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January 15, 2005

Gwaltney makes most of limited opportunities

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - As difficult as it was to find a bright spot in the East defense on Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, try finding a bright spot from the East's offensive performance. Though the West defense did a tremendous job limiting to the East offense to limited yardage there were a few bright spots in the overall offensive performance.

Rivals.com's East offensive most valuable player honors go to Long Island (N.Y.) North Babylon running back Jason Gwaltney. He didn't post huge numbers with only 35 yards rushing on nine carries, however, there were a combination of factors beyond his control that attributed to that. It seemed for most of the game that they west defensive line had their way with the East offensive line except for a couple of individual match-ups. He had to scratch and fight for every yard he got, but definitely proved he is one of the elite running backs in the country.

He made one phenomenal run midway through the first half when west defensive tackle Jerrell Powe seemingly had Gwaltney wrapped up in the backfield and left for dead. Showing tremendous strength and balance Gwaltney kept his footing and regained his balance, getting back on his feet and spinning and breaking other tackles. Very few times in the game did a single player bring Gwaltney to the ground, it almost always required help.

The 6-foot-0, 234-pound Gwaltney, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds, is ranked as the No. 29 overall player in the nation, the nation's No. 5 running back and the top player in the state of New York by Rivals.com. That ranking might change as it is very possible that he's proven to be worthy of five-star status after his work this week.

One of the most impressive parts of Gwaltney's performance was his blocking ability. That ability is a tremendous attribute in any offense and is just one of many reasons that virtually every college coach in America wants him to become part of their program. His most notable block came toward the end of the first half when Powe bit on a fake to Gwaltney and he came through the hole and absolutely leveled Powe putting him on the turf.

Gwaltney is not a big play type back, but is the prototypical big back who churns out four and five yards a play. On average Gwaltney was able to do that and with very little help. Combine his willingness and ability to block and you have a special player. Gwaltney had a very solid week of practice and was one of the most physically impressive prospects in attendance this week.

He has yet to make a decision on where he will attend college, but it is down to Ohio State, USC and West Virginia. However, it does appear that Boston College, could be getting into the race late in the game. He was originally scheduled to make an announcement on ESPN News next week, but that date has been temporarily postponed.

Offensive lineman Eugene Monroe and Chris Scott turned in solid performances for most of the game on Saturday. There were occasions where they lost one on one battles, but for most of the game they held the East defensive ends in check. It was the interior line for the east squad that was dominated all day long by the quicker west defensive lineman.

Nashville (Tenn.) Goodpature wide receiver Patrick Turner grabbed the headlines all week for his dominant play in practice, but was a minimal factor in the game. Part of that can be attributed to the play of west defensive back Derek Pegues, but then again none of the East wide receivers looked good.


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