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January 1, 2008

East Notebook: All-American recruiters

SAN ANTONIO - Recruiting is in full force here at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. It's not coaches trying to sell uncommitted prospects on their respective schools, though.

This week, it's other players who are trying to convince their peers to play with them in college. Ohio State commit Etienne Sabino is doing it and so are many others. It's all part of the fun.

"We're after Brandon Harris from Miami Booker T. (Washington) and we're after Corey Liuget from Hialeah," Sabino said. "They're from my area. (Josh) Jenkins is here, he recently de-committed from West Virginia, so we're trying to get on him. Terrelle Pryor, too."

"We have me, Lamaar (Thomas), (DeVier) Posey, Mike (Brewster), (Jake) Stoneburner. I just think (Pryor) sees all the good chemistry and that's going to carry us far in the future. We haven't known each other for a very long time but we all talk somehow, someway and we all bonded and we all hang out together."

Pryor, the nation's top-rated player who has Ohio State, Michigan, Florida and others involved, is not the only player at the U.S. Army game being targeted by committed players. Top-ranked cornerback Patrick Johnson and safety Brandon Smith said people are trying to get in their ears, too.

Johnson, from Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely, will pick Florida, LSU or Florida State. Smith, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound four-star recruit, has narrowed his list to Michigan, South Carolina, Boston College and Rutgers. Both will make their intentions known at Saturday's game. Smith said he had fun with Posey at practice about playing together in college.

"It goes on every second of practice and it's not all a bad thing because it's great to be around players just like me," Smith said. "They say it in a fun sense but at the same time they're real serious. Sometimes, I might tell them I didn't get offered by their particular school and right in front of my face they'll call the coach and ask why they didn't offer me.

"One day at practice I was with Posey and I told him I committed to Ohio State and then I said, 'Psyche.' He said he filmed me and was going to send it to Rivals and tell everybody that I committed to OSU."

Said Johnson: "It's pretty neat but there are no LSU people (on the East team). It's neat that people are coming up to me saying, 'Come to my school. We have a lot alike.' It's pretty exciting."

Brown does not mind certain labels

East head coach Robert Prunty and assistant coach Terry Smith have both called Ocean Springs (Miss.) wide receiver DeAndre Brown a 'freak of nature' in the last two days mainly because Brown is a 6-foot-6, 208-pound prospect who oozes with ability and even more potential. Prunty and Smith meant it in a positive way and that's how Brown took it.

"I like being called a freak of nature because you don't see too many 6-6 receivers who run well and who can move like I can move," Brown said. "I take it as a compliment and try to use it as motivation… My height really helps me out a lot especially in red zone situations. If the quarterback can make the throw and it's on point, I'm usually there to go up and get it. That's really what helps me is my height."

Brown has been one of the most impressive wide receivers on an East team loaded at that position. In Tuesday's practice, Brown caught a touchdown pass from Alabama quarterback commit Star Jackson and he had a TD reception from Pryor during 1-on-1 drills.

Rivals.com rated Brown as the best wide receiver at last month's Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. He said he wanted to carry over those types of performances this week. On Sunday, Brown provided a top five of LSU, Ole Miss, Florida, Texas Tech and Southern Mississippi. He said Tuesday he is wide open and has not taken any visits yet.

"You can't teach (size)," Prunty said. "He's the biggest receiver I've been around. He's a man. Because of his height, his jumping ability and the things he does when he gets the ball, he is a very good one."

Certain position intrigues Smith

There is one reason why Smith wants to play safety in college. He likes to hit. That's a simple enough explanation and he hopes wherever he ends up - Michigan, South Carolina, Boston College and Rutgers are his final four - he can play defense. Smith also played quarterback at New Brunswick this season.

"I like to talk on D," Smith said. "If I was running the offense, I'd have to learn all the audibles but I can't look at the defense and say, 'You can't talk to me.' I want to be a defensive player on the next level.

"Going up against the receivers, Posey and Brown, it's a lot of competition and I love the competition. I feel like we have the best wide receivers in the nation on the East side so once we go against the guys on the West we're just going to demolish them."

Rivals.com rates Smith as the 12th best athlete nationally and the second-best player in the New Jersey Top 30. He is also a member of the Rivals 250. The only player in New Jersey rated higher is Florida commit Will Hill, who played at Jersey City St. Peter's Prep. Smith said he has been especially impressed with Johnson so far this week.

"With him and (Boubacar) Cissoko at corner, I'm real confident," Smith said. "In high school, I had to shade to each side. Now I know I can play my own area and be the ballplayer I am. Johnson is a heck of a corner. Just watching him in practice, the things he does amaze me sometimes."

Said Prunty: "(Johnson is) special. He's a League guy. I don't mean any low pick. His cover skills, physical skills, he's savvy and he plays with leverage at the corner spot above his years."

Tuesday injury report

• Running back Jonas Gray missed all of Tuesday with an ankle injury he suffered in Monday's workout. He walked around the practice field and told people he should return Wednesday.

• Cornerback T.J. Bryant is also recovering from an ankle injury he sustained on Monday. Bryant said Tuesday he is not doing any media interviews this week. He might return for Wednesday's practice.

• Pittsburgh tight end commit Jonathan Baldwin, who has been split out mainly as a wide receiver so far this week, missed a good part of practice because of a nagging groin injury he's dealt with since his final game at Aliquippa (Pa.) in mid-November.

• Notre Dame linebacker commit Darius Fleming, from Chicago (Ill.) St. Rita, missed Tuesday's practice with a right shoulder stinger. Fleming said he should be fine and expects to return soon.

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