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December 29, 2008MORE: U.S. Army AA Bowl coverage | Practice Galleries: East | West | More all-star coverage
SAN ANTONIO - The smallest wide receiver on the East squad had the biggest impact during Monday's opening practice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. On a team filled with tall receivers, it was Michigan commit Jeremy Gallon, a 5-foot-8 dynamo, who was the most productive during team drills.
"He's electric," East coach Terry Smith said. "He's very shifty, very athletic. We're trying to get some plays to get some space for him to let him do what he does best."
The Apopka (Fla.) High four-star receiver caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Georgia quarterback commit Aaron Murray during 11-on-11 (Watch it here), and then the duo connected again later during the drills on another long completion.
"I'm real comfortable because I want to be one-on-one with the linebacker and I know what I can do when that happens," said Gallon, who has scheduled his official visit to Michigan for Jan. 9.
"He's good," wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes said. "They have him in the slot and the way our offense is run I might want to go to the slot. He's getting a lot of passes thrown his way. He's doing a great job. The thing is they have a receiver lined up on the linebacker. That's a mismatch right there."
Gallon was the most productive but not the only receiver who made big plays during practice. Tampa (Fla.) Plant athlete Orson Charles was used in the slot and is capable of breaking big plays. Charles was the most talkative player on the field, especially early in practice.
"He's a fun-spirited guy," Smith said. "He comes out, he enjoys the game, he plays hard and he's going to enjoy his time out here. This is a grueling game and you better enjoy it while you can."
Stokes opened the 7-on-7 session with a catch, North Carolina pledge Joshua Adams and Virginia Tech commit Logan Thomas, who was split out as a wide receiver, also had receptions. Adams had the catch of the day even though it was out of bounds when Murray lofted a ball to the back corner of the end zone and Adams dove to catch it with only his left hand.
Murray, who helped lead Plant to the state championship after breaking his left fibula and dislocating his left ankle in mid-October, was the East's best quarterback. Murray had touch on his passes, fired the ball down the middle and rarely missed a receiver. He's rated as the third-best, pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com.
"He's got a terrific arm, strong arm, made some good throws in the seam and good throws over the top to Gallon," Smith said. "He's still a little bit sore with his ankle, but his arm isn't sore. His arm looked really good."
Five-star Miami commit Bryce Brown, the top running back in the country and the No. 2 prospect in the class behind Rueben Randle, was electric at times. The first two plays - both runs − during team drills went to Brown for decent gains and then he broke free for a touchdown run later when he maneuvered through the line and outran everybody to the end zone. (Watch it here)
Motta will move to linebacker
Notre Dame commit Zeke Motta played safety during practice but Smith said the Vero Beach (Fla.) prospect will move to linebacker when players absent from the workout get to town. Motta, who confirmed the information after practice, has played safety, but he is 6 feet 2 and 207 pounds and earned the nickname "Baby Hercules" at the Football University Camp this past summer.
"Once we get the DBs back we're going to move him back to linebacker," Smith said. "We're just short on numbers because these guys aren't here yet. There are seven players out but four of them are defensive backs. You're talking about a whole secondary."
Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely's Michael Carter, Louisville (Ky.) Male's Justin Green and Lauderhill (Fla.) Plantation's Brandon McGee were not at Monday's practice because of travel issues. All are cornerbacks. Cartersville (Ga.) safety Donavan Tate is out because of injury.
East St. Louis (Ill.) wide receiver Kraig Appleton, Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt offensive lineman Xavier Nixon and Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby teammates Willie Downs and Corey Gaines also had travel problems. Smith expects all of them at Tuesday's practice.
Injuries, bumps and bruises on East team
Michigan State running back pledge Edwin Baker is out this week and said he could be sidelined for a "couple months" with a slight tear in the posterior cruciate ligament of his left knee. Baker, who said no surgery is required, was injured during a horse-collar tackle in a game this season. Rivals.com rates him as the fifth-best running back nationally.
Ohio State commit Corey Brown, who's playing wide receiver this week, was injured early in practice when he caught a pass across the middle and then was tackled hard and landed awkwardly on the turf.
Brown said he tweaked his lower back and walked gingerly for the rest of practice. He was involved in some drills during a light afternoon session when the players wore helmets but no pads.
"He took a good shot there," said Smith, who was Brown's coach at Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway. "He caught a good ball in the seam and took a shot in the back, got a little knot. We'll play that by ear and try to get him healthy for later in the week."
North Carolina defensive end commit Donte Moss has a bruised right knee that he sustained in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and had it wrapped at practice, but he said it is only precautionary and he won't miss any time. He was involved in all of Monday's drills.
Moss is an athletic, 6-4, 235-pound recruit who said he has a 41-inch vertical leap and can dunk a basketball with two hands. He first dunked as a seventh-grader when he was 5-11.
Turner, Winston have strong first day
Michigan commit Justin Turner was at cornerback and even surprised himself with his strong performance after not stepping on the field since his Massillon (Ohio) Washington team lost in the playoffs on Nov. 1. Turner is rated as the third-best safety in the 2009 class but moved to corner because of the missing players.
"I haven't touched the field since we lost in the playoffs so I'm very surprised with what I did," Turner said. "All the great athletes and coaches out there watching, you can't get beat. You don't want to get beat. That was my first time on the field since we lost. I've been lifting. I feel good."
On the other side was Arkansas pledge Darius Winston, who picked off a pass during team drills (Watch it here) and did not get beat in coverage all practice. The five-star cornerback, rated third at his position, backed up his ranking on the first day.
"He's lockdown," Smith said. "As we're calling plays and we're trying to get success we're trying to pick matchups and that's not a good matchup. Hopefully he'll be ready for the kid from Louisiana [Randle]."