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December 30, 2008

Notebook: East team jells with full squad

MORE: U.S. Army AA Bowl coverage | Practice Galleries: East | West | More all-star coverage

SAN ANTONIO - Kevin Newsome looked right, left and then right again before firing the ball downfield to Bryce Brown for a 40-yard touchdown pass on the first play of 7-on-7 drills at Tuesday's East practice here at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Newsome, a Penn State commit, was not bad Monday, but he was much more productive on the second day as the quarterbacks got more comfortable with the receivers and had a better grasp of the offense.

"He picked it up," East coach Terry Smith said. "For these quarterbacks it's hard because the terminology is different from where they're from and then they're getting used to blazing receivers.

"All the quarterbacks said to me, 'Coach, this game is so much faster here. Where we're from we might have one, two, maybe three good guys.' Everyone here, there are no weak links. You have to adjust to the speed and then get accustomed to how each guy runs their routes. They just don't know all the different receivers."

The Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy standout was a threat both days running and throwing the ball, but he was more consistent in the passing game Tuesday.

Rivals.com rates Newsome as the fourth-best dual-threat quarterback behind LSU commit Russell Shepard, Tyrik Rollison and Tajh Boyd. Rollison and Boyd are also in the Army game.

During team drills, Newsome broke a big run that would have gone for a touchdown if the play wasn't called dead. He threw his second touchdown pass in 7-on-7s to Michigan commit Jeremy Gallon, who had another solid showing.

"It was the second day that I was able to hang out with the guys and begin to learn more about them," Newsome said. "I got to not only talk to them more but learn their speed, their timing and their cuts on different pass patterns. It was all good. I think I had a good day yesterday and today.

"We're All-Americans so we want to be the best at whatever we do, so all the quarterbacks are competing for the starting spot. We're all going to get to play and the eye in the sky doesn't lie. We'll see what happens when it gets to game time."

Newsome, Boyd and Rutgers commit Tom Savage looked much sharper during the second day of practice. Georgia commit Aaron Murray, who was the best quarterback on Day One, struggled at times. Boyd's nicest throw came during one-on-1 drills when he hit Gallon for a touchdown. Savage hit Gallon for a wide-open TD late in team drills.

Bell not lacking intensity

Ohio State linebacker commit Dorian Bell is 6 feet and 226 pounds. Offensive lineman Xavier Nixon, who will pick Florida, LSU or Miami during Saturday's game, is 6-foot-6 and 263 pounds. The two collided during line drills. Bell did not back down.

He never would relent. The word is not in Bell's vocabulary. He's too proud, too tough and too intense to let someone get the better of him. Smith, who coached Bell at Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway, challenged him after Monday's practice.

Bell responded early in practice by battling Nixon, getting in a shouting match and being more vocal on defense. No hard feelings, though. Nixon and Bell said after practice they're teammates and sometimes things happen.

"Everybody talks about my size and all that stuff," said Bell, rated as the third-best inside linebacker nationally and the No. 1 player in the Pennsylvania top 40. "You have to be really enthusiastic with everybody else out there. Defense is where you win championships and that's where games are won."

Said Smith: "That's just who he is. He was a little upset from yesterday's practice because he wasn't involved in too much. I challenged him last night and that's how he responded. He had a much better day."

Defensive backs: Strength in numbers

No longer can the East receivers pick on the cornerbacks and safeties now that travel issues have been settled and a bunch more defensive backs are at practice.

"It's nice to have a full roster," Smith said. "We have a full array of bodies and those guys are pretty good. They add a lot of talent and depth so it was nice to see those guys."

Ohio State commit Justin Green had an interception on the first play of 7-on-7 drills and he had a nice knockdown of a pass intended for athlete Orson Charles. Justin Turner, a Michigan pledge, said Charles was the most difficult receiver to defend in practice.

Miami commit Brandon McGee stepped up and made a few plays, and Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely cornerback Michael Carter, who has narrowed his list to Minnesota and West Virginia, was overly physical, especially during 1-on-1s, but got the job done. Safety Willie Downs, a Florida State commit, intercepted a pass thrown by Boyd early in practice.

Green, McGee, Carter and Downs all had travel complications and were late arriving to San Antonio. Nixon, offensive lineman Corey Gaines and Mississippi State pledge Josh Boyd also made their first appearance at Tuesday's practice.

"We didn't have everybody and I was a little concerned," defensive backs coach Sean Callahan said. "Our offense took full advantage of us yesterday. They came in, they were very good, they listened and they can play football. I wasn't as concerned today as I was yesterday.

"Nobody has flat jumped out, but it's been a really good group. These kids are comfortable, too. It's a good group of kids and they bought into what we're selling as far as the Army is concerned so that's a good thing."

Tuesday practice injury news

Five-star cornerback Darius Winston, an Arkansas commit and the top player at his position in Monday's practice, was sidelined with an ankle injury and was not positive he would play in Saturday's game. Rivals.com rates him as the third-best corner in the class behind Dre Kirkpatrick and LSU commit Janzen Jackson.

"I hope he gets better," Callahan said. "I'm not sure."

Green said he's been dealing with a nagging groin injury but he should not miss any action.

Gaines injured his right shoulder midway through the morning session and was out for the remainder of practice.

Wide receiver Corey Brown injured his lower back Monday but bounced back and looked 100 percent Tuesday. He was one of the more productive receivers, especially early in practice when he made a nice fingertip catch on the sidelines and then caught a touchdown pass from Tajh Boyd during 1-on-1 drills.

Campbell could play both ways

Massive Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech lineman William Campbell has been working with both the offensive and defensive lines during practice, and Smith said the 6-5, 317-pounder will probably go both ways. Campbell said Sunday he would pick LSU, Miami or Florida during Saturday's game.

"He's enormous, he's explosive and he's really athletic for a big guy," Smith said. "He's a fast learner. He's a fun-spirited kid who loves the game and that's why we're able to move him on both sides of the ball because he can pick it up. He just enjoys playing the game."

Campbell is one of the biggest players in the Army game, but he's apparently not ready for the roller coasters when the teams visit Six Flags on Tuesday night.

"There's a weight limit on those things," he said. "I might be on the tea cups."


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