January 5, 2011

Army matchup: East WRs-West DBs

MORE ARMY BOWL: Tuesday's West stars | Tuesday's East stars | Complete coverage

SAN ANTONIO -- Each day this week leading up to Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Rivals.com analyst Adam Gorney will look at the players involved in a key matchup. The fourth installment focuses on the East wide receivers against the West defensive backs.

The players:

East wide receivers: Charone Peake (Roebuck, S.C.), Danny Woodson (Mobile, Ala.), Sammy Watkins (Fort Myers, Fla.), Tobias Singleton (Madison, Miss.), Miles Shuler (Long Branch, N.J.), Nickolas Brassell (Batesville, Miss.), Nick O'Leary (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

West defensive backs: Odell Beckham (New Orleans, La.), Stefan McClure (Vista, Calif.), Tevin Mitchel (Mansfield, Texas), Charles Jackson (Klein, Texas), Atkinson III]George Atkinson III (Livermore, Calif.), Glen Faulkner (East St. Louis, Ill.), De'Anthony Thomas (Los Angeles, Calif.), James Sample (Sacramento, Calif.)

The breakdown:

The West defensive backs have struggled so far in practice, but it's not that they lack talent. It's that the West receivers simply are so dominant it's difficult to adequately cover all of them.

There definitely is a lot of skill there, with each one making impressive plays at different times. Probably the most consistent players so far have been Jackson and Thomas, who still is learning the position but is so athletic that he covers for a lot of mistakes. The five-star athlete was especially impressive in Tuesday's morning workout.

McClure has been super consistent, not making a lot of big-time plays but usually knocking the ball away or being right there in coverage. Faulkner has done an outstanding job, and many Rivals.com analysts liked the job Sample did during Monday's practices.

Mitchel and Atkinson haven't been beaten much, either, a good sign of consistency and knowing where to be on the field. Beckham mainly has played offense so far, but he could be used as a defensive back if needed.

This is a solid, quiet group of skilled players who have had their hands full with George Farmer, Trey Metoyer, Jaxon Shipley, Kasen Williams, DeAnthony Arnett and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The East receivers aren't that loaded, but they still could give the West defensive backs a test.

The best East receiver so far -- by far -- has been Watkins, who is pushing for five-star status after the first two days of practice. No one seems to be able to slow down the Clemson commit. He made numerous one-handed catches at Monday's practice and simply looks too good for the East defensive backs.

Brassell, a Mississippi State commit, also is a threat because of his speed and playmaking ability. He usually doesn't take a backseat to anyone, but Watkins clearly is the cream of the East crop. The South Panola star is a close second, though, because he definitely can be a game-changer.

Woodson, an Alabama pledge, turned it up on Tuesday after having a mediocre Monday, and Shuler, a speedster who's undersized but can run past defensive backs, also is a threat because of his shiftiness and athleticism. Shuler, a 5-foot-11 Rutgers commit, has made some nice catches during the week of practice.

Singleton, who's narrowed his list to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and UCLA and will announce at the Army game, has been hot and cold during practice, but he still has all the capabilities to make big plays. He's definitely a player to watch.

O'Leary is dangerous at tight end, not only because he could work with his high school quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, during the game, but he's a throwback-type of prospect who runs great routes, catches everything and also can block if needed. There are lots of reasons why O'Leary is rated the nation's best tight end by Rivals.com.

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