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January 2, 2011

Army matchup: West RBs-East LBs

MORE ARMY BOWL Ten things to watch | Complete all-star coverage

SAN ANTONIO - Each day this week leading up to Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Rivals.com analyst Adam Gorney will look at the players involved in a key matchup. The first installment is one of the best, pitting the West running backs against the loaded East linebackers.

The players:

West running backs: Malcolm Brown (Cibolo, Texas), Aaron Green (San Antonio, Texas), Kenny Hilliard (Patterson, La.), Herschel Sims (Abilene, Texas), De'Anthony Thomas (Los Angeles)

East linebackers: Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va.), Rodney Coe (Edwardsville, Ill.), C.J. Johnson (Philadelphia, Miss.), Lateek Townsend (Bennettsville, S.C.), Kris Frost (Matthews, N.C.), Brent Calloway (Russellville, Ala.), Anthony Sarao (Absecon, N.J.), Tony Steward (St. Augustine, Fla.)

The breakdown:

Brown and Thomas, who could also play cornerback, are five-star prospects and Hilliard and Green are four-stars but the headliners here are the East linebackers led by Grant, Frost and Calloway.

Johnson, a four-star Mississippi State pledge, emerged on the national scene even more after an outstanding performance at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. He could push for five-star status with a big week here.

Townsend had his moments at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and is a welcome addition to an already star-studded group. Frost was outstanding at the Shine Bowl and even though he was on the losing side was one of the best players in the game because he was so aggressive.

Coe was recruited to Iowa as a running back so playing linebacker in the Army game will be interesting to see how he competes with the versatile West group.

Sarao is an active linebacker who anticipates well, makes a lot of plays in the backfield and is great in coverage. If possible, the East linebackers would be even better if four-star Tony Steward wasn't out injured.

The West running backs will certainly be competitive. Brown is the nation's top back and won't be easily intimidated by the talented East linebackers. He's rushed for more than 6,000 yards with 80 touchdowns the last three seasons.

Green, Hilliard and Sims, all four-star prospects, offer something different from speed and elusiveness. Sims, especially, gives the West squad a tough-to-tackle, hard-nosed runner who could challenge the East linebackers with his strength.

Hilliard has size and is a good mix of toughness and elusiveness. Green, the local star, has had three big seasons in a row and was Nebraska's top running back target from Day 1 and the Huskers got him.

Thomas has established a reputation as one of the most exciting players out of Southern California in years. He's thrilling at running back as he bounces off tackles and uses his athleticism to make defenders miss. At cornerback, Thomas is still learning the position but is so instinctual that he'll thrive wherever he plays in college.



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