January 1, 2008

Offense-Defense: West Tuesday notebook

FT. LAUDERDALE - Practice for the 2008 Offense-Defense Bowl got started early Tuesday morning, and for the West squad, led by former Virginia Cavalier and NFL running back Terry Kirby, the week started off on a bad note as three four-star prospects sat out the afternoon practice session due to injury.

Those that didn't suit up included defensive end Chase Clement, who took a knee to his left thigh; defensive tackle Armond Armstead, who is recovering from a non-football related injury to his left knee; and offensive lineman Alameda Ta'amu, who tweaked his right ankle early in the afternoon practice.

Though the injuries don't appear to be serious, Kirby indicated that no decisions would be made about their participation until tomorrow before the team takes the field at 8:30 a.m.

"We're going to see what happens tomorrow," Kirby said. "These kids have not been playing since Nov. and it's hard on them. Their bodies are not used to it. So tomorrow afternoon we'll make a decision on the injuries and decide if they are okay to go back out there."

As of the early evening hours on Tuesday, Clement felt as though he could return to practice as early as tomorrow

"It's not that bad," Clement said. "It should be all right in a couple days - maybe tomorrow so I can hopefully get back on the field."

For Armstead, a return may not come quite as quickly.

"I messed my knee up playing basketball, so I'm just coming off the injury," Armstead stated. "I think it'll be fine, but I'm just trying not to push it and get myself ready.

"It's just a bone bruise, so it's not torn. The doctors told me not to play basketball much, but I did play and it was fine. But football is different because you are pushing on people, so I want to be careful with the injury."

Though Ta'amu was not available for comment following practice, it appeared as though he was held out for the rest of the day for precautionary reasons.

Quarterbacks Making Plays

Three-star quarterback Nathan Stanley from Tahlequah (Okla.) Sequoyah High emerged as the West's top quarterback for the first day of practice, while four-star signal callers Matt Scott of Corona (Calif.) Centennial High and Beau Sweeney from Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West High were right on his heels.

However, Kirby expects the three to be more closely matched on Wednesday as each will likely find their rhythm more quickly now that they have been in the system for a full day.

"We're kind of keeping it simple for the quarterbacks and receivers today," Kirby said. "We're not going to throw anything crazy at them. They are pretty much the same routes ad the timing is the same - five and three step drops, and a pitch and catch kind of thing."

With the simpler play calling, Stanley established a quick connection with the receivers and found a comfort zone that allowed him to deliver very accurate passes throughout the day.

Sweeney struggled more than the other two with his delivery, but managed to tighten up his play as he grew more comfortable later in the day.

The same could be said for Scott, who had the tendency to overthrow his receivers early in practice.

Top Prospects Emerging?

Though Tuesday marked just the first day of practice at the O-D Bowl, Kirby was surprised to see the exceptional skill level many of the young prospects possess. But, just as anyone who may be seeing these recruits for the first time, Kirby feels as though the best is yet to come.

"There are a couple guys that are standing out to me, but right now it's hard to tell who top players are. Tomorrow it'll be cooler, so tomorrow will be the test. It's a group of kids that must learn a whole new offense, and learn it and do it on the run. Tomorrow will be the big test."

Among those that caught Kirby's attention were defensive back Marc Anthony, defensive end Datone Jones, and wide receivers Jeff Fuller and Kemonte Bateman.

Hester Makes Most of First Day

Four-star defensive back Aaron Hester from Compton (Calif.) High had a huge start to the week as he owned his counterpart for much of the day. In fact, no one caught a pass against Hester until the senior faced off with future Texas A&M Aggie Jeff Fuller.

Before the two faced off, Hester had already recorded an interception during the drill and was confident heading into his battle with the 6-foot-4, 220 pound beast of a receiver.

"Fuller is tough to handle," Hester said. "I had good coverage on him, but he was just more physical and had the size to get up and make a great catch. He is a big and strong guy and makes it makes him hard to defend against."

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