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January 10, 2005

High intensity dominates West's practice

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - One of the most noticeable things about the West squad's practice at the national high school all-star game in San Antonio on Monday was the high level of intensity that was carried over the entire workout.

West coach John Barnes even commented during Monday's post practice press conference that things may have gotten a little "too intense" for the first day.

Barnes led his team through a four-hour full padded practice at Alamo Heights High School. Over the workout, it was obvious both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball weren't holding too much back.

"We aren't going to bring it as much as we brought it today," Barnes joked. "It kind of got crazy, but it was ok. It was a good way to start the first day."

The high level of intensity led to a couple of minor injuries on the West's offensive line. Both Oklahoma commit Jesse White (ankle) and Nebraska commit Rodney Picou (thumb) went down with injuries early on in practice.

Barnes was already short handed on the offensive line as it was. Counting Picou and White the West squad only has six offensive linemen.

The early setbacks to the offensive line caused Barnes to move Portland (Ore.) Grant defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh over to left guard midway through the practice.

There was also some talk that five-star defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger may move over to the offensive line as well.

"We have about eight defensive linemen that are all great players," Barnes said. "Knowing that a couple of them at their high school probably played on some offense we started moving over a guy or two to see if they could help us out."

PERRILLOUX OR SANCHEZ?
One of the tough scenarios with an all-star game is having enough balls to go around. One of the positions Barnes may have trouble developing a consistent rotation system for is quarterback.

Right now, the West squad is simply loaded at quarterback with Rivals.com's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked prospects Mark Sanchez and Ryan Perrilloux.

To top that off, the third quarterback on the West squad is Jim Barnes, the son of head coach John Barnes, who is heading to Alabama.

"That's always a problem in an all-star game," Barnes said about his team's situation at quarterback.

"We'll just kind of see how the week goes. To me if everybody plays hard and does the right thing we'll give them all playing time. I just kind of feel like when the game starts they will all be able to play."

When five-star North Hollywood (Calif.) running back Marlon Lucky was asked who preferred in the backfield with him he said it's a tough call.

"If I had to pick one guy I'd say Perrilloux," Lucky, a Nebraska commit, said. "With his ability as a running threat it makes my job a lot easier as a running back.

"He's such a hard guy to defend, but rightfully so, Mark (Sanchez) is just as good of a quarterback. They each do their own good things."

DEFENSIVE LINE DOMINATES THE DAY
With the combination of defensive tackles Jerrell Powe, Roy Miller, Suh and Granger the interior line of the West squad may be one of the deeper positions at either camp.

The player who probably looked the most impressive on Monday was Granger. Several times during Monday's drills Granger bulled his way through double team blocks and made big time tackles in the backfield.

On one particular play, Granger laid probably the hardest hit of the day on Lucky.

"Man that defensive line is nasty," Lucky said. "Granger came through on one of those plays and just laid a stick. I've never played against a group of tackles like this before."

Powe said the fun part for him is this is the first time he's really had to step his game up another level to make big plays.

"Usually I can always over match the other guy," Powe said. "But now I've really got to work to make plays. It's a different level of intensity."

PERRILLOUX THE RECEIVER?
Toward the end of practices the West started to work on some "special plays." Several of those plays called for Perrilloux to toss the ball on a reverse and then spring down the right side of the field on a pass route. Two-sport star DeSean Jackson would catch the reverse pitch and then heave it downfield with his strong arm from baseball to a streaking Perrilloux.

HOOK'EM AGGIES
Decked out after practice in Texas A&M shorts, five-star tight end Martellus Bennett did his best job to continue to portray his image as the clown of the West squad. When asked if the A&M shorts meant anything to what he's thinking about his final decision, Bennett smiled, laughed and took the traditional slogans of both Texas and Texas A&M and twisted it somewhat.

"Hook'em Aggies," Bennett said in response. "No wait, I meant Gig'em Horns."

Earlier this evening the Austin American Statesman reported that Bennett had committed to Texas, but the five-star tight end used one word to deny that report.

"No," Bennett said.

So why was he really wearing those A&M shorts?

"They bring out the color in my eyes," Bennett chuckled.

FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
While it's early and things can and definitely will change, here's who was practicing with the first team defense on Monday.

Defensive ends: Marcus Shavers and Aaron Lewis
Defensive tackles: DeMarcus Granger and Jerrell Powe
Linebackers: Travis Beckum, Rey Maualuga and Ryan Reynolds
Defensive backs: Kevin Thomas, Reggie Smith and Derek Pegues with other defensive backs rotating in and out.

FASHION STATEMENT
Granger, the five-star defensive tackle from Dallas Kimball, said he wanted to make a statement heading into the all-star game this week. And what better way to do that then get that special haircut from the barber?

Cut into the back of Granger's head was his name with a large football. The stylish do earned rave reviews from many of his teammate's on the West squad.

BEST RECEIVER IN THE BUNCH?
The West is loaded with some talented receivers, including Jackson of Long Beach Poly, who is ranked as a five-star prospect. But one of the receivers that really seem to have an impressive first day was Wichita Falls (Texas) Rider three-star receiver David Nelson.

Because of his size at 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, Nelson proved to be match-up problems all day long for the West defensive backs. Nelson would use his size time after time to out leap defenders and make big catches.

But it was on the shorter routes that Nelson really took his game to the next level. On a curl route where he turned to his right originally, Nelson had to twist his body to the left and make what was an amazing catch on a ball that was poorly thrown and only about a foot off the ground.

"I felt pretty good today about everything," Nelson, a soft Notre Dame commitment, said. "I feel like I'm showing everybody that I deserve to be ranked higher."

Nelson said he's set up to visit UCLA next weekend now instead of Texas and will then visit Florida on January 28. Iowa and Notre Dame are still very much in the hunt, and there is a good possibility that Nelson could end up back at Notre Dame.

SMITH WITH HANDS OF GLUE
Reggie Smith, the standout defensive back from Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe spent a lot of time playing safety in the first day of practices, but he showed why time after time he probably will be one of the top shutdown cover corners to come out of this class.

Smith intercepted two passes and almost got a third in five consecutive plays. There is no doubt at all that Smith is a magnet to the football and he has the speed and natural instincts that you look for in an elite defensive back.

POWE SET TO PICK?
One of several players that will be making their final decisions on Saturday is Powe. After Monday's press conference, Powe said he is getting tired of the overall recruiting process and he wants to make a commitment at the end of the week.


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