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January 3, 2011

Army Bowl: East RBs-West LBs

MORE ARMY BOWL: Ten things to watch | 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 second installment looks at the East running backs against the West linebackers.

The players:

East running backs: James Wilder (Tampa, Fla.), Mike Blakely (Bradenton, Fla.), Demetrius Hart (Orlando, Fla.)

West linebackers: Jake Keefer (Baldwin, Wis.), Kendall Thompson (Carthage, Texas), Colt Lyerla (Hillsboro, Ore.), Tre Madden (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Lamar Dawson (Danville, Ky.), Steve Edmond (Daingerfield, Texas), Christian French (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Harvey Langi (South Jordan, Utah)

The breakdown:

This is a very interesting matchup because the West clearly has the personnel advantage but the East backs are loaded with talent and it's a diverse group that can cause a lot of problems along the way.

Wilder is a problem in himself because he's one of the biggest backs in the country who can also play linebacker so it's difficult for anyone to bring him down.

The five-star Florida State commit is arguably better on defense but he'll be playing on the offensive side in the Army game. He's big, bulky, athletic and just one of the toughest guys in the entire game.

Blakely, a Florida pledge, is fun to watch because he's so shifty and tough to tackle. The Bradenton Manatee four-star recruit was recruited by Urban Meyer and his staff to Florida but should fit in perfectly with new coach Will Muschamp and the pro-style offense he wants to run.

Hart did numbers at camps and 7-on-7 events this past off-season and made news already this week by de-committing from Michigan and picking Alabama, where teammate Hasean Clinton-Dix is committed. What's so great about Hart, though, is that he's a runner but can also catch balls out of the backfield and he's just fun to watch.

The linebackers will have their hands full but they're a varied bunch of talented players who should be able to make plays against the three Florida running backs.

A lot of people are keeping a close eye on four-star Lyerla to see if he can use his athleticism against the running backs to make tackles. He was one of the best-looking prospects Sunday when the players arrived and now he has to show it on the field.

Madden, from the lauded Mission Viejo, Calif., program, played quarterback for his high school team and could be the perfect outside linebacker complement at USC. He along with Langi and others will be responsible for shutting down the outside lanes to the East running backs.

Edmond could be the enforcer of this group in the middle. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect is one of the most imposing linebackers at the game and on a squad filled with athletic and versatile players it could be Edmond that might have to find some chances to pop the running backs coming out of the backfield.

Don't count out Dawson, though, because not only is he the top player in the state of Kentucky but he can make plays all over the field. He'll probably start in the middle but the four-star can roam all over and track runners down.

This should be an interesting matchup for many reasons. The West beats the East in numbers but with the versatility of Wilder, Blakely and Hart the East holds a slight edge until the West proves it can deal with such tough and diverse runners inside the tackles and out.




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