Monday, January 7, 2008

Army All American Game Thoughts

Like most Irish fans, I anxiously awaited the Army All American Game that was played this weekend. It was a chance to take a glimpse at the future of Notre Dame football. After only seeing highlight clips of most recruits, it was a chance to watch them compete over the course of a game and see how they stacked up to other immensely talented football players. Having suffered through the down times in recruiting under previous regimes, when ND would have 1 or 2 players in this game, this year was a bonanza for Irish fans. Every time you turned around, there was another ND recruit doing something on the field. Here are my thoughts on the game, including ND recruits and non-ND recruits:

1. It sounds cliche, but the talent level at this game has steadily increased every single year. Watching these kids perform, who have not played with each other all year, is incredible and a testament to the AAA game coaches, the players, and their high school coaches. I think last year's game had more top end star appeal with Jimmy and Mallett, but this year's group was more talented top to bottom in my view.

2. Terrelle Pryor is the real deal. He will be a QB in college and a darned good one. Everyone says his passing is poor and to an extent they are correct. However, he will wind up in a system that suits his abilities and that will make him a lot more dangerous as a thrower than he is. He is a phenomenal athlete who is tailor made to run the spread offense Rich Rodriguez is trying to build at Michigan. I have never before wanted Ohio State to land a recruit, but I would much rather see Pryor at Ohio State as a Notre Dame fan.

3. Dayne Crist is perfect for the Irish offense. Big, strong armed, passer with great leadership skills. Dayne has to work on fundamentals, but he impressed in this game. Unlike Jimmy Clausen, who was forced to play before he was ready, Dayne is walking into a great situation with the Irish where he can take the time a QB needs to develop and be ready to play when he is ultimately called upon.

4. None of the RBs this year jumped out at me. I don't think this is a great year for RBs nationally. Plenty of talented guys, but I didn't see any can't miss superstars.

5. At WR, to me it was Mike Floyd and then everyone else. Floyd was head and shoulders above the other WRs. He is just so polished for a young kid that it is startling when you watch him play. The future is incredibly bright for Mike Floyd. Other receivers that stood out to me were Dan Buckner and Jonathan Baldwin. Baldwin is more of a player than I thought he was. When he develops the immense raw talent he possesses, he is going to be an absolute beast for DBs to try to handle. John Goodman looked good, but will need to get bigger. On a side note, Goodman has a heck of an arm and could be a nice option on some trick plays, especially since he looked good as a holder. Kyle Rudolph was quiet at TE because it appeared the East QBs were taking a page from the Bob Davie playbook when it came to looking at the TE in the passing game.

6. Offensive Line was difficult to evaluate because my attention was naturally drawn to the skill position guys. Plus, I believe there are rules in the game regarding blitzes, etc. Trevor Robinson is a big, hard nosed kid who looked solid in the run game. He looks awkward in pass protection and will need to improve there, likely because he didn't do too much of it in high school. Mike Golic looks like a TE with his build right now and I expected him to get beaten up in there, but every time I looked, he was holding his own and getting to the second level on his blocks. He needs a lot of time to build his frame, but he will be a player before his time is up. Lane Clelland held his own, but needs to get a lot stronger at the point of attack.

7. At Defensive Line, the guy who jumped off the screen was Marcus Forston. He was head and shoulders above the other D linemen at the game. Brandon Newman looked good, but he needs to take his conditioning more seriously.

8 On defense, the LB position was the best overall position group for talent, by far. Arthur Brown and Etienne Sabino are absolute studs. The guy who surprised me with how good he looked was Kyle Prater. He is just a hard nosed kid who is a playmaker! Darius Fleming looked extremely athletic on the outside, while Steve Filer played well, but appeared to be thinking too much, which prevented his true ability from showing up. If I was ranking, I think Arthur Brown and Sabino are clearly the top two, with Prater, Fleming, and others right below them.

9. In the secondary, the top 2 cover guys I saw were Robert Blanton and Boubakar Cissoko. Blanton is never going to wow you with athleticism. However, every time you watch him, he just finds a way to get the job done and stay with guys. Cissoko is small!!! He will always struggle with bigger receivers, but don't let that fool you into thinking he will be a bust. His speed is exceptional and his cover skills are excellent. He will have a solid career, but he is someone that a defensive coordinator is going to have to help on big receivers. He will have a lot of trouble against a guy like Duval Kamara. Patrick Johnson will also be a big time player.

10. In somewhat of a surprise, Gerell Robinson picked Arizona State over Notre Dame. I honestly thought he was going to be Irish. This is going to sound like I am saying this because he picked another school, but that is honestly not the case. Gerell truly looked a lot better at safety than I think he looks at WR. He will be successful whatever position he plays. However, he looked very instinctive at safety and not afraid to stick his nose in there. With his size, I think he could be a tremendous safety at the next level. I think he is a good receiver prospect, but what I saw Saturday told me he could be an exceptional safety with time. Regardless, Arizona State got themselves a good one.

11. I didn't watch the ESPN Under Armour game. I did speed through to take a look at Braxston Cave and came away very very impressed. He is better than I thought he was.

Those were just my impressions. What were yours? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to post them in the comments section.


Jared said...

The one thing that had concerned me coming into the game was that Floyd was going to be another Darius Walker that dominates at the HS level, but can't translate that to the same domination at the next level....

Those concerns were put to rest. He was better than any other receiver out there and the only one close was Buckner, and maybe Baldwin (who is much less of a project than I imagined). He has legitimate speed and has RB-quality moves in the open field.

He is the one player that I truly believe will be a starter by mid-season.

Jared said...

Oh and Goodman is no Shark-2. He has more speed that Samardzija, but lacks the body control-hands of his predecessor. To me he seems like a faster McKnight, and I think he and Walker are going to push for time early. In order to get past the Floyd/Kamara (starters IMO), and Walker trio he will need to have solid hands. That all being said he looks great and was better than I had hoped in the game.

IrishGlory said...

Jared - I assure you Floyd's ability will translate very well to the college game. He is more ready than any WR ND has signed in the last decade. Baldwin really surprised me. I too thought he was going to be a project. He has a lot of work to do, but he is going to be able to contribute early at Pitt and by the time he is done there, I think he could have a Plaxico Burress type college career.
Goodman and Walker both are great prospects, but I am not sure they make an impact as freshmen. I believe both have some work to do in the weight room and have some really realy talented guys in front of them. They will make their mark soon enough though.