Thursday, January 5, 2012
D-lines dominate UA Game
By Lucas O'Neill ESPNHS
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A theme throughout the week at practices for the Under Armour All-America Game was the dominance of the defensive linemen over their offensive counterparts. It was a clinic. Things improved somewhat as the days went by, but on Thursday night at Tropicana Field, the D-line was back to its winning ways.
Defensive end Channing Ward of Aberdeen (Miss.) had two sacks, four quarterback hurries and seven tackles (3.5 for loss) as the White team dominated the Black team in a 49-16 drubbing.
ESPNU 150 DE Jordan Jenkins got to QB Zach Kline for one of his two sacks.
"We told ourselves we could control the game and we just did that from the first snap," said Ward, who announced his commitment to Ole Miss during the contest. "We just had to go hard and show we weren't just an average defensive line, that we were a good defensive line."
It wasn't just the White team's defensive line that dominated, however. Despite the lopsided score, the Black team registered more sacks -- eight to the White team's four -- with five-star Ohio State commit Noah Spence (three sacks, a forced fumble and four tackles for loss) of Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt and four-star ESPNU 150 defensive end Jordan Jenkins (two sacks, eight tackles) of Hamilton (Ga.) Harris County leading the way.
For the offensive linemen, it was a wakeup call -- a preview, perhaps, of what they'll be seeing at the next level. In addition to all the sacks, there were four interceptions and six fumbles. Offensive lines need time to work together, and an all-star game is hardly the best situation for that to happen.
"Obviously we only had about four or five days to come together and really play, so it's going to be hard," said Boyton Beach (Fla.) four-star OT Jessamen Dunker, a Florida commit.
Anthony Chickillo, a freshman at Miami who had four tackles (1.5 for loss), a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery in last year's Under Armour game, says there's something to that.
"There's no doubt," said Chickillo, a Tampa, Fla., native who was on the sidelines in Hurricanes gear Thursday night. "The O-line takes time to jell; the D-line just goes. It's a lot easier for D-linemen."
There's also another, simpler explanation: The Class of 2012 is unusually loaded with talented defensive linemen. Four of the nation's top five recruits in the ESPNU 150 are defensive linemen, including Mario Edwards (Denton, Texas/Billy Ryan), the No. 1 overall recruit and an FSU commit.
Dante Fowler Jr., who like Edwards has committed to Florida State, said that "some of the offensive linemen said they never had to kick back this fast."
"It was speed and technique," said Fowler, a defensive end from nearby St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood, who had a sack, a tackle for loss and two QB hurries. "We learned a lot of stuff this week, and we just used it and it worked."
Avery Young, an undeclared offensive tackle from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., insisted "it really wasn't hard" for him and his teammates to adjust to the talented defensive players they lined up against. "The hardest thing for the O-line is just getting the plays down, getting the snap count," he said.
Still, most came away thinking the defensive linemen had their way, getting to the various QBs at will and stifling the running game on both sides. There were only 107 combined rushing yards on 61 carries in the contest, an average of less than 2 yards per clip.
And it could have been worse.
"I had one sack but I could have had four or five," Fowler said. "I'm not exaggerating."
Lucas O'Neill is a senior writer for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter @LucasESPN.