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Monday marked the second day of practice for the Under Armour All-America Game. The first day is a feeling out process as players start to find their way on the field, but the second day they begin to settle in and the speed of practice begins to pick up. It's a chance for players to begin to separate themselves.
The teams are broken into two squads, but they're not separated geographically like a lot of All-Star games. At Under Armour, the teams are code named Black and White (rosters). I spent the day watching the Black team go through practice today.
Like most All-Star games, the defense is ahead of the offense. In what is supposed to be the year of the offensive lineman, the defensive line was man-handling the offense to begin the day. Florida State commit Mario Edwards and Texas commit Malcom Brown have been the two best players along a talented defensive front the first two days of practice.
Edwards is listed as a defensive end by Scout, but he's pushing 300 pounds and Edwards and Brown may jockey for the No. 1 defensive tackle position on Scout as we lock down rankings in the coming weeks before Signing Day.
The superlatives are easy to come by watching the defensive line. Ohio State commitment Noah Spence routinely beat his man off the edge, and Leonard Williams of Daytona, Fla. insisted on playing defensive end, and he made a nice play sniffing out a screen pass among a host of others.
5-Star defensive tackle Eddie Goldman out of Maryland bounced back well today after pulling himself out of practice early today. He's the type of player who is as good as he wants to be, but he's prone to take plays off. When he's motivated, he's dominant.
With the offensive line occupied by the defensive line, the linebackers were free to roam uninhibited. No one took advantage of the room to run better than Michigan commitment Joe Bolden. Bolden was popping pads during walk-thrus, and he continued to seek and destory when the tempo was moved to full speed. Bolden doesn't do anything half-speed. He showed he was capable of dropping into coverage as well as attacking the line of scrimmage.
At defensive back, it was one of the less heralded members of the secondary who flexed his muscles so to speak today. Chaz Elder of College Park, Ga. is the tallest player in the secondary at 6'2 and he did a good job of running the sidelines with some of the bigger receivers like 5-Star Cayleb Jones. He elevated several times playing cornerback to break up passes.
Texas commit Bryson Echols was another standout in the secondary. He did a good job in press coverage to disrupt the receivers' routes off the line of scrimmage. He doesn't have Elder's size, but he's better technically and his change of direction and quickness is superb.
While the defense lagged behind the offense, they certainly weren't shut out on the day. Clemons commit Chad Kelly has the strongest arm of the three Black squad quarterbacks. He has a quick release and made some of the prettiest throws on the day, but he was inconsistent with his accuracy.
Texas commitment Conner Brewer doesn't have the raw strength that Kelly displayed, but in the redzone, his superior accuracy proved to be an asset including finding USC commitment Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick on a corner route in the endzone.
Miami commitment Angelo Jean-Louis proved to be the most consistent target of the quarterbacks. He looks like he's filled out considerably since I saw him over the summer. He weighed in this week at 192 pounds, and he looks physically ready to contribute when he steps on campus for the Hurricanes.
Texas commit Cayleb Jones had the best catch of the day diving into the endzone to haul in a pass past Deion Sanders Jr. Primtime Sr. was in attendance helping coach the defensive backs, and he praised the good effort by Jones.
Über athlete Davonte Neal of Scottsdale, Ariz. worked more at wide receiver today after spending most of the first practice at cornerback. He had trouble getting off the line against Echols, but he still shows his trademark explosiveness in and out of his routes. Scout ranks him as a cornerback, because we think that's his best college position. While he can play corner, safety, running back, or receiver in college, corner still looks like his best position to this scout.
While supremely talented, the running backs for Black, Johnathan Gray and Duke Johnson never found the room to get started when the offense was working 11 vs. 11.
Defensive MVP - Joe Bolden
Offensive MVP - Angelo Jean-Louis
Comeback Player - Eddie Goldman
Riser - Chaz Elder
Game Changer - The Whole Defensive Line