Tuesday, January 4, 2011 Updated: January 5, 8:06 PM ET
Under Armour game matchups to see
By Craig Haubert and Billy Tucker ESPN Recruiting
There have been some intense battles during the week of practice, but now the action moves to prime time in the Under Armour All-America Game. The players will take the focus off their teammates and line up for a new challenge once the ball is kicked off at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN. As with the practices, the game will feature many great matchups, but here are some we feel you might want to watch more closely.
White team QB Braxton Miller vs. Red team S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix
This is an appealing matchup between one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks and an explosive safety. Miller, from Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio, will test plenty of defensive backs Wednesday night with his powerful arm, but we also anticipate some exciting runs outside the pocket by the future Buckeye. As dangerous as Miller is running, he will have to watch out for a potential heat-seeking missile in Clinton-Dix coming downhill to meet him.
From a size, speed and physicality standpoint, this should be a great matchup if the two meet in the open field. Clinton-Dix, from Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., has been deployed in the box frequently this week over slots in coverage and as a force defender versus the run. Miller, on the other hand, has shown his great quickness and dual-threat attributes on keepers outside of the pocket. We are anticipating a few open-field clashes between two of the top-rated positional prospects in the country.
White team OT La'El Collins vs. Red team DE Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney spent the week of practice battling a five-star offensive tackle, and in the game he will face another. His showdown with Collins is a matchup of two of the best big men not only in the Southeast, but in the entire nation. Both prospects bring a nice combination of size and athleticism to their respective positions. Collins, from Redemptorist, La., can be a dominating run-blocker, while Clowney, from South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, S.C., can stuff run plays in his direction as well as run plays down with his athleticism and speed.
While these two should lock horns in the run game, making for some intense battles, the real fireworks could come in passing situations. Clowney, who remains uncommitted, possesses excellent first-step quickness and has the ability to beat tackles with speed. He also can go from speed to power, and has the ability to turn into blockers and bull rush his way back, as well as counter back inside. While he will give Collins a lot to worry about, the LSU commit can counter with good ability of his own. Collins has good flexibility and nimble feet, allowing him to shadow Clowney. With his nice reach and good initial punch, he should be able to jolt Clowney and push him past the pocket, if he can get into position.
Collins has the tools to keep his quarterback safe but has been quiet this week after being limited some with a slight ankle sprain he suffered early on. He will need to be sound with his technique to deal with all the ways Clowney can get to the quarterback. The No. 1-rated defensive end already terrorized one all-star game (Shrine Bowl) this season but will need to use his full arsenal if he wants to wreak the same type of havoc against a player like Collins. This should be a tough and exciting matchup, as these two likely will bring out the best in one another.
Red team RB Isaiah Crowell vs. White team ILB Anthony Wallace
This matchup has been building during the week. The top back in the country can be elusive but also has showed deceptive strength and power between the tackles. Crowell, from Carver High School in Columbus, Ga., has the ability to gain yards after contact and to bounce plays to the perimeter and accelerate for big yards. It will be interesting to see the battle between Crowell and Wallace, a prototypical, downhill run-stuffer. Wallace, from Skyline High School in Dallas, can be very tough inside, and his instincts allow him to quickly get into position pursuing off tackle, which helps mask a slight lack of ideal athleticism for the position.
These two could meet for some big collisions on runs between the tackles, testing Crowell's inline strength. However, the real test will come for Wallace and whether he can match up with the talented back on the perimeter. Both these players have highlighted strengths, but the key to this matchup will be which one can better exploit the other's weakness.
Red team OG Marcus Jackson vs. White team DT Anthony Johnson
A year ago, an interior defensive lineman created disruption all game and earned MVP honors. With five-star defensive tackle Johnson (New Orleans/O. Perry Walker) suiting up this year, it is very possible another interior D-lineman will create real headaches. With the size to be a stout presence versus the run, the LSU commit also has the first-step quickness to get consistent penetration and be disruptive in the offensive backfield. His battles with Jackson should be interesting, as the four-star guard is a tenacious blocker who can be quick and explosive coming out of his stance.
If Jackson, from Vero Beach, Fla., can fire off the ball low, get under defenders' pads, roll his hips and knock them on their heels, he can catch Johnson playing with high pad level and push him back in the run game. That being said, it will be interesting to see how Jackson handles the combination of size, power and quickness that Johnson possesses. Johnson's get-off along with his power could cause problems for the physical Jackson in pass-rushing situations. While Jackson is best known for his tenacious run blocking, he has displayed better-than-expected ability as a pass-blocker, which could make this matchup even better. This matchup between two big men with good tools and tenacious styles should make for some good battles in the trenches.
White team TEs Ben Koyack and Jay Rome vs. Red team safeties
With frequent sets involving safeties matched up over tight ends, look for a great clash between two big, athletic tight ends and a group of safeties who all are taller than 6 feet and have a physical element to their game. Koyack, from Oil City, Pa., and Rome, from Valdosta, Ga., have posed a matchup problem for safeties and outside linebackers in coverage during practice all week with their great size, range and soft hands. During the game, they will be going up against a group of safeties who collectively have the size to jam and run with these top-rated tight ends and the athleticism to match up in coverage. The well-rounded tight ends will face different challenges in each safety on the Red team.
At 6-2, Clinton-Dix has experience at corner and likely will present the most consistently tough challenge. That being said, Marqise Lee (Gardena, Calif./Juniperro Serra), who might be the most raw of the safeties, has outstanding athleticism and the ability to match up and challenge both Rome and Koyack for contested jump balls. Erique Florence (Valley, Ala./Valley) might be one of the more physical safeties, and his style will not make things easy for either tight end, despite their size. Regardless of which tight end is on the field for the White team and which safety is on the field for the Red team, these two positions should provide some exciting and tough battles all game.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter. Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.