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SAN ANTONIO – This is rusty?
Bryce Brown has not played in a game since late October so he said the first couple days of U.S. Army All-American Bowl practice have been a re-adjustment to the field. But the Wichita (Kan.) East star and soft Miami commit has looked dominant in all three practices including Wednesday's intra-squad scrimmage at the Alamodome.
Brown, rated as the best running back and No. 2 prospect in the 2009 class by Rivals.com, has carved through the defense and shown big-play ability.
It was evident on the second-to-last play of the East scrimmage when Brown took the handoff, bounced to the inside and then made a terrific spin move away from linebacker Dorian Bell (Watch it here) before breaking a long run down the sideline. It was the day's best run.
Brown rushed for 1,825 yards and 23 touchdowns on 207 carries in his junior season and is not only a tremendous runner but he can also be used to catch passes out of the backfield which makes him even more dangerous.
Coach Terry Smith said there is "no question" Brown has been the East's best running back – and that's no slight to Clemson commit Roderick McDowell or Kendrick Hardy, who has Southern Miss, Ole Miss and others involved. It's just Brown is that good.
"I haven't played since October so the first practice I was a little winded but as practice went on I started to get my wind back and it started to come back," said Brown, who rushed for 6,809 in his high school career.
"Tuesday's practice, I was playing a lot better than the first practice and I'm still making progress. I'm not as tired as I was so we're looking good so far."
A week here at the Army game also gives Brown, 6 feet and 215 pounds, a brief respite from the seemingly relentless recruiting battle to land his signature.
His brother, Arthur, plays at Miami and he's committed to the Hurricanes but told Rivals.com Sunday that Oregon, where he visited in early November, is still a strong possibility. He's also been to Missouri and Clemson. Brown said Wednesday "nothing is new" in his recruitment.
"I'm happy to be around here not really having to talk too much recruiting," Brown said. "I've put that to the side and I'm here to have fun. It's more about bonding with these guys and having this experience."
Intra-squad scrimmage highlights
Penn State quarterback commit Kevin Newsome made the first big play when he hit North Carolina pledge Joshua Adams, who had separated from cornerback Michael Carter, for a touchdown.
Newsome, from Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy, had another nice touchdown pass later to Virginia Tech commit Logan Thomas, a 6-foot-6 recruit who is playing wide receiver this week.
Thomas used his height to grab the perfectly-placed ball over Carter for the score. Later, Newsome was on the wrong end of a hard hit from linebacker Shayne Skov and was pulled out after looking a little wobbly.
"I'm OK, I could still play," Newsome told the coaches but he did not return.
Georgia quarterback pledge Aaron Murray was sharp. He hit Tennessee commit Je'Ron Stokes on a slant pattern for a nice gain. On the next play, Murray fired a touchdown pass to McDowell. Two plays later, he drilled a pass to Tampa (Fla.) Plant teammate Orson Charles for a big gain down the middle.
Rutgers commit Tom Savage and Tajh Boyd also had a few nice passes. Savage hit Charles and Stokes on back-to-back passes midway through the scrimmage and Boyd's nicest pass was a deep ball to Brown.
There were plenty of nice defensive plays as well. North Carolina defensive end commit Donte Moss stuffed Brown for no gain on a run up the middle and also "sacked" Murray on the scrimmage's final play but contact on the quarterback was not allowed.
Defensive tackle William Campbell recovered a fumble and Florida State safety commit Willie Downs, who was solid all scrimmage, picked off a pass thrown by Boyd.
Scrimmage injury news: Arkansas commit Darius Winston, a five-star cornerback, warmed up but said he was having problems planting on his injured ankle so he did not scrimmage. Winston said he'll probably take it easy until Friday but expects to play in Saturday's game.
Offensive lineman Corey Gaines aggravated a shoulder injury and sat out late in the scrimmage. The Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby standout said he hopes to return Thursday.
Four-star linebacker Jarvis Jones, who has his left hand in a cast after breaking it late in the season, was sidelined late because he said it was bothering him. Seen as a precautionary step, the Columbus (Ga.) Carver prospect is not expected to miss any time.
Simon is a physical presence
Ohio State defensive tackle commit John Simon has that look. You know you don't want to mess with him. His muscles bulge, his neck is thick and he said weight lifting is a good way to relieve stress.
Simon doesn't seem to mess around much – and he's taken that aggression out in practice this week. His max on the bench press is 445 pounds and he once did 48 reps of 225 pounds.
"I enjoy lifting a lot," said Simon, rated as the seventh-best prospect in the Ohio top 80 of 2009. "It's one of my hobbies. It's not everything but it helps a lot. You need the whole package. You need speed, flexibility, smarts, everything put together and you always have to have heart also."
Boyd making most of invite
Josh Boyd said he was sitting in his Philadelphia, Miss., home watching Sportscenter with his brother on Sunday when his phone rang. Not knowing it was an Army game representative, Boyd didn't pick up the first or second time.
Then someone sent a text message and Boyd, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive tackle who is committed to Mississippi State, finally got in touch and heard that he was being invited to play in the Army game. Boyd replaced Seffner (Fla.) Armwood's Ryne Giddins, who's out with injury.
"At first they called and I didn't answer and they called again and I didn't answer and then I got a text and I called them back," Boyd said. "When they told me I was invited I said, 'Shoot, I'm gone.'"
Boyd said at Tuesday's practice that LSU might get a visit and he is considering trips to Alabama and Florida before Signing Day. Rivals.com rates him as the No. 23 defensive tackle nationally, the seventh-best player in the Mississippi top 25 of 2009 and he's a Rivals 250 member.
Appleton still might show up
There is still an outside chance Kraig Appleton will make it to town to announce his college choice. The Illinois commit was expected to be here all week and could announce between Wisconsin and the Fighting Illini at the Army game. Rivals.com rates Appleton as the No. 15 wide receiver nationally and the second-best player in the Illinois top 30 of 2009.