December 9, 2007

Shrine Bowl to feature some top talent

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Once a year since 1937, North Carolina's best football players suit up against the best from South Carolina in a grudge match that is one of the first and most competitive inter-state rivalries in the country. The 71st annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas kicks off practice this week and will be on hand throughout the week of two-a-days practice and the game to bring you full comprehensive coverage of both teams.

In the past, the Shrine Bowl has produced such future NFL stars as Duce Staley, Albert Haynesworth, Julius Peppers, and Mario Williams. This year is no different as some of the top players in the country are scheduled to show up and compete daily in practice before lining up for the real thing on Saturday at 1 ET.

In the 2007 edition of the game, the headliner among a long list of talent is Summerville, S.C. wide receiver A.J. Green. The five-star Georgia commit would be a headliner at any national all-star appearance but he should have all of the competition he needs just across his Northern border as Rivals100 athlete and NC State commit Brandon Barnes and Rivals250 Notre Dame commit Robert Blanton will be leading a talented secondary motivated to lock down the big name.

However the two four-stars will have more than just Green to worry about. Rivals250 wide receiver and Clemson commit Marquan Jones provides a very serviceable second option for whoever lines up under center for the South Carolina squad.

Along with the chance to play opposite Green, Jones will get the opportunity to team up for the first time with several other Clemson commits. Two-star kicker Spencer Benton, four-star running back Andre Ellington and four-star wide receiver Brandon Ford all join Jones on the South Carolina roster.

The four Clemson Tigers may have their last opportunity to remain civil with some future rivals this week as well. The Gamecocks have six commitments playing in the game in three-star defensive tackle Kentrell Davis, three-star offensive guard T.J. Johnson, three-star quarterback and teammate to A.J. Green, Reid McCullom, three-star athlete Jay Spearman, four-star cornerback Charles Whitlock and on the North Carolina roster three-star OLB Reggie Bowens.

Some other notable commits in the game include five future NC State teammates: Barnes, three-stars Terrell Manning and Dwayne Maddox, three-star athlete Tobais Palmer and Rivals250 athlete E.J. Abrams-Ward.

Virginia Tech boasts Rivals250 ILB Bruce Taylor, three-star safety Lorenzo Williams and three-star OT Michael Via.

There will also be several highly-touted uncommitted prospects on display this week, led by the No. 12 offensive guard in the country, Kenneth Page. Page has schools such as Clemson, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Tennessee all after him. On the North Carolina roster, R.J. Mattes has an equally long list of suitors, listing a top five of Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and NC State.

Not all of the players are putting the icing on the cake of their commitment. Some players will be playing to raise their stock and earn some more scholarship offers. Ibn Ali currently lists only a Duke offer. North Carolina teammate C.J. Wilson lists an offer from Maryland. But if Wilson and Ali put together a productive week of practice, that list of one could grow quickly.

South Carolina's squad features some sleepers as well. Duke commit Lee Butler has been a big-time player for Westside High School this year and will have a chance to introduce himself to the best in the state this week. Defensive end Jordan Gary out of Greenwood, S.C. has an offer from Marshall but hopes to increase his tally with some strong play against some well-known offensive linemen.

Stay tuned to all week as we bring you live practice updates, player features from both teams, top performers, photo galleries and expert analysis.

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