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January 4, 2007

O-D All-American Bowl position breakdown

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. The first annual Offense-Defense All-American Bowl takes place at 7 p.m. EST tonight, and the collection of around 80 players from all over the country have spent all week practicing in preparation.

Rivals.com has been at every practice, and it's clear that each team has an advantage at certain positions.

Here's a breakdown of each of the positions and which players fans should be looking for on the ESPNU national broadcast.

QUARTERBACKS
East headliner: Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson quarterback Stephen Garcia should get the start, but Atlanta Westlake's Cameron Newton should see an equal amount of playing time. Both signal callers have had their moments this week, but have also been somewhat inconsistent. Both prospects have strong arms and are above average athletically.

West headliner: Jarrett Lee has had an amazing week of practice for the West. He's joined by Aaron Corp and Kodi Burns, and all three will give the West plenty of weapons with which to work. However, Lee has seemed the most comfortable throughout the week. He has already worked in an offense that's very similar to this one, so he has a great chance to play well tonight.

Advantage: The West's quarterbacks have been more consistent and accurate in practice all week. Expect a lot of short passes from the West, which could lead to big plays because the ball will be in the hands of playmakers.

RUNNING BACKS
East headliner: Lynn Haven (Fla.) Mosley running back Enrique Davis is expected to get the start. Davis has been outstanding, showing off his elite speed, vision and quickness. He also has added good weight to his frame and carries it well. Not far behind him is Brandon Saine. The Ohio State commit and Piqua (Ohio) product has shown off his speed and quickness this week and should see his share of carries - along with Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna's Brian Maddox.

West headliner: Raymond Carter is a perfect fit for the West offense. He has the ability to explode to the outside on the zone plays, and he'll also be a threat in passing situations out of the backfield. Lennon Creer could also have a nice game running inside.

Advantage: With O-D running back of the year Davis leading the way - and plenty of depth with a guy like Saine also in the backfield - the East gets the nod in this category.

WIDE RECEIVER
East headliner: Garner (N.C.) prospect Chris Culliver has the perfect blend of size, speed and strength. He is the player to watch in the East receiving corps. Hendersonville (Tenn.) Pope John Paul II's Golden Tate, Fort Washington (Md.)'s Joe Haden and Nick Toon of Madison (Wis.) also should see several balls. Marietta (Ga.) Walton tight end Bailey Woods should start, with Palmetto (Fla.) athlete Joseph Hills getting a look on passing downs.

West headliner: Dez Bryant has been the most impressive and most consistent player on the West offense. He ran the same offense in high school because it's his offense. Bryant's ability to go up and get the football and his precise route-running is matched by nobody in the game.

Advantage: Bryant should have a big game, but when you have others like DeAngelo Benton, Drew Davis and Anthony Boyles on the same roster, it could spell problems for the East defensive backs. This clearly is a position where the West has the bigger horses.

OFFENSIVE LINE
East headliner: Columbus (Ga.) Hardaway tackle Antwane Greenlee, a Georgia commit, has shown outstanding footwork and won his share of one-on-one battles with a tough East defensive line this week. Columbus (Miss.) Caledonia's Derek Sherrod, Notre Dame commit Andrew Nuss, South Carolina commit Quintin Richardson and Tennessee commit Darris Sawtelle are several to keep an eye on as well.

West headliner: Jarvis Jones has been dominating all week long, and fans will love seeing him matched up against great East defensive lineman like Carlos Dunlap. On the inside, guys like Rishaw Johnson and Jason Hannan have had good weeks. However, Jones is the guy that everybody has talked about in practices.

Advantage: Across the board, the East offensive line is more physical and has bigger, more athletic kids. Greenlee, Patrick Crump, Arthur Ray Jr. , Chaz Ramsey, Richardson, Sawtelle and Sherrod all have had good weeks.

DEFENSIVE LINE
East headliner: Five-star end Carlos Dunlap from North Charleston (S.C.) Fort Dorchester put it all together during Tuesday's practice. If he continues to progress during the game, he could become a nightmare for the West offensive lineman. Germantown (Md.) Seneca Valley defensive tackle Donald Langley has had the top week among the interior prospects. Dunlap's fellow in-state prospect Cliff Matthews is an excellent speed rusher. Travian Robertson and Jazzmen Guy will also be tough at end. Inside, Antonio Jeremiah and Kerry Murphy will have a chance to make big plays.

West headliner: Da'John Harris has had a great week of practices, and behind Bryant was probably the second most impressive player overall on the West roster. He has a bevy of moves to get after the quarterback. Plus, he's also able to get after it in running situations. He's physical, strong and has great push. His battles with the East offensive line will be one of the biggest stories to follow in the game.

Advantage: The East should own both lines of scrimmage. Its offensive line has looked great in practice, but its defensive line has been even better. With big-time playmakers like Dunlap and Langley roaming the field, the West offensive line could have problems.

LINEBACKER
East headliner: Florida State commit Kendall Smith of Bushnell (Fla.) South Sumter has had an excellent week at outside linebacker. His speed and tackling ability have allowed him to make many plays, and that should translate in the game as well. Jermale Hines from Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville should start at the other outside spot. Rolando McClain of Decatur (Ala.) will start at middle linebacker with Brandon Hicks and Jamar Jackson rotating.

West headliner: Keenan Robinson, a longtime Texas Longhorn commitment, has made some amazing hits in practice and locked down the starting outside linebacker spot from Day One. He will be joined by other standouts like Jordan Campbell, but Robinson has the type of speed that should pay off in an all-star game.

Advantage: With Robinson and headhunters like Campbell, the West gets the edge. Add complementary players like Casey Matthews, Jermaine Love and Malcolm Smith, and it is clear the West is stacked at linebacker.

DEFENSIVE BACK
East headliner: College Park (Ga.) North Clayton safety Morgan Burnett has made multiple big plays durinig practice this week. He is the one to watch in the East secondary. Fellow safety Michael McNeil of Mobile (Ala.) Davidson has also been solid. McNeil's size and speed are impressive. A four-man rotation at cornerback of Doug Wiggins, Cris Hill, James Scott and Brandon Paul is formidable.

West headliner: Ben Wells has been the West's best defensive back all week long. He has locked down about every receiver he has faced, and his battles against Dez Bryant are legendary. He should be fun to watch against the East's talented receivers. The West's safeties are also talented, too.

Advantage: The East has some really impressive defensive backs and the group as a whole can fly around and make big plays. Look for other impact guys like Michael McNeil, Chaz Powell, Brandon Paul, James Scott and Doug Wiggins to be playmakers.

SPECIAL TEAMS
East headliner: Wes Byrum, who is heading to Auburn, has been blasting field goals all week long and he has also been consistent on his kickoffs and punts. He's hoping he doesn't have to do too much punting in the game. If given a shot, don't be surprised if he makes a field goal in the 50-55 yard range. He just missed a 57-yarder in practice.

West headliner: Billy Bennett is the nation's top kicker, but he has been hurt most of the week and is still not sure if he's going to be ready for the game. He was joined this week by Chaz Henry, one of the nation's top punters. Henry isn't an elite field-goal kicker, but can be a threat just not the type of threat that Bennett or Byrum present.

Advantage: Byrum's strong leg gives the East the edge this week. He really could be the difference in what might be a close game.



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