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The teams at the Under Armour All-American Game aren't broken up geographically. They are divided into two squads named White and Black (rosters) for the practice sessions. Yesterday I took in the Black team's practice (link), and today it was time to see the White squad in action.
One of the aspects of practice that was almost immediately evident is that the White team's quarterbacks are considerably sharper and more accurate than the Black's. Zach Kline (Cal) was especially effective throwing the ball threw the early wind. He has the strongest arm of the six quarterbacks in attendance, and he had the best day I've seen of any of the quarterbacks throwing the ball.
Tanner Mangum (BYU) and Jameis Winston (Florida State) each had their moments to shine, but it was Kline who was consistently throwing the best ball of the day.
Cal commit Darius Powe is one of the few representatives from the West Coast in the game, but he did a good job of representing today. Powe is a big receiver at 6'3/200 and used his strength to get off of jams and make catches in tight spots. Powe did an excellent job of cutting underneath the defensive backs on under thrown balls to make catches that could have turned into interceptions.
Alabama commit Amari Cooper was a standout at yesterday's practice, and he he shined again today. He has slot receiver quickness with outside receiver size at 6'1 and 190 pounds. P.J. Williams, who is listed as a safety by Scout, had the unfortunate task of trying to match Cooper one on one on the outside, and Cooper spun him to the turf before making an easy catch near the pylon for a touchdown.
While it was a much better day for passing for the White as compared to the Black squad, it wasn't all about the offense. Scout's No. 1 cornerback Ronald Darby (Notre Dame) may have put a lock on that position in the rankings by locking up receivers all day long.
Darby is physical at the line of scrimmage, and he's so smooth in his change of direction that his flip of the hips and running downfield is one continuous motion. He is excellent with his hands, whether its a subtle nudge on the hip to disrupt a route or knocking the ball away from a receiver who was sure he was making a catch.
6'3 and 290 pound defensive end Mario Edwards (Florida State) has been the talk of practice this week, and today was no exception. With hips as and thighs as wide as any of the offensive linemen, it's easy to picture Edwards playing at 320 pounds when he's a 22 year old man. The normal line of thought goes that a player with his build is destined to move inside at defensive tackle. Edwards can be the exception to that rule. He's is impossibly quick off the edge and strong as an ox. It's not a stretch to think he could be the No. 1 rated defensive end or the No. 1 defensive tackle in this class, and I can't remember saying that about anyone in my 10 years of Scouting.
Edwards ran into some mean competition today though in the form of Scout's No. 5 ranked offensive guard Isaac Seumalo. Seumalo reminds me in a way of the best offensive lineman I ever scouted Andre Smith who was an Outland winner at Alabama. He has the build of an offensive guard at 6'3/280, but he has the skill set and footwork of an offensive tackle.
I arrived at the offensive and defensive line one on ones midway through their repetitions. I got the lowdown from my fellow Scouts that Seumalo had been very impressive. I got to see him take three reps. First against phenom Chris Casher (Florida State) at defensive end, then two consecutive reps against Edwards. Seumalo finished a cool 3-0.
I thought Seumalo was a Top 50 player in the nation after seeing him as a junior and over the summer; I'm even more convinced now.
Casher got his first mention as a victim of Seumalo, but that doesn't begin to do justice the type of impact he had on the day's practice. Casher and Edwards, both committed to Florida State, form a nearly unstoppable tandem on the defensive line. Casher flashed his athleticism when he read a reverse to wide receiver Latroy Pittman and chased him down. Unfortunately, he pulled Pittman down with a horse collar tackle and Pittman had to leave practice, but the sheer athleticism it took to make that play was astonishing.
Casher made a similar play minutes later after being held out, this time against Marvin Bracy. The coaches were yelling "Don't tackle him!", and Casher merely tapped Bracy on the back of the shoulder pads.
The defensive line typically has the advantage as individuals until the offensive line begins to gel as a unit in these games, but this week it has been particularly lopsided. Channing Ward is another player that couldn't be blocked today. It was difficult to tell how well he could disengage from a block during pass protection, because none of the offensive linemen could even engage him before he was by them for a sack.
Dante Fowler, yet another Florida State commitment on the defensive line, also picked it up in practice today. He was rushing against the left tackles put in front of him, and he won his matchups in one on ones as well.
The White team worked on the passing game most of the day, so the linebackers and running backs were fairly quiet.
While practice doesn't tell the whole story, the White team certainly looks crisper on offense and every bit as talented on defense as the Black squad heading into the game on Thursday.
Today's Top Performers
Defensive MVP - DE Mario Edwards
Offensive MVP - OL Isaac Seumalo
Quarterback - Zach Kline
Receiver - Darius Powe
Defensive Back - Ronald Darby