LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In the four years of the Under Armour All-America Game, this was the most productive, well-executed first practice we have seen. Here is who stood out on Day 1.
Running backs prove to be explosive
Collectively, this may be the most explosive group of running backs ever at the Under Armour All-America Game. Red team backs Isaiah Crowell (Columbus, Ga./Carver) and Savon Huggins (Jackson, N.J./St. Peter's Prep) both showed great burst throughout the day getting downhill and threatening the perimeter. On the White team, Clemson-bound Mike Bellamy (Nocatee, Fla./Charlotte) is living up to his billing as this class' top game-breaker. He's a threat to rip off a 10- to 15-yard run on any carry and is extremely elusive to break down on in space. However, future Sooner Brandon Williams (Katy, Texas/Brookshire Royal) may have been the most impressive back on Day 1. He showed a great blend of size and speed and the ability to get low through the hole for a taller back.
White linebackers ready to go
It didn't take long for the White team linebacking crew of Anthony Wallace (Dallas/Skyline), James Vaughters (Stone Mountain, Ga./Tucker), A.J. Johnson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) and Stephone Anthony (Polkton, N.C./Anson) to make a statement. Throughout the day they were consistently around the ball making big collisions, particularly Oregon pledge Wallace and Tennessee verbal Johnson on the inside. During nine-on-seven drills, they rarely got turned out of the hole and were very solid stacking the run and filling in general.
Clowney, Johnson earn top rankings
The nation's top two players both met expectations today. Red team's Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe), No. 1 in the ESPNU 150, displayed his outstanding combination of size, speed and athleticism. His tremendous first-step quickness made him very difficult to block in pass rush situations but also displayed the ability to play with power, bull-rushing his way to the quarterback. We were also impressed with the top prospect's play against the run, using his reach and leverage to hold his ground and stay in position. Anthony Johnson (New Orleans/O. Perry Walker), No. 2 in the ESPNU 150, lived up to his billing as "The Freak." He took reps inside at defensive tackle (where he's rated as the No. 1 DT), but also sliding outside and taking reps at defensive end. The LSU commitment displayed a great bull-rush but also flashed ability to change and beat blockers with his great get-off.
Plenty of stars in the trenches
The youngest player in the game, White team offensive tackle and future Seminole Bobby Hart (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) displayed on film that he's a very good pass protector and came out here against top competition and proved that in person. He used his reach delivering a good initial punch, maintained a good base and was able to do a consistent job of slowing pass-rushers that he faced. Five-star Cyrus Kouandjio (Beltsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic) was beat with the speed rush with his first, much anticipated, matchup with Clowney, but bounced back getting into position and using his reach to push Clowney past the pocket in their next confrontation. The Red team blocker also showed the ability to get low and quickly get into defenders while run blocking, which is something he displayed on film. Another five-star tackle, future Longhorn Christian Westerman (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), displayed the fight that he's known for and makes him such a great player. He won his fair share of battles but at times was overaggressive while pass blocking.
On the interior of the offensive line, we were very impressed with No. 1-rated guard Cyrus Hobbi (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro). Coming into the event we felt that Hobbi was one of the most versatile and technically sound linemen in the game and his play on Wednesday helped prove that point. Marcus Jackson (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach), a one-time Miami commit, is known for his tenacious run-blocking but surprised us with his ability in one-on-one pass-blocking drills. Also on the interior line, No. 1 center Reese Dismukes (Spanish Fort, Ala./Spanish Fort), an Auburn commit, had a nice day of practice.
Red team holds early tight end advantage
Red team's two tight ends, Notre Dame-bound Ben Koyack (Oil City, Pa./Oil City) and Jay Rome (Valdosta, Ga./Valdosta), displayed they could be a formidable duo. Both have ideal size for the position, soft hands and are polished pass-catchers. They seemed to be more college-ready than the White team's tight ends, A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, Fla./University Christian) and Brandon Fulse (Fort Meade, Fla.). Fulse and Leonard, a Florida commit, are good athletes with a ton of physical tools but have played multiple positions in high school, which means they still have great upside.
Quarterbacks getting in rhythm
Just like in past years, the quarterbacks used this first day to get down the cadence, get in rhythm with their receivers and execute the offense in general. This will all come much easier as the week progresses. Still, Trojans commit Max Wittek (Newport Beach, Calif./Mater Dei) had a very accurate day for the White team, while Brett Hundley (Chandler, Ariz./Chandler), a UCLA commit, had a solid day for the Red team. The nation's No. 1 quarterback, Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty), who is committed to Florida, was physically as advertised, showing great arm strength and putting great zip on the ball, but he struggled with his accuracy at times.
Receivers, defensive backs square off
Josh Turner (Oklahoma City, Okla./Millwood) is a versatile athlete who we project will play cornerback at Texas and he proved it during the Day 1 practice. He showed great recovery quickness and natural footwork. FSU commit Nick Waisome (Minneola, Fla./South Lake) had a solid day making some great reads and jumping routes. Devon Blackmon (Fontana, Calif./Summit) showed the speed and route-running skills that will allow him to make the transition to full-time wide receiver at the next level. He's extremely quick and smooth out of his cuts.
Unfortunately, cornerback Darius Jennings (Baltimore/Gilman) will not participate in the Under Armour All-America Game or practices due to a concussion sustained during the Crab Bowl. Five-star offensive tackle and LSU commit La'El Collins (Baton Rouge, La./Redemptorist) rolled his ankle during drills and is day-to-day. Future Alabama wide receiver Marvin Shinn (Mobile, Ala./Vigor) aggravated a knee injury and is day-to-day as well.