Offensive linemen are often an afterthought with most fans, but then most offensive linemen aren’t Seantrel Henderson.
At 6-foot-8, 300 pounds, the senior from Cretin-Derham High School, St. Paul, Minn., will be a featured attraction at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 9 in San Antonio, Texas. Henderson, who’ll play for the West squad, is being projected by many scouting services as the nation’s top overall prospect.
Maryville’s George Quarles will coach the East team in the nation’s most prestigious high school football all-star game, with Rebel offensive line coach David Ellis joining his boss in Texas. Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Adrian Peterson are among the dozens of today’s college and professional stars who first showcased their talents in the game.
Mark Sanchez, DeSean Jackson, Tim Tebow, Jonathan Crompton, Brandon Spikes, Myron Rolle, Percy Harvin - the list is endless.
“All the guys we’re watching on Saturday afternoons and Sunday afternoons, these are the kinds of guys that are there,” Ellis said.
Ellis won’t get to coach the gigantic Henderson, but the 10 offensive linemen slotted for the East side are no shrimps.
“I printed a roster (Tuesday) and took a look at it,” Ellis said, “and that roster’s pretty impressive. There are 10 offensive linemen, and they’re all between 6-6 and 6-8. They’re Aaron Douglas kind of guys and bigger. Looks like it’s going to be fun.”
Quarles served as an assistant for the East when current Ohio State sophomore Terrelle Pryor was the game’s top draw. One of the featured quarterback’s in this year’s clash is highly-coveted Memphis University School senior Barry Brunetti, but the Division II-AA Mr. Football is no lock to start.
Saline, Minn., 6-6 senior Joe Boisture and 6-3 Sto-Rox, Pa., passer Paul Jones will also be vying for Quarles’ attention. The good news is, the Rebel coach said, everybody plays.
“The hardest part is you’ve got three quarterbacks,” Quarles said. “Last time, everybody wanted to see Terrell Pryor. He was the big show, so that was easy.”
Each head coach can name one of his school’s assistants to his staff. Taking Ellis with him to Texas made sense for a lot of reasons, Quarles said, not the least of which being the genuine friendship they share away from the playing field.
“He’s been a huge reason for my getting this opportunity,” Quarles said. “As I’ve said before, it’s kind of humbling what eight or 10 of us do (as Maryville coaches), and I get most of the credit. Without David Ellis, there’s no George Quarles, and it’s the same for (defensive coordinator) Jimmy Gaylor, Mike (White), Nick (White), Joe (Robinette) and all the rest.”
Quarles and Ellis will depart for San Antonio Jan. 2, with the players arriving the next day. Moving at a frenzied pace, the East and West squads will have two practices each on Monday and Tuesday, scaling back to a single practice on Wednesday, during which time the respective head coaches must install their offenses.
Defenses are restricted to 4-3 alignments, with no blitzing and man-on-man coverage for most plays.
“It’s kind of set up to score points,” Ellis said.
Throughout the week, a full schedule of events away from the field are planned, making preparation for Saturday’s game all the more difficult.
If there are a pair of coaches up to such a task, it’s Maryville’s two representatives. The Rebels replaced nine starters on defense, seven on offense, prior to the 2009 season. Coming off a loss in the 2008 state championship game, which snapped a state-record 74-game winning streak, Maryville was promptly knocked off by arch-rival Alcoa in the ‘09 opener.
Regrouping, the Rebels won 13 straight to reach the last weekend’s BlueCross Bowl, a second-half rally coming up just short of White Station, 37-27.
“It was an amazing season,” Ellis said. “Coming off a loss in last year’s championship game and starting a season with a loss, the last time we lost back-to-back was 2000. This team made so much improvement during the season and became a really good football team.”
The 2008 Army All-American Bowl set an attendance record of 36,534 and drew a 1.8 rating on NBC, making it the most-watched sporting event-other than the NFL playoffs that weekend. The U.S. Army Player of the Year Award will be extended to one of seven finalists during ceremonies the day of the game. The winner will be chosen from the following seven finalists:
•Dillon Baxter, RB, Mission Bay (San Diego, Calif.) - One of the most exciting and explosive players on the West Coast, an athlete who makes plays on offense and defense. A commit to USC.
•Seantrel Henderson, OL, Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.) - Strong and powerful, Henderson’s 6-foot-8, 300-pound frame is buoyed by an athleticism honed on the basketball court.
•Marcus Lattimore, RB, Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) - Has become one of the most coveted running backs in the nation. He has offers from nearly every program in the SEC.
•Ronald Powell, DL, Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley, Calif.) - Most intriguing prospect in this year’s class, Powell’s frame at 6-4 gives him the ability to be a dominant defensive end. Also being recruited as a tight end.
•Kyle Prater, WR, Proviso West (Hillside, Ill.) - Physically impressive prospect, Prater, is a wide receiver and USC commitment.
•Silas Redd, RB, King & Low Heywood Thomas (Stamford, Conn.) - Proven to be a star on both offense and defense. Heading to Penn State this fall, Redd’s muscular frame coupled with good speed is accentuated with his shiftiness in the open field
•Robert Woods, WR, Junipero Serra (Gardena, Calif.) - Whether he plays as a safety or a wide receiver at the next level remains to be seen, but Woods is one exciting athlete. He has been clocked running a 4.43 time in the 40 and has a distinct nose for the ball and making clutch plays. Committed to USC.