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January 16, 2007

Shrine Game West notes: Learning from a legend

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MORE: East: Clark stays visible | Practice gallery

HOUSTON In a few months Southern California's Dallas Sartz, Cal's Desmond Bishop and Texas A&M's Justin Warren will hope to hear NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell call their names at the annual draft.

On Tuesday they would have settled for hearing their linebackers coach call their names, period.

Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary, a San Francisco 49ers coach and former Chicago Bears star, didn't make much of an effort to get on a first-name basis with the West linebackers as they prepared for this weekend's annual East-West Shrine Game.

"We can work on this the rest of the period if we need to," the remarkably slender Singletary barked as his troops drilled on moving laterally. "USC (Sartz) get your butt down. Oklahoma (Zach Latimer), use your arms to help you. C'mon, A&M (Warren)."

Although the Shrine Game is just an exhibition, Singletary obviously wasn't approaching it that way. The linebackers working with him were grateful.

"It's been pretty fun," Sartz said. "At USC I had Ken Norton Jr. (as linebackers coach) and here I have Mike Singletary. He knows so much about the game. Every day he teaches you new stuff and he demands perfection. He's not holding anything back at all."

The seven linebackers on the West roster Sartz, Bishop, Warren, Latimer, Kansas State's Brandon Archer, New Mexico's Quincy Black and Cal Poly's Kyle Shotwell, wouldn't be on the all-star roster if they were not accomplished players.

Sartz was a three-year starter at USC. Bishop, Warren, Latimer and Archer were all-conference linebackers. Black was named All-Mountain West Conference as a defensive back. Shotwell received the Buck Buchanan Award as the nation's top defensive player in Division I-AA.

But Singletary left them feeling as if they had yet to accomplish anything.

"We're not used to hearing (criticism)," Bishop said. "But there is always room for improvement on the next level, and there are so many things to learn. We expect to get broken down to zero like we were freshmen again."

Singletary said he just wanted to help them be the best they could be.

"I like coaching somebody that's trying to get better," he said. "It's an opportunity for me to mold and motivate players. Some didn't get coaching technique-wise for whatever reason. This is an opportunity to help."

However, some of those players couldn't help it if they were a little awestruck when they learned Singletary would be their position coach.

"I remember watching his highlights," Bishop said. "We were surprised (that he was the coach), but we were happy. It's the opportunity to learn from the best."

Warren echoed that sentiment.

"He's a legend and he won't teach you anything wrong, so it's a blessing," he said. "But to get praise from him is challenging."

It's a snap: Washington punter Sean Douglas was one of the more impressive individuals in Tuesday's workouts. He routinely boomed kicks that covered about 50 yards and climbed very high inside the Texans indoor practice facility. He did have some problems in team coverage drills, though it wasn't his fault. Deep snaps often rolled back to him or he had to catch them off his shoe tops.

High praise: Texas' Brian Robison might have been overshadowed to some degree by more heralded teammates, but scouts are apparently high on the 6-foot-3, 270-pound defensive end. One scout suggested Robison has a higher upside than former Texas defensive end Tony Brackens, who played nine seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and appeared in a Pro Bowl.

Big hits: With the West team practicing in full pads, TCU safety Marvin White seemed to deliver the afternoon's hardest hit when he drilled Boise State's Jerard Rabb after a catch. However, Cal's Bishop delivered an even harder jolt later in the day on Nebraska tight end Matt Herian.

Notes: An NFL scout said that Nebraska cornerback Zackary Bowman, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, would still have been a first round choice had he entered the draft. Bowman chose to return to Nebraska for the 2007 season. Utah defensive lineman Paul Soliai had one of the more impressive plays when he penetrated between New Mexico's Robert Turner and Colorado's Brian Daniels to get into the backfield and force Texas running back Selvyn Young to fumble. Fresno State's Paul Williams, who seemingly caught everything thrown in his direction, had the best day of all the West receivers. Texas Tech's Joel Filani made a good move to get open on a post, but dropped the pass from Nebraska's Zac Taylor. Filani later made a nice catch on a pass that was deflected twice before he pulled it in. Baylor defensive back C.J. Wilson showed excellent closing speed as he dived in front of Iowa State's Austin Flynn to intercept a pass by Nevada's Jeff Rowe. The West roster has a Canadian feel. Kansas running back Jon Cornish is from New Westminster, British Columbia and offensive lineman Jordan Rempel from Saskatchewan. Washington State defensive back Tyron Brackenridge is from Ontario California.

MORE: East: Clark stays visible | Practice gallery

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