December 11, 2007

Shrine Bowl Notebook: Tuesday morning heat

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - During the first day of practice at Dorman High School at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, coaches, scouts and media steadily found themselves migrating to the South Carolina side of the practice fields. The practice plan for the Southern squad entailed a steady dose of full speed, full contact drills that allowed the players to show what they could do in a competitive setting.

On the neighboring practice field, North Carolina's coaches spent all day Monday working on special teams, teaching gameplans and putting the players through multiple repetitions on air. However, Tuesday morning the tempo picked up on the Northern side and visiting coaches sniffed it out immediately.

The crunching of pads perked up some ears when the North Carolina linemen began doing one-on-one drive blocking drills against each other. There was no hiding in the drill which pitted one offensive lineman against one defensive lineman in a simple battle to see who could move who.

The star of the high-intensity drill was a player that may be an unknown on the national recruiting scene but showed that he has a lot to offer and may see some scholarship offers in turn. Allen Crowder of Mebane (N.C.) Eastern Almanac was an animal on the defensive side of the ball. It didn't matter which offensive lineman Crowder went up against, he would drive them backwards.

Undersized at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Crowder uses good leverage and phenomenal strength to beat much bigger competitors. His build and power makes sense considering his family background. His father is a body builder and owns a gym and has had Crowder lifting weights since he was eight years old.

Crowder enjoyed the early morning hitting and the opportunity to open some eyes.

"It was fun that's what I love about football," Crowder said. "That's the best thing I've got is strength and speed. Compared to some of these guys, defensive line-wise, I'm about 40-pounds less than most of them but I'm solid and don't get moved back.

The strongside defensive end benches over 400 pounds, squats over 500 pounds and consistently does sets of five power cleaning at 315 pounds. He holds offers from ECU, South Carolina and Buffalo but if he continues to perform like he did on Tuesday morning, that list may change.

One-on-One stars: Crowder wasn't the only player that stood out in the morning one-on-one drills for North Carolina. Jonathan Cooper has been playing both offensive line and defensive tackle and has been excelling at both. Cooper has good quick feet, an explosive burst and good size at 6-3, 305. Playing offense in the drive blocking drill, Cooper was one of the most impressive competitors.

R.J. Mattes continues to impress on the offensive line as well. The uncommitted offensive tackle has been the most steady and complete offensive lineman on the North Carolina team. He has showed good feet and balance on pass blocking and showed that he has a nasty streak in him on the run blocking.

One of the more intriguing prospects, Nick Becton struggled at times during the run block drill. He wasn't as physical as he needs to be and he struggled to keep his pad level low, but on the pass protection one-on-ones he reminded coaches why he has so much potential. He showed great quickness and footwork and continues to look like a tackle prospect with loads of upside.

Just visiting

Over the first two days of practice, the fields at Dorman high school have seen hords of high school coaches, college coaches, media personnel and general spectators come through. Just a small sample of some of the schools that have had representatives observing the workouts include: Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, South Carolina, Clemson, UNC, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia and Illinois.

A few of the more notable coaches spotted scouting the practices were newly hired Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, Penn State ace recruiter Larry Johnson and Kentucky's Joker Phillips.

On hand to observe the Monday session was two Clemson commits that are two years apart. Stanley Hunter, originally out of Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes high school was taking in the drills on Monday morning. Hunter is a three-star 2007 commit who that sat out of school this fall to get his grades in order. He will enroll at Clemson this winter.

On Monday afternoon, 2009 Clemson commit J.K. Jay got a preview of an event that he will likely be taking part in following his senior season next year. Jay, missed all of his junior year with an injury but is expected to be one of the top offensive linemen in the country for the class of 2009.

South Carolina Tidbits

  • Sterling Lucas and Tony Mack proved that Monday's emergence was no fluke on Tuesday. Both players again had strong days as Lucas continues to be a force from his linebacker position and Mack continues to defend the deep ball well from his cornerback spot while still showing good reactions to the quick game.

  • Daquan Bowers sat out most of Tuesday after suffering what he thought was a stinger during the morning session. The injury does not look to be serious and Bowers still dressed out for the afternoon session but avoided any contact. He is expected to play on Saturday.

  • Kenneth Page has continued to show good footwork on the offensive line. Already well-known on the recruiting circuit, Page is having a strong week of practice.

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