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January 3, 2003SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - There are always rumors swirling around every all-star game and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl is no different.
And after quite a few days of practice, here is what is being tossed around by the players in attendence.
Star quarterback Chris Leak (right) is expected to announce his decision at halftime of the game.
Leak is rumored to be leaning heavily to Florida over Iowa, Florida State, Texas and Southern Cal, although he hasn't let on exactly what team he'll pick. Other players are also expected to announce their decisions before or during the game, including a possible announcement from Ohio safety Prescott Burgess.
Burgess will likely choose between Michigan and Ohio State and, based on his size, could grow into a linebacker sooner than later. Burgess looks nearly 220 pounds and is now 6-foot-4.
New Jersey tight end Greg Olsen was asked to announce his destination but declined. Olsen will announce when he returns and it's down to Notre Dame and Miami it appears.
Speaking of Leak, at least four different players have raved about his ability and he's lived up to his big-time reputation.
"I heard about him before he got here and thought he would be all hype," one player said. "He's the real deal, he can play with the best of them."
The roster limitations are of concern to the players and coaches once again this year as both sides could be shorthanded. Linebacker Xavier Adibi and defensive end Shawn Crable have been out of action for the East due to injury (Crable is expected to play in the game) and offensive lineman Jeff Zuttah didn't make the trip because of orientation at Michigan.
Calls were placed for a replacement offensive lineman this week including one to Ohio lineman Ty Hall, but the Boston College commitment recently had shoulder surgery and could not make the trip. New Jersey standout Gordie Sammis (Virginia commitment) was named to the team and flew down on Wednesday to replace Zuttah.
The East is so shorthanded that punter Eric Wilbur is playing safety in a neck brace because there are only four defensive backs on the roster. Don't expect Wilbur to see much contact for obvious reasons.
Over on the West roster, the No. 1 player in Texas, tight end Tony Hills, is reportedly a no-show as is defensive end Jarvis Moss.
Offensive lineman Corey Clark has been slowed by the flu and defensive back Tony Cade is still struggling with injuries suffered at the end of his season.
Look for an offensive game on Sunday as the defenses are not allowed to blitz and must play a standard 4-3 set up front. The defenses will also be playing zone coverage and the limitations are in place to aid the offense and produce a high-scoring game.
Ryan Mundy, Wes Jefferson and Moe Dampeer have been the most impressive defenders for the East squad while Leak, Adarius Bowman and Demetris Summers have been impressive on offense.
For the West squad, running back Reggie Bush has been awesome on offense and tight end Chris Barrett and offensive lineman Ian-Yates Cunningham have also been impressive.
Defensively, Kyle Caldwell (left) has been a monster and cornerback Tony Cade has held his own with the vaunted West wideouts.
Speaking of the wideouts, highly ranked Steve Smith and Whitney Lewis have been solid but not spectacular. However, the feeling is that the duo will turn it up a notch when the cameras are on.
Quarterback Brady Quinn has been given the nickname "Brad Pitt" for his pretty boy looks according to a couple of players. Quinn is put together and very muscular, but he's still a tad skinny and needs to fill out.
Southern Cal is in great shape for teammates Sam Baker and Chris Barrett as both players are reportedly heavy, heavy leans to the Trojans. Smith is also reportedly down to USC and Tennessee as well so the Trojans could be gearing up for an amazing final few weeks.
Other heavy leans reported out of San Antonio include Vernon Davis, Wes Jefferson and Victor Abiamiri (Maryland), John Sullivan and Greg Olsen (Notre Dame) and Demetris Summers (South Carolina).
The 7 a.m. practice by the West squad wasn't a huge hit with the players. In fact, many of them skipped the practice altogether. Heading into the weekend, the East squad seems more focused and determined based on practice reports from both sides.
Reports from the West side have superstar quarterback Kyle Wright (right) throwing the ball with amazing accuracy, but Oregon commitment Johnny DuRocher displaying a stronger arm and as much raw ability. Wright is the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country with DuRocher standing at No. 18. However, the gap between the two is narrowing according to many.
Looks like Oregon has a good one for the future.
Buffalo Grove, Ill., athlete Tom Zbikowski dislocated his thumb in practice but will play in the game anyhow. Zbikowski and fellow Illinois standout Corey McKeon have been talking quite a bit about Nebraska.
McKeon is already committed to the Cornhuskers and is working on Zbikowski quite a bit.
Despite the presence of talented tight ends Vernon Davis and Jonathan Stupar, word has it that Greg Olsen is the best receiver among the ends and is also a very good blocker. Olsen has shown great hands and rare physical ability for a player his size.
Linebacker Will Paul runs much better than anyone thought and is as big and strong as advertised. Paul is taking on offensive linemen and tight ends and standing them up to make a play. Any doubts about his ability to play linebacker in college (most think he's a tight end or a defensive end on defense) have been erased and Michigan will have an enviable dilemma once Paul hits campus since he can play so many different positions.
The East could be in a bit of trouble at linebacker. McKeon is undersized and more of a safety prospect, Tavares Gooden has been playing mostly defensive end in high school and Wes Jefferson is experienced and good, but can't carry the unit.
Joe Cohen and Shawn Crable have taken turns are linebacker but this could be a weak area for the East with Xavier Adibi out with knee and shoulder injuries.
Speaking of Cohen, his physical skills are as advertised and he has the speed to play running back in college if he wants to, even at 240 pounds.
The best wideout on the East squad might surprise a few people. Tennessee product and North Carolina commitment Adarius Bowman is the biggest and strongest of the wideouts and when the ball is up for grabs, he's coming down with it. Bowman is also the tallest wideout on the team, standing 6-foot-4 now.
The state of Illinois is well represented on the East squad for obvious reasons and defensive lineman Moe Dampeer (left) is really emerging as the best pass rusher on the team.
Dampeer has been dominant in practices, giving the offensive line fits. He has beaten nearly every offensive lineman on the roster in practice and shows incredible quickness for his size.