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December 31, 2007

East Notebook: First impressions

SAN ANTONIO - A minor ankle injury sidelined Jonas Gray for a portion of Monday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl practice but it allowed him to watch his fellow running backs make plays. The Notre Dame commit especially enjoyed watching Ohio State pledge Lamaar Thomas work his magic.

"He juked somebody and made somebody fall in the All-American game," Gray said. "That's pretty good."

Thomas is a 5-foot-11, 181-pound speedster who finished with 750 receiving yards and seven touchdowns at Fort Washington (Md.) Friendly this season. He will be used in the East squad's passing game but will mainly come out of the backfield.

Gray and Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson's Ryan Williams, who will pick either Boston College or Virginia Tech during the U.S. Army game, are the other two backs on the East squad.

"We complement each other well," Gray said. "Lamaar has showed me some things I didn't know and there were things Ryan showed me as well. Lamaar will be in on a lot of passing plays when we pass to the running back and Ryan does a lot of things well.

"It's only three running backs and that's OK. It leaves us a lot of time for playing and there's not a lot of competitiveness stuff going on. We're trying to figure out how to run plays and how to block. We're all putting ideas together."

Prunty: Good first day

East coach Robert Prunty, who coaches at Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy, walked off the practice field Monday afternoon with a blow horn in his pocket and a smile on his face. If the players work as hard as they did on the first day, it is going to be a good week, Prunty said.

"It was awesome," he said. "The guys had a great attitude and the assistant coaches were outstanding. Things were very precise. These guys came out here like they want to be here. A lot of times, they're All-Americans and they don't want to work but they practiced like All-Americans. I was extremely happy. It was a great first day.

"These guys are learning quickly. They're processing stuff and you see they want to do it. They're meeting us half way. I feel real good. If we can get one like this (Tuesday), Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I will be extremely happy…We want to give these guys what they want. It's about them. It's not about us. We have athletes. If you're coming to this game, you should be pretty psyched because we're going to have a lot of fun."

The offense and defense worked together at times but most of the practice was spent divided to put in plays and learn a new system. Dual-threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the nation's top-ranked player, is leading the East offense and Prunty has been pleased with Pryor's performance so far. MarQueis Gray, who will pick either Minnesota or Oregon at the U.S. Army game, and Alabama commit Star Jackson are the East's other quarterbacks.

"Terrelle did some things I have never seen before," Prunty said. "I've seen some guys play at the college level with movement. You get guys 6-1, a Michael Vick size, Tyrod Taylor, me being from Virginia I mention those guys, but when you see somebody 6-6 play like that, it's scary. If he's coming at you and you're on that corner and you're a cornerback I feel sorry for you. Most of the time, they'll just run over you but he can go right by you."

Prunty said he was also impressed with Hoover (Ala.) Spain Park defensive end William Green, who said Sunday his leader is Florida, and his own player from Hargrave, Quinton Coples, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound prospect.

"He's the sleeper here," Prunty said of Coples. "He went against (Mike) Adams and Adams is one of the best offensive linemen I've seen in a long time. (Coples) reminds me so much of Julius Peppers. He's lived up to everything."

Adams pleased with performance

Some of the nation's best defensive linemen battled Mike Adams during 1-on-1 drills and more often than not, the 6-foot-7, 308-pound recruit did not let anyone by him. Rivals.com rates Adams as the 11th best offensive tackle nationally and he has verbally committed to Ohio State. He said he's still out here to prove himself in every drill.

"We did a lot of 1-on-1s with the defensive line and I might have lost one time out of 20 reps," Adams said. "Everybody was good out here. Quinton Coples, I went against him a lot. He's a big guy and he's definitely a good one. I happened to have an exceptional day.

"I like going up against the best. It gives you a chance to show some people who don't believe really how good you are, it lets them see what you do. That's my game. I do it every play."

Bradham to enroll early

Nigel Bradham is headed to Florida State as an early enrollee but first he wants to learn as much as he can about his fellow linebackers because he might be going up against many of them in college.

East linebacker Brendan Beal is headed to Florida. Marcus Robinson is open and has Miami, Florida and others on his list. Lerentee McCray has Florida, LSU and others involved. Bradham's roommate this week is Wichita (Kan.) East star Arthur Brown, who committed to the Hurricanes.

"I don't have any funny stories yet," Bradham said. "We've only been roommates for one day. Ask me later in the week. I'm sure I'll have something."

Injury bug hits East squad

The East squad sustained a few injuries in Monday's practice but none are expected to hold anyone out for any serious amount of time. Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln cornerback T.J. Bryant injured his ankle early on. He needed two coaches to assist him off the field but was seen walking without any help later in practice.

Gray injured his ankle but said he expected to be back for Tuesday's practice. Defensive tackle Marcus Forston missed portions late in practice with turf toe that he's been dealing with since Miami (Fla.) Northwestern won the state title. Aliquippa (Pa.) tight end Jonathan Baldwin, a Pittsburgh commit, has a groin injury and he sat out late, too. Baldwin is expected to be fine.

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