January 2, 2008

Under Armour Notebook: Red DBs make up ground

ORLANDO, Fla. - The wide receiver roster for the Red squad in the Under Armour All-Star Game reads like a veritable who's who list of four- and five-star prospects. Julio Jones, Joshua Jarboe, Darryl Stonum and DeSean Hales are just a few of the wideouts that the Silver secondary will have to deal with in Saturday's game.

After struggling against that firepower for the first two days, the defensive secondary flipped the tables on Wednesday and won a majority of the battles in one-on-one, seven-on-seven and full team drills.

A pair of cornerbacks headed to SEC schools led the way for the defensive backfield.

Florida commit Janoris Jenkins proved to be the very definition of a 'shut-down corner' as he frustrated receivers all day. While trying to fire up his receivers, a Red team assistant coach shouted, "(Jenkins) hasn't had a single pass caught on him all day!"

Charles Whitlock, a South Carolina commit, continued the outstanding play he has shown all week. Whitlock is a natural at the cornerback spot and has the feet, hips and instincts coaches covet. He continually frustrated the much larger receivers, including Julio Jones and Joshua Jarboe.

After adjusting to such high-caliber opponents, it appears the Red team's secondary is now one of its main strengths. With Will Hill and Burton Scott also having solid days, the Silver receivers could be in for a rude awakening come Saturday.

Mismatch up front?

With the two rosters in the UA All-Star game designed to create balance rather than regional alignment, it certainly appears the Red team still ended up with a dominant offensive line.

With one five-star in tackle Tyler Love and six four-star prospects along the front five, the line for the Red squad is incredibly imposing. With the seventh member being three-star center Ben Jones, the group should give the quarterbacks plenty of time to throw and open up lanes for the tailbacks.

In one-on-one drills against the defensive linemen, the offensive players were in control on Wednesday. With the exception of defensive tackle Omar Hunter, no defender was able to reach the quarterback.

Especially impressive were the two big tackles - Love and Dan O'Neill. Both players were able to fend off the bull rush from Texas commit Jarvis Humphrey and the four-star defensive tackle was getting noticeably frustrated.

Battle shaping up at kicker

Unlike the Silver squad, the Red team is carrying two kickers for the game. Florida commit Caleb Sturgis and Purdue commit Carson Wiggs are both ready to handle punting, kickoffs and field goal attempts.

On Monday, Sturgis showed off his leg strength by hitting a 57-yard field goal without warming up. However, Wiggs upstaged his teammate on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-1, 200 pound kicker had some wind at his back, but he too decided to try his luck from 57-yards. After his first attempt easily cleared the uprights, Wiggs went on to hit three more from that distance, making it four in a row.

With his confidence level riding high, Wiggs had his holder move the ball back five yards. The kick stayed low and looked like it was going to be just short as it hit the crossbar. However, it took a favorable bounce and went through the uprights to give the kicker a 62-yard field goal.

Who will cover Ayles?

The Silver team has a dangerous and versatile weapon in USC tight end commit Blake Ayles, and the Red coaches have been looking for a way to neutralize his unbelievable combination of size and speed.

It turns out that they looked at their own roster for somebody with similar athletic talents.

Miami commit Sean Spence is a one-man wrecking crew on the defensive side of the ball. While he is practicing with the linebackers, Spence is versatile enough to play safety as well. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, Spence is physical enough to take down the 6-foot-4, 245 pound tight end. With his coverage skills, the Red coaches are also banking on him to be able to contain the Silver squad's most versatile weapon.

This matchup should be one of the game's highlights on Saturday as both players have drawn rave reviews from their teammates for their play this week. Both players are incredibly competitive and it should be intense battle from the kickoff to the final whistle.


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