LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – During Wednesday's opening Under Armour All-American Game practice session, White Team running backs didn't touch the ball very often. It's a good thing Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia running back Trent Richardson doesn't need many touches to make an impression.
Richardson turned in an impressive effort showing a blend of speed and power on his carries. He, as well as fellow White Team running backs Washaun Ealey and Montrell Conner, caught the ball well throughout the practice.
"We didn't get a ton of work today but I tried to make the most of each touch," Richardson said.
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Some of the standouts that Richardson was running behind included Xavier Su'a Filo and Stanley Hasiak. Richardson said that despite it being the first day they had worked together as an offense, they showed flashes of what they can do on Sunday night.
"The guys in front of me were doing a good job," he said. "We will only improve."
The Alabama commitment, who Rivals.com ranks as the No. 7 prospect in the nation, is hoping to make a lasting impression on Sunday night.
"I am hoping to do some big things," he said. "I want to show why I am one of the best players in the nation, why they chose me for this game."
Fellow White Team running back Michael Campanaro worked a majority of the day at wide receiver.
PLAYERS TAKE SLOW DAY IN STRIDE
With Wednesday marking the first day of practices for the UA All-American game, it was apparent that the White Team was having some growing pains.
A majority of the first two hours of practice was spent on installing the offensive and defensive systems for Sunday's game at the Citrus Bowl.
Despite the slowed pace that involved more talking by their coaches than action on the field, the players took it in stride.
"It was fun today," Rivals100 defensive tackle Gary Brown said. "It is like your first day of school, you are learning everything again for the first time but when you put the shoulder pads on and get down to it, it is just football."
While the Florida commitment compared it to school, at least one of his teammates, LSU commitment Stavion Lowe, said he was just glad to be enjoying himself in the Sunshine State before going back home and wrapping up the school year.
"It is kind of a vacation," Lowe said. "I am just here to enjoy myself and see how I match up against the best. You are competing against a lot of great talent."
DBs MAKE AN IMPRESSION
While the first day lacked a lot of action, one position consistently stood out when the team did participate in 1-on-1, 7-on-7, and 11-on-11 action.
It appeared on the first day that the strength of the White Team could very likely be its secondary, especially with players such as five-star cornerback Branden Smith from Atlanta (Ga.) Washington making the most of the morning's practice.
Smith showed time and again why he is one of the nation's top cornerbacks. Whether it was causing receivers issues getting off the line, disrupting their patterns, or getting between the ball and his man after the throw, Smith made play after play.
"The first day of practice was excellent," Smith said. "I got a chance to meet new players, players from around the nation. Everybody doesn't get the same opportunity that we get to play in this game."
Smith was joined in the highlights by Rock Hill (S.C.) Southe Pointe athlete Stephon Gilmore. The South Carolina commitment recorded an interception.
While he didn't turn in many highlights, Indian Head (Md.) Lackey cornerback Darrell Givens was the model of consistency.
As a unit, the defensive backs made plays and kept receivers such as Logan Heastie and Marlon Brown in check. The trend will need to continue as they will be tested by both the speed and size of the Black Team, which consists of wide receivers such as Sanford (Fla.) Seminole five-star Andre Debose and Gastonia (N.C.) Ashbrook four-star Jheranie Boyd among others.
"It is a big game," Smith said. "We are playing against some of the best players in the nation."
Throughout the morning, the quarterbacks threw the ball well but struggled making many big passing plays in 11-on-11. The trio of Minnesota commitment Moses Alipate, USC commitment Matt Barkley, and UCLA commitment Richard Brehaut all showed the ability to make big plays via the air, but rarely had them occur on Wednesday.
There were numerous bad exchanges between the centers and quarterbacks on the day.
The wide receivers seemed to struggle establishing their timing with the quarterbacks. Wideouts also ran some incorrect routes and when they were in position to make the catch, they struggled consistently bringing it in.
In the trenches, Gary Brown performed well on the interior of the defensive line as did Corey Adams. A number of their offensive line counterparts praised them for their effort on Wednesday. Antwan Lowery struggled to get much of a push in the middle in 1-on-1 drills. On the edge, Craig Roh and Sam Montgomery both showed good ability to use speed to get around the edge. Xavier Su'a Filo and Stanley Hasiak both did well on the offensive line in 1-on-1 drills against the talented defensive front.
All four linebackers are very large but capable of moving well and covering the field. Manti Te'o was the most impressive, showing an ability to cover both the run and pass and was great on the attack. His mixture of size and speed was impressive.
The White Team added Orlando (Fla.) Boone three star offensive lineman David Harding.