SAN ANTONIO – While the East team spent the Tuesday afternoon practice session in preparation for Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl in jerseys and shorts, the West squad was hard at work with two full pad practices at the Blossom Athletic Center.
The story of the week for the West team continues to be the defense, especially the defensive backs. The defensive backs have looked leaps and bounds better than the West receivers, which has just as much to do with the defensive backs’ outstanding ball skills as it does erratic throws from the West quarterbacks.
Texas commit Marcus Davis, Oklahoma pledge Gabe Lynn, USC commit T.J. McDonald and Fresno (California) Edison product Cliff Harris have all proven themselves thus far as top notch performers in one-on-one, bump-and-run situations and all four prospects has been extremely active in making plays on the football. Highlights from the West defensive backs on the day included Davis knocking down several balls intended for fellow Texas pledge Greg Timmons, Harris going up and ripping a deep ball out of the hands of Tucson (Arizona) Palo Verde product Adam Hall and Lynn applied a nice open field hit to Notre Dame commit Cierre Wood.
The receivers for the West squad have had their moments, but top prospects Ruben Randle of Bastrop, La. and Minnesota native Bryce McNeal both saw limited action on Tuesday. Timmons made some nice plays on Tuesday, including catching a deep ball along the sideline as he got behind Davis, but Mississippi native Pat Patterson has been the most consistent among the group of receivers.
The defensive line was also dominant on the day for the West squad, and for Texas an excellent sight to see was future Longhorn Calvin Howell practicing after a near horrific accident on Monday.
Because of Howell’s now infamous run-in with a water cooler that forced him to leave the practice field on a cart, the Texas commit had x-rays taken on his knee. The x-rays were negative and Howell, who was not scheduled to practice on Tuesday, decided to participate with no limitations in drills and looked good, along with rest of the West defensive line.
Howell and Texas commit Alex Okafor, along with Oklahoma commit Jamarkus McFarland, Florida pledge Nick Kasa and LSU commit Chris Davenport were collectively impressive on Tuesday. Okafor showed once again on Tuesday his keen ability to dissect a play in the backfield and quickly get down the line of scrimmage to make a play.
The defensive line ruled the day in pass protection drills with Okafor getting the best of Alabama commit D.J. Fluker, one of the few times Fluker has been beaten in one-on-ones this week.
Among the other standouts from Tuesdays practice, USC commit Vontaze Burfict was the best of the bunch at linebacker with his physical play and his explosiveness on tackles while Beaumont West Brook running back Christine Michael continue to draw constant compliments from the West coaching staff for his effort and cheers from his teammates for his agility, speed and quickness.
Practice was lightened up a bit in the afternoon as the West offense decided to pull out a trick play during the team session, but Notre Dame commit Shaquille Evans dropped a sure touchdown pass from St. Louis native Ronnie Wingo, Jr. on a tight end screen pass, similar to what we saw from Jason Whitten and Terrell Owens in the Cowboys-Eagles game this past weekend.
The special teams session also provided some sparks as USC commit Patrick Hall fielded a punt snap as an up back and coasted down the field untouched into the end zone. Hall then did a back flip to celebrate, which was followed by Timmons’ comical attempt at a cartwheel.
Both the East and West squads will be inside the Alamodome on Wednesday with the Skills Competition starting at 8 a.m. while the Intra-Squad Scrimmage/Practice Session gets underway at 1:45 p.m. Both events are open to the public.
Also see: Army Bowl: Texas Commit/Target Analysis, Day Two