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January 7, 2010

East notebook: Mother Nature wins out

MORE: Army Bowl starters announced | Army All-American Bowl coverage

SAN ANTONIO - The East was originally scheduled to practice twice on Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

"But the weather won out," said head coach George Quarles as his team exited C. Marvin Gustafson Stadium just after one hour.

Cold temperatures and a blustery wind made it difficult for the squad to get anything accomplished.

"A lot of these kids are not used to this kind of weather and they just weren't real excited about being out here and we decided to pack it in," Quarles said. "We were past that point of diminishing returns."

During a short 7-on-7 session, there were few highlights. But Barry Brunetti did complete two passes in a row, including a long touchdown strike to wide receiver Markeith Ambles.

Brunetti has been named the East's starting quarterback for Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The dual-threat from Tennessee has shown good pocket presence with defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Jeffrey Whitaker in his face much of the week.

"I actually had bad pocket presence my sophomore year, I would see one guy and I would break out running," Brunetti said. "But as I got older, I got better at that and now it is one of my strengths."

Brunetti has been verbally committed to West Virginia since mid-June. But he has scheduled an official visit with Mississippi State for Jan. 15.

"I promised [Mississippi State head] coach [Dan] Mullen around this time about a year ago that I would visit them and they only do visits in January," Brunetti said. "It is between West Virginia and Mississippi State. After I take that trip to [Mississippi] State, then I am done."

Breaking down the QBs

In addition to his head coaching duties, Quarles is serving as the East's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He wears all three hats at Maryville High School in Tennessee as well.

Quarles spent a couple minutes talking about each of the East's quarterbacks:

Paul Jones - McKees Rocks (Pa.) Sto Rox: "Big, strong kid. Paul has a super strong arm. He has the strongest arm of all four quarterbacks that we have this week by far. He needs to fix a few issues he has with his mechanics, but they are very fixable."

Barry Brunetti - Memphis (Tenn.) University School: "I think Barry's strength is his awareness. He does a good job of staying calm and cool. I would say he is above average athletically. He can make plays with his feet, but he can still throw it. He has been well coached, you can tell."

A.J. Derby - Iowa City (Iowa) High: "A.J. is a big, strong kid that is a good athlete. He throws a very catchable ball. He had a few weight transfer issues early in the week, but he has gotten those fixed. These kids haven't thrown in a while so it was tough for them early in the week. A.J. is also very knowledgeable. He understands what you want him to do and understands the game."

Cole Marcoux - Bronx (N.Y.) The Fieldston School: "Cole probably has the best throwing motion of all four quarterbacks. The ball comes off his hand nice and he has a strong arm. He has to work on his footwork and needs to improve his quickness. But I think he can play at some level in college, for sure. It is good to have him out here. He is smart and knows what to do."

Mr. Personality

Cal commit Chris Martin says he is not a class clown, but admits to being a "field clown". The massive 6-foot-4, 240-pound outside linebacker has enjoyed joking around with his teammates this week.

"In the classroom or when it is time to handle business, I handle business," Martin said. "But if there is just a little bit of space for me to get in a joke, you can count on me to bring it out. I'm not trying to put on a show or anything. I am just a vocal person, that's how I am. Even as a little kid, I was a loud one."

Martin has lived up to his five-star billing in the Alamo City this week. He has consistently stood out during the East's practices.

"He keeps everybody loose but at the same time, he works. He is not just a talker," Quarles said. "When the ball is snapped, he goes all out. I have been really impressed. For a big guy, he doesn't look like he is going to be able to run with those little running backs but they don't outrun him. And he brings a lot of force when he tackles them. Chris is a very impressive football player."

Martin has started to develop a strong friendship with his roommate this week Keenan Allen. He has also enjoyed playing on the same defense as the Alabama-bound safety.

"Keenan is the best player out here. He has been off the chain," Martin said. "I have never seen a guy like him. It looks like he is beat but he knows he is not beat and now I am never worried that he is beat. With him playing behind me, you feel like you can just play up and pressure a lot."

Additional notes

  • Quarles said it was an easy decision to name Whitaker and Floyd the starters at defensive tackle for Saturday's game.

    "I think they could go play in that [college football national championship] game tonight for either one of those teams and have some success," Quarles added.

  • Defensive end Chance Carter, running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Shakim Phillips all participated in Thursday's abbreviated practice.

    "Carter's ankle is feeling better. He has gone from doubtful to probable," Quarles said. "Lattimore said he still wasn't feeling well, but he went ahead and practiced anyway. And Phillips' shoulder is feeling much better. So he is probable."

  • The East will conduct a walkthrough in shorts on Friday.

    "We'll just be polishing up, brushing up, making sure we know what to do and where to line up," Quarles said. "Hopefully it all comes together on Saturday."


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