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January 3, 2008
Army QBs: Stealing the spotlight
SAN ANTONIO - Each year at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, one position always seems to steal the spotlight.
When you look at the list of great quarterbacks that have played in San Antonio over the eight-year history of the U.S. Army Bowl, it is easy to understand why that is the position most fans want to discuss.
Terrelle Pryor, Rivals.com's No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2008, will continue the long line of standout quarterbacks to play in the all-star classic when he takes the field at the Alamodome on Saturday afternoon.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is an East vs. West all-star matchup that features 84 of the top high school football players from across the country. The game, which is owned and operated by Sportslink, will be televised live on NBC at 1 p.m. (EST).
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree believes Pryor is a tremendous prospect. However, when naming the top QBs to have played in the game, it's hard for him not to start the conversation with former Texas and current Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, who played in San Antonio for the 2002 game.
"He's the most dominating high school football player I've ever seen, and he went out all week in practice and showed why he was the nation's No. 1 ranked football player," Crabtree said. "He also went there and had a very successful game. You could tell that entire week at the Army Bowl that he was going to be something special."
The list of great quarterbacks that have played in San Antonio during the game's eight year history is impressive. Following Young, Florida national championship quarterback Chris Leak played in the game, as did former Notre Dame starter and first-round draft pick Brady Quinn.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell covered the East practices in 2006, and he never would've guessed Tebow would be a Heisman winner two years later.
"Tebow was OK, but he wasn't running the offense here that he was running at Florida," Farrell said. "They were keeping him in the pocket, they weren't running him as much and it just didn't play to his strengths. We still kept him at five stars because of his potential, but he wasn't outstanding in the game or in practice during the week. Now, he's a Heisman Trophy winner."
One of the major highlights from last year's Army game was seeing Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallett on the same team. Mallett and Clausen battled it out all week in practice, and both had arguably two of the better quarterback performances in the game's history.
It was only fitting in 2007 that Mallett and Clausen made their first collegiate starts against each other on Sept. 15, when Notre Dame traveled to Michigan. Mallett won the game that day 38-0, but there's a chance the two could square off three more times over the course of their college careers.
"Ryan Mallett's arm strength was unbelievable," Crabtree said. "He had the ability to get the ball from point A to point B faster than any quarterback I've ever seen. It was pretty special to see those two square off against each other for their first ever starts this past September. They will no doubt go down as two of the better ones to ever play in this game."
As for this year's crop of quarterbacks, there is a contrast of styles when you compare the East with the West.
The East team arguably has the best compilation of dual-threat quarterbacks in the game's history, led by Pryor.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Pryor is often compared to Young, and Farrell said it's hard to argue the comparison.
"To me, Pryor rivals Vince Young's athletic ability," Farrell said. "Pryor is much bigger than Vince Young was at the same stage. I think he's just as fast. The kid can do anything he wants athletically, and he's 235 pounds.
"Vince Young was not that big at the same stage, so you would expect Vince Young to be a little bit faster or a little bit more athletic. Pryor is a defensive end's size, with the athleticism of a Vince Young."
All three quarterbacks have received elite quarterback instruction over the course of their high school careers, and Farrell said it's pretty easy to see that when you watch them play.
"It's a situation where there are better quarterback coaches out West," Farrell said. "You look at the NFL, and more quarterbacks are successful from California than they are in the East. Those guys out West can throw the ball 365 days a year in outdoor conditions, where you can't do that in the East.
"When you look at all the quarterback gurus out there, they are all from out West. I just think there's better individualized coaching out there."
As for the best ever in Army Bowl history, both Farrell and Crabtree agree that Young is the clear-cut No. 1, but after that it's debatable.
Crabtree likes current USC backup quarterback Mark Sanchez as his No. 2 all-time and Mallett No. 3. Farrell's No. 2 all-time in San Antonio would be Clausen, and he went with Sanchez as his third pick.
Crabtree said it's hard to say if this year's crop of quarterbacks will crack his all-time list in the future, but there's no question in his mind this has been one of the more complete groups in San Antonio.
"It might be tough for these guys to make the immediate impact we've seen from some guys in past years," Crabtree said. "But I think these guys are going to get the chance to make a lasting impact on this game."