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January 29, 2010

Team USA depth surprises players and coaches

MORE: USA Football gets generous donations | Team USA rosters are set

Dallas Jackson is the high school sports expert for RivalsHigh.com. Send him a question or comment at DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him at twitter.com/rivalshigh.

Mark Myers, a four star quarterback from Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius, played against some pretty stiff competition throughout his high school career.

And he'll be facing even tougher competition in the Big East next year at the University of Pittsburgh.

But even Myers, who has seen a handful of his high school teammates go on to the collegiate level, was surprised at how talented his fellow players have been as he's prepared to line up under center on Team USA in Saturday's "USA versus The World" game- the game will be aired on NFL Network live at noon eastern.

"It is so wild," Myers said. "There is no drop off. There is no one on the field that is not good.

"Everyone is going to be a college football player."

Myers was not alone with his surprise.

"I keep forgetting I am not coaching a typical high school team," Team USA head coach Chris Merritt said. "The talent level here is amazing."

Merritt, who also was on the staff when Team USA played an international tournament in Canton, Ohio last year, says this collection of players is something he has never been involved with.

"The interior lineman are baby giants," he said. "When we did the tournament last summer, the kids were very good high school players, but this group is something else."

The group of miniature mountains includes six Rivals.com three-star players as well as three four-star players on the offensive line. None of the group is smaller than 6-foot-2 and 256 pounds.

The defensive linemen are also huge, standing on average at 6-foot-4 and weighing on average at 246 pounds.

One of those players is three-star lineman Adam Shead.

Shead, who has been committed to Oklahoma since May 2009, has been taken aback by his teammates.

"Everyone is so impressive," Shead said. "For me to be involved with this group is a tremendous opportunity."

The experience was not lost on the 6-foot-4, 315 pounder.

Shead and at least nine other teammates from Cedar Hill (Texas) High will be signing a letter-of-intent to play college football next Tuesday, but even he is impressed with what he has seen from teammates.

"We have two very good quarterbacks," he said. "The offensive line is great. And our wideouts are all on point.

"This really is special."

Coach Merritt, who coaches at Miami (Fla.) Columbus, thinks the depth of this team could push Team USA over the edge in the upcoming contest.

"When we take out our running back that is going to LSU (Jakhari Gore) we put in one that is going to TCU (Ethan Grant)," Merritt said. "Our first group is outstanding."

So is the second.

And third.

Five to watch

With all of the talent Merritt has on the field, separating who deserves more time than the next could be the hardest coaching job he has this weekend.

Merritt says that while many people have stood out on the practice field, he has been impressed with a select handful of players.

Players he expects to have a big game on Saturday:

  • Kendall Montgomery - The 6-foot-6 tight end has not yet committed to play for a particular college and could use this game as a launching point for more offers. Merritt says Montgomery has great hands and can run like a deer. He added that Montgomery will be a big part of the pass game causing a mismatch in the middle of the field.

  • Keiwone Malone - A four-star wide receiver committed to Alabama, Merritt said that Malone is one of the most explosive players on the roster and thinks that he will be involved early and often in the passing game.

  • Sam Gagliano - The two-star player from Waxahachie (Texas) High has yet to commit to a school but has multiple offers. Merritt said that he has run very crisp routes all week and as the third receiver could be tough to cover.

  • Keion Payne - One of the local players on the roster, Payne is from nearby Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas and is committed to Miami. Merritt called him the best "cover guy" he had on the defense and expects a "lock down" performance on Saturday.

  • Kevin Schloemer - The lone offensive lineman singled out by Merritt, Schloemer, who coaches simply call "Cincy" because of his commitment to the University of Cincinnati has been physically imposing all week. The 6-foot-7 tackle will most likely be lining up to protect the blind side of future Big East foe, quarterback Matt Myers.

    Friends off the field

    Quarterback Mark Myers is making the most of his experience getting to know players that could end up as friends off the field, but enemies on it.

    "It is really cool getting to hang out with all these guys," Myers said. "Some of them I will be playing against in college."

    Myers also is spending time getting to know his opponents for Saturday's game.

    "The international guys are really good guys," he said. "They have a lot of different experiences and some of the same. It is neat sharing stories with them."

    The 6-foot-4 quarterback says while the experience is something that he will always remember he hopes that his friendships can last.

    "I am rooming with Tyler Smith and he has been really funny," Myers said. "He is headed to Maryland so we may play each other but I think we can stay friends."

    Shead ready for signing day

    Offensive lineman Adam Shead has been committed to the University of Oklahoma since May 2009 and he is ready to sign his letter of intent and focus on college football.

    "I knew as soon as I got my offer I was going there," Shead said. "I have been ready to sign since I committed.

    "I am really excited just to get the formality of it over but I have been ready for months."

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