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January 1, 2009

UA Daily Rewind: Position battles taking shape

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Rivals.com looks at the top five news items from the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando in the Daily Rewind. Each day Rivals.com will break down the biggest news, player injuries and updated recruiting news in a compact and easy to digest format. Practice began on Wednesday and will continue through Friday.

1) SEPARATION THURSDAY

Several players on the White team started to separate themselves in position battles on Thursday. With increased workloads, it became pretty obvious that a few offensive stars will see the bulk of action during Sunday's game.

Five-star quarterback Matt Barkley took most of the reps during practice. The USC commit had a very good day as he made short, intermediate and deep throws with ease. Cal commit Richard Brehaut showed flashes at times, but it is clear the coaches are planning to use Barkley as their main signal caller. Minnesota commit Moses Alipate did not play very many snaps on Thursday.

At running back, another five-star emerged as the clear starter. Alabama commit Trent Richardson was everywhere, showing off not only an explosive first few steps out of the backfield, but also soft hands in the passing game. Georgia commit Washaun Ealey was the only other back to see much time but he was playing with a noticeable limp.

2) QUARTERBACKS BOUNCE BACK

After struggling as an entire group during the first practice of the week, the quarterbacks as a whole looked much more solid Thursday. It seems they adjusted well to the timing of their unfamiliar receiving targets.

Barkley showed why he is rated as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback while fellow five-stars Garrett Gilbert and Russell Shepard looked much better on day two as well. Gilbert is having to adjust to a new offense and also has less time to throw than he did in high school, but he got rid of the ball a lot quicker on Thursday and had several nice touchdown passes.

Shepard, meanwhile, was a little more hit-and-miss. He did complete some good throws but threw quite a few interceptions as well. When he wasn't trying to force the ball, he showed nice touch on the deep passes as well as nice velocity on the short ones. He once again showed how dangerous he can be with his legs.

It is still too early, though, to tell which quarterback will get the start in Sunday's game.

3) POSITION MISMATCHES DEVELOPING?

There are several positions that are starting to shape up as potential mismatches in Sunday's game.

It is definitely fair to say that the Black team has the superior wide receivers. While Alshon Jeffrey and Jamal Reid have looked very good at times, the White team is overmatched in the area by the likes of Andre Debose, Duron Carter, Jamal Patterson and Nu'Keese Richardson.

The White team seems to have the better linebackers, though. Despite having the No. 3 overall prospect in Jelani Jenkins, the Black team's linebackers are all on the small side and they lack a true inside presence. Meanwhile, all four of the White team linebackers are versatile enough to play inside or outside. Manti Te'o, Ronnell Lewis, Tom Wort and Dexter Moody make up a very intimidating group.

The White team seems to have more consistent quarterback play while the Black team, behind Mason Walters and Jack Mewhort, has the better offensive line.

4) SECONDARIES SHOW STRONG

A day after being outdone by their offensive counterparts in the wide receiver group, the defensive backs had a chance to shine on Thursday. After struggling a bit on Wednesday, five-star safety Craig Loston was one of the top performers on Thursday.

He looked solid in one-on-one drills against both big and small receivers and had two interceptions in 11-on-11. He even moved to cornerback for quite a bit of practice and sniffed out several reverses and screens for losses.

Cornerbacks Branden Smith and Steve Williams also had several interceptions on the day while Stephon Gilmore and C.J. Barnett picked things up in 11-on-11 work.

For the Black squad, Greg Reid continued to stand out at cornerback while Prince Kent and Darren Myles stepped things up at safety on day two.

5) EARLY WAKEUP CALL

Despite being New Year's Day, Thursday's practice began an hour earlier than Wednesday. The players didn't seem to be sluggish and they also didn't seem to mind the early start as there was a reason behind it. The teams got an early chance to see Sunday's game venue as they traveled to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando to watch the Capital One Bowl as Georgia defeated Michigan State 24-12. The five Bulldog commits in the game - Ealey, Moody, tight end Arthur Lynch, offensive guard Dallas Lee and defensive tackle Abry Jones - seemed especially happy to see their future team in action. The players then returned to the hotel to watch both the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl.



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