LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) was as good as advertised, he had company at the top of the board for the Red team defense on the first day of practice for the Under Armour All-America Game.
Defensive tackle Gabe Wright (Columbus, Ga./Carver) was nearly unstoppable, blowing up any run play that came in his direction and showing his athleticism during one-on-one drills.
"Well, I already had in my mind that I wanted to come out here and see if all this five-star, four-star rankings and stuff was legit," Wright said.
The 6-foot-3, 285-pounder found out everything he needed to know.
For Wright to be dominating on a football field was nothing new, but for him to stand out with the caliber of competition on the field make his efforts even more impressive.
Wright knows things will only get tougher, but he wouldn't want it any other way.
"It's nice to battle guys that can match up with you," Wright said. "I think this game clearly has the best talent in the nation this season.
"You can't go just by ratings, you have to play against these guys and experience it. Players like Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) on the offensive side and between the Red and White team there aren't any better group of defensive linemen in the nation."
Wright is one of the top uncommitted players in the game. He has a top four of Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and Auburn in no particular order. He will be visiting Alabama next week followed by Tennessee, Clemson and Auburn. He is one of the few top Georgia prospects not considering the University of Georgia.
"I'm not going to be part of the dream team," said Wright in reference to the name that has been given to the top group of uncommitted prospects in the state.
Wright says he's been to each of his top schools about four or five times each and is taking the officials so his family can go with him. He's seen everything he needs to about the program and will be looking for more details.
"I want to check on the things behind the cracks," Wright said. "I've heard the family talk and that mumbo jumbo and now I'm ready to strip down to the foundation and see what's real."
Clowney and Kouandjio finally met and their long-anticipated one-on-one battle was a tie. Clowney started with a speed move that froze Kouandjio, but the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder was ready on the next two encounters and put up a solid fight against the top player in the nation.
"You know I had to take it easy on him a little," Clowney joked. "He's a great competitor and a big man. He's in this game so you know he's got to be good."
Clowney was expected to be targeted for one-on-one drills by most of the top offensive linemen and he accepted every challenge.
"I like going against any competition out here because I've got to stay on top of them," Clowney said. "They are the best."
Kouandjio enjoyed the back and forth battle and will be ready for more on Day 2.
"We just kept going back and forth," Kouandjio said. "He got me a couple of times good and I got him a couple of times good.
"I've never played against anyone like him before. It's fun. I see what he's got now so I'm going to go back to the lab and see what I can come up with and he's going to go back to his lab and show me something different I'm sure."
Old friends, new rivals
A few weeks later, Waisome switched his commitment to Florida State and the defensive back got one on his old friend with an interception in the 11-on-11 drills.
"I was just making a play," Waisome said. "The receiver released inside and I just jumped the route."
FSU's newest commit didn't really think of the irony.
"It didn't cross my mind until you mentioned it," Waisome said. "He is a great quarterback and he's going to be a great opponent. We are all just trying to get the job done."
No go for Jennings
Defensive back Darius Jennings (Baltimore/Gilman) will be held out of practice and Wednesday's game with a concussion he suffered in last week's Chesapeake Bowl.
The 5-11, 175-pounder suffered the injury after a hit in the game.
"I felt it on Thursday but I didn't get it checked out before I flew here," Jennings said. "It really stinks but I'm going to try to stay positive."
Jennings is down to Ohio State, Virginia and Wake Forest. His final visit will be to Wake Forest on Jan. 14 and he will make a decision after.
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.