ORLANDO – A look at some of the top performers for Team Blur Wednesday afternoon, the first day of practice for the Under Armour All-America Game that will be played Saturday at 11 a.m. at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The game will be televised at ESPN.
Quarterbacks: It’s sort of hard to get a real good feel for who will stand out in this group on the first day. The quarterbacks were certainly adjusting to the speed of the skill players and the defenses, and scattered a lot of passes on the morning. Oklahoma verbal commitment Blake Bell (6-5, 215, Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll H.S.) stands out because of his size and athletic ability. He moves around well for a big guy. He doesn’t have elite arm strength but can get the ball down the field in a hurry.
Southern California verbal commitment Jessie Scroggins (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood H.S.) stood out to me as the signal-caller with the best arm. He doesn’t have the same size as Bell, but he throws a beautiful ball and moves around the pocket very well. He struggled with consistency issues for most of the day, but I feel he could end up being the best quarterback of this bunch by the time Saturday rolls around. He has a big lead on Boston College verbal commitment Chase Rettig (Sierra Madre, Calif./San Clemente H.S.) who brings up the rear of this group. Expect to see a lot of improvement from these guys Thursday.
Running backs: It’s hard not to notice Auburn verbal commitment Michael Dyer (Little Rock, Ark./Little Rock Christian H.S.) when he walks by. He’s not very tall (5-8) but he weighs over 200 pounds and really resembles a bowling ball more than a football player. His legs are absolutely massive and the source of his power when running with the football. He had some issues catching the football Wednesday, but as the offensive game plan continues to get installed Thursday it will be interesting to see how he performs against a top-notch defense over the course of the rest of the week.
Wide receivers/tight ends: Unfortunately, top Florida target Chris Dunkley (Pahokee, Fla./Pahokee H.S.) tweaked an injured hamstring, and it appears he will be limited this week. He’s going to try to go Thursday, but it might be best to just shut it down as the injury doesn’t seem to have improved much from where it was following the Muck Bowl.
Without a doubt, Georgia verbal commitment Da’Rick Rogers (Calhoun, Ga./Calhoun H.S.) was simply a cut above any of the receivers at this event. He’s not quite as tall as some people had him listed (he’s no taller than 6-2), but Rogers is well-built (probably in the 215-pound range) and extremely athletic for such a stocky receiver. He reminds me a bit in build of Julio Jones minus about 2-3 inches. Rogers moves extremely well and is going to cause some match-up issues with smaller cornerbacks as soon as he gets to the SEC.
Texas Tech verbal commitment Kadron Boone (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic) held his own in Orlando Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how his recruitment changes in the wake of the firing of Red Raiders head coach Mike Leach Wednesday afternoon. Boone was actually informed of the development following practice.
A pair of Georgia players – Auburn verbal commitment Antonio Goodwin (Atlanta, Ga./Booker T. Washington H.S.) and Notre Dame verbal commitment Tai-ler Jones (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville H.S.) – had some nice moments on the day. Even though he doesn’t look like he should ever be as good as he is, uncommitted Kenny Shaw (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips H.S.) looked comfortable in his native surroundings. He’s not the fastest, not the biggest and not the strongest, but he knows how to get open.
Offensive linemen: Things should start to become a little more clear Thursday as to who the real players on the offensive line are. From a physical standpoint, undecided players Chaz Green (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic H.S.), Ja’Wuan James (Suwannee, Ga./North Gwinnett H.S.) and James Stone (Nashville, Tenn./Maplewood H.S.) all stood out. Despite being undersized, Miami (Fla.) verbal commitment Shane McDermott (Wellington, Fla./Palm Beach Central) played well and held his own against several defensive linemen much more heralded than he was.
Defensive linemen: A newly minted commitment on Christmas Day, Southern California verbal commitment George Uko (Chino, Calif./Don Lugo H.S.) made an awful lot of plays on the interior of the defensive line. The big 300-pounder moves extremely well for a player of his size and is simply a disruptive presence that gives the offensive linemen in this game a lot of match-up issues.
One guy who really stood out physically is Michigan State verbal commitment William Gholston (Detroit, Mich./Southeastern H.S.). This giant stands 6-7 and 250 pounds and he’s one of the first players you notice when walking out to the practice fields. His play didn’t blow anyone away Wednesday, but at the very least he’s a guy you can send off the plane first.
Despite the fact he only stands about 6-foot tall, South Florida verbal commitment Todd Chandler (Miami, Fla./Northwestern H.S.) played extremely well Wednesday. He’s a handful on the interior as he stays low and knows how to play with leverage. The only concern with Chandler is that he is maxed out physically, and just won’t be able to add much weight to a frame that carries about 285 pounds right now. In any case, Chandler impressed and certainly turned some heads following a disappointing senior season at Northwestern.
Linebackers: It was uncommitted Christian Jones (Oviedo, Fla./Lake Howell H.S.) who really stood out among an impressive looking group of linebackers. Jones can do a little bit of everything – his size allows him to play physical against the run, while he is also adept in coverage and comfortable getting after the passer. His size (he’s already 6-4, 225 pounds) may eventually force him to play with a hand down in college. However, he’s an extremely talented player who will be a difference maker no matter where he ends up.
Despite being undersized, Tennessee verbal commitment Michael Taylor (Atlanta, Ga./Westlake H.S.) is an active playmaker who delivered some bone-crushing hits over the course of the day. He is an active playmaker and extremely disruptive despite his lack of preferred bulk at the position.
Although his play didn’t jump out Wednesday, Florida State commitment Jeff Luc (Port St. Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast H.S.) looked the part on defense. It will be interesting to see what he does during this week if he can get coached up a little bit by this all-star staff working the game.
Defensive backs: Certainly one of the highlights of the day among the Florida commitments was when cornerback Joshua Shaw (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale H.S.) absolutely stoned top wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers on the line of scrimmage. Shaw was extremely physical on the day, mixing it up with Antonio Goodwin and Tai-ler Jones as well. There were some reps where Shaw would have been called for pass interference had he been playing in a game. However, he certainly showed the size (a legit 6-1, 185 pounds), speed, athleticism and coverage ability to be a very good player when he gets to the next level.
Another secondary star whose play certainly toed the line during the day was that of Florida State verbal commitment Lamarcus Joyner (Miami, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas H.S.). Joyner is super physical and it’s hard to imagine that his style of play wouldn’t result in a lot of laundry left on the field if he is asked to play on the outside. Joyner is extremely explosive, but his skills seem to be a better fit at safety or in the slot on offense, rather than at cornerback.
The other Florida commitment lining up at corner for the Team Blur would be Joyner’s high school teammate, Cody Riggs (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas H.S.). Riggs is definitely small. However, he is definitely a gamer who gets by on athleticism and gritty play. He is not the prototype by which players at the cornerback position are measured. However, Riggs can definitely play at the next level. Expect him to start out on special teams and eventually work his way into the rotation in the secondary.
The safety who really stood out is Georgia verbal commitment Alec Ogletree (Newnan, Ga./Newnan H.S.). Ogletree has great size (6-3, 220) but also moves extremely well. He figures to eventually move to linebacker, but he will undoubtedly be a playmaker wherever he ends up as he simply has a nose for the ball.