SAN ANTONIO - The 2008 U.S. Army All American Bowl is, as always, a matchup of the best high school football talent in the United States.
While the East and the West squads are loaded with dynamic playmakers and dominating big men, one team has to have an edge. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell takes a look at which squad looks the best on paper.
With most teams, it all starts with the quarterbacks - which gives the East squad the advantage. In an all-star game with limited practice time, having athletic quarterbacks who can improvise and make plays with their feet is always a huge plus.
Led by the nation's No. 1 player, Jeannette, Pa., star Terrelle Pryor, the East offense will be dangerous even if protection breaks down. East QBs MarQueis Gray and Star Jackson can also move around well if needed. Dayne Crist, Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck certainly aren't slouches when it comes to playmaking. In fact, they are arguably the better trio when it comes to pure passing, but Pryor is so dynamic he could dominate even a stout defense.
Each set of quarterbacks will have some impressive receivers with which to work, but the East has the edge overall when it comes to receivers and tight ends. DeAndre Brown has emerged as one of the fastest-rising prospects in the nation, and no one runs better routes than DeVier Posey.
However, it's the dual-threat of tight ends Jonathan Baldwin and Kyle Rudolph that makes the East so dangerous. Each can line up in the slot - or even on the outside – to create big-time mismatches.
The West counters with Jameel Owens and tight end Kavario Middleton, but the East has better depth in the passing game.
The West squad should have the advantage in the running game. The team features the nation's best back in Darrell Scott and a strong offensive line led by tackle Matt Kalil and a now-healthy Stephen Good. The apparent loss of Kyle Long and Matt Patchan could hurt the East's front five.
On the defensive side of things, both squads boast impressive defensive lines. The West has quicker pass rushers, led by R.J. Washington, but lacks size on the inside.
The East is loaded up the middle with defensive tackles Marcus Forston and DeAngelo Tyson, who rank No. 1 and No. 2 respectively at their position. However, outside pass rushers seem to do more damage in games like this, so watch out for the West if they can contain the speedy East quarterbacks.
The East had the clear edge at linebacker. Both Brendan Beal and Nigel Bradham have excellent size and are strong at the point of attack. William Green and Marcus Robinson are fast off the edge. The West has two big hitters in Arthur Brown and Lynn Katoa, who will be all over the field. However, there's not as much depth or size on the West roster.
Finally, each team is loaded in the defensive backfield. The East has the nation's top cornerback in Patrick Johnson, while the West boasts the top safety in Aaron Williams. The East had the edge at corner, but it could be suspect up the middle. It appears that the West is more balanced overall in the secondary.
So what do we make of this mix of talent? It seems that the strengths of the West squad – the outside pass rush, running game and depth in the secondary – are all countered well by the East.
The East has quarterbacks mobile enough to escape a heavy pass rush, they have strong interior defensive linemen who can let their talented linebackers roam free and make plays, and they are loaded at wide receiver and tight end.
Team chemistry and coaching will also play large roles in this game as it does every year, but on paper it looks like the East squad has the edge in many of the key matchups.