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Saturday, February 2, 2:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
GAME NOTES: The Lone Star State plays host to some of the top seniors from the 2012 college football season in the sixth annual Texas versus The Nation All- Star Game at Eagle Stadium in Allen, Texas.
This event pits top collegiate players originally from Texas or who play college football in the state against top players from around the nation.
The all-star game was very successful in its debut back in 2007. as 79 players who played in that inaugural outing signed NFL contracts, breaking the record for the highest number of NFL signees to come out of a first-year all-star game.
After five years, the game was re-branded as the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in San Antonio, but the postseason exhibition, which was established in 2006, shifts back to its original format this year.
Some NFL Draft gems have emerged from the Texas vs. the Nation game such as Pierre Garcon, Johnny Knox, Ladarius Webb, Jared Beldheer and Demetrius Bell.
In the brief history of the event, Texas holds a 3-2 series advantage.
The Texas team will be coached by former Dallas Cowboys pro bowl safety Bill Bates, who also won three Super Bowl Championships while playing for America's Team. Across the field, Howard Schnellenberger will be guiding the Nation team. Schnellenberger had a storied head coaching career that included stints with the Baltimore Colts, Miami-Florida, Louisville, Oklahoma, and most recently, Florida Atlantic. He led Miami to the 1983 National Championship.
Bates will rely on quarterbacks Mitchell Gale (Abilene Christian), Ryan Aplin (Arkansas State) and Seth Doedge (Texas Tech) to manage the Texas offense. Of the three, Aplin had the most impressive collegiate career, leading the Red Wolves to back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships. Aplin was named the SBC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season in 2012, and he finished his career with a school-record 10,753 passing yards with 67 touchdowns and 37 interceptions.
Texas has other capable signal-callers on the roster, as Gale had an impressive senior campaign in the Division II ranks, completing 228-of-380 pass attempts for 2,982 yards with 21 touchdowns against only seven picks. In the final game of his brilliant ACU career, the senior from Alva, Oklahoma threw for 408 yards and two touchdowns to help the Wildcats to a 7-4 finish. Gale became the all-time leading passer in program and Lone Star Conference history, finishing with 12,109 career yards.
As for Doedge, he finished ninth in the FBS in 2012 in total offense (328.0) as the Red Raiders concluded the year with an 8-5 record. He surpassed the 4,000-yard mark in both of his seasons as the starter in Lubbock.
The Texas team has some decent talent in the backfield in D.J. Harper (Boise State), Matthew Tucker (TCU) and Willie Carter (Tulsa). Harper was a workhorse for the 11-2 Broncos, compiling 1,137 yards and 15 TDs, while Tucker had somewhat of a disappointing senior campaign in racking up 515 yards and six scores. Carter is an effective receiver out of the backfield as he caught a pass in every game this year for the Golden Hurricane in tallying 382 yards.
Bates has a receiving corps that features both major conference and mid-major talent. Uzoma Nwachukwu (Texas A&M) was on the receiving end of seven of Johnny Manziel's touchdown passes, Martel Moore (Northern Illinois) led his team in both receptions per game (5.4) and yards per game (77.4), helping the Huskies earn their first BCS bowl game invite, and Taylor Stockemer (Arkansas State) should fare well as he was on the receiving end of plenty of Aplin's passes in 2012.
Defensively speaking, the Texas squad has some potential NFL prospects. In the trenches, players to watch include Temple's sack leader John Youboty (31 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) and Portland State's Marquis Jackson (36 tackles, 10 TFL, 7.5 sacks).
David Nwabuisi (97 tackles, 8.5 TFL, three INTs) from Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern Wildcats stars in the linebacking corps, which also features Oklahoma State's Alex Elkins, SMU's Ja'Gared Davis, and Texas A&M-Commerece's Danny Mason. Another big-time player to keep an eye on is Phillip Steward (Houston), who finished his senior campaign near or at the top of the C-USA leaderboard in tackles (128), sacks (11), tackles for loss (19) and interceptions (3).
The secondary may be the most skilled element of the Texas squad. Devin Smith and Shelton Johnson of Wisconsin, Ray Ray Armstrong (Miami-Florida), Kip Edwards (Missouri) and Brynden Trawick (Troy) form a ball-hawking unit. Armstrong was dismissed from the Hurricanes prior to the season for improper contact with boosters. He will have a little more to prove than the others on the field.
The Nation All-Stars will be led offensively by quarterbacks Matt McGloin (Penn State), Ryan Griffin (Tulane) and Matt Brown (Illinois State). McGloin faced adversity as the Nittany Lions starting QB during the toughest stretch in the program's history, but he showed resiliency as PSU managed to finish 8-4 in 2012 despite losing some key players prior the season.
Griffin had some spectacular performances for the Green Wave after returning from an injury, including a school-record 476 passing yards against Rice. The 6-foot-5, 206-pound gunslinger has great size and arm strength that will garner plenty of attention from NFL scouts.
Brown set school-records with 3,370 passing yards and 27 TDs, as his Redbirds reached the FCS playoffs in 2012.
Perhaps the most intriguing player on either team is Cincinnati running back George Winn, who led the Big East in rushing with 1,334 yards, averaging more than 100 yards per contest. UCF's Latavius Murray (1,106 yards, 15 TDs) will share the rushing responsibilities with Winn, as will Youngstown State's Jamaine Cook (1,274 yards, 15 TDs), who was the 15th-leading rusher in the FCS this past season.
Former QB DeVonte Christopher showed his potential by leading Utah in receiving as both a sophomore and junior before his production suffered due to inconsistent quarterback play this past year. Kenbrell Thompkins (Cincinnati), Marcus Sales (Syracuse), La'Rod King (Kentucky), T.J. Moe (Missouri) and Ryan Spadola (Lehigh) will get a chance to show off their pass-catching abilities as well. Sales was the second-leading receiver for the Orange and ranked fourth in the Big East (882 yards, eight TDs) as part of the Syracuse unit that took down West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Nation All-Stars boast three-year starter Collins Ukwu (Kentucky) and Tourek Williams (FIU) charging off the ball. Williams registered 6.5 sacks as senior despite facing constant double- teams. Emeka Onyenekwu (Louisiana) and Meshak Williams (Kansas State) will also see time at defensive end, while Anthony White (Michigan State) plants his massive 330-pound frame at tackle.
The Nation's linebacking corps is led by a couple of Mid-American Conference products in Dan Molls (Toledo) and Tremayne Scott (Ohio University), with Boston College's Nick Clancy also in the mix. Molls was the second-leading tackler in the FBS with 166 stops, while acting as the heart and soul of the Rockets defense.
Some of the notable pass defenders for Schnellenberger's team are A.J. Bouye (UCF), Chibuikem Okoro (Wake Forest), Jawanza Starling (USC) and Jordan Kovacs (Michigan).
This will be an interesting clash as the Texas All-Stars have one of the top passers from this past season, while the Nation All-Stars possess a talented array of running backs. Although there is plenty of skill on both sides of the ball, expect both offenses to have their way.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nation All-Stars 38, Texas All-Stars 34
01/30 11:49:12 ET
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