January 4, 2008

East Notebook: Coming together

SAN ANTONIO - Wide receiver Brice Butler has such long arms that when he has them at his sides his fingertips come close to touching his knees.

"Almost," Butler said Thursday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

In this case, almost is good enough.

Butler's long arms and long strides make him such a gifted athlete. Those are two reasons why many of the nation's top programs including Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame and Penn State recruited him. The 6-foot-2 prospect from Norcross (Ga.) verbally committed to Southern California on Aug. 4.

"If a ball is out of reach you can get the separation from the cornerback you need and put your arms up," Butler said. "So it helps me a lot. I've been blessed with some long arms."

Butler, who caught 35 passes for 680 yards and nine touchdowns in his junior season, also has great hands and he has shown them off in practice this week. On Thursday, he had his best workout so far.

The USC commit came alive late in 7-on-7 drills when he hauled in a pass from Alabama quarterback commit Star Jackson and then probably would have had a touchdown if not for interference on another pass from Jackson. Butler got his TD reception on the second-to-last play of 7-on-7 when he and Terrelle Pryor, the nation's No. 1 player, hooked up.

"As the days have been progressing, everybody has gotten on the same page as far as running routes," said Butler, whose father, Bobby, played in the NFL. "The quarterbacks have been putting the ball more on time and we can be more instinctive.

"We have a lot of different types of receivers. Guys like DeAndre (Brown) who can go up top on you. DeVier (Posey) is real quick and agile and can catch a pass across the middle and elude the linebackers. John Goodman is real fast and has deceptive speed. Jonathan Baldwin, big body. Kenny Tate, big body. We have a lot of physical, fast receivers."

Alabama-bound duo working together

Offensive lineman Barrett Jones never played center before this week, but when East coach Robert Prunty asked if anyone would be interested in trying out just to make sure Mike Golic Jr. has a backup, Jones was quick to volunteer. The 6-foot-5, 271-pound Alabama commit, who also plays left tackle, has done a solid job.

"The biggest difference is you have to concentrate on snapping the ball," Jones said. "It sounds like a little thing, but you have to do two things at once. In practice, you can't think too hard because you'll have a rolling snap. It's not really hard but before the snap you have to think about what you're doing."

At times in practice, Jones is snapping to Jackson. The duo expects to play together over the next few years in Tuscaloosa. Jones said he was encouraged about the future for the Crimson Tide when he talked with Jackson this week.

"I've been really impressed with what he's done this week and we just talked about the future and how we're both excited about what we're seeing and the changes that have been made," Jones said. "He's got a good swagger about him that a lot of quarterbacks lack and the great ones have. I was really encouraged this week. He seems like a good leader."

Jackson, from Lake Worth (Fla.), said he cannot wait to prove himself in the U.S. Army game and then get ready for college ball. He said Alabama was his top school because he gravitated toward coach Nick Saban and especially offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Major Applewhite. Staying in Florida was never a strong consideration. He wanted to venture out.

"I wanted to come in and prove myself this week," Jackson said. "Not really anyone has seen me much. Everyone is talking about Terrelle Pryor so I wanted to make a statement.

"(Saban) reminded me of my coach at home. Hard-nosed, get at it, and a guy that wants to see you working. Same thing with Major Applewhite. When I went there, he said he worked with those kinds of quarterbacks, my caliber and my style. That was probably the main reason...They don't want me to be the savior of Alabama football. They just want me to come in there and win the ballgames."

Brown excited about Miami

Many top programs recruited Wichita (Kan.) East linebacker Arthur Brown but he found exactly what he wanted at Miami and that's why the Hurricanes and coach Randy Shannon won his services. Brown said he built strong relationships with many Miami recruits and formed a strong bond with linebackers coach Micheal Barrow.

"I have a real great relationship with (Miami commit) Marcus (Forston)," Brown said. "We talk about a lot of things about bringing the foundation back together. He was really serious about it and that was appealing to me.

"The relationship was the biggest factor. When I went down there it really gave me the opportunity to establish a relationship with all the coaches. I have a great relationship with my position coach. We kicked it off tremendously and that was the biggest factor in my decision making."

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker was also hearing from North Carolina, Southern California, Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, LSU and others. He had 152 tackles and 10 sacks this season.

His brother, Bryce, is a top-rated running back in the junior class who will participate in Friday's U.S. Army National Combine at the Alamodome. Rivals.com rates Bryce Brown as the 10th best player in the 2009 class. He already has offers from many national programs. Arthur Brown said he does not expect his younger brother to stay at East for his senior season.

"A lot of people always ask if we compete and I always tell them, yes, we do compete but it's on another level," Arthur Brown said. "We push ourselves and each other to get better. It's not a rivalry thing. We're just looking out for each other.

"He really just sat back and watched me go through (the recruiting process) so I don't think he knows the full pressure yet. He will in due time. He sat back and watched me and I think I handled it well."

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