January 2, 2008

East Notebook: Surprising skills

SAN ANTONIO - Ryan Williams said the shake and bake is his specialty. The Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson running back, who will pick either Boston College or Virginia Tech during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, displayed some impressive moves at Wednesday's skills competition and showed why he's one of the nation's elite backs.

Williams used fancy footwork to dodge the grasp of LSU commit Kyle Prater. He did something totally different to elude Colorado pledge Lynn Katoa. The 5-foot-10 back, who mixes power and speed so well, slipped on the turf but popped right back up as Katoa pursued. Williams then spun away and went untouched into the end zone. His East teammates exploded onto the field to congratulate him.

"That's what I do," Williams said. "It's my style of running. People might mistake the fact I can run through the tackles and do other things as well but that's the best thing I do on the field, the shake and bake thing.

"It was regular to me but I guess since none of the other backs were doing it everyone was like, 'Whoa, that was good,' because before the event started everybody was saying, 'Sam McGuffie is going to do this or Darrell Scott is going to do this.' I'm not knocking them. They're great backs. I just went out there and did what I do best. I don't brag or boast, but I did a decent job in that event."

Williams, rated as the third-best running back nationally by Rivals.com, looks like he's having a ball so far this week. He and Ohio State commit Lamaar Thomas are the only two getting carries now that Notre Dame pledge Jonas Gray is sidelined with an ankle injury. Williams is in his element, something that has not occurred often in his high school career.

In his freshman season, he had to split time with former Stonewall Jackson standout Chris Garrett, who plays at Ohio University. As a sophomore, Williams was injured and only played in four games.

His junior season was his best as he rushed for 1,572 yards and 21 touchdowns on 167 carries. He was never 100 percent as a senior since he played with high and low ankle sprains. Williams has finally gotten healthy and he's showing what he can do.

"With all that happened, I'm still here," Williams said. "Even if I'm under-appreciated and I'm feeling like that, that just goes with what goes on in my career. It motivates me to showcase what I'm capable of doing. This is it right here and in pads it's a different story. I'm able to run through people and there are things I can do with my running style because I'm not just about shaking people. I love contact, too."

Beal ready for college life

Linebacker Brendan Beal, a Florida commit, will play in the U.S. Army game Saturday and then he'll be in Gainesville, Fla., Sunday to start his college career. The bags are packed and he said he cannot wait.

"I'm ready to go," Beal said. "I'm so fired up. I can't wait to get down there."

Rated as the second-best inside linebacker nationally behind East teammate and Ohio State commit Etienne Sabino, Beal picked the Gators over Boston College, LSU, Southern California and others.

He finished with 120 tackles or more in each of the last three seasons. Before Beal leaves town, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder is trying to recruit some prospects to join him at Florida.

"It's pretty hard because there are not too many uncommitted guys but guys like (Lerentee) McCray and William Green, Patrick Johnson, those are the guys I'm communicating with," Beal said. "I'm becoming friends with them and having a ball right now."

Beal is expected to begin his career playing behind sophomore Brandon Spikes in the middle but he said there is a chance he could play the other linebacker spots if he can prove himself in spring practice. When Beal visited Florida this season, he said he knew right away that it would be tough to say no. The opportunity to play for the Gators could not be passed up.

"I wanted to establish a new breed in Florida," Beal said. "Having the ability to come in and hopefully contribute to the team and play behind (Spikes), to learn from guys like (Tim) Tebow. When I went down to Florida, it's one of those things. I felt in my heart at home in The Swamp. My mom absolutely loved it and I saw her smile. That did it for me."

Robinson adjusting to the weather

Marcus Robinson is from Homestead, Fla., which means the temperatures are usually warm and he does not have to worry about his muscles tightening up because of cold weather. The temperatures dipped especially for Tuesday's practice and it has been a difficult adjustment for the 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker who has Miami, Florida, LSU and Florida State involved.

"My first couple days were kind of tough getting away from home, trying to settle in to a place that I've never been," Robinson said. "And then there's this cold weather. It's tough for me right now, stiffening me up a little bit. It gets cold once a year where I'm from. Right now, it's so cold for me. It's tough."

Even if Robinson is struggling, he's not showing it too much. So far, he's had a strong week of practice. Rivals.com rates him as the third-best outside linebacker nationally behind East teammates Nigel Bradham, a Florida State commit, and Miami pledge Arthur Brown. The East squad is loaded at linebacker with Beal, McCray, Sabino and others also on the roster.

"They're good dudes," Robinson said. "They're real good. The best comes out of everybody."

Wednesday injury update

Gray and cornerback T.J. Bryant both missed practice as they recover from ankle injuries. Gray had X-rays taken and they came back negative. He plans to play in Saturday's game. Bryant is expected back at practice Thursday, East coach Robert Prunty said.

Ohio State kicker/punter commit Ben Buchanan participated in the skills competition in the morning but did not practice later on. He said he was resting a stress fracture in his left non-kicking foot that he sustained during the season. Buchanan does not expect to miss much more time.



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