January 3, 2008

Gray impressed by talent in Ft. Lauderdale

FT. LAUDERDALE - All-American games are often considered to be a showcase for quarterbacks and receivers, but when one takes a look at the West squad and its talented backfield, its hard to believe that the running backs won't get their share of carries.

Since the start of practice on Tuesday, two running backs have been dueling it out for the right to be labeled the starter come Friday evening. From the very beginning it was evident that it would be a slugfest between Cyrus Gray and Jamal Womble.

Gray, who comes in as a four-star prospect and a Rivals100 member, was considered to be the obvious pick for the West to start in the O-D Bowl. Though he began the week with a solid showing, he too may have expected to have the role in his back pocket.

When he saw the competition that was joining him in the West backfield, he knew right away that he had to be on top of his game.

"The talent and athleticism here is really good," Gray said. "There are a lot of good players down here and it helps make me better when I go out and compete with those guys in practice. It's been fun getting to play on the same field with them."

The competition has certainly been great for Gray, but at the same time, the 6-foot, 188 pounder realizes that his West teammates have just a bit more experience at playing running back than he does, as he once lined up as a quarterback in high school. As a result, he is taking each opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as he can from the experienced staff at the O-D Bowl.

"It's a great situation. I'm learning more because for two years I played quarterback and [running back] is something I'm still learning - the running back stance and changing up how I come out of the backfield - but I think I have a little advantage because I can see the field differently because I played quarterback."

With Gray still deadlocked in a battle with Womble for the starting job, the senior has begun to show his versatility by giving the coaches a small glimpse of his pass catching abilities. On more than one occasion Gray took a short slant pass and turned it into a 15 yard score. His explosiveness and ability to gain yards after the catch had coaches raving about his ability to make the big plays.

In the midst of his busy week in Ft. Lauderdale, Gray is one of just a handful in attendance that has not made a commitment. With just about a month left before signing day, Gray says his recruitment is still pretty hectic and that his decision will happen in February.

"I have a lot going on right now," Gray said. "My leaders right now are Notre Dame, Cal, Florida, Louisville and Kansas. I'm going to make my decision on Feb. 2 and until then I'm just still going to make my visits.

"I have Cal (1/18) and Florida (1/11) left and after I get back from those I'll sit down and look at my options and make the best decision for me.

"For now, I'm just going to learn as much as I can this week and have fun with this experience."

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