D-line getting A-plus
Once again, the marquee group at the UA Game is the defensive line
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Looking over the Under Armour All-America Game rosters over the last few years, it's clear that much of the star power has been on the defensive line.
From last year's loaded lineup with Jadeveon Clowney, Anthony Johnson, Gabe Wright and Anthony Chickillo to players of the past like Dominique Easley, Da'Quan Bowers and Jacobbi McDaniel, the defensive line has always been an attraction.
"This is really a great game for the defensive linemen to play in because they focus so much on adding to our technique and our moves," said Ifeadi Odenigbo, who is No. 50 in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's fourth-ranked DE. "After a few days of practice, I know I need to use my hands better and the coaches are going to teach me that here."
Scout's take: Clowney vs. Edwards
For the second straight year, the No. 1 player in the country is a defensive end and he's playing in the UA Game. Last year, it was Jadeveon Clowney. This year, it's Mario Edwards Jr. So who's better? It's tough to compare.
First thing with Mario is that he's already so big he might be moved to three technique early in his college career. They are different types of players.
Mario is farther along as a football player at this point in terms of using his tools and technique. Jadeveon was a lot longer and more athletic. Really, Jadeveon was a freak by all measurables. It's hard to believe you'll find too many more players like him.
-- Craig Haubert
For the second straight year, the top player in the nation has been a defensive lineman and has participated in the Under Armour All-America Game. Last year it was Clowney, this year it's Florida State commit Mario Edwards Jr. from Denton (Texas) Ryan.
The players in this year's game understand the expectations placed on them as defensive linemen and what the players in the past have done.
"The game is really set up for the defensive linemen to dominate," said Chris Casher, who is No. 13 in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's No. 3 DE. "We have been getting all this teaching to go along with the tools we already have.
"And then you look that you're lining up next to someone that is another one of the best players in the nation. It should be easy."
At times during this week of practice, it's looked easy. The defensive linemen put on a clinic during Monday's one-on-one drills, but the offensive linemen seem to get better during Tuesday's practice. Still, the defensive linemen have stolen the show.
Most defensive linemen come into this week with their set of "go-to moves" that have worked over the last four years in high school. However, the offensive linemen in Thursday's game are infinitely better than the ones they played against in high school and some of those moves that worked needed some adjustments this week.
"I've always had like a swim/club combo move I use for speed and a straight club or bull rush for power," said five-star DT Eddie Goldman. "I've had some success with those moves this week too but you have to add on to that now because the competition is only going to get better."
Odenigbo has had some help preparing for this game thanks to going up against Centerville (Ohio) teammate Benny McGowan, a Michigan State OG commit.
"Benny played tackle at Centerville so we battled pretty much every day," Odenigbo said. "So I know what it's like to go against a good offensive linemen.
"Of course all these guys are good so there's no break. You basically go from one big-time player to the next."
Jordan Jenkins also had a good primer to Thursday's game as he participated in the 2010-11 Georgia Junior Bowl.
"The good thing about that game was the introduction to other top players," said Jenkins, who is No. 61 in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's No. 5 DE. "Never before had I went up against other guys that I'll be seeing in college and maybe the pros.
"Even though we only had a couple of practices I could see what was ahead of me. Here it's just like that experience but amplified because the guys I'm facing are so smart and they aren't going to let me do the same things over and over again."
Casher said the trick is versatility.
"You can't come at these guys with the same move twice," Casher said. "The few times I forgot that I got beaten so you have to remember which guy you used which moves against so you don't make that mistake."
ESPNU 150 DTs John Atkins and Jonathan Taylor could be the future interior defensive linemen for the Georgia Bulldogs. This week they have been on opposite sides of the ball with Atkins playing offensive guard.
"Seeing things from the offensive side of the ball has helped me learn exactly what a plan would be to stop a player like me, or a player like Jon," Atkins said. "I think this might be my last game at offensive line but it's been a good experience."
Meanwhile, Taylor has a message for the quarterbacks in Thursday's game.
"They just need to get ready because we're coming," Taylor said. "These boys are big and ready to get after the quarterback as much as we can."
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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2012 Under Armour All-America Game