January 3, 2007

Neon Deion brightens East's day

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The East team had a busy Wednesday with a 60+-play scrimmage, a two-hour media event and a follow-up practice in the afternoon. Oh yeah, and they got to meet Deion Sanders to boot.

Star treatment

While former Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms was on hand earlier in the day for the scrimmages to watch his son Matt, it was the appearance of Deion Sanders that caused a bit of a frenzy. Sanders was in town to see his protégé/nearly adopted son Noel Devine and Devine did numerous interviews.

Sanders met most of the team, took a few pictures with some of the players and was going to speak to Robert Prunty, the East defensive line coach and the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy, regarding potential enrollment for Noel.

Deion has also been in contact with Milford Academy head coach Bill Chaplick in regards to the same thing. At Milford, Devine would likely enroll in January and spend a full year there, similar to LeSean McCoy. If Noel were to enroll at Hargrave, it would likely be for the Fall semester in hope of attaining the needed test score to qualify.

Devine's grades are not bad according to sources and there's a chance he could qualify without prep school. One of the programs that was working with him in regards to Milford was Nebraska, but since John Blake left for North Carolina that seems to have slowed. Devine said he hasn't heard from Blake recently and didn't know he had taken a new position. West Virginia, Florida and LSU are schools that continue to express the most interest.

Irish or no?

More and more sources seem to say that linebacker Chris Donald will choose Notre Dame this weekend although Donald states that both the Irish and Tennessee are equal.

Less sources now say that safety/linebacker Lorenzo Edwards will be Notre Dame bound as Florida seems to become a more likely destination as the week rolls on. In fact, a very good source tells me that Edwards has already committed to Florida, but the same thing was said about Armando Allen a few weeks back.

And new rumors surfaced on Wednesday that running back Robert Hughes might delay making a decision this weekend and could take additional visits, most likely to Ohio State or Michigan.

"I'll decide on that Thursday or Friday," Hughes said. "I gotta keep you guys working."

Hughes has been hanging around quite a bit with Arrelious Benn, Martez Wilson and D'Angelo McCray all week so the pressure will be on to choose the Illini.

South Florida confusion

When talking to Major Wright and Deonte Thompson, you know they've heard all the rumors regarding their future destinations but they insist they are still open.

"I'm down to four schools," said Wright, a safety from Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas. "It's Ohio State, Florida, Miami and Notre Dame. I honestly don't know where I'm headed."

Wright did admit a few things however.

"I'm visiting Notre Dame partially because I want to and partially because coach (George) Smith wants me to," Wright said. "Ohio State is ahead a little bit with Florida and Miami behind them and then Notre Dame. I still have to take my visits to Florida, Notre Dame and Miami. I'm going to Florida on Jan. 12, Notre Dame Jan. 19 and Miami on Jan. 26."

Meanwhile, Thompson has been linked with Florida a few times here this week but he insists it's a four-team race.

"It's Florida, Miami, Ohio State and Southern Cal," said the wideout from Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central. "The Florida rumors are false. In fact, if I had to sign today it would be USC, that's how much I liked my visit there. But I still need to visit Florida and Miami again and see what's up there and I have a good feeling about Ohio State."

Both Wright and Thompson have their own NFL mentors a la Noel Devine. Wright is being helped through the process by former Ohio State and NFL great Chris Carter while Thompson speaks with another former Ohio State great, wideout Santonio Holmes.

Committed, but…

Linebacker J'Courtney Williams has been committed to Virginia for quite some time now, but he might have an official visit left in him.

"I might visit Virginia Tech," he said. "I never got a chance to take my visit there and I might check it out. I'm still committed to Virginia though."

One reason for the interest in Virginia Tech? How about East quarterback Tyrod Taylor? Taylor has been with Williams quite a bit this week."

Don't quit your day job

Tight end Aaron Hernandez wants to do one thing and one thing only - catch passes. However, he's been forced into duty as a blocker and as a punter this week.

"I blocked at my high school but they never taught you how to block," he said. "They just said 'block that guy' and I did because I was bigger than everyone else. Here they say 'block that guy' and I don't really know how because these guys are all huge. They've taught me some good stuff though so I feel ready to block."

And punting?

"I'll try anything," he said. "We needed a punter so I stepped up and tried it out."

It didn't go that well as Hernandez lacked hang time and distance. Quarterback John Brantley stepped in after Hernandez and was very impressive."

Notable quotables

When asked where he got his hands from after fighting the ball at every NIKE Camp and at the Shrine Bowl and suddenly showing up in San Antonio and catching everything, Notre Dame commitment Greg Little said, "I bought them at Dick's. They were on sale."

Defensive tackle Marvin Austin talking about the physical nature of practice all week.

"It's like, 'bang your head into that guy again and again' and it doesn't stop all week," said Austin. "When we did that in high school it was fine because the guys you were banging into sucked. Here they're good and I have a headache."

Super speed

The four players working out as kick returners for the East squad on Wednesday were Devine, Chris Rainey, Thompson and Marcus Gilchrist. Devine and Rainey appear to be the two first teamers. Advice for the West squad - kick it out of bounds.

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