LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The second practice for the Under Armor All-America Game featured a lot more action than the one on Friday night as close to 100 of the nation’s top seniors got together on Saturday morning for a two-hour session, which featured 1-on- 1s and some 7-on-7 play as well as an extended 11-on-11 period. The team from 247Sports takes you inside the practice below after patrolling the sidelines inside ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
Alpha Dog: DL David Hicks (Texas A&M signee)
Pound for pound, there might not be a more powerful player in Orlando this week than Hicks. He had the highlight of the day during 1-on-1s when he drove Florida Top247 offensive line signee Roderick Kearney backwards with essentially one hand and right into a bag that was simulating a quarterback. Hicks then pretty much dictated what Team Phantom’s offense was able to do at the tail end of practice as he ate up double teams and collapsed pockets. Hicks is listed at 270 pounds, but he plays at times like someone who weighs 290 pounds or more as he gets up and underneath opposing blockers before working his way either through them or around them. It would not be surprising to see Hicks in the rotation as a true freshman for the Aggies. He’s that good.
Next Five Defense
DL Adepoju Adebawore (Oklahoma signee) – Adebawore just oozes with upside. Like we noted on Friday, he’s got all the traits with his 85-inch wingspan and top-flight testing numbers. But on Saturday he showed that he’s starting to figure things out as a pass rusher. He not only flashed an elite get-off during 1-on-1s, but was able to hawk down a ball carrier for a loss in 11-on-11 play. Again, Adebawore might have one of the highest ceilings in the entire 2023 cycle.
DL John Walker (UCF signee) – When Walker picked the nearby Knights over Michigan, Ohio State, Florida and others back in the summer months, some wondered if those Big Ten and SEC programs really wanted him. Anyone still wondering if Walker can play at that level needs to check out the footage from Saturday. After winning a pair of 1-on-1 reps in style, Walker tallied two sacks in the 11-on-11 session. He’s a monster addition for Gus Malzhan.
CB Rodrick Pleasant – The California state record holder in the 100-meter dash may not have made the finals of the fastest man competition, but he made an impact where it really mattered on Saturday, and that was out on the perimeter. Pleasant broke two passes when Team Phantom’s offense practiced its two-minute drill and was just as sticky in coverage during 1-on-1s. Pleasant might be under 6-foot, but he makes up for it with his foot speed.
CB Malik Muhammad (Texas signee) – There haven’t been a ton of turnovers through the first two days, but Muhammad was able to produce one when he picked off an errant throw from Iowa State signee JJ Kohl. Muhammad is a smooth operator on the outside that understands how to check wide receivers with his hands and try to get them off schedule even with his slender frame. More importantly, he can turn and find the football once it’s in the air.
DL Ashton Porter – Porter was yet another point-of-attack player that made his presence felt on Saturday. Following a solid showing during 1-on-1s where he got the best of LSU signee Zalance Heard with a slick spin move, the Lone Star State product put a brief halt to Team Phantom’s two-minute drill with a sack. Porter, who is set to announce a commitment during the game, has some ambiguity in his position and could be used in multiple fronts.
Next Five Offense
WR Mikey Matthews (Utah signee) – Matthews was simply money for Team Speed on Saturday. He had arguably three of the top catches of the day as he displayed elite body control and the ability to track the ball down the field. One of those grabs for Matthews came at the expense of top-ranked cornerback Cormani McClain. A top-end gear has been the biggest question mark for Matthews, but there is no doubt that he is quick and sudden.
QB Jackson Arnold (Oklahoma signee) – The man who seemed to always be looking towards Matthews was Arnold, who proved to be the most consistent of the four signal callers Saturday. Arnold was accurate and kept putting the ball in places where only his wide receivers could get it. It’s early, but Arnold might be the odds-on favorite to take home MVP honors on Tuesday as he will also be able to run the ball when he ditches the non-contact jersey.
WR John Tay Cook II (Texas signee) – Cook cooked plenty of defensive backs during Team Phantom’s 1-on-1s as he used his rubber band-like knees to change directions and create separation. He also took a reverse and got roughly 20 yards during the 11-on-11 period for one of the biggest gains of the day. Cook may not have any verified long speed markers on file, but not many in the class of 2023 can work the shorter numbers of the route tree like him.
WR Zachariah Branch (USC signee) – Branch also had his way with a variety of different defenders during Team Phantom’s 1-on-1s. We have said in the past that the nation’s No. 1-ranked wideout per 247Sports is the closest thing out there to Tyreek Hill and still feels that’s the case after watching him blow past Oregon signee Kodi DeCambra on a deep post for six points. Branch seems to be playing with much more confidence than a year ago. That’s big.
TE New York Harbor – We came into Saturday wanting to know if Harbor would be able to shake the future Power Five defenders. The short answer is yes. The track star went two for three on his 1-on-1 reps and then caught three balls when things transitioned over to 7-on-7. Harbor might not be the most technically advanced route runner and is good for a bad drop (or two), but it was impressive watching him stack LSU signee Javien Toviano before getting vertical.
More notes from Saturday
-Top247 pass rusher Jordan Renaud turned some heads for the second consecutive day as the Alabama signee’s burst caused plenty of issues for opposing offensive linemen. The same could be said about the Clemson signee David Ojiegbe. Florida signee Will Norman and South Carolina signee Xavier McLeod were two others that found success up front.
-The defensive lines might have dominated Saturday’s session for the most part, but Alabama signee Miles McVayFSU signee Lucas SimmonsMichigan signee Amir Herring and Michigan State signee Ramil Stanton all had their moments during 1-on-1s.
-Georgia linebacker signee Raylen Wilson almost came down with a pick during 7-on-7 work. Wilson spent last week practicing with the Bulldogs and played the role of Ohio State’s Chambers Steele on the scout team. Ole Miss signee Suntarine Perkins is another linebacker that was comfortable in coverage.
-A pair of future Florida cornerbacks looked the part Saturday Ja’Keem Jackson and Sharif Denson. The later got his hands on a few passes.
-Colorado running back signee Dylan Edwards won the fastest man competition going 4.41 on the lasers in the 40-yard dash according to the UA staff.
-UF’s Jaden Rashada may not have made the “next five” category, but he spun a nice ball.
– USC signee Makai LemonOklahoma signee Jaquaize Pettaway and Western Carolina signee Santana Fleming are some other wide receivers that we liked at various points throughout practice.