there, yet making plays, and making it look easy. Granger brings a lot of pressure, utilizing a few different techniques to get in the backfield. He threw the swim, busted out the club, while also mixing in his deadly bull rush. Granger, indeed, was a load to handle also...

On Powe: I was teasing Jerrell about his gut, saying he needed it in order to maintain that lightning burst out of stance. No question, this kid has an amazing get-off, and wreaked havoc for most of the practice session. He said he was working to remove that gut so he can become even more effective, which is scary when you think about it. Consider this: Kid was knifing in, disrupting the flow of the West offense, beating offensive linemen out of their stance, and could do the same against the talented East O-line this Saturday. If he works hard, and gets in shape, he'll tear it up on the D-I level for all four quarters...

Linebackers/Safeties:
I did not spend a lot of time monitoring these guys, for the simple fact that they didn't get many opps as the running backs were running 1/2-3/4-speed. Also, there wasn't a lot of action for them to clean up as the West DL made play after play. Three kids stood out, despite not getting to do their thing on the first day of practice. Oklahoma MLB Phillip Dillard (Nebraska commit), Nevada LB Ryan Reynolds and Edmond, Oklahoma FS Reggie Smith.


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