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Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Day 3 superlatives: Under Armour Game

By Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert

Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers

Bo Scarbrough
Alabama commit Bo Scarbrough has shown himself to be a threat at multiple positions.
Bo Scarbrough (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy): This guy is a matchup nightmare no matter where he lines up. He is one the guys whom all of the other guys are whispering about because he not only looks the part, but he could play five positions. He’ll line up in the Under Armour game as a slot receiver/H-back, but he is more receiver than he is tight end. In fact he will play RB if there is an injury, and coaches at the next level will be really tempted to put him at linebacker. Players his size just don’t routinely possess the type of speed, agility and range he does. Defenders don’t know what to do with him because he is so imposing. Linebackers can’t outmuscle him, and he can win one-on-one versus safeties and nickels. Pound for pound, he might be the best athlete here.

Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside): The five-star safety has performed up to his lofty ranking. A strong defender in coverage, the Virginia commit was a disruptive presence in the secondary for Team Highlight. Blanding possesses a nice blend of size and athleticism that make him a versatile back-end defender. He is also a disciplined and instinctive player and consistently demonstrated that by being in position to make plays on the ball. The No. 1 safety has shown he can be a player capable of coming in and quickly contributing as a freshman and still possesses physical upside that could have him developing into a linebacker while in Charlottesville.

Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal): Casher is lacking in ideal height, checking in at under 6-foot-1, but what he is not lacking in is ability. The ESPN300 OL is a good football player and we feel if he possessed more ideal measurables he would be among the most talked-about OL in this class. Throughout the Under Armour practices the Alabama verbal has shown that if you can look past his height deficiency, you will see a talented prospect. He carries good bulk on his compact frame and can use his lack of size to consistently win the leverage battle. In pass protection he can set quickly with the lateral ability to mirror rushers once locked on. Casher has been a fairly consistent performer and continues to prove he’s among the best OL in this class.

Jalen Tabor (Washington/Friendship Collegiate): Tabor possesses the ideal set of measurables for what college coaches are looking for in a perimeter player. He’s not only tall, but long with a wide wingspan. He is big enough to match up with tall, physical receivers in the red zone or in press situations, but also smooth and fast enough to mirror and track smaller, quicker targets. He had a really good day against Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) as he blanketed him for most of the morning session. He has proven to be highly competitive regardless of the matchup. He wants to go up against the best and see how he holds up. We really like his demeanor, and he is a confident player.

Pleasant surprise

Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md./Good Counsel): Mustipher was a player about whom we had some questions coming into the Under Armour All-America week. He possesses good ability, but in evaluations he had demonstrated some struggles in pass protection. Displaying good initial quickness and lateral mobility he has the tools to be an effective pass blocker at OG, but at times didn’t bend at the knees, would lunge and not move his feet. In this setting with the talented linemen he would consistently face, we felt Mustipher could have a rough experience. To his credit, though, the four-star has performed well and been a pleasant surprise. He has won his share of battles in one-on-ones, doing a nice job of playing with better pad level, moving his feet and sliding with rushers once locked on. Mustipher may not be among the top OL in attendance, but he certainly came to compete and proved he deserved to be here.

Isaiah McKenzie
Isaiah McKenzie might be small in stature but he could make a big impact in the return game.
Player to watch

Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage): McKenzie is diminutive in stature but filled with big-play ability and someone worth keeping an eye on as the game draws near. The Notre Dame commit can be dangerous with the ball in his hands with his ability to quickly accelerate, change directions and make defenders miss. Capable of seeing action at wide receiver, running back and Wildcat QB in the game, McKenzie can be utilized in multiple roles to try and get the ball into his hands. Not only a big-play threat on offense, McKenzie is also someone to watch on special teams. Coming off a senior season where he returned multiple kicks for TDs, he is an exciting return man capable of having an impact on the game in that role.

Hits of the day

Practicing in pads the players have often put them to good use. In

Tuesday’s practice there were two hits that stood out. The first came between OLB Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala.) and No. 1 OT Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La.). During the inside run drill on one play, the big five-star tackle blocked down and got a hold of the promising linebacker and buried him, but Evans would bounce back. On a later play, Robinson worked to the second level looking to block the linebacker, but Evans stepped up, got under the big man’s pads, uncoiled and knocked the five-star to the ground. It was an impressive hit and another example of some the great give and take that has gone on in many of these battles. The second memorable hit from the day came in Team Highlight’s secondary. Texas A&M verbal Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Mesquite, Texas/ West) had a receiver come into his zone and the ball heading his way. The ESPN 300 defender quickly broke on the ball and as the receiver turned up field, Sumner-Gardner delivered a nice pop, while wrapping up and driving thru on the form tackle.

Improved position group

It has been a bit of a rocky start for Team Nitro QBs Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate), Rafe Peavey (Bolivar, Mo.) and Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic), but Tuesday was clearly their best day and all three made strides in terms of accuracy and production. The concern has been too many missed receivers whether it be versus air or in a competitive environment. The three have settled down and it looks like Rafe Peavey seems to be pulling ahead in terms of consistency. The ball popped off their hands a bit more and they are gaining confidence with increased knowledge of the system and players around them. Don’t be surprised if we see Jabrill Peppers get some Wildcat QB reps as a change of pace.