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January 7, 2006

McNeil leads defense

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - Cornerback Raeshon McNeil struggled during the week of practice when he had to cover East receivers Vidal Hazelton, Percy Harvin and Chris Bell, but when it came gametime, no defensive player played better or bigger than the 6-foot-0, 175-pounder for either side. That's why McNeil leads the list of the Top 15 defensive players from the U.S. Army All American Game.

"I wasn't really respected nationally as a cornerback coming into the game," the Mocksville (N.C.) Davie County corner said. "The wide receivers on our team worked me really hard in practice. Going against Hazelton, Bell, Harvin and Gallup really helped me improve my game. The game itself was easy compared to that. The West had good wide receivers, but nothing compared to our guys."

1) CB Raeshon McNeil -- McNeil's problem in practice wasn't running with the wide receivers, he could keep up with most everyone. It was getting his head around and making a play on the football where he struggled. In the game itself, that wasn't an issue as McNeil broke up many passes and had excellent coverage all game long. He also added a huge touchdown return of a blocked field goal which iced the game for the East.

2) DE Maurice Evans -- Evans was too quick for the West offensive tackles to handle all game and registered sacks and hurries throughout the win. His quickness off the edge is very impressive and his hustle in the run game from the opposite side of the field showed. Evans clobbered quarterback Jevan Snead on one play where he was unblocked, but even with a body in front of him it was no contest.

3) DT Gerald McCoy -- The West struggled against the run and the defensive ends were shut out against the pass, but McCoy provided pressure up the middle most of the day from his tackle position. He sacked Tim Tebow twice, causing a fumble one time which would have turned the game. McCoy was the best player on defense for the West.

4) DE Robert Rose -- If Evans wasn't getting pressure on the West quarterbacks, then Rose was. He, like Evans, was too quick to handle for the slow tackles on the West squad and he played with high energy all game. Rose had at least four hurries in the game and a tackle for a loss.

5) CB Jai Eugene -- Eugene had a terrific game overall despite giving up a big pass play to Vidal Hazelton. He was sticky in coverage all game and hung with Hazelton and Bell on deep routes. Eugene also made a couple of nice special teams plays and a few good tackles in run support.

6) S Antwine Perez -- Perez had the two biggest hits of the day and played well in coverage. He leveled quarterback Mitch Mustain on a run and it was stunning to most that Mustain got up. In the second half he destroyed Michael Goodson as he finished a run on the sidelines. Perez has been itching to blow someone up all week and he made the most of his chances.

7) LB Sergio Kindle -- Kindle flashed his speed and anticipation during the game, making a few nice tackles including an impressive one on C.J. Spiller for a loss. Kindle has excellent quickness and runs things down. He led all players in tackles with five.

8) LB Brandon Graham -- Graham is a load and opponents know it when he hits them. He leveled two players with huge hits and also blocked the field goal that McNeil returned for a touchdown, essentially ending the game. He's a gap filler and huge against the run.

9) S Jonas Mouton -- Mouton can certainly fill the gap on run plays and was credited with 4 1/2 tackles on the day. He also played solid in coverage, lining up against Harvin on many occassions. He had 4 tackles in the game and was very active.

10) LB Brandon Spikes -- Spikes started off a bit slow but heated up as the game progressed. He blew up a screen pass, forced a key fumble and had a big hit late in the game. He wasn't as dominant as he was in practice all week, but he had a very good game.

11) CB Devin Ross -- Limiting players like Hazelton, Harvin and Bell to somewhat modest numbers overall is not an easy task and Ross played a big part in keeping the passing game in check a bit. Ross had a nice hit on Bell in the first half and had a very solid second half with a couple passes defended and a few tackles.

12) LB Micah Johnson -- Johnson was very active from the beginning of the game to the end. He had a few nice hits but impressed mostly with his ability to run plays down from behind and to the sidelines with his size.

13) S Taylor Mays -- As running back Chris Wells was busting a few plays outside, Mays was forced to make a few big tackles one-on-one. Mays might not have stood out to most, but he showed great strength in handling Wells a couple of times and was solid in coverage. He finished with three tackles.

14) CB A.J. Wallace -- Wallace got beaten only once on the day, albeit a 30-yarder to David Ausberry, but also had the game's only interception and ran down Goodson, one of the fastest players in the game, to save a touchdown. He also had excellent coverage for much of the game.

15) S Myron Rolle -- Rolle made one of the biggest plays of the day when he hustled and ran down speedy Chris Caflisch on what looked like a kickoff return for a touchdown. The West squad had to settle for a field goal. Rolle was also credited with 2 1/2 tackles.


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