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December 29, 2003SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The stars of the classic movies Young Guns I and Young Guns II were Emilo Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips. But ask Carl Gustafson, coach of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl west squad, and he'll tell you that he has a talented trio of gunslingers that also pack plenty of star power.
Young Guns III is made up of Rhett Bomar of Grand Prairie, Texas, Matt Tuiasosopo of Woodinville, Wash., and Nick Patton of Winfield, Kan.
Even though it was just the first full day of practices for the Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Gustafson saw enough out of his three signal callers - all of which are Rivals100 members - to know that he has something special on hand.
"I'd heard the talk from some of the organizers that this group of quarterbacks were highly rated and are some of the best in the nation," Gustafson said. "And they're right.
"We have some good quarterbacks, we do. We're going to spread it out and throw the ball a lot. We have some fantastic running backs, and we're hoping to be able to have some balance, but the quarterbacks look fantastic."
As they should.
Bomar, ranked as the nation's top quarterback and No. 5 player overall by Rivals.com, has already committed to Oklahoma. He is known for his rocket arm and quick release, both of which helped him throw for 4,132 and 40 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Gustafson said in the two two-hour practices on Monday that it was easy to see why Oklahoma, Texas and teams from all over the nation battled hard to get his commitment.
"Boy he has a great release," Gustafson said. "He gets rid of it quicker than anybody I've worked with in a long time. He throws a really good ball and is a good decision maker. He has such a fantastic release."
Tuiasosopo, who has committed to Washington, got rave reviews from Gustafson for his leadership abilities.
"Tui has great arm strength, accuracy, and he's one of those guys that it's just intuitive," Gustafson said about the nation's No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and No. 25 player overall according to Rivals.com.
"Everything is instinctual to him. He's in charge on the field, and has a confidence and an aura about him that is very comforting. He walked into that huddle and those kids all wanted to work harder for him. That's impressive."
Then there is Patton, the small-school star from nowhere Kansas. Patton might not be ranked as five-star prospects like Tuiasosopo and Bomar, but Gustafson raved about his upside after Monday's workouts.
"Golly what an athlete Nicholas Patton is," Gustafson said about the nation's No. 95 player and No. 7 dual-threat quarterback that is heading to Kansas State. "He's the type of quarterback where you kind of hope they cover everybody. You know? He's just a great athlete. He is such a great personality, and he's a great kid.
"He was out here today working without a helmet because of an equipment problem, but he was going through all the reps and you could see that it's going to be impossible for people to tackle him. If he gets some proper coaching in college and they work with him on the little things, his upside is tremendous and he could be even better than the other two."
Patton and Bomar both said that it's fun to work out with such a talented group and it doesn't matter who's going to start because each of them will get a chance to shine under the spotlight.
"These guys are all so good, and it's not going to matter which guy starts," Patton said. "I'm good, they're good and we're all here for a reason. Who cares who starts? We're all going to be on national television doing our thing and we're all getting along really good so far."
But inquiring minds want to know - who's the best passer, leader and runner?
"Rhett's the best passer," Patton said. "He throws it with accuracy and on point every single time. I'm the best runner in the bunch and Tui is the best leader. I don't care what's going on: he's going to take charge in the huddle. He's my roommate, and he's a real nice guy. I like him a lot."
So there is no question that this trio of quarterbacks is the best this side of the Mississippi and the East defense is going to have their hands full noon on Saturday in the Alamodome.
"They all have good releases and from what I've seen so far they make good reads and they're athletic," Gustafson said. "We've got some stuff that can give them the option to run the ball. So when you get in the shotgun and in one back you really have two backs with these guys."
BIGGER IS BETTER
On Monday evening the East and West will square off in a McRib eating contest at the McDonalds right next to the Alamo. It's a good bet that West offensive lineman Herman Johnson will be the last man standing.
Johnson has to be the biggest man that Rivals100.com has ever seen in person. When he was on his official visit to Oklahoma on December 12, the Sooners measured him at 6-foot-8 ? and 395 pounds. No that's not a typo, he really weighed 395 pounds.
"When we first got here, I was waiting on the elevator to head up to my room," Gustafson said. "Then the door opens, and like any other time I started to wait into it from the right side. Big mistake. Big Herman comes walking out and he took up the entire elevator door."
But don't be mistaken, Johnson isn't a fat slob.
"He's solid," Gustafson said. "He hardly has any fat on him. With a kid that big, you'd think he'd have all this extra weight, but he doesn't. He's going to lose some of that when he gets to college, but with his size and frame, he's got a shot at being something really special."
WEST PRACTICE PHOTO GALLERY
You can expect even more pictures throughout the week from Rivals100.com, but here is a glimpse at some of the top recruits from Monday's practice.
WHAT'S ON TAP
-Rivals100.com will host it's first player chat on Tuesday. The time has not been established yet, but with the players practicing from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then media day scheduled from noon until 2 p.m. and practices again in the afternoon, look for the chat to be some time in the early evening or at night. Stay tuned to the Rivals100.com message board for details about chat times and chat guests.
-Former Texas A&M assistant coach Alan Weddell begins his analysis of the prospects on Tuesday. Look for reports from him throughout the rest of the week.
-Tickets for the game are still available through the Alamodome box office. Lower-level reserved seating is $25 and plaza level general admission seats are $15 each. Tickets can be purchased by calling 210-207-3663 or through Ticketmaster.com. The game will also be broadcast live on NBC.
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