It was an exciting morning for a select few of the nation's elite football players. Monday marked the beginning of practice for the 2009 Army All-Americans. Of course, with rosters full of talented prospects, there were standouts on both sides of the football. One prospect in particular stole the show during both of the West squad's Monday practice sessions. Orangebloods.com was on hand for both sessions, and here is the West team's top 12:
1. Ronald Powell - DE, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds (Moreno Valley, CA - Rancho Verde)
Wow. Powell stole the show Monday, and it was clear right away that the five-star defensive end is for real. The nation's No. 5 player could not be stopped during any practice session-that includes one-one-one and team scrimmages. The California native showed a great first step, burst, and explosion out of his stance. I can count on one hand the amount of times Powell was, "stopped," and I don't I even think I need all my fingers. Oh, and that includes a few battles with the nation's top prospect Seantrel Henderson. When an offensive tackle was able to get Powell engaged, the standout athlete flashed an impressive swim move, and showed the ability to use his hands effectively. Not only was the five-star great from a football sense, but he was a leader for the West defense. Throughout practice, the 6-foot-4 pass rusher was constantly talking, was fired up, and encouraging his teammates. Don't expect Powell to take plays off. He never wanted to leave the field, and showed a motor that doesn't quit when he chased down a ball carrier all the way from the other side of the field. If I'm ranking prospects, Powell is my number one player in the nation.
2. Robert Woods - ATH, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds (Gardena, CA - Serra) USC commitment
Woods could serve as the definition for "fluid athlete." During Monday's session, the USC commit showed off his great balance, body control, and route running ability. The nation's No. 3 player is one of those rare finds that doesn't slow down going in and out of cuts. Plus, he's got an extra gear that not many players have. That extra gear allowed him to beat a defender down the sideline, and haul in a 60 yard touchdown during 7-on-7 work. I can't recall an instance when it appeared like the five-star wanted to fight the football, and he did an excellent job of going out and getting the pigskin with his hands. Trying to cover Woods man-to-man could lead to six for the offense at any moment.
3. Ricky Heimuli - DT, 6-foot-4, 280 pounds (Salt Lake City, UT - Brighton)
Throughout Monday, the West defensive line wreaked havoc constantly. One of the reasons why was the interior play of guys like Heimuli. The Rivals100 member showed superior strength, and bull rushed his way right through the interior of the offensive line frequently. The Utah native made it a habit of causing problems in the backfield, and showed a great motor. He didn't show a lot of pass moves because, well, he didn't exactly need to. The 6-foot-4 tackle was a force in both the pass game, and the run game.
4. Owamagbe Odighizuwa - DE, 6-foot-3, 234 pounds (Portland, OR - David Douglas)
Let's just say that Odighizuwa delivered a swift reality check to Seantrel Henderson. The five-star pass rusher blew right by Henderson during Monday's first one-on-one rep with a nice inside speed rush that put the nation's top prospect on the turf. Then, the Oregon native followed that right up with a quick bull rush right by Henderson. The nation's No. 20 prospect has a great lower half, and is very quick out of his stance. Like Powell, Reggie Wilson, and a majority of the West defensive line; Odighizuwa didn't take plays off. He put pressure on the quarterback multiple times during team scrimmage session, and also fared well against the run.
5. Reggie Wilson - DE, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds (Haltom, TX - Haltom) Texas commitment
Honestly, I bounced back and forth between Wilson and Odighizuwa when putting together this list. Both had impressive Monday practice sessions, and I give the slight nod to Odighizuwa because of his great reps against Henderson. However, Wilson was just as disruptive. A lot has been made recently about his size, and I'd say that the Longhorn commit is closer to 6-foot-2. Still, that doesn't stop him from being a force. Wilson reminds me of former Florida State All-American, and current Carolina Panther Everette Brown. Monday, Wilson flashed excellent leverage, an explosive first step, and great speed around the edge. Against offensive tackles, Wilson used a shoulder dip and a speed rush that Brown became famous for at FSU. I counted at least four times when Wilson could have put a hit on a quarterback during team scrimmage session for a possible sack. He forced pockets to collapse with his speed of his edge. On one play, Wilson recognized the three step drop protection, sat back, and jumped up into the passing lane just missing a pass break up. Overall, the nation's No. 24 prospect was very impressive. The only rep he'll want to forget is when Henderson caught him in between moves, and proceeded to put him on his butt.
6. Dillon Baxter - RB/WR, 5-foot-11, 187 pounds (San Diego, CA - Mission Bay) USC commitment
The running backs didn't get a ton of run on Monday, but when Baxter got his hands on the ball he looked exceptional. Baxter, who was recently bumped up to five-star status, showed great vision between the tackles and excellent agility. He made defenders miss in tight spaces, and showed the running ability that led to a senior season in which the San Diego native registered silly, PlayStation kind of numbers. Baxter also got work at receiver, and might be the best route runner on the West roster. He hauled in a few big catches, and he'll likely line up at wideout for the Trojans.
7. Calvin Barnett - DT, 6-foot-3, 330 pounds (Tulsa, OK - Booker T. Washington) Oklahoma State commitment
Barnett was another one of the standouts along the West defensive line. The big bodied defensive tackle showed a great burst off the ball, and used his strength to overpower defenders. His strength and first step allowed him to plow into the backfield more than just a couple of times on Monday. Offensive linemen wanted nothing to do with the big fella's bull rush.
8. Jake Matthews - OL, 6-foot-5, 275 pounds (Missouri City, TX - Elkins) Texas A&M commitment
One thing I love about Matthews is his versatility, and on Monday I was impressed with his consistency. On an afternoon when the defensive line got the best of the offense, Matthews put together the best practice of the offensive line. The Texas A&M commitment had his fair share of victories during one-on-one drills, held his own during team session, and showed the ability to play any position on the line.
9. Sean Parker - S, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds (Harbor City, CA - Narbonne)
Parker isn't going to make you do many double takes with his stature and frame, but he more than makes up for that with a great football mind. There was a lot of installation defensively on Monday, and nobody seemed to pick up the scheme quicker than Parker. He could always be depended on to be in the right place at the right time, kept receivers in front of him, and read route combinations very well. It wasn't a practice with a lot of highlights and great stats, but I felt like Parker was solid in all aspects with a few pass breakups to add to the resume.
10. Seantrel Henderson - OT, 6-foot-8, 301 pounds (Saint Paul, MN - Cretin-Durham Hall)
I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect Henderson to be higher on this list. The top prospect of the Rivals100 had his moments, but it wasn't the complete practice you'd expect from a can't-miss prospect. Still, there were times when he simply manhandled his opponent with his superior frame, quick feet, and strength. Powell was able to beat Henderson more often than not in a few battles, but Henderson was also one of the few linemen, if maybe the only one, that could keep Powell in check. I don't think Henderson really began to turn it on until Odighizuwa whipped him early.
11. Nate Askew - WR, 6-foot-4, 213 pounds (San Antonio, TX - Madison) Texas A&M commitment
Having covered Askew once before, I was pleasantly surprised with his performance on Monday. He was consistently catching the football with his hands, away from his body, and he might have been one of the most sure-handed receivers on the roster. Askew isn't the most explosive guy on the roster, but he created a few match-up problems. Plus, it can't be ignored that he hauled in catches steadily throughout the practice.
12. Connor Wood - QB, 6-foot-4, 209 pounds (Houston, TX - Second Baptist) Texas commitment
I felt like a quarterback needed to be included on the list, even if all three of the West signal callers had their inconsistent moments. During the early practice, Jake Heaps, Austin Hinder, and Wood all struggled with the quarterback-center exchange. Chalk it up to the spread offense, cold weather, new center, new footballs, who knows; but it was something that was an issue for each quarterback. That being said, Wood showed the best set of tools overall, and had the most zip on his football throughout the Monday session. Early, the UT commit had a tendency to choke the football, and dip his shoulder. However, once he got comfortable the completions began to mount up. Wood looked very comfortable on the move. He didn't get set after his drop as quick as Heaps, but he displayed good footwork, sprinted out well, and seemed to pick up the head fake, five step drop the best. The 6-foot-4 signal caller delivered the throw of the day when he hit Woods in stride down the sideline for a 60 yard score during seven-on-seven work. Plus, Wood sold a play action fake beautifully and hit the tight end for a touchdown during goal line session. Of the West quarterbacks, Wood threw the football the best on Monday despite the center exchange issues.
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