Southern Flavored

Okay, it's not North-South. It's East-West. But still, what are these Southern boys doing on a team with guys from California, Oregon and Colorado? A lot of people are wondering about that as the West senior high school all-star team, infused with some Southeastern Conference-area talent,prepares to play the East in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

"I've been wondering about that myself," said John Barnes, head coach of the West team. "I guess the Mississippi River is the dividing line, which explains us getting a player from Louisiana and one from Arkansas. But isn't Mississippi in the East?"

Three players from Mississippi found themselves on the West Roster for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, to be played at the Alamodome beginning at noon CST Saturday. Scout.com is media partner for the bowl game, which will be nationally telecast by NBC.

Center Josh McNeil of Collins, cornerback Derek Pegues of Batesvillle, and defensive tackle Jerrell Powe of Waynesboro are the Mississippians of the West.

The West also picked up wide receiver Slick Shelley of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and quarterback Ryan Perrilloux of Reserve, Louisiana.

Coach Barnes has a cabin in Wisconsin and also picked up two players from that state. "I wasn't absolutely sure where the Mississippi River went into the Gulf of Mexico, but I know that up where it starts, Wisconsin is on the east side of it," Barnes said. Linebacker Travis Beckum and defensive tackle Raymond Henderson are West players from Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

For the most part, the Southerners are satisfied with the placement. But Perrilloux, a 6-3, 207-pound Texas commitment, indicated he might be a bit unhappy. And though he didn't say so, it may have to do with the competition. Also playing quarterback for the West are USC - bound Mark Sanchez of Mission Viejo, California, who many believe is the number one quarterback in the nation; and Alabama commitment Jimmy Barnes of Los Alamitos, Calif., who is the son of the head coach.

Perrilloux, who said he didn't know he was on the West team until he arrived in San Antonio and got his equipment, including a "West" hat, said, "We're competing, but in a way we're not. It seems like the coaches are just giving reps in a one-two-three order. We're not really battling for the job."

Lest anyone think the coach's son has the advantage here, it should be noted that practice observation leads to the conclusion that Sanchez is number one, Perrilloux number two, and Barnes number three.

In any event, Perrilloux believes the three will have equal playing time Saturday.

And he thinks the West got some players who might have been on the East team "to even it up."

Coach Barnes wouldn't agree with that suggestion. "It's not like we don't have enough players in the West to make up a team," he said.

There hasn't been as much culture shock as might be expected for the Southerners. "I talk slow enough so they can understand me," said McNeil. He was a little surprised to pick up the nickname "Big Country" from his teammates "because that's my nickname back home, too," he said.

McNeil said the physical shock has been greater than any cultural shock. "In high school I might be going up a 210-pound defensive lineman," he said. "Here you see nothing but 300-pounders. And it's good to snap it to guys who can throw it like our quarterbacks."

McNeil said he was surprised to be on the West squad, "but it's a great honor to be on either side," he said. "I know I've made some good friends."

McNeil added, "Probably more surprising than being on the West is that an Alabama commitment is taking snaps from a Tennessee commitment."

McNeil may not be having culture shock, but he stunned quarterback Barnes. Coach Barnes said, "Jimmy told me that Josh dips (uses smokeless tobacco). You would get thrown out of our school for that. Josh told Jimmy that his dad taught him to dip when he was about seven."

Don't forget to check out Scout's U.S. Army Page for full coverage of your U.S. Army All-Americans.

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