January 10, 2008

U-M commitments impress Army Bowl coaches

The Army All-American Bowl doesn't favor defenses, putting limitations on the coverages and blitz packages they can use. Despite these handicaps, U-M commitments Boubacar Cissoko and Brandon Smith, playing for the East team, had strong games. They were even better in practice, East coach Robert Prunty told TheWolverine.com …

"I was really impressed with Boubacar all week in practice and off the field as well," he said. "The kid has tremendous leadership skills. He worked extremely hard at every drill, in every situation, and he was also one of the most social kids we had down there. Every kid on our team liked him and respected him. He was one of our captains and he could very well be a future captain at Michigan."

In the game, Cissoko - a 5-foot-9, 185-pound four-star cornerback out of Detroit -- finished with two pass break ups to lead his team, but was also victimized twice for touchdowns. Still, there were positives to his performance.

"The thing I was impressed with was when they tried the fade into the corner the second time, he came up with a big pass break up," Prunty said. "He knew why he got beat the first time but he wasn't going to let it happen again.

"Athletically, he has it all. He's not the biggest kid maybe, but he is extremely aggressive and gets after it like he's 6-1, 200 pounds.

"I think in that game too, Boubacar was tired. We lost one of our other corners to an injury and so Boubacar, who was already out there on special teams, played the whole game and he was exhausted by the end of it. But he never once asked out or asked for help. They went after him and after him and he was ready for it. When he got knocked down, he got right back up. He's an extremely tough kid mentally."

Assistant coach Gerry Gallagher echoed many of Prunty's sentiments, noting that Cissoko was "probably the best combination of an athlete on and off the field. He was just a really impressive football player and person. As a corner, he may not have that ideal size, but his closing speed is terrific."

Both coaches were also overwhelmed by the week-long efforts of Smith. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound four-star safety out of New Brunswick, N.J., finished with five tackles and a pass break up, making his presence felt consistently.

"Big and physical, big and physical," Prunty said. "In practice, we had to rein in him a bit because I didn't want him hurting some of our kids going over the middle. He's just an aggressive kid, one of those physical freaks that could grow into an outside linebacker but if he stayed at safety could do a lot of damage there too."

Off the field, Smith has a different personality than Cissoko.

"Very laid back, really relaxed and reserved," Prunty said. "He had great work habits between the sidelines and worked extremely hard to do everything we asked of him. But off the field, he's a lot quieter than Boubacar. He's not the rah-rah type but he got along with everyone."

TheWolverine.com will have the coaches take for West team players Sam McGuffie and Nick Perry in the days to come.

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