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UA Game: Five storylines to follow in Orlando

Julian Sayin
Julian Sayin

The Early Signing Period has come and gone and now some of the nation's top prospects are ready to suit up one more time before their college football journeys begin.

The next big event on the calendar is the Under Armour All-America Game, set to take place on Jan. 3. Rivals lays out five storylines to track leading up to the game itself.


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Braylon Burnside
Braylon Burnside (Rion Young)

Beyond the specialists, there are just two uncommitted prospects currently scheduled to participate in the week's festivities. One, Braylon Burnside, has a clear plan to execute the end of his recruitment while the other, Brayshon Williams, may still have a ways to go before his next step is set.

Burnside is one of the top overall prospects in the state of Mississippi and the Rivals250 talent is deciding between Mississippi State and Ole Miss. The four-star wide receiver preps at Starkville (Miss.) High School, right in State's backyard, but that hasn't always been a tell for blue-chip prospects picking between in-state rivals. Burnside was committed to the Bulldogs from June to November, backing off of the pledge as the Rebels continued to press and as the coaching change in Starkville became clear. Now, Burnside is set to pick between the two at the game, though the winning program already knows his selection considering he 'silently' signed last week.

As for Williams, who is fresh off of a second state championship at Lakeland (Fla.) High School, the road to a college choice may not be as black and white. The safety projection racked up more than 30 scholarship offers but may need to lean into January visits to sort out where his next stop may be. Previously, in-state programs Florida and Miami have held the most buzz. More recently, a source told Rivals that Auburn could become a contender into the New Year, so plenty lies ahead for the two-way prospect.



Terry Bussey
Terry Bussey (Nick Harris)

This group may provide the most drama during Under Armour week. From prospects dealing with coaching changes to a five-star reclassification, any room left in some of these recruitments can create heavy interest into the New Year. All three prospects playing in the game in this situation rank within the top 55 of the Rivals250.

It starts with Terry Bussey, the five-star athlete out of Texas who has been committed to Texas A&M since September. Obviously the coaching change cracked the door open in the recruitment and while Mike Elko's staff is working to keep him in the fold, LSU, Texas and Alabama are looking to stay in the race until he is expected to sign in February. Naturally, it makes the January visit window a critical one, and Bussey is likely to take multiple trips in that span.

A reclassified five-star and the reigning Mr. Football in the state of Alabama, Ryan Williams has been committed to in-state Alabama for more than a year. However, he's an Auburn legacy who has spent a lot of time on campus since Hugh Freeze took over on the Plains. He saw both Iron Bowl rival programs in person in December, leading up to the ESP. There was some buzz Williams could shut it down in December, likely keeping him in-state, but now that he plans on signing in February it has become a national battle with LSU, USC and Georgia among those working to lock in a potential January visit date.

Dominick McKinley has long been on board with in-state Texas A&M, but his February signing plans were made public earlier than most. As a result, scores of coaching staff spent time with him in December. LSU has emerged as potentially the top threat to A&M and the Tigers have a visit already on the schedule for McKinley to take in Baton Rouge in mid-January.

Texas, Tennessee and even Syracuse, with former A&M coach Elijah Robinson on board as its defensive coordinator, could be in the mix for additional trips next month.



Michael van Buren
Michael van Buren (

Even though all-star events present challenging circumstances for quarterbacks, with new teammates and a very limited time to assimilate into a scheme, most eyes will still be focused on the signal callers all week long. The quarterback group in Orlando will have a bit of everything, including star power with five-stars Julian Sayin (Alabama signee) and DJ Lagway (Florida) headlining the group. The duo brings totally different skillsets to the table, with Sayin's precise, efficient passing and Lagway's ability as the nation's top dual threat prospect.

The remaining five passers all have plenty to suit up for, too. Michael van Buren is the face of Jeff Lebby's initial class at Mississippi State. Dante Reno (South Carolina) and Ethan Grunkemeyer (Penn State) followed up solid Elite 11 runs with strong senior seasons. Davi Belfort (Virginia Tech) was on his way to one before injury cut his final prep campaign short. Cedrick Bailey (NC State) takes his place as one of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of Florida high school football, fresh off of a third-straight state championship at Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminde-Madonna.



Aydin Breland
Aydin Breland (Nick Lucero/

Under Armour week offers us an opportunity to take a look at how participating prospects stack up against their FBS-bound peers. For the five-stars it's about maintaining the status quo while everyone else looks to climb up the final January ranking.

In this college-like setting, we'll see two-way athletes work in their most likely projected position. Bussey will line up at wide receiver or in the secondary after playing quarterback on Friday nights. Ditto for Rivals250 cornerback projection Jaylan Mbakwe (Alabama), who we'll get to see at corner. NC State signee Jonathan Paylor could work at wide receiver or running back. Georgia signee Demello Jones will likely play in the secondary despite impressive offensive tape.

Rivals will have eyes on both teams throughout the week, and there are some prospects we're eager to see at work in the trenches, especially. It is often the most competitive and game-like scenario during the work week:

DL Aydin Breland (Oregon), Dominick McKinley (Texas A&M), Joseph Jonah-Ajonye (Georgia) - Who will emerge as the top interior defender in the all-star setting?

OL JacQwan McRoy (Oregon) - The massive offensive tackle is powerful, but how will he adjust against elite pass rushers?

DE Jamonta Waler (Auburn) - How does he stack up on the edge as a more compact rusher compared to conventional ends Colin Simmons and Dylan Stewart?

OT Jonathan Daniels (Florida State) - A dominant two-way talent with elite length, but how will he work against bigger, more stout defenders?

DL Kingjoseph Edwards (Syracuse) - He broke out as an edge projection but could be a versatile defensive lineman in college. How much will he work inside?



Most of the prospects participating in the Orlando festivities are already signed to their college choice, if not committed. Here is the breakdown of the programs that will be most represented.