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Rivals Daily Dozen: Top players from Army Bowl day two

SAN ANTONIO – The U.S. Army All-American Bowl threw a new wrinkle into the week of practices and brought both teams together for an hour of skill and big men one-on-ones. The result was a preview of the players to watch for in Saturday’s game.

MORE: Complete coverage | Video central | Tuesday practice updates | Tuesday hot teams


From the first rep of the morning until the final 7-on-7 competition between the East and West teams, Nasirildeen was intent on showing his playmaking ability Tuesday. At 6-foot-5 it is difficult to project a position for the defender, but at least this week it does not appear to matter because he is all over the field. From a tackle for loss in full team to an interception in 7-on-7, Nasirildeen was the player who impressed us most Tuesday.

The interior combo of Tufele and Marlon Tuipulotu could spell disaster for the East’s offensive game plan on Saturday based on the trouble the pair of West defensive tackles gave their linemen Tuesday. Whereas Tuipoluto succeeded with violence and an insatiable appetite for the quarterback, Tufele plays more of a finesse game, showing an explosive first step and the agility to spin out of linemen’s grasps.

Peoples-Jones has that knack of making the difficult look easy, so when it came to the one-on-ones against the West team the five-star was able to win reps in succession. At nearly 6-foot-3 and closing in on 200 pounds, Peoples-Jones is not a receiver cornerbacks want to play press coverage on or battle for the football. His speed is underrated and seems to catch defensive backs by surprise, which creates easy receptions for the Michigan commit.

After a very quiet first day-and-a-half of practices with the East, Reitmaier came alive when the West team joined the East team at Heroes Stadium for some afternoon one-on-ones. Reitmaier is not the first guy who catches your attention physically when looking at the East defensive line, but the Oregon commit has quickness and agility that made him an elusive target for offensive linemen looking to keep him out of the backfield.

Another day and another jersey change for the Notre Dame commit. Apparently 61 is his number, though, because those were the digits on Lugg’s jersey Tuesday and he had a masterful performance. When facing talent the caliber of what they see in San Antonio it is difficult for players at all positions to maintain their fundamentals, but Lugg was a technician from the beginning, and that allowed him to be a regular winner in one-on-ones.

Through two days, Lenoir has established himself as the top cornerback for the West team. He’s found most of his success matching receivers step-for-step on longer vertical routes, but routinely finds ways to get his hands on passes one way or the other. Lenoir gives himself an advantage in coverage by getting himself into position early enough to get his head turned around, which gives him plenty of time to locate incoming passes.

Epenesa started to come on late in Monday’s practice and then carried that momentum into Tuesday. There was an adjustment period for the southern Illinois native going against talent of this caliber, but Epenesa did not take long to recognize that his combination of size and athleticism is rare and can be utilized to dominate even against the best players in the country.

This makes it two-for-two for Matthews on the Daily Dozen. There is no doubt that the setting of the Army Bowl practices plays into the Florida State commit’s strength, but it is not his fault that he is a highlight reel worthy receiver. On Tuesday, Matthews’ impact was more conventional and included an impressive catch on a deep ball in one-on-ones against the West.

Listed on the roster as No. 51 this week, Tuipulotu showed up in a No. 36 jersey Tuesday with no nameplate, so it took a little while to figure out who was who. What was apparent immediately, though, was that No. 36 was dominating the one-on-one session with the East offensive linemen. The Washington commit has violent hands and he ripped and swam and fought on every rep until he was in the quarterback’s face.

For the second straight day, Little was as solid as they came on the offensive line for either side. As far as one-on-one reps have gone, across the board opportunities have been limited, but Little has made the most of each one he’s taken. He isn’t the most upright guy coming out of his stance, but that adds to the width that he plays with and makes it difficult for pass rushers to find a clear path into the pocket. He’s been a strong bookend to Foster Sarell on the left side.

Smith’s profile as a player seems to match his physical profile perfectly. One of the more slight-of-build players for either team, he finds ways to slide through cracks and gaps in coverage to make catch after catch. He hasn’t had trouble working through contact on the line, but is even less susceptible to being knocked off kilter while taking some contact in the flow of running his routes. He’s not a loud talker, but he plays with a lot of intensity and isn’t concerned with who he has to beat to make the next play.

Swift has been an elusive back for the East team, but in day two of practice, when both teams worked against each other in one-on-ones and 7-on-7 scrimmaging, Swift flashed his abilities as a pass-catcher. He made a couple of nice grabs on routes through the heart of the defense and was the most memorable running back in the late session. Swift iced a linebacker or two during one-on-one’s with quick feet and a shimmy to make an uncontested grab.