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January 6, 2006SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Heading into Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, there are several match-ups that should weigh heavily in the outcome. Rivals.com has established our five key match-ups to watch in the battle at the Alamodome.
West defensive line vs. East offensive line
This is without a doubt the key match-up to the game. The West defensive line has simply dominated practice all week with a trio of five-star players across the front four. Kilgore (Texas) defensive end Eddie Jones, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Southeast defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Elton (La.) defensive tackle Al Woods have been unstoppable.
For the East, Birmingham (Ala.) Huffman offensive guard Andre Smith, Pickerington (Ohio) North offensive tackle Justin Boren and Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Sam Young and center Daniel Wenger need to have big games.
This group of linemen will be tested by the West front four unlike they've ever been before. The West defensive line literally demoralized the confidence and rhythm of the West offense in practice this week. The fact that the East has seen nothing like they're going to see on Saturday gives the advantage to the West.
East wide receivers vs. West secondary
The talk of the East team has been the play of the nation's No. 1 ranked player, Landstown (Va.) wide receiver Percy Harvin. The 6-foot-1, 185 pound Harvin has looked like Ted Ginn in practice and coincidently the coach of the East squad if Ted Ginn Sr.
Look for Ginn to utilize Harvin in several ways on Saturday, along with Chatham (Va.) Hardgrave Military receiver Vidal Hazelton and Norfolk (Va.) Hampton receiver Chris Bell. Hazelton has arguably been the most physical receiver in either camp.
The key for the West will be the play of Waco (Texas) University corner Perrish Cox, Rancho Cucamongo (Calif.) corner Devin Ross and Destrehan (La.) corner Jai Eugene. Both Cox and Ross have played outstanding in practice this week and they're going to need to bring it up another level on Saturday. The strong push by the West front four should help them, but right now the edge is with the East.
East linebackers vs. West running backs
The East linebackers are absolutely huge, but they can move. Shelby (N.C.) Crest linebacker Brandon Spikes is 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and Fort Campbell (Ky.) linebacker Micah Johnson is 6-foot-2, 255 pounds. The speed guy in the East linebacker core is Wheaton (Md.) linebacker Akeem Hebron.
They will have a major challenge on their hands stopping West running backs Michael Goodson, Emmanuel Moody, Stafon Johnson and DeMarco Murray.
Goodson has been the most impressive of the West running backs with his 10.5 speed and he should be able to break one or two big runs on Saturday.
The West will run a spread offense which will require the East linebackers to cover in space, so this gives the edge to the West.
West quarterbacks vs. East quarterbacks
The West team is very fortunate to have South Lake Carroll (Texas) head coach Todd Dodge working with the quarterbacks this week. Dodge has installed a dumb-downed version of his spread offense that captured the 5-A state title in Texas.
Springdale (Ark.) quarterbacks Mitch Mustain, Stephenville (Texas) quarterback Jevan Snead and Grandview (Mo.) quarterback Josh Freeman all seem to have a solid grasp of Dodge's offense. Dodge wants to rotate the quarterbacks either by quarter or every two to three series.
Meanwhile, the East is going to rely heavily on St. Augustine (Fla.) Nease quarterback Tim Tebow. Ginn will run a spread option type look with Tebow that will feature his mobility. Mechanicsburg (Penn.) quarterback Zach Frazer is the other quarterback on the East squad, and he has struggled for most of the week to establish a rhythm.
Right the knowledge of Dodge, the leadership of Mustain and just the overall depth at quarterback give the edge to the West.
East running backs vs. West linebackers
Akron (Ohio) Garfield running back Chris Wells and Merrillville (Ind.) Columbus running back James Aldridge have both had solid weeks for the East and Wells has looked like the No. 1 ranked running back in the country.
Meanwhile, we know the West is loaded at linebacker with Colton (Calif.) standout Allen Bradford and Dallas Woodrow Wilson's Sergio Kindle.
However, this group has yet to be tested in practice because the West defensive line has blown up just about everything. Saturday should be a little bit different and Bradford and Kindle will be tested by Wells and Aldridge. Right now the East running backs get a slight edge in this match-up.
Score Prediction: West 31 East 10
This may shock some people, the but the West is clearly built more like a team at this point and the coaching experience of Jim Rackley has brought this team together. Rackley coached on John Barnes' staff last year in San Antonio, so he has a good understanding of what he can and can't get done in one week of practice.
Also, another thing that the West has is a solid familiarity with one another. There are six current Texas Commits and there should be a plethora of USC Trojans on this team when it's all said and done. That common bond with one another allowed this team to clique and its practices have been much more crisp than the East.
Expect the West front four to dominate and expect Dodge's spread offense to give the East match-up problems all day.