All-American Bowl: Stock report from day one
SAN ANTONIO – The first practices for the 2019 All-American Bowl were held inside of the Alamodome on New Year’s Day. Several prospects made strong first impressions on Day 1, while others will be looking to pick up their play as the week goes on.
A brand new five-star in the most recent update of the Rivals100, Alfano wasted no time on the first day of All-American Bowl practices showing why he was deserving of that bump. A powerfully-built defensive tackle who looks best suited for the three-technique spot, Alfano lived in the offensive backfield during Tuesday’s practice. The offensive line just had no answer for the Alabama commit’s combination of power and quickness.
Overall the defensive back groups had solid days, with a few nice plays and a few missed assignments that are to be expected in the first practice. The one prospect who was most consistently impressive, however, was Cross, a Florida State commit who has yet to sign his letter of intent. Cross has a sturdy frame that looks plenty capable of coming up in run support, but what caught our attention on Tuesday was how sticky he was in coverage and how well he defended the pass.
The East team has a nice balance of inside and outside receivers for Saturday’s game, and the headliner is Haselwood, a five-star prospect and the No. 2 overall player at the position in 2019. He set the tone for the East receiver corps and made some defensive backs who had otherwise good days look second-rate. Haselwood is a tough cover with his combination of size and speed, but what sets him apart as an elite wide receiver prospect is his playmaking ability and natural feel for the position.
In the most recent update of the Rivals100, Hinton lost the fifth star he had next to his name from the first rankings of the 2019 class. On Day 1 of All-American Bowl practices, the Michigan commit was making a strong case to earn that fifth star back. The questions about whether offensive tackle may be a better future position have followed Hinton since early in his career, but on Tuesday he was among the best defensive linemen, showing outstanding quickness and technical proficiency at the position.
The West defensive line features several prospects who possess an impressive size/athleticism combination, and Jackson is right near the top of that group. The future USC Trojan played on the edge during Tuesday’s practice, but looks like he would have no issue dropping down to a five-technique or three-technique spot and taking care of business there. Jackson looked bigger than his listed 260 pounds, and moves extremely well at his current size.
Standing side-by-side with Jadon Haselwood, Johnson was just as physically impressive as his five-star All-American Bowl teammate. Both are tall, solidly-built and athletic, and when Johnson got out and ran routes he showed a smooth, effortless, athletic stride. Whether Johnson has the same degree of playmaking ability as Haselwood remains to be seen, but the future Michigan Wolverine compared surprisingly well to his higher-rated teammate from a size and skill standpoint.
If we were giving out a most outstanding player award to the West team on Tuesday, Leal would get the vote pretty comfortably. The Rivals100 prospect signed with Texas A&M last month and looks ready to hit the college field right now. Leal is a big defensive end, but he has the quickness and athleticism to stay on the edge in college. Offensive tackles could not handle him on Tuesday and he lived in the offensive backfield. If this level of play continues, Leal has a case for five stars.
As the highest-ranked 2019 prospect participating in the All-American Bowl (No. 1 Derek Stingley Jr. is on the roster, but not expected to play), Sanders was expected to show out. However, we have watched enough of these all-star games to know it is not always easy to live up to expectations when that spotlight is on you in a talent-rich environment like the All-American Bowl. There were no such issues for Sanders, however, who immediately jumps off the field from a size standpoint and has an awesome collection of skills.
LSU’s five-star offensive lineman is Mr. Consistency in these national events, always stepping up to the challenge and delivering an impressive performance. The West team did not do as much live scrimmaging as the East on Day 1, but when they did Thomas could be found taking care of his man and creating holes for running backs. He capped the day when the big men took their turns trying field punts and Thomas easily brought his in despite being in a full sprint.
Gray was a prospect who made a lot of headlines as a senior and there are big expectations for him this week in the All-American Bowl. Our first impression of him, though, is that he was noticeably smaller than the other backs on his team without a commensurate increase in speed or quickness to compensate. Fellow East running backs Trey Sanders and Chez Mellusi were bigger and just as, if not more, explosive as Gray on the first day of team practices.
Two years ago I watched Tua Tagovailoa in this same All-American Bowl setting. What I saw from his younger brother Taulia today is not on that level. Tua’s success at the college level undoubtedly gets projected onto his brother, but they are two different players who look to be playing at two different levels when making an apples-to-apples comparison. Physically, fundamentally and athletically, Tua had a significant advantage over Taulia at the same stage.