After making the morning drive down to San Antonio and stopping by the Grand Hyatt to pick up my credential, it was time to head out to the Blossom Athletic Complex to watch the West team practice in preparation for Saturday morning's US Army All-American game. The contest in the Alamodome will feature Texas commits Kendall Sanders, Hassan Ridgeway, Tim Cole, and Nick Jordan, as well as Texas targets Dorial Green-Beckham, Torshiro Davis, and Arik Armstead, who has been making noises this week about sticking around the area for the next week to take a visit up to Austin.
Head on after the jump for a few notes. Pictures will follow when I get back to Austin and can access my camera, as well as an interview with Nick Jordan and whatever else I can swing this evening when the players are supposed to be available again.
- Want to talk about a kid who passes the eyeball test? In this environment, most of the kids do, especially in the trenches and at linebacker, but massive Washington tackle Zach Banner is literally heads and shoulders above virtually everyone else on the West team, aside from Arik Armstead, who is virtually as tall as Banner.
- Armstead dominated a couple of reps against John Michael McGee, first bull-rushing the Oklahoma commit into the quarterback and then using a quick swim move to beat McGee quickly off the line. Pad level is always a concern for a kid that big trying to play defensive tackle and he certainly looks like an offensive linemen, but he hasn't wanted to play offense here and looked good on defense in the limited look.
- Banner struggled at times in one-on-ones against Javante Magee, as the coaches were working with him on his angles in his pass set and in getting his punch at the proper time. Still, the kid clearly has all the physical tools and carries his listed 330 pounds extremely easily. It's even likely that he did better in other reps.
- Dorial Green-Beckham is a lean 220 pounds and, as the film shows, moves extremely well for his size. He was quiet in the first scrimmage session before lunch before dominating afterwards, but did have some consistency issues catching the football, as he has a tendency to let it get into his body. It doesn't seem that he has poor hands, but looks rather like a technique issue. He also seems like a really nice kid who was willing to make time for people who wanted to take pictures with him.
- Kendall Sanders will probably get a look at receiver first when he gets to Texas, but has been working at cornerback in this setting and reportedly impressed in the first several days of practice. It looked to be more of the same on Thursday, as Sanders helped shut down DGB in the morning session and looked as natural, quick, and fluid at defensive back live as he does at receiver in his highlights. He lost about 15 pounds or so after getting sick during the season, so he's a bit on the skinny side right now, but he's shown the ability to put on some solid weight in the past.
- Hassan Ridgeway looks as good as any player on the defensive line for the West team after losing 15 pounds himself following the football season. In terms of upper body strength, Ridgeway looks ready to contribute immediately.
- John Michael McGee looked like a running back next to Banner and has a really thin lower body that raises some concerns about the strength in his base.
- Speaking of skinny, Edward Pope looks like his legs could snap in half at any minute. The kid is obviously a hard hitter and strong football player, but it's hard to imagine that thin body surviving four college football seasons without some durability issues.
- For the most part, the quarterback play wasn't particularly strong for the West team, especially from Zeke Pike, who struggled spinning the football and with his accuracy, throwing one duck downfield to DGB against the air that barely traveled 30 yards in the air when it needed to travel 45.
- Nick Jordan punted for Coppell last season, but doesn't look like a natural punter at this point, as he struggled to drive the football. In comparison, local product Ethan Perry was booming spirals down the field and the TCU commit looked worthy of the scholarship offer he received from the Horned Frogs. At times, he was able to get strong height and distance on his kickoffs, but sometimes left his kicks too flat.
- Didn't see much from Tim Cole, who is definitely on the small side for a linebacker and may be miscast at outside linebacker, but I did see some other reports from people who were impressed with what he did today.
- Trey Williams is every bit as fast and quick in person as he is in film and looks like a strong candidate to find the endzone on Saturday. On one screen pass during team work, he break off a big gain, but lost the football when it was knocked loose by none other than Tim Cole. Williams later jokingly blamed the fumble on the sleeves that he was wearing, noting that he never fears them in games. But he did at least admit that he was making excuses.
- The afternoon session was rather light-hearted, as Banner wore DGB's no. 5 jersey -- which he filled out quite well, exchanging the no. 73 with Green-Beckham, who didn't quite fill it out the same way that Banner does.
- The defensive line went against the offensive line in some 7on7 work, leading to a touchdown catch by Magee that spurred an extended dance from the uncommitted prospect.
- Hearing that Thomas Johnson could take another visit other than his trip to Oregon. Stay tuned on that one.