UA All-America Game: Mid-week progress report
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Two practice sessions have passed as some of the best players in the nation prep for the Under Armour All-America Game. The roster is loaded with highly ranked prospects but many of them are hoping to boost their ranking when the final Rivals250 update is released in late January.
Here is a position-by-position look at how the Under Armour All-Americans have performed so far.
MORE UA ALL-AMERICA: Thursday's awards | Stock rising | Takeaways from opening practice | Latest on Under Armour All-America standouts | Video of skill players' 1-on-1s | Video of OL vs. DL | Domani Jackson feature | Javontae Barnes discusses finalists | Mathews breaks down top schools
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The Walter Nolen (Texas A&M) hype is real. He's proving his fans right and his doubters wrong. The future Texas A&M Aggie is playing with more energy and more motivation than any player in Orlando. For Nolen to stand out in an uber-talented group of defensive tackles is really a credit to him and the way he has approached this week.
After Nolen, the main standouts along the defensive line so far have been fellow five-star defensive tackle Bear Alexander (Georgia), Shemar Stewart, and Derrick Moore (Michigan). Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M) has had an up and down week so far but it's clear he is supremely talented. Marquis Gracial (Missouri) and Kenyatta Jackson (Ohio State) have been turning heads while Justice Finkley (Texas), Jeremiah Alexander (Alabama), Omari Abor, and Popeye Williams (Louisville) have flashed at various points.
Jaray Bledsoe (Texas), Tyreese Fearbry (Kentucky), Ernest Cooper (Stanford), Malick Sylla (Texas A&M), and Jaheim Oatis (Alabama) have a lot of potential and it's easy to see why they're rated highly. They certainly fit in with the level of talent on the field. Five-star Travis Shaw (North Carolina) did not participate on Thursday but it was good to see how the massive defensive tackle moved during Wednesday's practice.
For the past few weeks, the talk of the recruiting world and for the College Football world in general has been Travis Hunter and his decision to sign with Jackson State instead of Florida State so it's understandable why the spotlight would have been on him throughout this week. For all the attention he's received for being the player he is and his recruiting news, the No. 1 player in the nation hasn't seen a lot of action come his way through two practices.
What makes Hunter so special is how dominant he is as a receiver and defensive back, a five-star on either side of the ball, but he has spent the majority of his time at cornerback so far and quarterbacks haven been throwing to his side of the field. Hunter hasn't let up any notable catches but he also hasn't made many plays during one-on-ones, 7-on-7, or team drills. He is so good when the lights come on that he is bound to show up in the practices to come and in the game but it's a bit surprising to not have really seen him do much through two practices.
Will Johnson (Michigan) has led the way so far for the defensive backs but he hasn't totally separated himself from the pack. Daylen Everette (Georgia) and Robert Spears-Jennings (Oklahoma), who is maybe the biggest surprise of the event so far, are performing very well. Keon Sabb (Michigan) is right there as well.
After a slow start on Wednesday, Jeadyn Lukus (Clemson), Zion Branch (USC), and Sherrod Covil (Clemson) came back in a big way on Thursday. Each made numerous plays on the ball. Bryce Anderson (Texas A&M), Bobby Taylor (Texas A&M), Trequon Fegans (Alabama), JQ Hardaway (Cincinnati), and Joshua Thompson (Stanford) have been a bit up and down through the first two practices. Brian Allen Jr. (Texas) and Kamari Wilson (Florida) have had uneven performances so far too.
The receiver group is very talented and very deep but, based on how they've played this week, the top guys at position so far look like Aaron Anderson (Alabama), Antonio Williams (Clemson), and Luther Burden (Missouri), not necessarily in that order. Evan Stewart (Texas A&M), Adam Randall (Clemson), Chris Marshall (Texas A&M), Shazz Preston (Alabama), and Maurion Horn (Texas Tech) have also been very good. Kaden Saunders (Penn State) didn't participate in Thursday's practice but he was very good on Wednesday. Jayden Gibson (Oklahoma) and Andre Greene Jr. (North Carolina) are two of the most physically gifted receivers on the roster but, like Saunders, only participated in Wednesday's practice and had mixed results. Talyn Shettron (Oklahoma State), Armani Winfield (Baylor), and Amorion Walker (Michigan) bring a lot to the table and their skill sets fit in with this group well but they haven't had the level of success the other receivers have.
The quarterback group as a whole has been very hot and cold. Conner Weigman (Texas A&M) is the highest ranked of the throwers and his accuracy has been a bit inconsistent. It will be interesting to see how much more effective he can be when he can really use his legs. A.J. Duffy (Florida State) and Steve Angeli (Notre Dame) have had similar issues. Duffy has had inconsistent throwing intermediate routes over the middle and Angeli has consistency issues on deep routes. Holden Geriner (Auburn) and AJ Swann (Vanderbilt) don't seem to have adjusted to the skill level and speed for the defensive backs just yet so their timing with receivers hasn't been on point so far.
Five-star Georgia running back signee Branson Robinson was the only available back for team Icons on Thursday so five-star linebacker Harold Perkins jumped over to the other side of the ball. Jovantae Barnes, Emmanuel Henderson (Alabama), and George Pettaway (North Carolina) all suited up for the Legends team. In practices like the ones we saw on Wednesday and Thursday, it's hard for running backs to really show off their skill sets. During positions drills, each of the backs showed off much of what we already knew about them.
Robinson is has surprising quickness and downhill speed for a back built like a tank. Barnes is a big, upright runner with power. Henderson is also a bit upright but brings impressive athleticism to the table and has good change of direction speed. Pettaway is on the smaller side but runs behind his pads, is very explosive, and has good hands.
There are plenty of big names and highly ranked linebackers here in Orlando but the practices haven't made it easy to evaluate them. It's been fairly easy to see the talent that Harold Perkins, CJ Hicks (Ohio State), and Jihaad Campbell (Alabama) bring to the table but most of the other linebackers haven't done much to evaluate. Jaron Willis (Ole Miss) is listed at 220-pounds on the official roster but that seems a bit light. The Ole Miss signee looks like he is carrying a lot more solid weight.
Shawn Murphy (Alabama), Jaylen Sneed (Notre Dame), Martrell Harris (Texas A&M), and Jalon Walker (Georgia) have looked good in drills but haven't done anything notable yet. Gabe Powers (Ohio State) has leaned out a good bit since the summer and he looked a bit lighter on his feet in drills. Stone Blanton (South Carolina) has been a little banged up but has toughed it out through two practices. Dasan McCullough (Indiana) is a physically imposing linebacker but he didn't participate on Thursday. Hopefully he'll be back on the field later this week.
A few offensive lineman have gotten a lot of hype during the first two practices but none have performed better than Devon Campbell. The five-star guard out of Texas has been in a class all his own. He has the measurables and strength to be considered an early contributor at whatever school he chooses.
Campbell has shown awesome technique and a bit of a nasty streak. In one-on-ones, he's handled five-stars Walter Nolen and Bear Alexander along with a slew of other highly rated defensive linemen. Kam Dewberry (Texas A&M), Will Campbell (LSU) and Neto Umeozulu (Texas) have done very well too. Zach Rice (North Carolina) has had his ups and downs handling better competition than he's ever faced but he seems to be adjusting quickly. Patrick Williams Jr. (Texas A&M) is a very lean tackle with a basketball background. The Texas A&M commit is surprisingly strong and is more technically sound than expected. He'll need to fill out his frame before he can be counted on to see consistent playing time but he has a ton of potential and could turn into a very important piece for the Aggies.
Drew Shelton (Penn State), Bo Bordelon (LSU), Deshawn Woods (Missouri verbal), Emery Jones (LSU), and Tyler Booker (Alabama) have all played well but have been as dominant as the others. Collin Sadler (Clemson) has been in the mix but has done much to get evaluated so far this week. Demetrius Hunter (Houston) did not participate on Thursday and missed a good chunk of Wednesday's practice. Kelvin Banks (Texas), Sheridan Wilson (Texas Tech), and Ty Chan (Notre Dame) have had up and down performances so far.