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Spencer, Taylor scout friends


Ole Miss running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis waits for the snap behind the line of scrimmage at the first East/West Shrine Game practice. Texans running back Chris Taylor was in attendance to support Green-Ellis, a close friend.

Among dozens of NFL scouts and front office personnel, including Texans general manager Rick Smith and NFL legend "Mean" Joe Greene, two Texans players eagerly watched the first practice Monday of the 83rd East/West Shrine Game from the sidelines of the Methodist Training Facility at Reliant Stadium.

Running back Chris Taylor kept tabs on one of his future groomsmen, Ole Miss running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, while offensive tackle Charles Spencer had a close eye on defensive end Joe Clermond, a former teammate at Pitt.

Taylor, who last year attended Shrine Game practices to cheer on friend Michael Coe, a cornerback from Alabama St. drafted in the fifth round by the Indianapolis Colts, couldn't help but sing the praises of the 5-11, 225-pound Green-Ellis, one of his closest friends.

"He's just a strong and powerful runner," Taylor said. "He's a north-and-south runner, he can take on the tackler, break tackles, he blocks, he's just an all-around back and I feel like he has a pretty good shot at getting drafted, and I just wish him the best of luck."

The two backs met at Indiana University, where Taylor hosted Green-Ellis, then in high school, on a recruiting visit. Green-Ellis enrolled at Indiana and played for two seasons behind Taylor before transferring to Ole Miss following the 2004 season.

{QUOTE}The players since have kept in close contact. In fact, Green-Ellis will be among the groomsmen at Taylor's upcoming wedding this June in Dallas.

"He's getting ready to tie the knot at a young age, but I'll be there," Green-Ellis said with a smile.

Green-Ellis, a 2007 preseason first-team All-SEC pick, ran for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns despite playing on a team that went winless in conference play. His season included a 226-yard effort against Missouri.

In a week of practice that could be crucial for his draft status, Green-Ellis has willingly devoured advice from his old friend.

"I saw Chris out here; he called me when I got out here, and he was wonderful," Green-Ellis said. "He's already in (the NFL), so he's just given me a few little pointers for practice and I just came out and talked to him after practice to see what he thinks."

With Smith recently remarking that the Texans always could use more depth at running back, Green-Ellis has an opportunity to play his way up the team's draft board over the next few days.

Spencer, meanwhile, was on the sidelines to support the 6-3, 250-pound Clermond, a former Pitt teammate and friend.

Pitt's defensive captain in 2007, Clermond led the Panthers in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (13), adding 53 total tackles. His 0.875 sacks per game were tied for 12th nationally and good for third in the Big East.

Clermond was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week after Pitt's season-ending upset over No. 1 West Virginia that knocked the Mountaineers out of the BCS title game. He led a tenacious defensive effort in that game with eight tackles, 1.5 for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

Like Green-Ellis, Clermond was delighted to see a familiar face on the sidelines at practice.

"Charles, he was one of the guys I followed around in college," Clermond said. "He taught us everything. He always was a leader, always led by example, always was positive and just was the type of person that just pushed you and let you know that anything's possible, and it's just great to see him out here today when I came out here."

A guard at Pitt in 2004 before switching to tackle in 2005, Spencer faced off against Clermond countless times in practice sessions.

While the Texans have invested several draft picks on defensive linemen in recent years, Clermond may prove over the next few days to be deserving of a selection in later rounds, if not earlier. According to Spencer, the best thing about Clermond is his high ceiling.

"The sky's the limit for this guy," Spencer said. "I've played against Joe throughout college, and I know how hard he works. He's a high-motor guy, and I'm expecting him to do well out here this week.

"This can be huge. He can show all these coaches out here how good he is. Obviously, I went against him so I know, but this week could be huge for him."

The 83rd Edition of the East/West Shrine Game will be held at the University of Houston's Roberston Stadium on Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. Two legendary coaches, Dick Vermeil (East) and Mike White (West) will head the teams.

Other notable players in the game include quarterback Sam Keller, Nebraska; tailback Allen Patrick, Oklahoma; linebacker Vince Hall, Virginia Tech; and running back Anthony Alridge, Houston.

Stay tuned all week for additional coverage of the game.

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