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December 30, 2003
East LBs are ministers of defense
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Are you worried about national defense?
If you are, then you're definitely not in San Antonio this week for the U.S. Army All-American game.
That's because with a linebacker corps of Willie Williams, Keith Rivers, Chris Patterson, Dan Connor, Marcus Freeman and James Bryant, the city is safe from attack from rocket-armed quarterbacks, jet-fast running backs and tank-like offensive linemen
"I've never seen six linebackers like we have here at the U.S. Army All-American game," said East linebacker coach Bill McGregor of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic.
"Every one of them can run, they're athletic, they're tough, they're easily coached and they're great kids. It's been a real pleasure to work with them all week. The kids are working hard, they want to be good and you can see why they're the elite players at the linebacker position in the country."
Indeed they are.
Rivers is ranked as the nation's No. 3 player overall and a five-star selection. Williams is also a five-star prospect and the No. 11 player on the Rivals100. Patterson and Connor, too, are five star recruits with each of them ranked at 20 and 15 in the nation, respectively.
Freeman is a four-star prospect and ranked as the nation's No. 50 player, and Bryant is right behind him at No. 55 overall.
Not only do the star linebackers share lofty national rankings, they also share a common mentality of wanting to work hard and help their team win.
"I think the biggest thing that they have in common is their attitude," McGregor said. "Each one of them is neat to talk to. They're positive and they're really fun to be around. They're just great kids that always have smiles on their face when they're off the field. They know how to put in the work to have the fun.
"They're also all tough and can run. They want to be good and want to help this team win. They're going to be great to watch on Saturday when we turn them loose."
While there are some common themes, each of them bring something unique to the table and that should make things tough for the West offense, which does have quite a few offensive weapons at the quarterback, running back and receiver spots.
"Willie is big, strong and aggressive," McGregor said. "He's the epitome of a linebacker. The great thing about Willie is that he can play inside or play outside. Keith has a great attitude, and can really run. We're even messing around with him at strong safety some. He can inner-change from inside backer to outside and move around to fit what we need on the field.
"Chris can run. He's athletic. He's a whole lot like Keith in that he can go anywhere from sideline-to-sideline to make the play. Dan is a throw back. If I was picking a linebacker from Pennsylvania that's going to Penn State, Danny would the perfect fit. He's totally a Penn State linebacker.
"Marcus is hard-nosed outstanding middle backer. He can run to the football and he works hard. He didn't get blocked today, just like Danny did. And James is in that mix, too. He's going both ways and has that ability to play on both sides of the ball."
Williams and Connor also see the different strengths in the talented group.
"I would say that I'm the fastest," Williams said. "The strongest would have to be Marcus. Man is he thick. Keith and Dan both would both be the smartest guys in my opinion. They're both always around the ball making plays.
"But I'm definitely the hardest hitter. Tell that to those guys over on the West."
Connor agreed but pointed out that he's been extremely impressed with the range of all of his linebacker teammates.
"Each one of us seems to have a little bit different," Connor said. "But I think the most important thing is that we're always flying around to the football and we all have great speed. The coaches are going to turn us loose and let us go out there and make plays. That's what I think we're going to be the best at.
"Just let us go out there and do our thing."
PETERSON THINKING ABOUT PICKING?
One of the biggest newsmakers at Tuesday's media conference was the nation's No. 1 player Adrian Peterson. With him already topping the rankings, it's hard to generate even more attention than he already does, but when word begins to circulate that the nation's top player is close to committing a buzz starts to begin.
And that's what happened on Tuesday.
After backing away several weeks ago from plans to announce his college choice on live NBC during Saturday's telecast, Peterson said again on Tuesday he is re-reconsidering and is going back and forth between whether or not he's going to do it.
"At first, I wasn't going to do it," Peterson said. "I've gotten to the point where I'm tired of people asking me 100 times a day where I'm going to go. I've been talking things over with my dad, step-dad and my mother and I'm pretty sure about where I'm going to go.
"I might go ahead and get it out of the way. We'll see how I feel throughout the rest of this week."
The coaches from the East and the West announced on Tuesday who their starting quarterbacks for the game will be. The East will be lead first by Louisville (Ky.) Trinity quarterback Brian Brohm. The West will start with Grand Prairie, Texas, quarterback Rhett Bomar as its starter.
REPRESENTING THE IRISH
Many college teams are represented with players that have already declared their college intentions with oral commitments. Two players that are at the game on the West squad representing Notre Dame are offensive lineman John Kadous of Tucson, Ariz., and Anthony Vernaglia of Orange, Calif.
Kadous said it's an honor to represent the Irish.
"It's always good to represent the school you're going to," Kadous said. "It says a lot about who's recruiting you and how they recruited you. With me committing to Notre Dame and by me performing well in this game it shows that Notre Dame recruited good players.
"It also shows that they have a good, solid team coming up. It's really important to represent your past and your future - your home town, your family, your friends, your high school and then your future college."
Kadous said he did follow the Irish's up-and-down season closely and isn't discouraged one bit by the team's struggles.
"It's tough," he said. "Last year they did really well, went to a bowl game and had a really good national ranking. This year was kind of a shock to me that they did so poorly. But they have a young team coming up and the next couple of years they're going to be great. If we stay together this group in two or three years will have a chance to win a national championship."
FROG OUT OF THE BAG?
Otis McDaniel of San Antonio (Texas) Taft is one of around 20 players expected to announce their decisions on Saturday during the broadcast. However, it looks like McDaniel gave all of those in attendance on Tuesday a big clue as to where he's going to pick.
In a clear shopping bag that was given to him by his mother, McDaniel had two hats from TCU. So if things go as expected, plan on McDaniel to don those hats Saturday when he announces for the Horned Frogs over Purdue.
KLOVAS DOWN TO TWO
One of more sociable players this week has to be Aaron Klovas of Graham (Wash.) Bethel. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound four-star selection is going out of his way to make sure to say hello to Rivals.com reporters every time he sees them.
And Klovas gave us a quick recruiting update.
"I'm down to two teams," Klovas said. "They want me to make a commitment here this weekend, but I'm not quite ready. I'm really still up in the air between Washington State and Oregon. I really liked the other schools, but it's always been Washington State and Oregon on my list.
"Now, I just need to figure out how in the world I'm going to pick between these guys."
FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE LASTING ONES
Rivals100.com special analyst Alan Weddell, a former coach at Texas A&M, spent the day taking a long look at some of the top prospects on both sides of the ball and from a first impression several recruits stood out above the others.
"On the West, it's hard to not be excited about Jeff Schweiger," Weddell said.
"Golly that kid is impressive. He made one play in when they were going ones against ones where he shot into the backfield, forced the running back to fumble and then he scooped the ball up and ran with it. He did all of this in one motion. When he fills out he's going to be a millionaire."
Others that stood out to Weddell on the West were Peterson - who Weddell said he had "two extra gears of faster and fastest" - offensive linemen Jeff Byers and Lydon Murtha and defensive tackle Franklin Okam.
On the East squad, Xavier Lee impressed him the most at quarterback, along with defensive end Tim Jamison and the group of linebackers.
Weddell will have his first in-depth breakdown of the East linebackers shortly - with a focus at what each one of them had that made them special and why type of scheme each one would be perfect fits in.
RED RIVER SMACK ALREADY STARTING
Offensive lineman Cedric Dockery is proud of his commitment to Texas, and any time he gets a chance he's not afraid to flash the famous Hook 'Em Horns sign to everybody that's around him.
He's even already beginning to lay the foundation for the future Red River Shootouts by lobbing smack talk toward future opponents at Oklahoma - Rhett Bomar and Lendy Holmes.
"Yeah, I'm talking a little noise to them and letting them know that it's not going to be the same Texas team when we get there," Dockery said. "Texas has a lot of young guys on their roster and when the guys in my class get there, we're going to get that losing-streak fixed up there in Dallas.
"I thought we should let those Oklahoma guys know that we're already coming for them. It's all in good fun, but we're proud to be representing Texas and show them what Longhorn football is going to be all about in the future."
INJURY BUG BITES WEST SQUAD
-Two key players missed practice Tuesday afternoon when the nation's top receiver Early Doucet sat out because of a tweaked left hamstring. Doucet said he'll be ready later this week.
Texas commitment Bobby Tatum was injured early in the afternoon session of practice when he suffered a separated shoulder while defending Cameron Colvin in one-on-one passing drills. Tatum had ice on his left shoulder and said he should be able to compete in practices and the game later this week, but he was in obvious pain.