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January 5, 2008

Nine players end week of speculation

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SAN ANTONIO - The sideshow at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl every year is the individual player announcements. This year's version of the Army game featured nine players making their college selections on the live national television broadcast including Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely cornerback Patrick Johnson who chose LSU.

Virginia Tech gets its first on-air commitment

Virginia Tech has had several commitments participate in the U.S. Army All-American game over the years, but the Hokies have never had one commit to them during the game. That changed Saturday when Rivals.com top 100 running back Ryan Williams of Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson announced he as going to be a Hokie.

The 5-10, 200-pound Williams was also the first on-air commitment when the game went on the air at 1 p.m. EST. He then went out and carried the ball four times for 15 yards and caught a 46-yard pass that set up a Terrelle Pryor touchdown run.

Williams is the No. 3 ranked running back in the country according to Rivals.com, but he got the starting nod for the East team in the game. One of Virginia Tech's all-time great running backs, Kevin Jones, played in the first U.S. Army All-American Bowl eight years ago.

DeBoskie concludes Cal commitment

The worst kept secret of the week was the destination of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton running back Covaughn DeBoskie who chose Cal over Stanford, Arizona State among others. DeBoskie had decided on the Golden Bears before he came down to San Antonio, but planned to make it public live on-air. When the news broke earlier this week that Cal would be his destination, DeBoskie answered questions about his commitment then.

"I've known for about six months that I was going to go to Cal," he said.

Rivals.com ranks DeBoskie as the No. 13 all-purpose back in the country, the No. 5 player in the state of Arizona and a four-star prospect. DeBoskie said earlier this week that Arizona State really made him think towards the end of the process, but in the end he went with the school he'd been feeling throughout.

Smith makes it Michigan

For the last month, many in New Jersey were trying to float the rumor that in-state Rutgers was starting to take a sizable lead for New Brunswick, N.J., safety Brandon Smith, but those rumors were proven false when the 6-3, 215-pound Smith picked Michigan on Saturday. His commitment is the first new one for the Wolverines since Rich Rodriguez took the helm in Ann Arbor.

South Carolina was the other hat on the table besides Michigan and Rutgers and Smith had officially visited the Gamecocks the weekend of Nov. 23. But it was an official visit to Ann Arbor the weekend of Sept. 21 that swayed his feelings toward Michigan, however, and he stayed high on the Wolverines even after the head coaching position transitioned from Lloyd Carr to Rodriguez.

Fellow Army Bowl participants Sam McGuffie and Boubacar Cissoko were working Smith all week for the Wolverines, and they received assurances early that he'd be joining them in Ann Arbor next summer.

Minnesota gets its quarterback of the future

There was no doubting Indianapolis (Ind.) quarterback MarQueis Gray had talent coming into the Army All-American game. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound had the physical presence and the live arm, but some questioned whether he was polished enough to be a true quarterback at the next level. Although ranked as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country, he was 170 spots behind No. 1 Terrelle Pryor.

Gray, however, has answered all those questions in East practices this week by showing much more technically sound throwing mechanics than he was giving credit for and a running ability that is close to that of Pryor's. Big Ten foes beware. Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster picked up his quarterback of the future when Gray announced for the Golden Gophers over Oregon and others Saturday.

Gray is the sixth four-star commitment for Brewster in the class of 2008, but the first true quarterback. He'll have two four-star receivers to throw to when he gets to Minneapolis in Brandon Green and Vincent Hill.

Hale the latest in a major haul for Pitt

"I'm going to Pitt," has been a commonly uttered phrase by some top Pennsylvania prospects in the last month and four-star linebacker Shayne Hale of Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway uttered those same words as he picked up a Pitt hat off the table Saturday at the Alamodome.

Ohio State and Virginia hats were also on the table, but remained there while Hale celebrated with a group of family before being whisked away to return to the playing field. West Virginia and Michigan had also been in the race for his signature before coaching chances occurred at both programs. Hale's announcement came exactly one month to the day after his teammate at Gateway, Cameron Saddler, announced he would be heading to Pitt too.

Harmon switches from Clemson to Georgia

Louisville, Ga., offensive lineman A.J. Harmon has been one of the standouts among the East offensive line in practices this week so his announcement for Georgia over Clemson and others on Saturday was huge news for Bulldog fans. The 6-3, 320-pound Harmon had picked Clemson last June and appeared to be a solid commitment to the Tigers until this week when rumors swirled he could make a change.

Saturday, Harmon officially switched his commitment to Georgia on national television at the game. He said it was a decision that had been in the making for several months ever since an October phone conversation with Georgia head coach Mark Richt. However, when Harmon made a call to Richt earlier, the head coach told him they did not have enough scholarships for him. Eventually that situation changed and so did Harmon's commitment.

Robinson goes against expectations

Really the only surprise announcement at the U.S. Army All-American game was top 100 athlete Gerell Robinson. Early in the week Robinson was letting people know he would not announce at the game, then changed his mind as the week went along.

That series of events led many to believe that Notre Dame, aided by their 15 commitments down in San Antonio with Robinson, had swayed the four-star prospect their way. Robinson shrugged off the Notre Dame coaxing, however, and chose to stay home and attend Arizona State.

Rivals.com ranks the 6-4, 210-pound Robinson as the No. 52 player in the country and the No. 8 athlete. He played safety in the game for the West team, but may move to offense and play wide receiver for the Sun Devils. Robinson becomes the highest ranked player in Arizona State's class of 2008 and he is the highest rated prospect in the state of Arizona.

Hawaii's finest heading to Arizona

Rivals.com's top rated prospect in the state of Arizona, Kaneohe Castle defensive tackle Solomon Koehler, went public with his commitment to Arizona on Saturday at the Army All-American game. Most recruiting analysts expected the 6-2, 305-pound prospect to pick the Wildcats, but Koehler's announcement is still a reason for celebration in Arizona.

The two-way player is Arizona's 22nd verbal commitment in the class of 2008 and their second highest ranked commitment behind running back Ryan Bass. Rivals.com ranks Koehler as the No. 131 prospect in the country and the No. 6 offensive guard. Oregon finished runner-up to Arizona while Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona State and Hawaii were also considered.

LSU gets five-star Johnson

The highest ranked prospect announcing his commitment during the U.S. Army All-American game was Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely cornerback Patrick Johnson who checks in at No. 3 in the Rivals100. A one-time Miami commitment, Johnson pledged his services to LSU and head coach Les Miles who will play in the BCS title game on Monday.

"The reason I chose LSU was I love Les Miles. He's an upbeat and upfront guy. He'll tell you the truth," said Johnson after the game. "I love that the corners blitz a lot and I love to play on the run."

Earlier this week Johnson had announced his three finalists included Florida, LSU and Florida State, leaving Miami off the list. After taking a look at the big three in-state programs, the 6-1, 193-pound Johnson decided Baton Rouge was the place for him. Flanked by his parents and family, Johnson donned an LSU hat and made his intentions known to the national television audience late in the game.

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