An Under Armour football. Bud Elliott, SB Nation
Matchups to watch in Thursday night's 2012 Under Armour All-America Game.
The Under Armour All-America game is tonight on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET. Many of the top football recruits in the country will be on hand, and SB Nation will be there covering every minute. Here are some recruiting storylines to follow while watching the game:
Team Highlight features two highly-touted commitments in Buffalo (NY) quarterback Chad Kelly (Clemson commit) and Scottsdale (AZ) Chaparral's Connor Brewer (Texas commit). Most services rate them as four-star players. Kelly is more of the mobile gunslinger, while Brewer is more of a pocket passer, focusing on accuracy. Miami commit Preston Dewey out of TX has not impressed in practice, but he may be a gamer.
Team Blur also features some top signal callers in Cal commitment Zach Kline of CA and Florida State commitment Jameis Winston of AL. Kline has been the best quarterback this week, with a solid release and good arm strength. Perhaps BYU commitment Tanner Mangum of ID will surprise when the lights come on.
Battle In The Trenches
The biggest question about these quarterbacks is likely, "Will they have time?"
If practice is any indication, the answer is a resounding "No." Unlike last year, when standouts such as Cyrus Kouandjio, Christian Westerman and La'el Collins strapped on the pads, this year is seriously lacking in elite offensive linemen.
Team Blur seems to be loaded with guards, but lacking in tackles. Joshua Garnett (undecided) of WA and Jessamen Dunker (Florida commitment) from Boynton Beach (FL) are listed by many services as tackles, but both will play guard at the next level. The organizers of the game didn't go a good job taking that into account, and it set up some major mismatches.
Look for guard Isaac Seumalo (Oregon State commit) of OR and Alabama commit Brandon Greene of Cedar Grove (GA) to man the tackle spots.
Snapping for team Blur will be Devon Desper, a Mississippi State commit who chose to stay in-state.
They'll need those guards as they attempt to block the top two defensive tackles in this game: Eddie Goldman (undecided) and Malcolm Brown (Texas commitment). As noted on Wednesday, these two have been unblockable when they are playing hard. Rated as the top two defensive tackles in the country by most services, these two have done nothing to indicate those evaluations were incorrect.
But team Highlight doesn't just have inside guys. They also have an excellent set of pass rushers on the edge. Ohio State commitment Noah Spence should come wide, while Leonard Williams (undecided) of Daytona Beach will likely play more head-up at the college level. Both are excellent players and it will be interesting to see if team Blur can handle them off the edge. Jordan Jenkins (undecided) of GA and Ifeadi Odenigbo (undecided) are also quite good off the edge.
It will be a surprise if team Blur gets much time to throw, but don't expect much better circumstances for team Highlight.
Blur features some awesome defensive linemen as well, including the top defensive lineman in the country in Mario Edwards (Florida State commitment) of TX. Joining him are Florida State commitments Chris Casher (Mobile, AL) and Dante Fowler, Jr. (Lakewood). All three have been very impressive during the week. Yes, Florida State has the three premier defensive linemen on one team in a national all-star game. Channing Ward, who will decide tonight, is another fine edge rusher. The tackles for team Highlight are not on the same level.
As matchups would have it, team Highlight has a better situation at tackle than team Blur does. Andrus Peat (undecided) of AZ, Kennedy Estelle (Texas commitment) of TX, and Avery Young (undecided) of Palm Beach have all had good moments. Still, they'll likely have their hands full with the edge rushers for team Highlight.
On the interior, Texas commitment Curtis Riser and Missouri commitment Evan Boehm have also flashed. Their job is much easier than that of their tackle teammates, because team Blur does not have great interior defensive linemen.
Backs vs. Linebackers
Two groups that have been relatively quiet this week are the running backs and linebackers. Practice is understandably light on hitting, and contact is needed to truly evaluate these two.
Team Blur has two good backers in Alabama commitment Reggie Ragland of Montgomery's Bob Jones, and Michael Rose, a Nebraska commitment from Kansas City. Ragland has been arguably the best linebacker on either team.
They'll have to tackle two speedsters for team Highlight in Johnathan Gray (Texas commitment) and Miami commitment Duke Johnson.
Team Highlight also has two solid backers in Dalton Santos of TX (Tennessee commitment) and Joe Bolden (Michigan commitment) of Cincinnati. Both are eager to get out and hit someone after a week of light contact and no tackling.
They'll attempt to tackle Wes Brown, who is set to decide tonight during the game, and Georgia commitment Keith Marshall, who has been seriously bothered by some knee tendinitis issues.
Receivers vs. Secondary
If the teams do get time to throw, this matchup will become a lot more interesting. Watch for Highlight safeties Landon Collins and Chaz Elder to make a major impact. Both will be announcing their college decisions during the game.
They'll be tasked with containing team Blur's Amari Cooper (Alabama commitment) of Miami and Darius Powe (Cal commitment) of CA.
On the flip side, team Blur has some impressive defensive backs of its own in cornerback Roland Darby and Alabama's Eddie Williams.
They'll have to contain the solid Angelo Jean-Louis (Miami commitment) and Ricardo Louis (Auburn commitment). And don't forget speedy Texas commitment Thomas Johnson, who has also impressed this week.