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January 5, 2010

Army West notes: Woods shows deep ball skills

MORE: Army All-American Bowl coverage

SAN ANTONIO - Through two days of practice for the West squad at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, arguably the biggest playmaker that has emerged on offense is Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra wide receiver Robert Woods.

The USC commit has shown a combination of great speed and route running ability to become the West's top receiving target.

That was never more apparent than during Tuesday afternoon's practice when Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline quarterback Jake Heaps connected with Woods deep for a 50 yard touchdown.

"(Heaps) told me he just launched it up there and wanted me to track it down," Woods said.

After the touchdown catch where Woods split two defenders, he took the ball and dunked it over the cross bar of the goalpost.

Woods' post touchdown celebration was reminiscent of 2005 Army All-American and current Philadelphia Eagle DeSean Jackson, who stole the show during his time in San Antonio with his flashy combination of speed and playmaking ability.

However, Woods said don't expect to see him do something similar during Saturday's game, as he feels it's disrespectful to the opponent.

"At practice back home I've tried to do that before, but it seems like this goalpost is a little lower because I actually got over it pretty easy," Woods said. "I'm going to stay focused and not worry about that stuff on Saturday. I am going to respect the other team and show no disrespect."

Woods said there are several different receivers he likes to model himself after.

"I like how Dez Bryant runs his routes," he said. "He runs his routes pretty hard. DeSean Jackson is a quick speed guy that does everything. I also liked watching Steve Smith from USC. He snatched down every pass."

Defensive line banged up

For most of Tuesday's practice, the West defensive line was down to six bodies. Plano (Texas) West defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will most likely not play at all due to an ankle injury, but Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington defensive tackle Calvin Barnett also joined him on the sidelines on Tuesday.

Barnett left practice with a bruised left kneecap, but he doesn't anticipate the injury affecting his status for Saturday's game. In high school Barnett said he tore his left ACL before, but this injury has nothing to do with that one.

"It's just a bruise," Barnett said. "I'll be back out here tomorrow. I'll ice it tonight and get this bruise to go away.

"It happened during the one-on-one drills. They were working on double teams and I split the double team and hit knees with the guy on my left."

Baxter has a big day

One of the more impressive running backs for the West squad on Tuesday was San Diego (Calif.) Mission Bay standout and USC commit Dillon Baxter.

Baxter was able to get into space and really showcase his abilities a couple of times during team drills.

"My strength is I can catch better out of the backfield than most of the other guys," Baxter said. "That's kind of the best thing I do pretty well and I can read the holes pretty good."

Baxter really shined when offensive coordinator Bob Johnson called his number a couple of times on some screen plays.

"I love screens when they get me the ball with three big o-linemen in front of me to block," Baxter said. "You can't have it any better than that."

Who's the best?

Every year at the Army Bowl it's fun to get a few different players' opinions on their peers.

Here are a couple of different takes following Tuesday's practice.

Baxter's take: "Robert Woods has really impressed me so far and so have Seantrel Henderson and Ronald Powell. There's a lot more guys, but those would be the main ones."

Woods' take: "Ronald Powell is definitely doing his thing. Seantrel Henderson is a guy pushing people out of his way. V.J. Fehoko also had a nice hit today in the morning practice. On the offense, Connor Wood and Jake Heaps are some nice quarterbacks that are standing out. Ross Apo also has made some big catches."

Defensive backs show off versatility

The defensive backs on the West roster are a bit of a mixed bag. Right now there are several different safeties playing cornerback, which has given the West defensive backfield a physical presence.

Woods said a number of different defensive backs have impressed him through two days of practice.

"All the cover guys are different," Woods said. "Demetrius Wright is the physical one of the bunch. I had a nine route earlier and he bumped me out of bounds a little bit. He's physical.

"Dior Mathis is the one that's jumping all the routes and the comebacks. Sean Parker is probably the one getting all the picks. They are all different."

Quick hits

  • Maybe the biggest hit of the day came from Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian defensive tackle Cassius Marsh. Marsh came into the backfield and crushed Baxter behind the line of scrimmage.

    "Cassius Marsh has been getting off and causing havoc," Baxter said.

  • UCLA running back commit Malcolm Jones has been the most physical runner for the West squad this week in practice.

  • All four of the West running backs have been rotating in and playing some fullback when they work out of the I-formation.

  • Both teams will take part in the U.S. Army skills competition at the Alamodome during the morning session on Wednesday and then each team will practice in the Alamodome Wednesday afternoon. The West squad will not hold a full scale scrimmage, but instead do an extended team period in the dome.



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