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January 10, 2005San Antonio, Texas - While it was only day one of practice at the annual national all-star game, there was plenty of action on the field for the East squad. Included were some great one-on-one battles, some impressive-looking players and a couple of injuries that could impact the game on Saturday.
The most impressive players in the one-on-one battles were clearly wideout Patrick Turner, defensive backs Demetrice Morley (Tennessee commitment) and Kenneth Phillips and Maurice Wells.
Turner has an amazing combination of size and speed and is too tough to handle in single coverage, although Phillips did the best job on him in their one battle. Morley has the cocky swagger and confidence needed in a cornerback as he shut down Oklahoma commitment Eric Huggins and Nyan Boateng on seperate occasions. Wells has added a bit of size and muscle to his frame and was just too quick for most of the linebackers in the one-on-ones. He also showed terrific hands.
Passing the eye-ball test on the day were running back Jason Gwaltney, linebacker Brian Cushing, defensive end Melvin Alaeze and offensive linemen Eugene Monroe (Virginia commitment) and Chris Scott. All appeared to have NFL size now and backed it up with solid play on the field.
The two key injuries on the East side were to wide receiver Fred Rouse and running back Elan Lewis. Rouse seemed to get his knee twisted when in a one-on-one battle and limped back to the line of players.
A few minutes later he was being helped off the field by coaches and trainers and did not return. While his injury was not deemed too serious, it didn't look good for a little while. He is currently day-to-day for practice.
It was harder to see how Lewis got hurt, but he was attended to by trainers and had his right knee wrapped and iced as he missed the last hour or so of practice. His status is also considered day-to-day.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was defensive end Earl Heyman. The Louisville, Ky., native was not one of the more heralded players coming into the week, but he had a very good first day of practice. Heyman beat Scott and Ohio State commitment Alex Boone in one-on-one pass rush drills and showed a lot of energy.
WHO ELSE PASSED THE EYE-BALL TEST?
-Gwaltney can catch the ball out of the backfield. Many thought he was too big and didn't have the hands to be an every-down back, but he was very impressive in passing drills. Oh yeah, and no one is going to want to tackle him - no one.
-Boone is a tough kid. He played most of the practice, including the one-on-one pass rush drills, without a helmet due to an equipment problem.
-Morley is the best talker on the field and arguably the best player. Not only is he a physical, shutdown cornerback, but he can talk the talk. After not allowing Huggins off the line of scrimmage in one situation, he had the best quote of the day. "That's Miami baby, that's the 305." The Hurricanes (not to mention the Gators), who play in Morley's area code of 305, missed out on a very Miami-like athlete.
-Boateng is not 100-percent yet following his leg injury this past season. He looked lack the same speed he had back in May at the combine in New Jersey. However, he does still have great hands and the speed will come back.
-Victor Harris is a great football player as we all knew, but he's also very courageous coming to the event just weeks after a grease fire that led to surgery and the death of his mother on Christmas day.
-Hard to get a read on the quarterbacks on day one, but Jonathan Crompton looked the sharpest and Greg Paulus is the real deal. Jake Christensen doesn't have the same arm as either Paulus or Crompton, but showed good touch.
-Justin King showed the closing and recovery speed that will make him a top, top cornerback in college.
-Adam Myers-White has the ability to play cornerback in college despite his 6-foot-4 frame. He's very good at turning his hips and plays physical bump and run.
-Turner looks like Plaxico Burress in size and stature, but is more fluid and makes the easy catches as well as the hard ones unlike Burress. Phillips could be the next Ed Reed, he's that good.
-Cushing struggled at first in pass coverage, but adjusted well and played very physically. On one play, he dumped Wells quite easily.
-Rashard Mendenhall looked a little bit bigger than the 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds he was listed at. He showed good hands but still has stiff hips at times.
-Finally, the big boys are the toughest to judge on day one, but the East offensive line sure looks good physically. Monroe, Scott, Boone, Dace Richardson, Dan Doering, Marques Slocum and Michael Oher are all over 300 pounds. Richardson and Doering looked the lightest, that's how big the others are.