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December 31, 2008
East coach breaks down his talent
MORE: U.S. Army AA Bowl coverage | Practice Galleries: East | West | More all-star coverage
SAN ANTONIO - They're all good but a select few players have stuck out to East coach Terry Smith and his staff in practices for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Starting at quarterback, Georgia commit Aaron Murray and Rutgers pledge Tom Savage have been the best.
"I would give Murray the edge right now but it's a close battle between the two," Smith said at Wednesday's Skills Challenge at the Alamodome. "The consistency sticks out and Murray takes charge of the huddle better than any of the other guys.
"He's a big-time leader with a big-time arm. His mobility is a little limited because of his injury but his arm is really, really strong (Savage is) big and strong. He has a body like Ben Roethlisberger. He's a big presence in there with a big-time arm. (Tuesday) on a seam route, 30 yards on a rope, it was a big-time throw. He's had a really big week as well."
There is "no question" that Miami commit Bryce Brown is the East's top running back, Smith said. He has shown the capability to break big runs and also get downfield and catch passes out of the backfield. Clemson commit Roderick McDowell has also been a solid runner with big-play ability.
"(Brown) is big time," Smith said. "He's shown the combination of power, speed, athleticism and great vision."
At wide receiver, Michigan commit Jeremy Gallon has been far and away the most productive receiver. He has touchdowns catches in each of the practices and has a knack for getting open and sneaking behind the defense. At 5 feet 8, Gallon is small enough to creep through openings and then pop open for the pass.
"He's a pleasant surprise," Smith said. "We knew he was a good athlete but making the adjustment to receiver was always a big question mark. He's scored touchdowns in every practice and he seems to have the knack to get open and make the play."
Orson Charles has also drawn a lot of attention this week and multiple East defensive backs said the Tampa (Fla.) Plant is the toughest receiver to cover. Smith said the team calls Charles "Baby T.O." in reference to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens.
"He has that body," Smith said. "He's chiseled and he has a lot of fun out there."
Chris Burnette, a Georgia commit, was moved to guard after the offensive line was having blocking issues. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder has resolved some of those problems. Burnette has been the most consistent offensive lineman so far.
"We were having some problems interior-wise so we moved him to right guard and once we moved him there we kind of solidified that position," Smith said. "He's nasty in there. He's smart enough to pick up our adjustments."
One of the reasons the East switched around their line alignment was to deal with Clemson commit Malliciah Goodman, who has been tough off the edge. North Carolina pledge Donte Moss has also stood out.
"They're both really close but I'd give Goodman the edge," Smith said. "He's fast off the edge. We had to realign our offense to protect off that edge."
Detroit Cass Tech standout William Campbell, who said he'll pick LSU, Florida or Miami during Saturday's game, has been the East's most consistent defensive tackle. Not only is he big and strong but also agile and athletic. Smith said Tuesday Campbell will probably play both ways.
"Campbell is a true Warren Sapp kind of athlete," Smith said. "I saw him out there catching punts, catching passes and then he's making all those tackles on the defensive line. He's fast, he's strong, athletic and he's big."
Middle linebackers Jon Bostic and Stanford commit Shayne Skov have stood out the most to Smith, who said both knock down everything in sight. Smith called Skov "a little reckless" but meant it in a good way.
Evaluations are a little premature in the secondary because a good portion of the safeties and cornerbacks did not practice until Tuesday because of travel complications.
However, Smith said Ohio State commit Justin Green, Michael Carter and Arkansas five-star pledge Darius Winston have made the biggest impressions. Winston has been slowed by an ankle injury.