January 9, 2010

2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl Preview

Penn State has been not-so-quietly putting together its best recruiting class since a boy named LaVar wore No. 11 more than a decade ago.

The decade since then has been a memorable one, to say the least, including reasons not so pleasant: Four losing seasons for Penn State, the SEC's rise to faux-dominance, the nation's economy tanking, 9-frickin'-11!

But the last 10 years has also brought us the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Since 2001, this high school all-star competition has been a pleasant escape for those of us suffering through the first stages of college football withdrawal following the BCS Championship Game. For most red-blooded Americans (read:college football fans), the game offers up a first glimpse at which future studs we may soon find on the college football field; it also makes for viewing pleasure that has you watching your back door for Chris Hansen and a film crew.

This year's Bowl roster may very well be the most PSU verbal-heavy group ever: Five commits will be on display today (1 p.m. ET, NBC), all of them on the East squad. It's also within your best interest that you get to know them now so you can properly yell at your TV if they don't put up Xbox360-type of numbers.

Verbally Committed to Penn State:

Paul Jones, QB (Rivals/Scout/ESPN) - Jones is a pocket passer that has great arm strength and touch for the deep ball, as well as the zip to complete balls across the middle. He is consistently accurate with his throws from both the pocket and on the run. He has the versatility and speed to improvise and make a something happen when the play breaks down. As a sophomore he threw for 1,866 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a junior, he threw for 2,020 yards and 24 scores. Selection Committee Quote: “Jones is a big, athletic quarterback with a cannon of an arm. His strength is being a threat with his arm and his legs and he is a good decision maker and knows when to tuck and run.”

Tim's Take: He may not have thrown a collegiate pass yet but move on over anyway Kerry Collins, because this guy features the strongest passing arm EVER. Also, if you believe everything you read on the internets, he reminds scouts of Donovan McNabb. Admittedly though, scouts can't fully compare the two players until Paul has thrown a few ill-advised passes and the fans immediately clamor for the backup QB.

Silas Redd, RB (Rivals/Scout/ESPN) - Redd’s good speed, toughness and agility have helped him dominate opponents. He has the ability to bounce it outside, using lateral quickness to beat defenders to the corner. His low center of gravity helps him to stay balanced when getting hit by defenders. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,261 yards. He broke out further during his junior season, rushing for 1,356 and 15 touchdowns with 11.3 yards per carry average. Selection Committee Quote: “Impressive vision, balance and surprising strength. An elusive back who is hard to grab with great, great vision. He can cut on a dime and has very strong legs.”

Tim's Take: Described as a very fast, elusive, runner who is "almost impossible to get a solid hit on." Perhaps after watching this video of him laying down some serious smack-talk on the West squad, you can add "somebody you would want by your side in an alley fight" to his list of attributes.

Zach Zwinak, FB (Rivals/Scout/ESPN) - Zwinak plays hard nose football, and his run-stopping ability is superb. His surprising speed and quickness for his size enable him to run down ball carriers. As a pass defender, he has great vision and ability to break on the ball. As a sophomore, he recorded 41 tackles (eight for losses). His junior year, he improved with 53 tackles (11 for losses), five sacks and three picks. Selection Committee Quote: “Zwinak is a big, physical linebacker who could also be an oversized running back in college. Zwinak loves to hit and is very physical on either side of the ball.”

Tim: The only thing more intriguing than the fact he's the #1-rated fullback with superb blocking ability is what lame nickname fans will try to annoint him with: 'Double-Z?' 'ZZ Top?' 'World's Strongest Ginger?'

Khairi Fortt, LB (Rivals/Scout/ESPN) - With his height, big build and overall strength, Fortt excels at shedding blockers and finding the ball. He has the ability to cover from sideline to sideline with his good lateral movement and has long legs to quickly pick up ground. He displays good fundamental tackling, bringing his hips with him and exploding through the ball carrier. As a junior, he registered 118 tackles, four interceptions and five forced fumbles. Selection Committee Quote: “He uses his hands well to get off blockers, works through traffic, plays the game on his feet, is fluid when dropping back into the passing lanes, and does an excellent job of reading quarterbacks. He is an effort guy and a very effective pass rusher”

Tim's Take: More Internet daydreaming: Some on the PSU boards are already labeling this guy the next LaVar Arrington as far as pure talent goes. Khairi also has an inner rocket scientist him as he plans to major in aerospace engineering. Expect most of his engineering work though to be done in the form of measuring the velocity and force of his bone-crunching hits on opposing players.

Mike Hull, LB (Rivals/Scout/ESPN) - Hull plays the game with aggression and a great motor. He always seems to be around the ball when the whistle blows, and uses his lateral quickness to scrape down the line and stretch out the play. In coverage, he has the agility to stick the inside receivers, and uses good ball skills to find the ball and knock it down. Staring since his freshman year, he has recorded over 100 tackles in each season of his prep career. Selection Committee Quote: “A special player who runs better than most of the nation’s top linebackers. He is an instinctive and hardworking defender who uses his hands well and who can get to the ball in a hurry.”

Tim's Take: No relation to Josh Hull. Scout.com lists his positives as Hitting Ability, Strength, Instincts, and Toughness. His areas for improvement? You guessed it - Facial Hair.

Strongly considering Penn State:

Marcus Lattimore, RB (Rivals/Scout/ESPN) - Lattimore has good speed and lateral quickness for a big back, which makes it hard for defenders to get a good angle on him. He is a patient runner, setting up his blocks and then darting into the secondary. He has great vision, which allows him to come of blocks and break some big runs. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,900 yards; as a junior, he rushed for 2,314 yards and 30 touchdowns. Selection Committee Quote: “A big power back that will wear the defense out, come the fourth quarter. He’s the type guy that you can feed the ball to 30 times a game and know you’ll get production every single time.”

Here are some former and current Nittany Lions who were invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl (since 2001): Levi Brown, Dan Connor, Jerome Hayes, Justin King, Derrick Williams, Maurice Evans, Jared Odrick, A.J. Wallace, Stefen Wisniewski, and Michael Mauti.

The five committed recruits playing this year will be the most ever from any Penn State class.

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