January 3, 2008

Offense-Defense: West Wednesday notebook

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Through the first two days of practice the West team's coaching staff at the Offense-Defense Bowl has placed much of their focus on instruction and teaching the players the finer points to the game, rather than lining them up in full-contact sessions.

As a result, the players are beginning to take notice of their improvement and are grateful that the opportunity to learn has been presented to them.

"[I have learned] quite a bit, actually," West center David Decastro said. "I've never pass blocked before - never practiced it in practice - so just learning that and improving my game is fun."

In addition to the West team's emphasis on skill and technique, Decastro is just one of many players that is being given their first opportunity to face high major caliber talent each and every time they line up for a drill.

"It's way more fun than going against a 170 pound D-tackle from a random high school and it makes you better, too," Decastro said.


BRANCH BRINGS VERSATILITY TO THE SQUAD

Tight end Matt Branch from Sterling High in Louisiana is one of the more versatile players in attendance for the O-D Bowl. And although he has spent all of his time at tight end this week, the 6-foot-7, 240 pound four-star LSU commit says he could end up at several different positions on the collegiate level.

"I'm a versatile player and I can play a number of positions, not just strictly tight end," Branch said. "I could play OT (offensive tackle), D-tackle, D-end or anything. They say I'm athletic enough to move around.

"I want to play whatever is best for the team. I could careless (where I play), wherever I have to play to get on the field - I don't care."


THOMPSON GETTING FIRST TASTE OF COLLEGE COMPETITION

Like many of the players in attendance, the experiences of lining up across from another Division-I level prospect at the O-D Bowl has given defensive end Everrette Thompson his first taste of what collegiate football will be like.

For Thompson, it has been somewhat of an eye-opener, but at the same time he is learning that he belongs on the same field as the other top-notch players in attendance. Though he has been taught several new techniques in practice, the 6-foot-5, 240 pounder feels his current skill set is strong enough to compete.

"Going against offensive linemen out here is different," Thompson said. "They are a lot more athletic and it's good competition.

"Pretty much I'm just being me. I'm just using my speed and good footwork and using my hands a lot.

"I feel like this is a little taste of what college might be like. I know it will probably be a lot harder but there are a lot of talented guys out here."


NOTES

Armond Armstead participated in his first full day of practice on Wednesday and blew up his competition all day long. He established himself very early as the West's top defensive tackle. He also saw time at defensive end...Quarterback Matt Scott struggled on Tuesday with the center exchange and dropping back from under center, but Wednesday was a different story. He handled himself much better and likely placed himself at the top of the rotation for the time being...Though the wind was brutal all day long, kicker Quinn Sharp still managed to drill a 32 yard attempt from the middle of the field. He just missed on a 32 yarder from the right hash mark, as the wind took it wide right...Alameda Ta'amu didn't seem to have any problems with his right ankle that was injured on Tuesday, as he moved well off the ball and earned reps at offensive tackle as well as offensive guard.

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