The highly anticipated Under Armour All-America game is only a few days away (Jan. 5, 2 p.m. ET, ABC), presenting the opportunity to do some advanced scouting and analyze the great personnel matchups within the contest while also spotlighting some of the intriguing storylines.
Prior to splitting the rosters into teams Red and Silver, our Scouts Inc. staff decided to balance the talent by placing more emphasis on our objective evaluations than on geography or subjectivity. The only subjective part was placing future college teammates on corresponding squads when applicable, understanding the importance of early bonding for potential. On paper, we feel we have created a competitive week of practice and inaugural game on January 5th;
The roster has its share of big names at each position, but the wide receivers may be the deepest and most talented group. There are 12 total receivers (six on each squad), 10 of which are top-100 overall prospects and an impressive six ranked in the top-10 at the position.
Game matchups to watch
Silver WRs (A.J. Green, D.J. Grant, Deion Walker, Chris Tolliver, Antoine Hicks, Aldarius Johnson) vs. Red CBs (Burton Scott, Joe Adams, Charles Whitlock, Janoris Jenkins, Neiko Lipscomb)
The Silver squad is loaded with tall, talented wide outs including the 6-foot-4 Walker, 6-3 Green and 6-3 Grant. Their matchup versus the predominately shorter, yet extremely quick and athletic Red corners could be one of the better positional contests.
Silver quarterback E.J. Manuel (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) is not shy about throwing it deep and could look for the height mismatch early and often.
"Yes, I definitely have some weapons and the luxury of throwing it up to a bunch of talented guys on the Silver team," said ESPN's No. 1-rated quarterback prospect.
Red WR Julio Jones (Foley, Ala.) vs. Silver safeties (Dee Finley, Spencer Adams, T.J. Lawrence, Stanley Yarbrough)
The Red squad certainly has its share of talent at the position as well. Jones, ESPN's No. 1-rated wide receiver and top overall prospect, has garnered most of the praise and respect from defenders on the Silver squad.
"He (Jones) is really good and I am excited to compete against all the great players on that team," said Silver safety Spencer Adams (Matthews, N.C./Butler).
Adams will team up with Dee Finley (Auburn, Ala.), ESPN's No. 1-rated safety prospect, and bring average measurables of 6-2, 200 pounds, to try to put a stop to some of the 6-4 Jones' acrobatic jump ball grabs.
"I am really looking forward to lining up next to Dee Finley and seeing what we can do together to stop those good receivers. Dee is a good one," said Adams.
Red WR Josh Jarboe (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) vs. Silver CB Terrance Parks (Fairburn, Ga./Creekside)
Jarboe, another physically talented receiver on the Red squad, will join Jones to pose two imposing vertical threats on the outside for team Silver defensive backs to attempt to shut down. We greatly anticipate his matchup with the 6-1, aggressive Parks and so does Jarboe.
"He is a good corner and very fast. We ran track against each other last spring. It will be good to face him again, but now it's on the field. You can tell him I'm waiting," joked Jarboe
We actually did just that.
"He said that? Oh OK, it's on. Tell him I'm ready," laughed Parks.
Calhoun is ESPN's No. 1-rated running back prospect for his ability to run through or straight by opposing defenders between the tackles. At the Under Armour Game, the 210-pounder will have a tough, explosive, 225-pound middle linebacker waiting for him in-line. Sweat, ESPN's No. 2 rated middle linebacker, generates speed quickly when pursuing downhill, allowing him to bring great power to the point of attack. We expect some high-impact collisions when these two meet on game day.
Silver DE DaQuan Bowers (Bamberg, S.C./Ehrhardt) vs. Red OT Tyler Love (Birmingham, Ala./Mountain Brook)
This clash will feature the nation's top-rated defensive lineman against the nation's top-rated offensive line prospect with Bowers, an incredibly athletic and explosive big man, rushing one of the nastier linemen and better pass blockers in the entire country in Love.
Bowers, like Jones on offense, seems to be the player getting the most respect among his fellow Under Armour All-Americans.
"I am excited about the game and am looking forward to playing against DaQuan Bowers, the defensive end going to Clemson. He is one of the highest-rated players in the country; I want to go against him and see how I match up," said Red offensive lineman Zebrie Sanders (Clayton, Ohio/Northmont).
ESPN's No. 2-rated defensive tackle and arguably the best pure nose guard will line up against ESPN's No. 1-rated center. Despite being future teammates at Notre Dame and All-Star week roommates, we expect a hard-hitting, fierce battle between these two high-energy, physical linemen.
Under Armour practice matchups to watch
There are several highly-anticipated battles upfront that will play out during one-on-one drills. Practice coverage will be aired on ESPNU Tuesday and Wednesday and ESPN.com will have summaries of each practice.
Silver DE DaQuan Bowers vs. Silver OT Mike Goodman (Miami/Christopher Columbus)
We should have a good preview of a future ACC battle on the Silver squad between Clemson commit Bowers and up-and-coming Boston College commit Goodman. It should be a great test for the underrated Goodman, who started playing football as a junior, against Bowers, who received an offer from Clemson before he even played a down in high school.
Red DE Courtney Upshaw (Eufaula, Ala.) vs. Red OT Tyler Love
This explosive match-up is a civil war, so to speak, in the trenches. Both prospects are considered among the elite at their positions in the state of Alabama. As future Crimson Tide teammates, this will be one of many competitive practice battles over the next few years in Tuscaloosa.
Red DE Tyler Westphal (Menasha, Wisc.) vs. Red OT Dann O'Neill (Grand Haven, Mich.)
We are also looking forward to watching this future Big Ten tussle on the line of scrimmage between O'Neill and Westphal. O'Neill, a Michigan commit, is a physical and flexible pass blocker while Westphal, headed to Wisconsin, is tall, rangy and one of the best pure pass rushers in the 2008 class.
Other Under Armour Game storylines
• There are three sets of teammates on the roster that make for intriguing storylines. Jamoris Slaughter (Stone Mountain, Ga./Tucker) and Neiko Lipscomb(Stone Mountain, Ga./Tucker) will be playing their final game together after leading Tucker to a great postseason. The duo will not only be playing on the same squad but will share the same defensive backfield; we don't expect much miscommunication trading off routes on the Red team.
"Jamoris and I were just talking about how much fun it will be to play together one last time on national TV. We both said we want to go out on a winning note together," said Lipscomb.
• Cornerback Xavier Brewer (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram Trail) and recently added playmaking quarterback Kyle Parker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram Trail) both will be playing on the Silver team, but the week of practice could be fun when they compete in 7-on-7 passing segments.
• Miami Northwestern, the No. 1 team in the ESPN High Elite 25 this fall, actually features two players squaring off on different teams and on different sides of the ball. For balance purposes, it worked favorably to place outside linebacker Sean Spence and wide receiver Aldarius Johnson on opposite squads.
"As long as I have my coach (Billy Rolle), I am fine," said Spence. Miami Northwestern head coach Rolle will be coaching Spence and the other linebackers on the Red team.
And for the competition with Johnson?
"I know all his moves from practicing against him the past four years -- it should be real fun. He might not want to go over the middle though," joked Spence.
• We have mentioned several future college teammates suiting up together for the first time as well, and it should be fun to watch their friendships develop over the week and exciting to see the first glimpse of their on-the-field chemistry on Saturday.
Michigan packs our roster with four players, and Wolverines fans will get an idea of their future offensive weapons with running back Christian Wilson (McKees Rocks, Pa./Montour), tight end Brandon Moore (Trotwood, Ohio/Madison) and wide receiver Darryl Stonum (Stafford, Texas/John Foster Dulles) lining up together on the Red team.
"We all have been talking about how much fun it's going to be playing with each other for the first time down in Disney," said Wilson.
It will be quite entertaining to watch all the various storylines unfold and the competitive matchups on a roster comprised of 70 ESPN 150 members and a striking nine No.1-rated prospects at their respective positions all under the tutelage of former NFL coaches. The game still needs to be played between the white lines, but there are plenty of exciting angles to keep you glued to ABC on January 5th at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.