UA Game Week: Top defensive performers by position
ORLANDO, Fla. - The Under Armour Next All-America Game brought together some of the best players in the country, a series of high-level practices and a hard-fought game. The Rivals analyst team was on hand to scout these elite college prospects ahead of the final rankings update for the 2023 class. Today, we’re revealing the top players from the week of evaluations in Orlando, concluding with the defense.
MORE UA GAME: Top offensive performers | What we learned from the game | Stock risers | Coach Prime recruiting buzz is real | Stock Report on offensive players | Stock Report on defensive players | Gorney Awards | Best OL vs DL battles | Team Speed takeaways Day 3 | Team Phantom takeaways Day 3 | Predictions for in-game commitments | Texas signees, targets talk Arch Manning | Cormani McClain is hot topic | Stock boosters | Rankings questions popping up after two days | Three-Point Stance from Day 2 | Signees share which programs came in second | Signees predict semifinal results | Team Phantom takeaways from Day 1 | Team Speed takeaways from Day 1 | Three-Point Stance from Day 1 | Rumor Mill | Interview videos with more than two dozen prospects | Survey - Is the transfer portal affecting recruiting? | Respect My Decision podcast
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CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State
CLASS OF 2024 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State
CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals100
David Hicks: One could argue that Hicks had one of the best weeks out of anyone in Orlando, regardless of position. Offensive linemen had all sorts of trouble dealing with Hicks’ size, speed and strength. Through drills and the intra-squad sessions, Hicks was a beast. Once the game got going, Team Speed made sure to identify Hicks and avoided him as much as possible.
Peter Woods: In practice and during the game, Woods was unstoppable. No matter who was lined up against him, the Clemson signee owned the line of scrimmage. In the second quarter of Tuesday's game alone, Woods registered two tackles for a loss, a quarterback hurry and a sack. Woods fought through holds to collapse the pocket in the game. At one point the hold was so blatantly bad the offensive lineman nearly took down Woods’ pants.
Will Norman: In a 1-on-1 practice setting going against Team Speed offensive linemen, Norman was monstrous. As defensive tackles go, Norman has a first step that gives him an instant advantage. If opposing linemen don’t have the footwork to slide with him, that snap is over. Going against double-teams, Norman did a good job of holding his spot allowing linebackers to make plays.
Adepoju “PJ” Adebawore: Straight speed off the edge burning offensive tackles left and right, Adebawore is unmatched. The Oklahoma signee has a lightning first step with very good secondary moves making him more than just a speed rusher. Under the bright game lights, Adebawore came to play making his presence felt. Final stats did not capture his full impact. When Team Phantom was trying to drive the field before halftime, Adebawore registered a quarterback hurry and sack. The pressure was continuously applied in the second half.
Samuel M’Pemba: M’Pemba looks the part, but truly is the part with his physicality and athleticism. Still learning the position, M’Pemba is a force because of his size and strength. He can make the game look effortless and easy when he is clicking.
Rueben Bain: Brain was another defensive lineman who never lost a rep during practices. His strength and leg drive sets him apart from others. The sack master heading to Miami had no troubles in the game constantly beating Team Phantom offensive linemen coming up with a tackle, a tipped pass and QB hurries.
Suntarine Perkins: Few linebackers compare to Perkins athletically. He flies around the field, roams the box with ease and is good in coverage. He reads plays well, reacts quickly and can close in a hurry. The final stat line was not reflective of Perkins’ in-game performance. He got a big fumble recovery in the third quarter for Team Phantom.
Raylen Wilson: Working in the box, Wilson is tough to beat. He does a great job reading his keys staying square to the play with a burst to close. The Georgia signee has an uncanny knack for being at the right place at the right time. Wilson was one of the more productive backers in the game logging three tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a quarterback hurry.
Lewis Carter: From the practices to the game, the Oklahoma signee was as active as anyone. Carter was one of the leading tacklers in the game, notching five stops. He set the tone early in the first quarter with a big stop on tailback Cedric Baxter along with multiple key stops in short-yardage situations.
Malik Muhammad: Muhammad is that pest for receivers who will not give an inch on a route. Super confident in his abilities, Muhammad will jam and run with whoever lines up across from him. Corners didn’t get a lot of opportunities to shine Tuesday night, but Muhammad got two tackles in providing solid coverage for Team Phantom. One of those plays was a highlight hit to start the second half.
Ja’Keem Jackson: Throughout Jackson’s high school career he always had a knack for making a big play. He does not get fooled on routes or misdirection plays. The Florida signee is technically sound with the speed and athleticism to cover any receiver. The practice reps against top receivers was Jackson’s time to separate himself from the pack, and he did. The Gators are getting a standout corner in Jackson.
Joenel Aguero: Aguero is a punisher at safety. Coming down the line on a tailback or crossing the field tracking a receiver, when the Georgia signee gets there he is bringing the pain. Roaming the back part of the field for Team Phantom, Aguero showcased his cover skills in practice and during the game.