All-American Bowl: What we learned (Day 3)
SAN ANTONIO - The East and West rosters split up for Day 3 of All-American Bowl practices. Rivals National recruiting analysts Sam Spiegelman and Josh Helmholdt were on hand for Thursday's sessions. Both defensive lines shined, and playmakers continued to shine on the offensive side of the ball. Here's more from what they learned in San Antonio.
MORE ALL-AMERICAN BOWL: Five prospects whose stock is rising | What we learned (Day 2) | Five programs that should be pleased | OL vs. DL | Daniel Martin interview | Tuesday's best | Gorney's thoughts | Trevonte Citizen interview | Josh Conerly interview | West OL vs. DL | East OL vs. DL
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EAST DEFENSIVE LINE IS A STRENGTH
Coming into the week, no position group on either team featured as much top-end talent as the East defensive line. Highlighted by five-stars Mykel Williams, Marvin Jones Jr. and Dani Dennis-Sutton, the East defensive line was always going to be one of the most closely watched position groups this week in San Antonio. After three days of practice, even those lofty expectations have been exceeded.
One of the reasons for the East defensive line commanding praise this week has been the emergence of the lower-rated prospects in the group. There was little fanfare when Vincent Anthony committed to Duke in the summer. He only had four other Power Five offers at the time. Anthony has been an absolute revelation in All-American Bowl practices, proving to be physically as gifted as almost any defensive lineman in attendance.
As a Rivals250 prospect, Notre Dame defensive end signee Aiden Gobaira is certainly not rated lowly, but with a trio of five-stars lining up next to him Gobaira was not a name buzzing entering the week. Gobaira has put his name up there with the top players at the position, though, with his relentless motor and physical skill set. Auburn commit Caden Story, likewise, has complemented the explosive defensive end group well while primarily lining up inside.
The five-stars, meanwhile, have been every bit as good as advertised. Williams, a Georgia signee, is a devastating combination of size and athleticism and he has given offensive linemen fits this week. Similarly, Dennis-Sutton, a Penn State signee, is nearly unblockable when he wants to be, and he often wants to be. Jones, a future Georgia Bulldog, might be the most consistent of the trio and each has lived up to their five-star billing this week.
BOUIE IS MR. VERSATILE
Texas A&M signee Deyon Bouie is ranked as the No. 11 cornerback prospect in the 2022 class, and the Aggies announced him as a defensive back in their official National Signing Day release. This week, however, the man they call “Smoke” is playing wide receiver for the East team and proving to be one of the team’s most explosive playmakers.
Bouie had arguably the play of the day in Thursday’s East practices when he elevated over a defensive back for a fingertip grab in the end zone during the one-on-one session. His speed makes the future Aggie dangerous after the catch, but Bouie has also proven to be one of the most sure-handed receivers and a favorite of the East quarterbacks.
WEST DL WILL BE HARD TO SLOW DOWN
Saturday is shaping up to be a defensive-driven affair with not just the East, but the West defensive line showing well in Thursday’s practice. Caden Curry (Ohio State), Chris McClellan (Florida), J’Mond Tapp (Texas) and Nic Caraway (Purdue) have been absolutely stellar this week and again on Thursday, while Tyson Ford (Notre Dame) has also flashed quite a bit.
Curry’s relentless motor has been hard to ignore and he flies off the line and won reps off the edge and stunts inside. He sacked future teammate Devin Brown during the team portion of practice. Caraway has thrived with his hand in the dirt. The future Boilermaker commanded double teams and still ripped off a sack on Thursday. He’s equipped with a fantastic get-off and twitch.
Tapp benefited from the West OL having to double team McClellan, Curry and Caraway on occasion. He flew off the edge for a sack and combined with Ford for a second. McClellan also generated pressure off the edge consistently and is a bowling ball crashing down at his best.
CJ WILLIAMS HAS A CHANCE TO BE THE PLAYMAKER
The East and West teams have elite defensive line talent, but one receiver who has consistently found ways to make plays on Thursday was uncommitted Rivals100 playmaker CJ Williams. The one-time Notre Dame commitment has a smoothness to his game while he easily navigates downfield as a deep threat. He is also polished enough to find holes in the defense and was a favorite for all the West quarterbacks near the goal line, too.
Williams, who privately signed with either nearby UCLA or USC, will reveal his decision during Saturday’s All-American Bowl. He visited USC to meet with first-year Trojans coach Lincoln Riley before the Early Signing Period and – in theory – has the elite skill-set to be electrifying in that offense.
CLEMSON-BOUND CADE KLUBNIK FLASHES FOR WEST
Before practice, you couldn’t help notice Cade Klubnik showing off some unheralded athleticism as he and fellow West quarterback Devin Brown loosened. During Thursday’s West practice, the five-star quarterback not only looked the part as a receiver, but showcased his big arm downfield on a few connections with Rivals100 WR CJ Williams and also escaped the intense West pass rush with a scramble down the sideline. He’s done that a few times in big games before if you’ve followed Klubnik’s storied Texas high school career at Austin Westlake.
Over the course of the week Klubnik has developed a rapport with an array of his offensive teammates. He’s targeted Williams (USC or UCLA), Kyion Graves (Ohio State), Raleek Brown (USC) and Landon Samson (South Carolina) – all of whom bring a ton of speed to the equation – quite a bit. He’s also working closely with Southlake Carroll coach Riley Dodge, son of his prep coach Todd Dodge. Dodge is very familiar with Klubnik’s vast skill-set and talent, which certainly opens up the playbook and even the imagination for the West offense equipped with the nation’s best quarterback.