ORLANDO -- The energy and enthusiasm surrounding the first practice of the Under Armour All-America Game was monumental. Despite it being the first time on the field this week the players were ready to hit and compete. The intensity was high as many of the nation's top prospects were eager to display their skills and compete against the best the nation has to offer.
With the Under Armour gear both teams already looked like well-oiled machines. In addition to looking good, no players disappointed from a physical standpoint and some even exceed our expectations.
A couple of players who looked very good from the get go were tight end Dwayne Allen (Fayetteville, N.C./Terry Sanford), quarterback E.J. Manuel (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) and outside linebacker Sean Spence (Miami/ Northwestern). Allen's blend of height and lean bulk was impressive, Manuel looked like a smaller version of JaMarcus Russell and Spence looked much thicker and taller than he had appeared on film.
Spence was also one of the top performers of the day drawing praise from several of the NFL coaches on the Red team. His range, athleticism and short-area quickness was very evident.
The linebackers as a whole on both squads were impressive. Red's Jerrell Harris (Gadsden, Ala.) showed great versatility and athleticism playing both inside and outside linebacker as well as defensive end. From the middle linebacker spot the tall, muscular athlete showed great range pursuing the football.
On Silver, Andrew Sweat (Washington, Pa./Trinity) and Daniel Franklin (Mt. Airy, Ga./Habersham Central) were impressive shutting down their inside run lanes and in street clothes look surprising similar. Franklin showed his versatility stepping in on special teams handling the long snapping -- a thankless but key position.
On the red team, defensive tackle Omar Hunter (Sugar Hill, Ga./Buford) quickly established himself as one of the top lineman on either side of the ball in this game. The 300-pounder was basically unblockable during a one-on-one drill segment against the offense; Hunter's explosiveness and get-off for a lineman with his bulk is outstanding.
A few offensive linemen did hold their own in the trenches today and certainly passed the eyeball test while doing so. Red team's Tyler Love (Birmingham, Ala./Mountain Brook) and Dann O'Neill (Grand Haven, Mich.) both physically look ready to play at the next level right now and showed it with their performances. Love battled with good leverage and aggressiveness for a taller, leaner tackle prospect and O'Neill, who passed up his senior season of wrestling to play in this game, went after it against defensive end Courtney Upshaw (Eufaula, Ala.). Upshaw actually was one of the more impressive defensive linemen for the red squad this morning, showing great quickness and bend coming off the edge shutting down the zone cutback during a 9-on-7 run period. Silver's DaQuan Bowers (Bamberg, S.C./Ehrhandt) looked the most impressive firing off the ball with his great size and deceptive quickness.
Georgia fans used to seeing young offensive linemen after this last season should be excited about another new line prospect in Ben Jones (Brent, Ala./Bibb County). The Red team's center is getting re-acclimated to the position after playing offensive tackle for his high school squad. He impressed in the first practice with his fight and ability to adjust on the fly.
On a side note it was great to see Matt Meyer (Stockton, Calif./Lincoln) return from a first-week October foot injury an hold his own for his first time in pads. USC fans can be happy to know he lined up next to future teammate Khaled Holmes (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) and both looked good working a double team on a run drill.
The skill positions on both teams this morning were as advertised. Despite a bit of a drizzle, Silver's Manuel and the Red team's Landry Jones (Artesia, N.M.) were tossing the rock with the most velocity, Silver team's Nick Crissman (Surfside, Calif./Edison) had the quickest release and late edition Kyle Parker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram trail) on the Silver squad was impressive in his gunslinger fashion.
Julio Jones (Foley, Ala.), ESPN's No. 1 rated overall prospect, started off a bit slow but showed tremendous separation during vertical routes on 7-on-7 drills for his Red team. His teammate Josh Jarboe (Decatur, Ga./Cedar Grove) could have been one of the biggest surprises of this morning with his speed and deceptive fluidity for a bigger receiver prospect. Not to be outdone in the red defensive backfield, Neiko Lipscomb (Tucker, Ga.) showed great transitional quickness for a taller corner turning and running with some of the faster Red receivers. Janoris Jenkins (Pahokee, Fla.) also impressed us as evaluators with his closing quickness as a hard corner.
On the Silver squad Terrance Parks (Fairburn, Ga./Creekside) looked impressive playing press and jamming some of the Silver's bigger receivers. He reminds us of Baltimore Ravens corner Chris McAlister.
Overall there was a lot of good hitting and energy for a first practice and we expect the intensity to carry over to the second practice once the players acclimated and chip off the rust.
Billy Tucker and Craig Haubert are recruiting coordinators for Scouts Inc. Tom Luginbill is the national recruiting director for Scouts Inc.