SAN ANTONIO - West head coach Bob Jones has a lot of different weapons he can use on offense, but the only problem is finding a role that each one can play.
One player that looks like he'll have a big role in Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl is Anaheim (Calif.) Servite wide receiver D.J. Shoemate.
Jones used Shoemate in an all-purpose type role on Monday where worked as both a slot receiver and even at times as a running back.
"This role is perfect for me," the USC commit said following Monday's practice. "I play a similar role like this in high school, so I'm real familiar with it. Overall it's really good."
As for breaking down the West's three quarterbacks, the five-star Shoemate wouldn't pick any favorites, but he gave his analysis of each one following the first day of practice.
Shoemate on Andrew Luck
"He's very precise. He has very good accuracy. He's a very verbal leader and he's a competitive guy."
On Dayne Crist
"He throws hard balls and he's very precise with good accuracy. He puts good power on the ball and he throws a tight spiral. It's a real easy ball to catch from him. I just feel real comfortable being around him knowing we both grew up in Southern California. We just have a lot of things we can relate to."
"Gabbert is a good guy. He's a real cool guy and I talked to him a couple of times before we even got to San Antonio. He just seems like a really good guy and I felt a really strong chemistry with him."
Another player that really opened Shoemate's eyes in day one of practice was Cypress (Texas) Cy-Fair running back Sam McGuffie.
What Shoemate likes about McGuffie is just the overall swagger he carries himself with on and off the field.
"I've seen him catch a ball and then do a front flip just to show off," Shoemate said. "He does a lot of stuff like that, just cool things like that.
"We call him the 'circus act' because you never know what you're going to get on the next play. He's phenomenal. He has that swagger. He's got something to him and he lets you know when he gets the ball in his hands, he's going to do something with it."
Givens and Owens slowed with injury
There are two injuries that happened during Monday's practice that could potentially keep both Denver (Colo.) Mullen offensive lineman Bryce Givens and Muskogee (Okla.) wide receiver Jameel Owens out of Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Jones said following Monday's practice that Givens may have broken his hand and Owens has been slowed by a hip injury.
Givens walked off the field on Monday afternoon with a cast around his hand and all signs point to him being out for Saturday's game.
"I don't know what's going to happen with Bryce," Jones said. "It looks like we're going to have to bring another guy in—it will probably be a kid from around here in the San Antonio area.
"We may also have to do something with Jameel Owens. He's got a hip injury, and if that's the case, we're looking at another kid to maybe get him in here. That's a shame for both those kids, because Jameel is an unbelievable talent, as is Bryce. We'll do what we'll have to do."
The Army officials were already working on potential replacements for Givens and Owens following Monday's practice.
Golden gets some help from the pros
Before Fresno (Calif.) Edison cornerback and Arizona commit Robert Golden got on the bus this morning to head to practice, he received a pretty special call on his cell phone.
Golden said Chicago Bear cornerback and former Edison product Ricky Manning called him just to wish him luck at practice this week. The two train together during the off-season, so it meant a lot to Golden when he heard from Manning this morning.
Whatever Manning said to Golden on the phone, it must have worked, as he was no doubt one of the bigger standouts from day one of practice. Golden's two interceptions were easily two of the better individual plays made during practice.
"I talked with Ricky Manning this morning before practice and he told me to go out represent," Golden said. "I train with him when he gets done with his season. He comes back to the high school and works out with me.
"I also work out with Brandon Breazell of UCLA and Bernard Hicks of Cal—they all come back to Edison and work out with me. Those guys really help me out as well."
One of the toughest things for players to do in San Antonio is adjust to the overall speed of the game. But for Golden, working out with players like Manning, Breazell and Hicks appeared to make that transition much easier for him on Monday.
"I prefer bump coverage and then I like to disguise it with a cover three," Golden said. "I bump a lot at my high school. It's all about having technique.
"I faced a lot of aggressive receivers today. So I had to get aggressive back. I came up on a few picks and made a lot of pass deflections. I had a pretty good day today."
Gabbert shakes off rust
For Parkway (Mo.) West quarterback and Missouri commit Blaine Gabbert, it's been quite a while since the last time he's thrown a football in live competition.
Gabbert missed most of his senior season with a dislocated shoulder, and Monday's practice in San Antonio was the first time he took part in live competition since the injury. Gabbert said following Monday's practice that he was pleased with his opening day performance.
"It was good just to get back in the swing of things," Gabbert said. "It was the first time I really took a snap or a drop. It just felt good to throw to some receivers, it's been the longest time since I've done that. It's fun to adjust to the speed of the game and be with all these great guys."
The biggest adjustment for Gabbert on Monday was getting used to the fact that on a lot of plays most of the receivers are going to be covered, because of the talent level in the Army Bowl.
"The overall athleticism of everybody is crazy," Gabbert said. "The speed of the game is insane compared to what I've played against. It took a while to adjust for me in the first practice during the first couple of series. Then in the second practice, I felt fine."
Steinkuhler has quick first step
Watching Nebraska commit and Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest standout Baker Steinkuhler on Monday, it was clear why he's considered one of the nation's best lineman prospects.
Steinkuhler typically plays offensive line, but this week in San Antonio, the 6-foot-6, 290 pounder has been working at defensive tackle. What really stood out Monday was Steinkuhler's quick first step off the line of scrimmage.
"I just think it's because I'm quicker than most guys my size," Steinkuhler said when asked about his first step. "I don't think it really has to do with anything else other than quickness. I just try to get off the ball."
One player that impressed Steinkuhler during one-on-one work on Monday was Oklahoma commit and Argyle (Texas) Liberty Christian offensive lineman Ben Habern.
"I got beat a couple times, but then I beat guys a few times," Steinkuhler said. "That's going to happen when you have this high level of competition."
Jones pleased with first day
Even though the West has only been through one day of practice, Jones said he was very happy with what he saw from his team during their morning and afternoon practice sessions.
"You didn't see any deer in the headlights," Jones said. "Sometimes you do though, and a kid might think he doesn't belong here, but I didn't see any of that."
Instead of coming out in full pads right away on Monday morning, Jones elected to have two half-padded practices on Monday to get his team acclimated for the rest of the week.
In past years, some coaches have gone full pads right away, but Jones said for the rest of week he'll only have his team go full pads in the morning and half pads in the afternoon.
"It's a little cooler in the morning, so that will cover their legs," Jones said. "Then in the afternoon, we'll take the pads off them. We're not doing any low blocking stuff, so it's not really a big deal. If you talk to most NFL teams, they don't ever put lowers on."
• Texas commit and Denver (Colo.) Mullen defensive back Nolan Brewster had an interception during seven-on-seven off a ball that bounced off the shoulder pads of Covaughn DeBoskie.
• Golden, McGuffie, along with Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure running back Darrell Scott, Gilmer (Texas) running back Justin Johnson, Angleton (Texas) defensive back D.J. Monroe and Austin (Texas) McNeil defensive back Aaron Williams worked as the West kick return specialists on Monday.
• Both of Golden's interceptions came off Luck during seven-on-seven drills.
• USC commit Wes Horton also had a big day and was a force on the defensive line with Steinkuhler.
• Before Givens got hurt, he did make a great block on the edge that let Johnson break off a big run during Monday's team scrimmage session.
• The West team will hold two practices again on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio.