SAN ANTONIO — The 17th edition of the U.S. Army Bowl is in the books and East team ended a three-year losing streak to the West with a 27-17 victory. Rivals.com analysts were on-hand for the entire week of practices and the game, and now we hand out some hardware to this year’s crop of Army All-Americans.
POISE UNDER PRESSURE
This is essentially for the best quarterback who performs when the lights come on and there is actually a live pass-rush coming at him. Georgia commit Jake Fromm was sensational all week for the East team, but his touchdown pass to D.J. Matthews just before the half in the Army Bowl defined poise under pressure. With three West defensive linemen immediately in his face after the snap, Fromm somehow escaped and then made a beautiful throw to Matthews in a spot between three defensive backs.
Honorable mention: All three of the East quarterbacks deserve recognition here because each was running for their lives almost immediately after the snap and somehow still led their team to victory. Alabama commit Tua Tagovailoa attempted just three passes in the game, but was credited with seven rushing attempts and only took one sack, while Hunter Johnson was able to escape pressure and smartly throw the ball away on several plays that looked like for-sure sacks.
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. UCLA commit Jaelen Phillips was our No. 1 player from the Army Bowl game, and our No. 1 player over the entire week. But, that recognizes performance and now we’re also saying he physically looks the part as well. That’s an impressive combination.
Honorable mention: Like Phillips, Iowa commit A.J. Epenesa is a tall and strong rusher coming off the edge. He is a guy who jumps off the field at you physically, as is Ohio State linebacker commit Baron Browning, who looks like he came from central casting when the call was made for an outside linebacker prospect.
This award needs no explanation, and also required little debate. Florida State wide receiver commit D.J. Matthews opened our eyes from day one with his speed. On a roster as talented, as athletic and as explosive as the one in San Antonio this week, you definitely take notice when one guy seems to be playing at a different speed than everyone else on the field.
Honorable mention: Five-star running back and Florida State commit Cam Akers certainly has some scoot to him, and showed it in Saturday’s game. He may not have been the fastest East running back, though, as Tennessee commit Ty Chandler has that home run hitting ability out of the backfield as well.
This award is also self-explanatory and goes to East lineman TeDarrell Slaton, who practiced all week on the offensive line, but is being recruited by several teams, including his favorite – Florida – as a defensive tackle, and took several snaps at that position during the game. On one play, he threw West offensive guard Wyatt Davis, who you will see below is no weakling himself, three yards into the backfield and stopped the running back at the line of scrimmage.
Honorable mention: Outside of the aforementioned play versus Slaton, Davis led a staunch West interior offensive line during Saturday’s game that kept the East defensive line in-check and their quarterbacks’ jerseys clean. We will also give a nod to Washington defensive tackle commit Marlon Tuipulotu, who pushed offensive linemen around during Tuesday’s one-on-ones session.
This is for the player who provided the best coverage on defense during the week and it goes to West defensive back Deommodore Lenoir, who was one of the best overall players at any position. Rated as an Athlete because of his ability to play multiple positions in college, Lenoir showed that as a cornerback, he is one of the 2017 class’ best.
Honorable mention: Ohio State commit Jeffrey Okudah is the No. 1 ranked safety prospect in the 2017 class, but he spent the week playing cornerback for the West and was outstanding. Additionally, Washington commit Salvon Ahmed and Georgia commit Richard LeCounte had moments during the week where they showed excellent coverage skills.
This award goes to the wide receiver who was most reliable catching the football and/or showed they could make the spectacular catch. Michigan commit Donovan Peoples-Jones did have a couple highlight reel catches during the week of practice, but he gets the nod here primarily because he was so sure-handed. In Saturday’s game, he caught both passes that came his way for a total of 22 yards.
Honorable mention: Georgia commit Jeremiah Holloman showed a tremendous catch radius and pulled in several fingertip grabs, while his East teammate Tarik Black proved he could make the tough catches in traffic. On the West team, DeVonta Smith and Ty Jones proved to be reliable targets for their quarterbacks throughout the week and they tied for the team lead in receptions during the game.
This goes to the player who raised his stock the most during the week and while there were several candidates for this award, Notre Dame offensive line commit Joshua Lugg from Pennsylvania gets the nod here. We have seen Lugg in person several times over the last few years and his performance this week in San Antonio was a pleasant surprise.
Honorable mention: A couple of three-star prospects from the state of Iowa – wide receiver Oliver Martin and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs – made strong cases for a bump to four-stars, particularly Martin, who had a great week of practice. Ohio State defensive end commit Chase Young is already ranked as the No. 50 player in this class, but he’s going to get some five-star discussion in our final rankings meeting.
This award is not one that you want; it's for the player whose stock dropped the most. Ohio State offensive line commit Josh Myers has been a five-star from the very beginning of our 2017 class rankings, but he rarely tested himself against the best in the off-season and may have lost that competitive edge. Physically, he was one of the best looking offensive linemen in attendance, but his performance was near the bottom of the list.
Honorable mention: New Michigan commit Chuck Filiaga out of Texas struggled throughout the week with both the strength and the quickness of the defensive linemen he was going against. Georgia offensive line commit Netori Johnson’s play throughout the week was less than memorable, and he was beaten badly more often than not during Saturday’s game.
This goes to the offensive lineman who quarterbacks should feel best about protecting their blindside and five-star Stanford commit Walker Little is the pick. Besides having prototypical size for the offensive tackle position, Little plays with great range and is very difficult for defensive ends to get around – exactly what you want from the guy responsible for keeping your quarterback healthy.
Honorable mention: There was not a lot of depth in this game from offensive tackles who could potentially play that left tackle position, but Little’s West and future Stanford teammate Foster Sarell showed well in that are, as did East offensive linemen Joshua Lugg and Andrew Thomas.
This award goes to the player who used his feet most effectively during the week and it goes to Georgia running back commit D’Andre Swift. The Rivals100 prospect may not have home run speed in the open field, but he is so quick in and out of his cuts and always runs balanced.
Honorable mention: We could list many of the same attributes for Florida State running back commit Cam Akers as we just did for Swift, though Swift was more consistent throughout the week. Changing gears a little bit, wide receiver Mike Harley and offensive tackle Walker Little also showed very good feet for their respective positions.
This is what the game of football is all about and draws the biggest oohs and aahs from the fans. Oklahoma linebacker commit Jacob Phillips started off the Army Bowl right when he made West quarterback Tate Martell pay for trying to tuck-and-run. A little while later, Phillips flew into the backfield and stuffed big 6-foot-2, 222-pound running back Najee Harris for a three-yard loss.
Honorable mention: Although he played safety this week, South Carolina commit Hamsah Nasirildeen is 6-foot-5 and could very well grow into a linebacker. He already knows how to deliver a hit like one. Georgia Tech commit Bruce Jordan-Swilling was one of our top performers from the game, and he is a physical run-stuffing linebacker.
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 it was an easy call to give it to Notre Dame tight end commit Cole Kmet. Known more as a flex tight end prospect, Kmet proved his ability to be an in-line blocker throughout the week of practices, then was arguably the East’s best blocker on game day, yet never got a pass thrown his way.
Honorable mention: Kmet’s counterpart on the West, Stanford tight end commit Colby Parkinson, did get one catch in the game for one yard, but his biggest contribution also came as a blocker when he had the key block that sprung wide receiver Devonta Smith for a 39-yard gain in the second quarter that ultimately led to the West’s first points.
This award goes to the quarterback with the best arm who showed the ability to make all the passes with zip on the football. There was no Ryan Mallett or Xavier Lee – guys with howitzer’s for arms – in this year’s game, but the player who displayed the best velocity of the group was Clemson commit Hunter Johnson, who showed once again that there was no point on the field he cannot hit.
Honorable mention: When he was at the Rivals Quarterback Challenge Finals prior to his junior year, Ohio State commit Tate Martell seemed to have only one speed, and it was always as hard as he could throw it. Martell has learned to throttle back when needed, but he can still put zip on it when he has to. His West teammate, Shawn Robinson, also has plenty of pop in his arm, but you never know where it is going to end up.
This goes to the smallest guy who made the biggest impact and played bigger than his size and we are going with wide receiver D.J. Matthews again here. The Florida State commit made one of the biggest plays of the game, catching a 76-yard touchdown pass. He was sensational all week long, but looks a lot leaner than his listed 175 pounds.
Honorable mention: We expected West Virginia commit Mike Harley to have a bigger impact in the game because he was open so often in practice, but he caught just one pass while adding one rush and two returns for minimal yardage. Likewise, West wide receiver Jamire Calvin made more noise off the field than on it at the Army Bowl with his pick of Oregon State during the telecast, but had a solid week of practice.
This award goes to the player who maintained a high level of performance throughout the week of practices and into the Army Bowl game. Utah native Jay Tufele made our Daily Dozen two out three practice sessions and again showed up on the list for the game. That is impressive consistency when considering we’re only recognizing 12 out of 100 total players each day.
Honorable mention: Other players who were included in the Daily Dozen three out of the four days we released a list were East defensive end Chase Young, East quarterback Jake Fromm and West defensive back Deommodore Lenoir.
This goes to the player who didn't make a ton of lists and didn't get a lot of attention, yet still accounted for themselves very well throughout the week. USC defensive end commit Hunter Echols never ended up making a Daily Dozen list, yet always seemed to be in the conversation after practice days. He also played solidly in the game, registering two tackles.
Honorable mention: Georgia linebacker commit Nate McBride, likewise, never registered on the Daily Dozen report, yet was noticeably good each day of practice. Meanwhile, wide receiver Devonta Smith ended up leading the West team in receptions and yards during the game, and also had a standout 7-on-7 session earlier in the week when the two teams met for an hour of practice on Tuesday.