January 1, 2008

Under Armour Notebook: Bowers makes impression

ORLANDO, Fla. - Any of the Silver team's defense starts and ends with one player - defensive end DaQuan Bowers.

"That defensive end, he's something special," said Silver head coach Jim Hanifan. "He'll be ready to start from day one in college. He's already 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds. Once he gets on campus, they're going to turn him into even more of a physical freak."

Bowers, a Clemson commit, gave the Silver offensive linemen fits on Tuesday. Both tackles committed false start penalties as they tried to gain an advantage over the cat-quick defensive end.

While the quarterback was not 'live,' Bowers would have recorded sacks on three consecutive plays on Tuesday morning. On two occasions, he was matched up against four-star Texas commit Mark Buchanan.

In fact, Hanifan sees so much potential in his prize defensive prospect that he did not even stop at projecting Bowers as a freshman starter in college.

"I almost want to take him and put him on an NFL team," said the head coach. "I'd like to see what he could do against some of those offensive linemen. He's just that good and that far along in his development."

To the air

With the glut of receivers on the Silver squad, Hanifan says to expect plenty of passing from his team on Saturday.

"We have a heck of a group of wideouts," he said. "We have a bunch of really solid and smooth route runners. They are all very fundamentally sound and they have great hands. That's the strength of our team."

In fact, after two full days of practice, the Silver team has yet to truly spend much time working on the running game. Again, Hanifan has a reason for that.

"This is an all-star game," he said. "In all-star games, you want to showcase your skill guys. Nobody wants to watch two teams bruise it out. If you combine that with the fact that there's a likely mismatch with our offensive line against their defensive line, we are probably going to struggle with the run anyway.

"That's another great thing about having a guy at quarterback like E.J. Manuel. It's his God-given ability to tuck the ball and run with it. If the defensive line gets a lot of pressure, he can take off and he's going to get his yards."

Depth concerns on the front four

Although the Silver squad has an extremely talented end in Bowers, it will likely suffer from a lack of depth along the defensive front. With only six linemen on the roster, there will not be much time for any of the players to get an extended rest.

"That's just how things work out sometimes," Hanifan said. "You've got to go with what your roster gives you. We only have six linemen so they are going to have to all get a lot of reps."

With Bowers and Stanford commit Chase Thomas as the only true defensive end prospects on the roster, Hanifan and the rest of his coaching staff are having to get creative with the rotations.

Both Texas A&M commit Rod Davis, at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, and uncommitted four-star prospect Brandon Thompson, at 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, are spending time between tackle and end.

The rotation is nothing new for Davis, who plays on the outside in his high school's 4-3 defense. Thompson has not had problems making the adjustment either. He is one of the most physically gifted big men on either roster.

Mississippi State commit Templeton Hardy and Colorado commit Curtis Cunningham have both played exclusively in the middle over the first two days of practice. However, with depth an issue throughout the game, either player could also end up seeing time on the outside before all is said and done.

Advantage at tight end?

Expect the tight ends for the Silver team to provide big mismatches against the Red defenders. There are two solid players on the roster who both bring different skill sets to the table.

USC commit Blake Ayles is an athletic specimen at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds. He possesses speed as well as tremendous hands and has been a star of the first two days of practice.

"That's another guy that I'm quite fond of as a player," Hanifan said of Ayles. "He's definitely going to make an impact on Saturday but we'll also be hearing about him impacting games every Saturday for the next four or five years."

The Silver defensive backs, who have a bit of a size advantage on their Red team counterparts, have had no answer for Ayles, so expect Ayles to be a big part of the game plan.

As a change of pace, the Silver squad will also go with Georgia commit Dwayne Allen at tight end. Allen is thicker than Ayles and is a slightly better blocker.

However, the Red team cannot take him lightly as a receiver.

Allen proved to be one of the favorite targets of all three quarterbacks during seven-on-seven drills Tuesday. While he may not end up with many yards after the catch, the big tight end has soft hands and is not prone to drop many balls.

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