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For the athletes committed to playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Under Armour All-America Game, the chance to shine in front of a national television audience and against the best high school competition looms.
The Under Armour Game will be played Friday, Jan. 4, and air at 5 p.m. EST on ESPN. The Army Bowl is scheduled to be broadcast Saturday, Jan. 5, at 1 p.m. EST on NBC as a lead-in to the NFL playoffs.
With the full team of Rivals.com analysts in attendance -- and legions of recruiting fans watching -- those participating in the season-ending events have the opportunity to make major strides in showing college readiness and to boost their stock in the final Rivals100.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said that while every player is under the same microscope, there are two position groups that often stand out.
"I think the offensive and defensive linemen are the easiest to spot who belongs and who doesn't," Farrell said. "Those guys are not used to seeing other players of their skill level across the board going against them.
"Offensive linemen, outside of maybe one or two games a year, will be blocking 230-pound players, not 285-pounds beasts. Defensive guys, it is the same way; if they are lining up against kids who are 6-1 and 280 pounds, it is a lot different when there is a 6-4, 300-pounder with good feet in front of you."
Two of the biggest moves in the final Rivals100 rankings came after stellar performances in the all-star events. Staten Island (N.Y) Curtis defensive end Dominique Easley and Dublin (Ohio) Coffman's Mike Adams each made historic rises.
Adams, a then-longtime Ohio State commit, moved from No. 85 to No. 3 in the Class of 2008. He was named the No. 2 player in the game and was lauded as having the best feet of any of the offensive linemen -- a group that included Barrett Jones, Lucas Nix, Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith.
Easley jumped from No. 107 to No. 7 nationally in the Class of 2010 with his dominating performance in the Under Armour game. He had four tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery en route to being named the game MVP. He committed to Florida during the contest.
While a stellar week will be discussed in rankings meetings, Farrell said, it is important to balance that small sample size versus a season or two of work.
"The full body has to weigh more," Farrell said. "A great week could be just that, one great week.
"The biggest thing to look at is if the kids belong on the same field with one another, and you can usually spot that."
The ability to stay on the field is especially important to players who come from non-power states for football.
Farrell said some players come into these events with hype from summer camps and follow with a dominant year against lesser players, but seeing everyone against the best helps to separate the pretenders.
"Kids who don't really play anyone in the regular season can be exposed, or they can prove doubters wrong," Farrell said. "We have seen both ends of that, and while you can't throw away a body of work over a bad trip, you have to weigh in who is overwhelmed and overvalued.
"Kids can have a terrible week for any number of reasons, so there is some level of balance that needs to be met."
Two U.S. Army All-American participants who fall into that category are five-star players Jalen Ramsey and Max Browne.
Ramsey is the third-ranked cornerback in the country and is committed to USC. He will head to San Antonio from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy.
His stock was one of the fastest rising this offseason. His ranking improved from No. 90 to No. 11 -- before settling at No. 15 -- following a dominant performance at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge and The Opening.
When he committed to the game, Ramsey said he knew this was his chance to prove doubters wrong.
"People are always asking what (recruits) can do on a field of all great players in pads and not shorts, so I want to go out and show them against the top competition," Ramsey said. "It will be a fun trip down there, but I want to win defensive MVP. I have goals for sure."
Browne, also a USC commit, has been inside the Top 10 of the Rivals100 since the preseason evaluations. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound pro-style quarterback from Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline can use the game to move into the top overall spot.
According to Farrell, there will be a lot of eyes on Browne.
"You can tell a lot about a quarterback when the game is going on," Farrell said. "That will be more important than the week of practice.
"The top spot in the country truly is up for grabs and Browne could prove to be the guy, but how he handles the pressure of having actual defensive linemen coming after him will show a lot about him. He does not see anything like this in Washington, so that is what we will be looking for."
Past quarterback performances, according to Farrell, have been glimpses into the future, maybe more than other positions, but he says that everyone has a chance to shine.
"Receivers have been bad but rebounded, corners have been torched but went on and have been very good in college, but quarterbacks have been pretty telling. This is just one step in the process, but it is weighed heavily because of the competition level, so you have to assume guys rise to the challenge."
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