January 2, 2008

Big line means big eyes for Red UA coach

ORLANDO, Fla. - With over 30 years of coaching experience including stints as a head coach on the highest level of football, Ron Meyer is not easily impressed. He has enjoyed campaigns as the head coach with the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts as well as college head coaching jobs at UNLV and SMU. Names such as Eric Dickerson, John Hanna and Craig James have worked under his tutelage.

This week in Orlando, Fla., Meyer is back on the field coaching, this time with a group of 17 and 18 year-old high school seniors. But despite their age, NFL potential is already oozing out of the practice fields. With two days of practice under Meyer's belt, he has gotten a good look at the talent he has to work with and he likes what he sees, particularly with the big nasties.

"It's pretty remarkable the skill level of the players," Meyer said. "The offensive line, 310, 320 pounds, these guys remind me of the dancing elephants at the circus. They've got such quick feet. You know lining up behind them, and I'm used to NFL size guys, these guys certainly look like top level collegiate guys right now."

Some individuals have already stuck out from the crowded and massive offensive line.

"Ben Jones, the center, I like him," he said. "We all know about Matt Meyer and he's been hampered a little bit with a toe but he's gonna play well. I like this Tyler Love. He's a gifted guy. The size and athletic ability of these guys at what I consider the toughest place to play which is the offensive line, that's special."

While Meyer has at his disposal a diverse and loaded offensive backfield with five-star Jermie Calhoun and Rivals100 member De'Anthony Curtis, one back who will likely benefit from the size of the linemen in front of him more than anyone is the undersized but speedy Carlton Thomas.

"Calhoun really gives you a special one but we've got a small running back out there in Carlton Thomas and he's got a little zip to him," Meyer said. "He's gonna be fun to watch. He's one of these diminutive backs you see so often even in the NFL. They get behind those big offensive linemen and all of the sudden he darts out there like a rabbit coming out of a bush so you just don't know how to grab him. I hope that continues this weekend."

The offensive linemen aren't the only players that look like they could be future NFL material. Meyer is already putting two of the Red Team's top receivers in some lofty company.

"The receivers are particularly talented," he said. "We all know about Julio Jones and Josh Jarboe. Jarboe is special. I mean he's real special. Both of them remind me a little bit of Michael Irvin and T.O. (Terrell Owens). Those are hall of fame names but they're in that class and that's saying a mouthful for a senior in high school."

Some players such as Jones, Jarboe, Love and Calhoun were easy to spot for Meyer. They looked the part early and backed up the play on the field. But others who may not fill out a t-shirt quite as well took further investigation.

Jamoris Slaughter a safety prospect heading to Notre Dame in the fall had a minor injury on Tuesday that may keep him out of Saturday's contest. Meyer will be missing the Georgia-native more than he had initially anticipated.

"He's pretty good," Meyer said. "He's an amazing guy. He's one of these guys that if you go by the eye-test, you don't like that well. Then all of the sudden you watch him perform or play out there and he lights it up.

"I looked at him and I thought, 'oh, this guy isn't gonna be any good' and then all of the sudden he just made play after play and he's got good technique. He's got a chance to help the Irish."

As the intensity in practice continues to taper down for Meyer and his team, he hopes to curtail injuries and soreness in preparation for Saturday's game. Though from the sound of a former NFL coach, a Sunday game wouldn't be inappropriate in the least.

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