January 13, 2005

Cushing highlights Thursday practice

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The last day of public practice for the East squad was held on Thursday as the coaching staff starts to finalize a starting roster and develop a gameplan that will fit around the strengths of the team. Some of the usual suspects impressed on the cold morning, but others like Brian Cushing are beginning to hit their stride. Here are the last practice notes for the East.

Cushing is beginning to emerge as the East's top linebacker, at least in pass coverage and in space. He jumped a pass in the flat for an interception that would have gone the other way for around a 70-yard touchdown and he was excellent against the run. Rico McCoy told me yesterday that Cushing was the linebacker that impressed him the most.

One thing Cushing can't do is play fullback. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder was inserted at fullback for one play that wasn't very successful.

"I can't play fullback," Cushing laughed. "I'm too tall and can't get low enough."

Cushing will be a factor on defense on Saturday.

New York quarterback Greg Paulus has been named the starter for Saturday's game, although both Jonathan Crompton and Jake Christensen have looked more consistent. The starting running back still seems to be a battle between Toney Baker and Jason Gwaltney.

Here's my Patrick Turner line of the day -- he was still the best player on the field and seems to get better every day. He will be making a lot of money in three years and will be an instant impact guy next year. After hearing that Turner was heading to USC for most of the week, a good source told me that he's going to choose Tennessee this weekend. Whoever gets him gets a star.

Those who didn't participate today in practice were running back Elan Lewis (knee, wearing a brace), defensive back Jamario O'Neal (knee, just learned it was McCoy who laid him out Tuesday), offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (knee), defensive back Kenneth Phillips (groin) and defensive lineman James McKinney (hip). Future Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone continues to prove that he's the toughest guy on the team, playing through his knee injury once again.

The best pure cornerback on the East squad seems to be Justin King, who has great speed and has been very effective in coverage. He has even covered Turner well, although perfect coverage on Turner still won't stop him if the ball is thrown well enough.

Michael Ray Garvin worked the day at slot receiver and will likely stay on offense for the game. Garvin has great speed, but was overshot a couple of times on slant patterns.

Melvin Alaeze was back at practice and made his presence known.

"Melvin is the only defensive lineman I didn't get in the dirt all week," said Monroe, the nation's top offensive lineman. "He's just really big and strong. Most guys I can throw to the ground and land on, but Melvin you just can't get down. You have to just block him normal."

Anthony Moeaki showed great hands again Thursday, possibly the best hands on the team. He doesn't drop passes.

Chris Scott was rumored to be announcing this weekend between Tennessee and Florida but said he has no timeframe and might wait until the end even though he's visited both schools. He said he goes back and forth on the decision. Georgia has not given up on him, although he did tell them to stop recruiting him.

Finally, it seems like Iowa and Tennessee will be the big winners this weekend when commitments are announced. We'll have our predictions tomorrow.



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