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December 31, 2011

Army Bowl: Top 10 stories to follow

MORE: Army tour | Army rosters | Full coverage

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is set to kick off on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 7 in San Antonio, Texas with the top high school football prospects from the East squad against the best from the West. Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell breaks down 10 things he's looking forward to seeing as players get set to arrive for Army Bowl Week on Sunday.

1. DGB Live

Being ranked as the top recruit in the country for the entire recruiting season, Dorial Green-Beckham can further solidify his place at the top with an impressive performance in San Antonio. At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Green-Beckham has all the tools to become a top level receiver at the next level and beyond, so it should be interesting to see if playing against top competition raises his game even further. Having never seen him in action in person, will I be seeing the next Megatron?

2. Diggs vs. Howard

At times the practice sessions leading up to the game can be very lively and here is a perfect example of why. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been untouchable during his time at Olney (Md.) Good Counsel, while Tracy Howard has blanketed every receiver he has covered down in Miramar, Fla. Now for a few days the nation's No. 2 receiver will battle the country's No. 1 cornerback head-to-head in what should be a highly entertaining and exciting duel in East practices.

3. The new five stars

Recently being bumped up to five-star status, you can be sure that players such as athlete Josh Harvey-Clemons, running back T.J. Yeldon and offensive linemen Kyle Kalis, Jordan Simmons and Kyle Murphy will be eager to prove their worth. All of these players earned their bump and hope to prove it in San Antonio, but the additional pressure can do strange things to some people. Will one of them join the historical ranks of the fallen five-star in San Antonio?

4. Next five stars?

While it's a rarity to lose a fifth star in San Antonio, many have earned the illustrious status with a great week. The obvious players to keep an eye on are the ones that are just outside the five-star level, but in reality any player down in San Antonio has the talent and potential to make a big jump. Closest to making a potential jump to five-star status are defensive end Arik Armstead, athlete Devin Fuller, defensive end Adolphus Washington, linebacker Ukeme Eligwe, offensive tackle Zach Banner and defensive back Travis Blanks. Will this be the additional motivation these players need to truly stand out?

5. Bosco Balling

New Jersey is known to have good high school competition and Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep has gone out of its way to schedule national competition on a yearly basis, but questions still arise about the program and its top recruits. How would it compete against the top competition in Florida, Texas and California? Well, here is the chance for Bosco prospects to prove themselves against the best and quiet some of the critics. Bosco will be represented by defensive end Darius Hamilton, cornerback Yuri Wright, safety Elijah Shumate and wide receiver Leonte Carroo, all of whom will look to excel against players from the big three states and others.

6. Can D.J. be No. 1?

Currently Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, who is committed to Florida, is the No. 3-ranked player in the country. While Dorial Green-Beckham has held the top spot throughout the recruiting year, Humphries has proven himself to be a serious contender for the top spot. Going head-to-head in practice against a very deep group of defensive ends led by five-stars Darius Hamilton and Jonathan Bullard will test Humphries, as will the game when he goes against Arik Armstead, who is ranked by some others as the nation's top prospect. Can a top level performance by Humphries possibly move him ahead of defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and DGB for No. 1? It's never been done by an offensive lineman in Rivals.com history.

7. East DEs vs. West OTs

If you are looking for the top positional battle during the game based on talent and depth, look no further than the East defensive ends against the West offensive tackles. The East is loaded at end with Darius Hamilton, Jonathan Bullard, Adolphus Washington and Eli Harold all having different skill sets and strengths. While all of four of these ends regularly dominated during their high school career and Hamilton and Bullard could see time inside, none regularly met up with the level of talent at offensive tackle that the West boasts. Kyle Murphy, Jordan Simmons, Zach Banner, Max Tuerk and Erik Magnuson all have the potential to slow down the speedy and athletic East ends, and you can be sure that they will be tested over and over again.

8. West DTs vs. East interior line

The West defensive line is dominated by top defensive tackles Ellis McCarthy, Aziz Shittu and Ondre Pipkins. With the potential to both clog the middle against the run and harass the quarterback, it will be a tough task for the East interior line to keep them at bay. Leading the way for the East on the interior line will be center Ty Darlington and projected guards Chris Muller, Graham Shuler and Dan Voltz. Other offensive linemen may move around as we get closer to the game, but it will likely come down to these four to try and get the East running game going while also keeping the quarterback off the turf.

9. Can Pike redeem?

A lot of eyes will be on quarterback Zeke Pike to see how he plays in the practices and game. The Auburn commit has dealt with a lot of issues, both on and off the field, over the last year so this will be his opportunity to prove to everyone that he is worthy of the hype he received coming out of his junior season. Pike had a rough senior season, was suspended for a playoff game for an off-field incident and has dropped in the Rivals.com rankings. Will he flourish and prove his doubters wrong, or continue to raise more questions about his future as an SEC quarterback?

10. And how about Gunner?

With his commitment to LSU now behind him, Kiel can try to relax and prove his abilities in San Antonio. Relaxing will be the key to Kiel however, as the additional eyes and scrutiny on him will be extreme. Some people questioned his composure under pressure at the Elite 11 this summer although Rivals.com had no doubts, deeming him the first pro-style quarterback since Matt Barkley back in 2009. But being committed to Indiana is one thing while LSU and the SEC is a different ballgame. Now that a major fan base is watching his every move and every non-LSU SEC fan will be scrutinizing, how will he deal with the pressure down in San Antonio when the TV lights come on?



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