All-American Bowl: Thoughts on the East team after day one
SAN ANTONIO -- Day One of the All-American Bowl practices kicked off on Tuesday, with players from around the country suited up to go head-to-head. The talented East and West teams did plenty of intrasquad competition, including 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and full team drills. Rivals.com analysts Woody Wommack and Josh Helmholdt were on hand to watch the day’s action and share their thoughts below.
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ANTONIO JOHNSON SETS THE TONE
The first, real action in East practices saw the offensive and defensive skill positions engage in 7-on-7 Tuesday morning, and it was Texas A&M’s Antonio Johnson who got the week off to a fast start with a couple of big plays from his safety position. The first eye-popping play from Johnson was an interception along the sideline of quarterback Tate Rodemaker on a pass intended for Joshua Downs. The second play was even more impressive, even though it was not an interception. Rodemaker threw a beautiful pass down the seam to tight end Michael Mayer, but Johnson broke on the football in an instant and knocked it down before Mayer could get his hands on the pass. The No. 3-ranked safety prospect in the 2020 class, Johnson’s break on the football, range and instincts stood out on day one.
QUARTERBACKS ARRIVE WITH DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS
The collection of quarterbacks on the East team are a unique group, and they arrived in San Antonio via very different paths. D.J. Uiagalelei was the former No. 1-ranked player in the class, has been a five-star prospect from the beginning and signed with Clemson. Tate Rodemaker, meanwhile, has always been a three-star prospect and was previously committed to South Florida before flipping to Florida State the week before the Early Signing Period opened. The third quarterback on the East team is Evan Prater, who was just bumped up to four-stars following his senior season. Prater signed with his hometown Cincinnati Bearcats last month. You would expect Uiagalelei to be the clear-cut top performer from that group, but the five-star had his struggles finding consistency on day one. Prater does not have quite the pop in his arm as Uiagalelei, but he got better as the day progressed and started to build some rapport with his receivers. Rodemaker, meanwhile, was up and down throughout the day. He did not throw as many passes as the other two in the afternoon session.
OL/DL ONE-ON-ONE RANKINGS
The offensive and defensive lines met up for a session of one-on-ones during the afternoon practice. Here is our ranking of the top performers from that session.
1. Bryan Bresee
3. Luke Wypler
5. Myles Murphy
LINEMEN LOOK THE PART
If you were to line up the East offensive and defensive lines and tell an uninformed observer the No. 1-ranked player in the class was in that group, a half dozen or more could easily be selected. This is one of the more impressive line groups the game has hosted in recent years. The actual No. 1, Clemson defensive end Bryan Bresee, probably would not be the first pick of most, despite being very impressive looking. Defensive end Myles Murphy, along with offensive linemen Paris Johnson Jr., Tate Ratledge and Myles Hinton, all have frames of future first-round draft picks.
RIVALRY TRASH TALK
Clemson and Ohio State settled things on the field during Saturday’s College Football Playoff, with the Tigers coming from behind to beat the Buckeyes. But the rivalry between the two teams carried over into Tuesday’s practice, with Clemson five-star defensive tackle signee Bryan Bresee and Ohio State four-star offensive lineman signee Luke Wypler exchanging barbs during one-on-ones. The argument was generally friendly in nature, but when elite competitors get together to go head-to-head, even in practice as teammates, it’s easy to see the fire come out. Seeing the two engaged and competing is a great sign for them as they head to the next level.
HARRIS STEPS UP
After initially looking like one of top 10 overall players in the class of 2021, our evaluation of Donell Harris changed when he reclassified to the class of 2020. Harris has always needed to add muscle and strength to his long wiry frame and having a year less to do so hurt his future potential in our eyes. But on Tuesday he showed that he’s more than up for the challenge against elite offensive linemen, looking especially impressive in a battle with five-star offensive lineman Paris Johnson. Harris wasn’t just using his speed to get around Johnson, he engaged him head-to-head and used his strength to drive him back. It was a very promising sign for Harris and a potential harbinger of things to come once he gets even bigger and stronger at Texas A&M.
... Wide receiver Mushin Muhammad, running back Jalen Berger and cornerback Jalen Kimber each missed portions of the practice getting treatment. Kimber and Muhammad’s issues were minor and both returned to practice. Berger, however, came out for the afternoon session not dressed and with an ice pack taped to his knee. He will be day-to-day for the remainder of the week.
... Joshua Downs has all the skill set that usually fares well in these All-American games. The explosive slot receiver who signed with North Carolina last month proved again to be nearly uncoverable, even against the best defenders in the class. His ability to get from zero to top speed in an instant creates that separation that should make him a favorite target of this quarterback group.
... The East practiced just in upper shells Tuesday, so there was no 100 percent live action. That makes it difficult for a position like linebacker to stand out, but Ohio State’s Cody Simon still caught our attention with his play. Manning the middle linebacker role, Simon quickly diagnosed plays and comes downhill very quickly. He found himself in holes before the running back could get there many times on this day.
... Five-star LSU tight end signee Arik Gilbert was his usual impressive self during the day’s action, but he did have a few drops, which even surprised his teammates. Gilbert, who has also starred at defensive end during his career, doesn’t have many flaws but can still improve his consistency catching the ball, especially since he will be more closely covered at the next level than he was in high school.