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SAN ANTONIO - When you're the best, you tend to stand out.
That's why the U.S. Army All-American Bowl announced on Friday the first 19 All-Americans for the 2011 game - almost 12 months before next year's game kicks off.
"The first selections for the bowl always set the tone for each and every edition of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl," said Doug Berman, chairman of SportsLink, the founder of the game.
"For For 10 years, the bowl has been the nation's premier showcase for high school football. This past year, we had seven alumni from the bowl named to the Pro Bowl. In the spring, eight alumni of All-American Bowl were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Every year, the talent in the bowl continues to get more and more impressive."
The first 19 athletes have been tabbed by a blue-ribbon selection committee, which includes Rivals.com recruiting analysts, and they represent the very best in high school football for the 2010 season.
While it's a year before the game, it was easy to nominate these elite players.
The lone quarterback selected early on is Braxton Miller of Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder has been one of Ohio's top prospects ever since his freshman season. He already has a slew of scholarship offers from programs like Ohio State, Alabama, Cincinnati, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin and others.
"His arm strength and agility help him stand out," Rivals.com analyst Greg Ladky said. "Miller can really sling it down the field. He makes good decisions about when to run and abandon trying to make a pass. When he does run, he is electric."
At running back Isaiah Crowell of Columbus (Ga.) Carver, Aaron Green of San Antonio James Madison and Kenny Hilliard of Patterson, La., were early selections. All three will be among the nation's most highly ranked prospects in next year's classes and schools from coast-to-coast have already offered them.
"When you think about the top running backs in the 2011 class, these guys all jump out to me right away," Rivals.com analyst Barry Every said. "They're a special group and definitely deserved to be Army All-Americans.
"Crowell has terrific feet, accelerates well while maintaining control and can cut on a dime. He makes sharp, decisive cuts and is efficient with the ball in his hands. Green has been dominating against good competition in high school football in San Antonio for years. He's got a solid frame and really knows how to find the end zone. Hilliard looks to be one of the most complete running backs to come out of Louisiana in a while."
The receiver and tight end class in 2011 looks to be special and the nation's best group has already decided to join the Army roster. Headlined by George Farmer of Gardena (Calif.) Serra, Jarvis Landry of Lutcher, La., Charone Peake of Robebuck (S.C.) Dorman, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Gig Harbor, Wash., and Nick O'Leary of West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer.
"George Farmer has been one of the most dominating players in California for years, and some out there on the West Coast think he's the best player, even in this year's group," Every said. "Landry runs incredibly crisp routes with explosive smooth cuts. When he comes out of his cuts and the ball is thrown, his ability to snatch the ball out of the air and catch naturally with his hands is unparalleled.
"I saw Peake in the state championship game a few weeks back, and he was one very impressive. I think his stock will definitely heat up as more people find out about him. Both Seferian-Jenkins and O'Leary are great, but when I saw Sefarian-Jenkins early in the season, it was clear right away he will be one of the best in the country."
The offensive line is led by La'El Collins of Baton Rouge (La.) Redemptorist, Matthew Hegarty of Aztec, N.M., Cyrus Kouandjio of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha and Christian Westerman. The group easily represents some of the most heavily recruited players in the 2011 class, especially Westerman, who has been a household name in Arizona for the past two years.
At defensive line two defensive ends and one d-tackle were early selections. Ray Drew of Thomasville (Ga.) Thomas County and Anthony Johnson of New Orleans O.P. Walker were the first defensive ends to make the roster. The lone early defensive tackle selected was Gabriel Wright of Columbus (Ga.) Carver.
"There will be some tough choices with the rest of the offensive line and defensive line groups because the 2011 class looks solid at both spots, but these guys represent the best of the best," Every said.
The last early selections came at the linebacker spot with Curtis Grant of Richmond (Va.) Hermitage, Colt Lyerla of Hillsboro, Ore., and James Wilder Jr. of Tampa Plant. No defensive backs were named to the first release of the Army roster.
"Colt will remind some people of Brian Cushing out of high school, but he may be more athletic," Every said. "Wilder really gets to the football in a hurry. He's also aggressive and plays with a good motor."
Throughout the past decade, the Army Bowl has featured the nation's most elite football players and honored more than 300 of the most committed Soldier Heroes.
In addition to more than 400 NCAA athletes, the game has more than 90 alumni currently playing in the NFL.