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December 30, 2008MORE: Under Armour rosters | U.S. Army All-American Bowl coverage | More all-star coverage
ORLANDO - Unlike most all-star contests, Sunday's Under Armour All-American Bowl will not have squads divided by region. Instead, the organizers tried to create the most competitive matchup by splitting up the top talent at each position and some notable storylines are evident after looking at the rosters.
The two highest rated players in the game will suit up as teammates. Wheaton (Md.) Good Counsel Linebacker Jelani Jenkins and Houston (Tex.) Cypress Ridge dual-threat quarterback Russell Shepard will lead the Black squad. Both players are ranked in Rivals.com's top five prospects in the country. However, the White team will have two Top 10 prospects of its own in Escambia (Fla.) running back Trent Richardson, the No. 7 overall player, and Honolulu Punahou linebacker Manti Te'o, who checks in at No. 8.
Perhaps the most intriguing position battle during the week will come under center for the Black team. Shepard is joined at quarterback by fellow Texan and five-star prospect Garrett Gilbert from Austin Lake Travis. Shepard has developed nicely as a passer over the past year and is a dynamic runner. Meanwhile, Gilbert is a big passer that set state records for passing yardage the past two years. The debate about the two has been going on for close to two years. Four-star signal caller Josh Nunes from Upland (Calif.) should push the other two during the week as well.
The White team's quarterback rotation is headed by Matt Barkley, the country's No. 1 pro-style passer. Despite putting up mediocre numbers in his senior season, the 6-foot-3, 226-pounder from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei has incredible accuracy and arm strength. He is joined on the team by fast-rising Richard Brehaut of Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos and relative unknown Moses Alipate out of Minnesota.
White team quarterbacks could enjoy exploiting some mismatches at the wide receiver position. The White squad features five receivers 6-foot-2 or taller. Headlined by 6-foot-5 Memphis native Marlon Brown, the group also includes Logan Heastie of Chesapeake (Va.) Great Bridge, Morrell Presley of Carson (Calif.), Matthews (S.C.) Calhoun County's Alshon Jeffrey and Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Washington's Keenan Davis.
The Black team will be challenged to counter that size in the secondary. Athletes Ray Ray Armstrong of Sanford (Fla.) Seminole and Norcross (Ga.) star Prince Kent, who stand at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-3 respectively, could be pressed into duty in the defensive backfield to cover the big wideouts.
The Black team looks to have an advantage at tight end. Spring (Tex.) Klein Oak's Jordan Najvar is 6-foot-6 and looks more like a receiver. Houston North Shore's Barrett Matthews was not used often in his run-heavy high school offense but he is a threat to take it to the house any time and is an excellent blocker. Both tight ends are very dangerous pass catchers.
The Black team's wideouts are led by a pair of deep threats, Sanford (Fla.) Seminole playmaker Andre Debose and East St. Louis (Ill.) product Terry Hawthorne. McDonough (Ga.) Henry County product Jamal Patterson and Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas star Duron Carter provide some size.
They will be covered by a very talented White squad secondary. Aldine (Tex.) Eisenhower's Craig Loston is the nation's No. 1 safety at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds and is athletic enough to cover any receiver man-to-man. The team also features two big corners in Darrell Givens and C.J. Barnett as well as an excellent cover man in Steve Williams. Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe teammates Devonte Holloman and Stephon Gilmore are two more safeties that can make some noise with their athleticism.
The White team could also have an edge in the running game with a trio of backs headed to the SEC. Richardson, Montrell Conner from Monroe (La.) Ouachita and the ultra productive Washaun Ealey from Twin City (Ga.) ECI will run behind a solid offensive line. That group is anchored by Agoura (Calif.) tackle Kevin Graf, John Martinez from Salt Lake City Cottonwood, Pleasant Grove (Utah) Timpview's Xavier Su'a Filo, Stanley Hasiak from Kapolei (Hawaii) and Brownwood (Tex.) standout Stavion Lowe. However, with Graf as the only true tackle among the bunch, they could have trouble on the edges.
Miami Palmetto's Jaamal Berry, Tampa (Fla.) Gaither's Jarvis Giles and Hallandale (Fla.) star Victor Marc should find some running room themselves for the Black squad. Leading the way for them on the line will be Texas commits and Lonestar State natives Mason Walters, Thomas Ashcraft and Paden Kelley. Add to that the talented trio of St. Stephen (S.C.) Timberland guard Quinton Washington, Toledo (Ohio) St. John's center Jack Mewhort and Indianapolis Bishop Chatard's Zach Martin.
The Black team should also be able to give the White squad fits with its potent defensive ends off the edge. Tampa (Fla.) Alonso's Demonte McAllister, Sanford (Fla.) Seminole's Dyron Dye, Melvin Fellows of Garfield Heights (Ohio) and Warner Robbins (Ga.) Northside's Abry Jones all have the ability to come off the edge and get to the quarterback. Greenville (Fla.) Madison County superstar Jacobbi McDaniel and Bastrop (La.) standout Josh Downs provide two very quick and athletic tackles on the interior of the line.
The White team will counter with a trio of solid ends in Greenwood (S.C.) product Sam Montgomery, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral's Craig Roh and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman's Justin Chaisson. Unlike its opponent, the White team lacks the quickness on the interior but features a pair of run-stuffing tackles in Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro's Corey Adams and Quincy (Fla.) West Gasden's Gary Brown.
One of the most entertaining units to watch this week could be the White team linebackers. Te'o, due to playing his high school ball in Hawaii, is a somewhat unknown quantity but is big, physical and fast. He is joined by Tom Wort of New Braunfels (Tex.), perhaps the biggest hitter at any position in the 2009 class, and Dewar (Okla.) eight-man sensation Ronnell Lewis. Twin City (Ga.) ECI's Dexter Moody will provide speed to the group.
On the Black team, Frankie Telfort of Miami Gulliver Prep may not be the biggest linebacker at 5-foot-11, 197 pounds, but his speed could cause problems. Jelani Jenkins and Warner Robbins (Ga.) Northside star Eric Fields join him as solid outside linebacker prospects while Seffner (Fla.) Armwood's Petey Smith is the lone inside backer on the roster. That could pose a problem stopping the run, especially with all the top interior offensive lineman on the White team.
On paper, the White team has an overall edge, but the game won't be played on paper. The Black squad could keep itself in the game with the quarterback play of Shepard and Gilbert. If Shepard gets into open space, it will be tough to catch him.