The U.S. Army All-American Bowl will feature a good gathering of talent during the week of practice. Here are some practice matchups we think are interesting and worth paying attention to.
TE Nick O'Leary vs. S Avery Walls
Two of the most natural and athletic prospects at their positions will compete in San Antonio, Texas, during the practice week. O'Leary, from Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is an excellent pass catcher with a lot of intangibles coveted at the position. Walls, from Eagles Landing Christian Academy in McDonough, Ga., seems to consistently put himself in the correct position to make plays on the ball in coverage. The Cal commit has very good awareness skills and the great closing burst to the football. However, the sure-handed O'Leary is just as instinctive and explosive in a short area and we feel this could develop into an excellent coverage matchup if Walls is positioned over the flexed out O'Leary during 7-on-7 passing segments. Aside from great physical tools, what really draws our attention to this matchup is the great toughness and competitiveness each brings to the table.
OT Brandon Shell vs. DE Ray Drew
Drew, No. 3 overall in the ESPNU 150, is the highest rated player in the Army All-American Bowl and has the tools to cause problems from his defensive end position. He is a tall, rangy kid that carries a deceptive amount of bulk. He flashes good quickness off the ball and can move very well for his size. Shell, from Goose Creek High School in South Carolina, is more of an upside kid who did have a good showing at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and we are interested to see how he follows that up. He is bigger than Drew, from Thomasville, Ga., but like his counterpart he does not look to carry nearly as much bulk as he does. He can bend and has a nice reach along with the feet to mirror. However, he can play high and potentially have some problems with quick edge rushers.
Drew could challenge Shell in run drills, if Shell does not keep his pads down, but Drew does need to be sure to use his hands. The battle in pass protection could lean to Drew's favor as he has the ability to challenge Shell with a speed rush and the South Carolina commit will need to be sure to play with good and consistent technique in his pass protection. If Drew can expand his pass-rushing arsenal and showcase some counters he could have good success getting to the quarterback. If Shell can do well against the talented No. 2 defensive end in the country, he should be due for a bump in the rankings.
OG Aundrey Walker vs. DT Tim Jernigan
Walker is massive at 6-5, 355 pounds and the uncommitted guard prospect out of the well-known Glenville Academy in Ohio presents a tough obstacle to deal with because he is so big. His size, combined with a mean streak, can allow him to engulf and knock defenders off the ball. Jernigan, from Columbia High School in Lake City, Fla., will give up considerable size to Wallker, but the top five defensive tackle prospect is thickly built and is a high-motor player. If Walker can get his hands on Jernigan he could smother him. which is possible because he does play with high pad level at times. If Jernigan stays low though his quickness and violent, active nature could create real problems for the massive Walker. This a matchup between two prospects with contrasting size and styles, which should make for some interesting battles.
CB Tevin Mitchel vs. WR George Farmer
This is a matchup of physical prowess between two gifted skill prospects. Both have great speed and athleticism, but their college projections, particularly early in their careers, is so promising due to their lengthy frames and functional strength at their respective positions. At 6-2, Farmer (Gardena, Calif. / Serra) can out-physical most corners for the jump ball and is difficult to jam off the line. The less-heralded Mitchel (Mansfield, Texas / Legacy) excels when he can get his long arms and strong hands on receivers to press and re-route them. The recent Arkansas commit is a great at high pointing the ball, provides good jump-ball defense and has more than enough physical tools to challenge the USC bound Farmer who excels versus deep man coverage.
LB Steve Edmond vs. RB Malcolm Brown
The future Longhorns should provide plenty of banging all week leading up to the game. This is a matchup between two of the most powerful and explosive prospects on the entire Army roster. In run-oriented drills, look for Edmond, from Daingerfield, Texas, to get a quick jump downhill to meet Brown in the hole. Like Brown, he has a strong and thick lower base that allows him to limit second efforts by backs between the tackles and punish them back. However, the No. 4 rated inside linebacker has not faced a back with Brown's striking combination of strength and burst through the hole. Edmond makes a ton of one-handed tackles on film, but the rugged Brown, from Byron M. Steele High School in Cibolo, Texas, makes a living off of breaking them and earning tough yards after contact. We anticipate high-impact collisions between these two outstanding prospects and are eager to see which way the pile moves.
OT/TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. The West Defense
No we are not expecting a superman-type effort from Seferian-Jenkins, from Gig Harbor, Wash., where he needs to carry the West offense on his shoulders and defeat the defense on his own. Although, we are interested in seeing how he matches ups against defensive ends as a blocker and how he deals with linebackers and safeties when lined up as a receiver. The Washington commit is an ESPNU 150 prospect, but as an offensive tackle. We feel that's the best long term fit for Seferian-Jenkins, not tight end. He is a good one though and will very likely get the chance to display his skills at the position during the week at the Army game.
He has ability as a tight end and can be a tough matchup with his size, but we are interested to see if he can make the case to stay at tight end and be a weapon at the college level. His size should make him a tough matchup for defenders if he uses it to his advantage and when he goes up and gets the ball. Against athletic and speedy linebackers and safeties though, it remains to be seen if he have the ability to separate and get open enough for quarterbacks to throw the ball to him.
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.