ANAHEIM, California - The first practice of the seventh annual Air 7 CaliFlorida Bowl featured several showstoppers on both the Florida and California teams. While numerous players passed the eyeball test, several of those backed that up with great early play on the field.
The list includes sleepers and highly touted products of both talent-rich states. It seemed like things started for California on defense. While their defense has some of the nation's top products, it is outside linebacker/safety prospect Allen Bradford who looks the most ready to go on day one.
It didn't take the five-star Rivals100 member long to get things started. On the first team play, Bradford made a big stuff on a run that got the tempo started for his fellow California teammates. While the talented young man will play outside linebacker this week, he says that safety is his future position at the college level.
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Wherever he plays, it's obvious that Bradford can lay a big hit and make an instant splash in college.
On the Florida side of things, five-star Gator commit and gunslinger Tim Tebow was one of the most highly-anticipated players to show up on Monday. But, in the beginning of practice the Rivals100 member was getting attended to by the training staff nursing his ankle. Gator fans have little to worry about considering it's nothing more than a mild ankle sprain he's been nursing since midway through his high school season.
Once the ball came off his fingertips, it was even more obvious Tebow was never more ready. While many know him as a balanced signal-caller that can beat you with both his arms and legs, it's his long ball that had people's heads turning. His future teammate Jarred Fayson and other talented receivers like Tony Wilson certainly should make for an aerial assault during Saturday's game.
While the highly-touted players were hard to miss, it was a few sleepers that made some noise early as well. Winter Haven, Fla., pass-catcher Zach Charles may have come into the game with no offers, but that could change quickly. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound West Coast hidden gem seemed to have little trouble catching the balls all over the field.
Charles certainly will be one to watch as the practices progress and the game approaches.
California had somewhat of a sleeper as well. Three-star athlete Richard Sherman does have offers that include Mississippi State, Stanford, Nevada, Colorado, and UCLA. However, like many of his teammates, he was not as highly regarded going into this week. That may not last.
Sherman went up against talented defensive backs Shareece Wright and Devin Ross during passing drills and seemed to come up big on select plays. The 6-foot-2 receiver played much taller catching numerous balls in the back of the endzone.
CaliFlorida roster still filling up
There was plenty to watch during Monday's practice, but several other players are still scheduled to show up for Tuesday's practice. One prospect that was notably missing from the California side of things was tight end NaDerris Ward. Four-star Southern Cal commit Derek Simmons was filling in at the offensive spot from his normal defensive end position.
Ward, a Georgia commit, is expected in on Tuesday which will put Simmons back on defense.
Florida was also missing a big piece in both talent and size. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard product Charles Deas also did not make it in for Monday's practice. The three-star is expected to be in sometime Tuesday as well.
Deas is also working through a hefty recruiting process. His offers include Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Nebraska, and Pittsburgh among others.
-- Notables from the California roster on Monday included Jonas Mouton, C.J. Gable, and Rodney Glass. Both Glass and Gable were returning punts in the early moments of the practice session and showed great bursts of speed. Though Tebow is a weapon for Florida, both quarterbacks for the Golden State, Garrett Green and Michael Herrick showed big flashes of their own.
-- Florida receiver Wilson looked the most natural from start to finish. There was plenty of talent to go around at the skill position, but the 5-foot-10 four-star Georgia commit looked very natural catching the ball and completing his routes.
-- Miami-bound corner Ryan Hill was creating a tough task for Tebow to find the open man. The Rivals100 defender had a variety of receivers on lock down including several deep balls.
--Both offense and defensive lines looked solid for both squads. On defense, California's Derrick Hill and Derek Simmons will be tough for the Florida squad to stop. Both looked quick off the edge all day and seemed to be playing with a mean streak.
The Florida offensive line though will have plenty to put up against a talented defensive front. Several top players like Daron Rose, Jim Barrie, and Kevin Young are big-bodied prospects that should protect Tebow well.
Rivals.com and StudentSports.com will have more on the Air 7 CaliFlorida Bowl throughout the week leading up to Saturday's game.