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January 1, 2009
West notebook: Starting QB undecided
MORE: West Thursday recap | U.S. Army AA Bowl coverage | More all-star coverage
SAN ANTONIO - The play of the West quarterbacks in practice this week has left a lot to be desired.
An unfamiliar system, slippery new footballs and an ultra-talented defensive backfield have all contributed to their inconsistency.
But there is a reason Allan Bridgford, AJ McCarron and Tyrik Rollison were invited to participate in this Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"They are all gifted quarterbacks and they've all shown me something this week," said West offensive coordinator Matt Logan. "We're going to put all three names in a hat, we are going to pull one out and the first name chosen will start. Then we're just going to rotate every three series.
"If one of them moves the chains more, he'll play more if the game is close late. But I want them all to have an opportunity to showcase their skills."
The West is running a no-huddle, spread offense. It has taken all three quarterbacks out of their comfort zone, particularly Bridgford and McCarron.
"Allan and A.J. have not worked much out of the shotgun before so they are kind of learning how to catch the snap and release the football a little quicker," said Logan. "But they are smart, heady quarterbacks that are eager to learn.
"Allan is going to Cal and they do a combination of shotgun and under center so this is probably good experience for him. It will help him in the future."
Bridgford, who broke several of USC quarterback Mark Sanchez's passing records at Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, committed to the Golden Bears in May. He was impressed with Cal head coach Jeff Tedford's impressive resume as a quarterback tutor.
"When it all came down to it, it was an easy decision," Bridgford said. "Cal was far above the pack."
McCarron is confident that he will play well on Saturday. He was one of the top performers, throwing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game in mid-December.
"When it comes game time, I come out to play," said McCarron, a soft commit to Alabama. "Some people dont't think I can move well but I think I have proven them wrong. That is why I guess Rivals.com bumped me up in the ratings, because I showed I can move at the [Alabama-Mississippi] All-Star game.
"My biggest thing is that I am able to play well pretty much any time the lights come on."
Rollison also appears to be a gamer.
He has struggled mightily during the West's practices held at the Blossom Athletic Center. But when the team scrimmaged at the Alamodome on Wednesday, he stole the show by throwing three touchdowns.
Rollison combined for 517 yards and seven touchdowns in the Class 4A Division II state championship game two weeks ago, helping Sulphur Springs (Texas) High win the title.
"Tyrik is more of a runner than the other two, he is a great athlete," Logan said. "He can create things when things aren't there; he showed that yesterday in our scrimmage. His accuracy throwing the ball is the thing he probably needs to work on."
Rollison remains uncommitted. He plans to take an official visit to Oklahoma State in January.
Of the Longhorns' 19 commitments from the Class of 2009, eight plan to enroll at Texas later this month. Three of those early high school graduates are currently in San Antonio.
Linebacker Tariq Allen, defensive end Alex Okafor and cornerback Marcus Davis are using this week's experience to help them prepare for spring practices in Austin.
"Here we are going up against the best of the best, and at Texas we will be going up against the best of the best, so this is kind of getting us used to going up against better competition," explained Davis, who graduated from League City (Texas) Clear Creek two weeks ago.
"It is going to be a major advantage being able to get in there early and learn the system and get ahead of the other freshmen," added Allen. "Hopefully I can get down there and get a chance to play my first year."
Okafor also hopes his early enrollment at Texas will lead to early playing time.
"They didn't sign any defensive ends with their 2008 class so I wanted to be able to come in, step up and play right away," he said.
Adam Hall was playing NCAA Football on his Xbox last week when he received a phone call that changed his New Years.
"I didn't get added to the [U.S. Army All-American Bowl] roster until then," explained the 6-foot-4, 195-pound standout from Tucson (Ariz.) Palo Verde Magnet. "I played in the Hawaii Classic in December and I guess I showed that I deserved a chance to play in this game. It is a great honor to be here."
Hall played primarily defensive back in the Hawaii Classic, but has been practicing solely at wide receiver this week. He would prefer to play on offense at the next level.
Hall is expected to announce his college decision on Saturday between Cal, Arizona, Oregon and USC.
Tight end Chris Coyle was also a late addition to the West roster.
"Chris is just an outstanding player," said West head coach Bill Redell, who coached Coyle in high school at Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian. "He is going to Arizona State and I think he'll get to play a lot there. He is a tough kid."
The East tied up the U.S. Army All-American Bowl all-time series at 4-4 with a 33-23 victory last year.
How important is it to come away with a win this Saturday?
"Our society is a competition driven society, so I think you have to make the ultimate goal to win," said defensive coordinator Jim Benkert. "We are representing the western part of the United States so we want to perform to our highest level. There are going to be a lot of people tuning in expecting that the West team is going to perform well."
"Our main goal is to have fun, but of course winning is fun. Losing is not," added Redell. "That said, we are going to give everybody an equal opportunity to play. Each position coach will try to substitute evenly throughout the game."