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January 3, 2013

Trying to measure up in San Antonio


MORE: U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

According to Brandon Kublanow, the list of
doubters is long.

But there is one who sticks out to the U.S. Army All-American.

"I went to a recruiting service to pay to get my highlights cut and my recruiting started," he said. "The guy told me that I was too short and that I might have D-IAA potential."

Keep in mind, the No. 155-ranked player in the Rivals250 from Marietta (Ga.) Walton is listed at 6-foot-3 and 289 pounds.

"It (ticked) me off, so I grabbed my stuff and left. From there I was out to kill people (on the football field)," the Georgia commit said. "My junior year I went out and did it, and my senior year I did that, too. And honestly, I am here to kill people (on the field)."

In San Antonio for the Army Bowl, Kublanow is not alone in needing to prove he is more than his measurables, well, measure.

Listed at 6-feet-2 and 290 pounds, Greg Webb is the No. 143-ranked player in the Rivals250 and chose to attend North Carolina.

The defensive tackle from Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek said that his relative lack of height has made him more intense.

"I walk around looking all short and people just assume I can't play," he said. "I feel like I am always going out to prove myself as a serious football player."

Making the point for Webb was when Ohio State commit Eli Apple walked by during the interview.

Listed at 6-foot, Apple appeared to be taller than Webb, and Webb took notice.

"Look, there are cornerbacks here taller than me," Webb said. "Nobody likes criticism and I have heard it for a long time. You have to turn it into something else and let it fuel you to be better or it will give haters a reason to say they were right and say that you can't play."

Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central linebacker Tim Kimbrough said he never paid much attention about what people say and added that once they see him play it is not long before the critics are silenced.

"I don't think it would really make any difference if I was 6-2 or 6-foot," Kimbrough said. "It doesn't slow me down, I can play, and I don't care what people say."

Kimbrough is listed at 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds. He is the first player from his storied high school to be a part of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

He elected to attend Georgia over 22 other FBS-level offers.

That number was one shy of what Kimbrough thought he deserved.

"Notre Dame still thinks I am too short," he said. "Wisconsin tried for a long time to think that, but they watched my tape and offered but Notre Dame just thinks I am short. They won't offer me.

"I will just keep going out and playing."

Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said that height does not limit Kimbrough.

"He is probably one of the hardest hitters I have seen this season," Helmholdt said. "Ask the receivers who come across the middle or the running backs that get stuck about him being too short."

One of the players on the West team who might find out if Kimbrough is undersized is Steven Mitchell -- who fights the perception himself.

The USC commit from Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany is listed at 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds. He is ranked as the No. 55 overall player in the Rivals100.

Mitchell will likely line up in the slot and test the middle of the East defense. It is a position that he doesn't mind.

"My size helps me," he said. "Some guys think they are going to out-physical me, but I end up using my speed and running past them."

With more than 20 additional offers to FBS-level schools he has proven his merit. But he won't rest on that.

"I have always been the smallest guy on my team," he said. "I don't figure that will change down here so I am not going to let it worry me."

That attitude is not shared by all.

For example, Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian interior offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers said that his size label is a misnomer.

"For a center, I don't think I am undersized," he said. "I think I have shown that I am the best player in the nation at my position and if people are still doubting me then I will have to go out and show them again this week.

"I am here to leave no doubts and to smash every defensive tackle that lines up against me."

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, it is hard to see the USC commit as undersized; as the No. 66-ranked player in the Rivals100, his talents have exceeded his stature.

Kublanow shared Rodgers' mentality.

"It is my personality now," he said. "I want to hit people. I want to really knock their heads off.

"My girlfriend is the only person that thinks I am sweet, but even she says I am mean when I am on the field."

Dallas (Texas) Kimball defensive tackle Justin Manning said that the perception of his size is not all bad.

The 6-foot-2, 275-pound Texas A&M commit said it is all part of the evaluation process.

"People are always going to find something to criticize you about," he said. "I just look at it like they are saying something about a part of my game I cannot control. If they were saying I was slow or weak it would concern me but I just get out there and make plays."

With a week of practice before the game on Saturday, each of the players will have plenty of time to showcase his ability.

"Us undersized guys can do work," Webb said. "That is what is important to show people."



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