SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The East passing game got on track a bit on Tuesday in the morning session as Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin began to click, a good sign for the offense. But once again it was the defense that dominated the day led by yet another outstanding performance by linebacker Brandon Spikes as well as defensive tackle Jared Odrick, cornerback Raeshon McNeil and linebacker Micah Johnson. And, as players begin to become more comfortable with each other, some interesting recruiting news begins to surface. It's all right here in the East Notebook from Tuesday.
There's no more important player for the East quarterbacks to click with than Harvin, simply because he's the only wideout who can take a receiver screen and take it to the house. Tebow started to find Harvin Tuesday morning, hitting him on many slants and allowing the nation's top player to use his speed and quick feet to make people miss. Zach Frazer didn't have the same success as he once again struggled with ball control and accuracy. In the afternoon session, both quarterbacks ran the option often, something tailor made for Tebow. Both quarterbacks will get plenty of reps in the game on Saturday, but Tebow is beginning to really separate himself in this offense.
I mentioned that running back Chris Wells trucked an unsuspecting Antwine Perez on Monday in practice and the two were yapping a bit near the end of practice. Perez didn't get his revenge yet and might not, but Spikes struck one for the defense. On a sweep at the goalline, Wells was bottled up and tried to cut back when he ran into a brick wall wearing No. 51 and was sent crashing to the ground to the sound of many "oooohs". Wells was dazed a bit and the defense was whooping it up a bit. On the next play, Wells took a sweep to the opposite side and bowled his way into the end zone.
McNeil was victimized a few times on Monday, once on a fade pass caught by Chris Bell, but he was the best cover corner on the day and made two nice plays on long balls to Vidal Hazelton. Perez has been very solid in coverage deep as well and Myron Rolle is getting under the skin of wide receivers with some clutching off the line. There is quickly becoming a nice bit of animosity between Rolle and some of the wide receivers.
Making A Move
Clifton Geathers was a bit outmatched at offensive tackle on Monday so the staff decided to move him to defensive end, especially with Ricky Sapp seemingly out for the week. Geathers found his groove on Tuesday as a defensive end, giving tackle Sam Young some trouble with his long arms and quickness outside. Geathers seemed to injure his right leg a bit and was limping at the end of practice, but had a much better day.
The offensive line switched a few things around as well and it looks like Young and Andre Smith will be the tackles, Justin Boren will be at left guard and the center and right guard slots are up for grabs. Daniel Wenger is banged up a bit and the center/quarterback exchange between he and Frazer hasn't been smooth. Carl Johnson is better suited at guard, but could rotate in at tackle and guard. Connor Smith and Justin Anderson should also factor at guard.
Big, Fast And Confident
Outspoken leaders begin to emerge after a day or two of practice and, in addition to Spikes and Johnson, Odrick is starting to take on that role. Odrick is playing physical, hustling and leading by example. He's also not afraid to talk it up and his confidence is sky high. The West squad has the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 defensive tackles, but Odrick feels he's right in that company despite being No. 3. He plans to leave San Antonio with that fifth and final star.
As mentioned before, it looks doubtful that Sapp will return, although that was not publically expressed. Defensive tackle Jacques McClendon also did not dress for practice on Tuesday, nursing some sort of leg injury. The same can be said for wide receiver Jarred Fayson, who also looks doubtful to return. Defensive back Steve Brown practiced in the morning but iced his ankle during the afternoon session. Bell seemed to be nursing a groin injury at the end of practice which forced him to sit out and linebacker Jarrell Miller practiced but sat out when 11-on-11 play began. Wenger was also limping quite a bit as was Geathers and everyone on the East admitted to being sore as their first two days of practice were much more physical and grueling than those of the West.
The players are beginning to get to know each other and recruiting is occurring. Committed players are talking to the uncommitted about joining their new program and even those solidly committed are being worked. Tebow is working on Andre Smith for Florida as I mentioned yesterday and A.J. Wallace is hearing from Wells and Connor Smith about Ohio State and Jared Odrick and Chris Bell for Penn State. Perhaps most interestingly, Harvin is getting worked pretty good by current and future USC commitments and one of them told me that his decision isn't final. Take this with a grain of salt as this happens every year down here, but USC isn't giving up on the Virginia Beach stud.
The first few college coaches, from Miami and Nebraska, arrived to take in practice on Tuesday and many more are expected as the week continues. Notre Dame is rumored to be sending all seven assistants down simply because their remaining three targets, Young, Butch Lewis and Gerald McCoy, as well as a ton of their commitments are all in San Antonio. USC is also sending assistants later in the week after the Rose Bowl.
Battle For Big Man
Young confirmed that he has eliminated Florida, which was a surprise to a lot of people. Young said he just felt he wanted to get out of state and experience something new. His USC visit was a great one and he has Notre Dame (Jan. 13), Penn State (Jan. 20) and Michigan (Jan. 27) left. I asked Young about the latest rumor floating around that Penn State was suddenly the team to beat and he didn't deny it while not confirming it either. He simply said he grew up a Penn State fan and loves the Big Ten.
The Loudest Of The Quiet
Guys like Akeem Hebron, Dorin Dickerson and Barry Gallup haven't received much press through the first two days, but each has shown impressive athleticism. Hebron is undersized, but shoots the gap very quickly and made a nice tackle in a goalline drill on Wells. Dickerson is learning a new position on the fly, but is very physical and a very impressive young man to speak with. Gallup has been working hard in preparation, has shown speed and is the only player on either side who delated his hockey season until after the game.