All-American Bowl: The Gorney Awards
SAN ANTONIO - The All-American Bowl is in the books, with the East beating the West 48-14. After following practices all week and watching the game, here are the Gorney Awards.
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
This award goes to the most dynamic and exciting player during the week, the guy who gets everyone's attention when he has the ball. Nebraska signee Wandale Robinson was the clear winner for this category, since he was dynamic all week in practice, made the ordinary look exciting and then he had a nice game with four catches for 91 yards.
Honorable mention: Georgia signee Dominick Blaylock had a quiet week of practice, but there’s no arguing with his stats in the game - four catches for 137 yards and two TDs, plus he threw a touchdown. USC commit Puka Nacua has an exciting burst to his game and Baylor signee Jaylen Ellis had some nice moments in practice.
This goes to the player who raised his stock the most during the week and Michigan signee Christopher Hinton proved he should once again be in the five-star discussion. The four-star defensive end absolutely dominated every practice session. He has great size, he moves well and nobody could block him.
Honorable mention: Especially in the game with five touchdown passes, Wisconsin quarterback signee Graham Mertz proved he could be higher in the rankings and South Carolina QB signee Ryan Hilinski had a great week of practice. Texas safety signee Tyler Owens was outstanding during the week, Alabama commit Marcus Banks could move up, Nebraska DE signee Ty Robinson looked the part, Florida State safety commit Nick Cross was consistently great and Alabama DE signee Antonio Alfano is already a five-star, but he dominated all practices.
This award is not one that you want; it's for the player whose stock dropped the most. Quavaris Crouch pulled out of the first practice with a shoulder injury and then didn’t make much of an impact the rest of the week. Is he a running back? Is he a linebacker? The former No. 1 player in the 2019 class is now rated No. 30 and that seems too high after his week in San Antonio.
Honorable mention: From a physical standpoint, it’s hard to justify Alabama QB signee Taulia Tagovailoa just outside the Rivals100. Plus, after one practice he was slowed for the rest of the week. Wake Forest WR signee Nolan Groulx came into the event ranked No. 74 after an outstanding summer, but that is a touch high. For a four-star linebacker, Clemson signee Kane Patterson was largely unnoticed during the week.
This award is given to the best-looking prospect on the hoof, the guy who looks like he could play in college or even the NFL right now, and Bryce Benhart is one of those guys. The Nebraska offensive line signee is all of 6-foot-9 and he will be well over 300 pounds but is trimmed up now for wrestling season. No offensive lineman looked even close to him physically.
Honorable mention: Hinton is an absolutely beast in the middle of the defensive line and LSU signee Siaki Ika is one of the more massive recruits in recent memory. DeMarvin Leal looks like he’s been in an SEC weight room for years. On the offensive line, Doug Nester and Xavier Truss definitely looked the part, along with Logan Brown. Texas linebacker signee De’Gabriel Floyd was one of the thicker linebackers at the event.
This award goes to the player with the best feet, whether it's an offensive lineman or a cornerback, big man or mighty mite. We’re giving this one to Alabama running back signee Trey Sanders, who just looks different on the football field compared to the other backs. He’s so powerful but also so sudden, he can run between the tackles or catch it out of the backfield. Sanders can do everything.
Honorable mention: Oklahoma’s five-star quarterback signee Spencer Rattler evaded pressure with quick feet, Texas WR signee Jordan Whittington doesn’t have fantastic straight-line speed but he could put moves on any cornerback. Oregon OL signee Jonah Tauanu’u is incredibly light on his feet for someone who is at least 280 pounds and Indiana signee Tiawan Mullen is bouncy and makes plays all over the field.
What's the difference between Hard Hat and Lunch Pail? The Hard Hat Award is for the biggest hitter, while the Lunch Pail Award is for the guy who does the dirty work that doesn't get into the box score or noticed by many, and I’m giving this one to Harry Miller. The Ohio State offensive guard signee is big, physical and smart, directing the offensive line and doing a great job throughout the week, while also recruiting Doug Nester and others to the Buckeyes.
Honorable mention: In the interior of the offensive line, LSU signee Kardell Thomas is two handfuls and even then he’s tough to get around. Plus, he looked to be in tip-top shape throughout the week. Florida State OL signee Dontae Lucas is not afraid to mix it up, either. In the secondary, Kyle Hamilton had numerous pass deflections throughout the week and Keontra Smith was impressive back there as well.
This award sounds like it's for a defender who hits, but it's really for a receiver with the best hands during the week, and this one was a tough call between Oklahoma commit Jadon Haselwood and Ohio State signee Garrett Wilson but we gave the edge to Wilson. He was just more dynamic over the entire week and he dominated at times, but Haselwood was right there with him.
Honorable mention: USC commit Bru McCoy hardly ever drops a pass so he was Mr. Reliable as well, along with Clemson signee Joe Ngata, who got better as the week went on. Michigan signee Cornelius Johnson had his moments and could also be counted on to make the catch and Wandale Robinson was all over the field at all times making plays.
POISE UNDER PRESSURE
This is essentially for the quarterback who performs the best when the lights come on and there is actually a live pass-rush coming at him. No question on this one, as Graham Mertz was absolutely fantastic, and people at Wisconsin should be thrilled. He completed 7 of 14 passes for 188 yards and five touchdowns, a bowl record.
Honorable mention: Only four quarterbacks are in the final box score and all of them had decent showings, with Rattler doing the best stat-wise throwing for 234 yards and two touchdowns. North Carolina signee Sam Howell completed 11 of 13 passes for 213 yards.
This award goes to the quarterback with the best arm who showed the ability to make all the passes with zip on the football. Ryan Hilinski really showed off his skill in the game when he zipped a pass from the end zone and off his back foot downfield to USC commit Puka Nacua for a first down. With his size at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Hilinski has a lot of pace on his passes.
Honorable mention: Mertz and Howell are hardly spaghetti arms. They can both zing it around the field to open receivers as well, and they both showed that during the week. On Rattler’s deep ball, there’s a little too much air on it sometimes. He’ll learn quickly to put some more strength behind it because he has the physical tools.
This award goes to the quarterback who showed the best accuracy all week long. This is another close contest, but I’m going to give the edge to Mertz. Through practice and in the game, Mertz put the ball on the money time and again, he knows when to lace it in there and when to put some touch on it and he’s just a really talented player.
Honorable mention: There is no arguing with putting Howell as the honorable mention because he finished 11 of 13 passing in the game. That’s an accurate thrower right there.
This is for the player who provided the best coverage on defense during the week. There are a lot of names who could’ve taken home this coveted award but I’m going with Alabama commit Marcus Banks, who was always around the football, tipping passes away and generally making it difficult for receivers to get open at all.
Honorable mention: Florida commit Chris Steele is so physical that receivers couldn’t do a whole lot. Georgia pledge Tyrique Stevenson is aggressive at the line of scrimmage and through the route. Cameron Smith made a bunch of impressive tackles in the game, and then Noa Pola-Gates, Kyle Hamilton, Tiawan Mullen and Keontra Smith are others who should be recognized.
This goes to the smallest guy who made the biggest impact and played bigger than his size, and Wandale Robinson is the far-and-away winner again. He is so dynamic and fun to watch, and while I despise comparisons sometimes he does look and play a whole lot like Purdue WR Rondale Moore, except Robinson was better than Moore at the same event.
Honorable mention: Indiana CB signee Tiawan Mullen could be a steal for the Hoosiers. Even though he’s undersized, Mullen is aggressive and in-your-face and doesn’t give up anything easily.
ALL OR NOTHING
This is for the player who will either make a huge play or potentially make a mistake or be invisible at times and this one is easy: It’s Georgia wide receiver signee Dominick Blaylock. He did very little throughout the week and was completely a non-factor through the practices, but when it became game time he was catching touchdowns, he threw a TD pass and he was absolutely awesome when the lights came on.
Honorable mention: We didn’t hear much from LSU linebacker signee Marcel Brooks throughout the week - other than when he wore black-and-white plaid dress pants to the awards show on Friday night - but when it was game time he led both teams with seven tackles and was flying all over the field.
This award goes to the player who was simply good all week long and could be relied upon to bring it each and every day. Alabama defensive tackle signee Antonio Alfano came to San Antonio to compete and he was unstoppable, especially during the week of practice. There wasn’t a rep where he didn’t give 100 percent.
Honorable mention: Mississippi State OL signee Charles Cross was consistently dominant all week and he had an impressive showing. Hinton, Mertz, Hilinski, Rattler, Ty Robinson, USC defensive end signee Drake Jackson, Florida linebacker signee Tyron Hopper and Georgia defensive end signee Nolan Smith are a few others who deserve recognition.
This award goes to the player who had the biggest impact in the game itself and this one could not have been any easier. Mertz set a bowl record with five touchdown passes and he looked awesome on Saturday afternoon. Could he be the best quarterback in the entire class after this performance?
Honorable mention: By only watching practice, there was no telling Dominick Blaylock would take off in the game because he didn’t do much early in the week. But with four catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns (and he also threw a TD pass), the Georgia signee definitely left his mark.
This award goes to the player entering the game that was in prime position to earn that extra star, whether it was a fifth or fourth star, but didn't meet those expectations. Logan Brown is currently rated five spots off of five-star status and he had the opportunity this week to dominate and move into that highest echelon of rankings. It just didn’t happen. While the Wisconsin signee looks great he just didn’t take over and dominate as expected.
Honorable mention: Quavaris Crouch and Frank Ladson are both right on the fringe of five-star status, but neither took over during the All-American Bowl week. It could still happen possibly, but it would be a long shot because neither was exceptional in San Antonio.