LAKE BUNEA VISTA, Fla. – Preparations for the 2023 Under Armor All-America Game continued on Sunday with a two-hour practice session at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The team from 247Sports has some top performers and standouts below.
Alpha Dog: WR John Tay Cook II (Texas signee)
Some of the nation’s top route runners are in Orlando this week and while each one of them has impressed, one could make the case that Cook might be the best of the bunch after the first three practices. The future Longhorn was almost unstoppable during Sunday’s 1-on-1 session as he shook defender after defender with his quick feet and elite burst. Cook’s smaller stature might not be for everyone, but he continues to show that he can play much bigger than his height/weight suggests as he uses his natural bounce and superb body control to snag pretty much anything that enters his orbit. Cook, who averaged 5.3 catches and 1.3 touchdowns per game as a senior, figures to emerge as a top target for Arch Manning (or whoever is under center in Austin) over the next few years.
Next Five Offense
WR Noah Rogers (Ohio State signee) – Ryan Day said on Signing Day that all four of the wide receivers that the Buckeyes signed were going to make an “impact” in 2023. We’ll see if that statement holds true, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Rogers worked his way onto the field as a true freshman after watching him run around on Sunday. Rogers had two of the most notable catches during 1-on-1s as he went up and over Texas signee Malik Muhammad for six points and then beat Georgia signee Justin Rhett for six more.
TE Duke Robinson – The nation’s top-ranked tight end showcased his ability to shake defenders in tight quarters during a redzone 1-on-1 period as he was able to get out of his breaks and create separation before securing the football away from his body. To put it simply, Robinson is a difficult cover for most safeties and pretty much every linebacker on hand this week. The dual-sport athlete, who is drawing looks from the MLB, has already taken official visits to USC, Texas, Alabama and Georgia.
QB Jackson Arnold (Oklahoma signee) – Another solid outing for Arnold, who actually caught a touchdown during 11-on-11 work on a trick play. Arnold was sharp from the jump during routes on air as he put the ball right where it needed to be time and time again. While he threw an interception on a pass that he would probably like back towards the tail end of practice, for the third straight day he looked like the best quarterback of the bunch, which is pretty notable because this is a talented group.
WR Mikey Matthews (Utah signee) – Matthews was the one who threw the touchdown pass to Arnold on what was essentially a “Philly Special.” That was slick, but his efforts during Team Speed’s skill 1-on-1s are why he finds himself as a top performer for the second consecutive day. Matthews changes gears like a seasoned vet and that allows him to find plenty of green grass. For example he used a double move to get around Florida signee Shariff Denson and then haul in a ball for what would have been a 40-yard score.
OL Olaus Alinen (Alabama signee) – Life in Orlando hasn’t exactly been easy for the assembled offensive linemen, but Alinen had his moments on Sunday as he held his own during 1-on-1s. One of his wins came against Jordan Renaud, who has been one of the best rushers this week. Alinen was also able to open up some holes during inside run drills and get to the second level. The cherry on top? Alinen won the big man catching challenge by fielding a punt that traveled 60 yards with a four-second hang time.
Next Five Defense
DL Kelby Collins (Florida signee) – Billy Napier and the folks in Gainesville are likely going to be salivating once they see the footage from Sunday as Collins had as good of a day as any of the defensive linemen present. The Yellowhammer State native worked from the inside and was able to drive would-be blockers back as he found leverage and kept the leggings pumping. Collins also flashed a nifty swipe move. UF is in the process of rebuilding its front seven and Collins is someone who might be able to play early.
CB Desmond Ricks (Alabama signee) – Ricks may not have batted 100 percent on Sunday, but he was excellent out of the perimeter and only gave up a handful of catches. The former class of 2024 prospect did a nice job of sticking his hip on wide receivers and then running down the sidelines with them before turning and looking for the football. Ricks is probably going to need some time to get adjusted to life in the SEC, but he has a chance to emerge as an impact player for the Crimson Tide with his elite traits.
LB Troy Bowles (Georgia signee) – The son of Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles turned heads Sunday when he undercut a pass over the middle and took it the other way for what might have been a pick six in a real game. Bowles was also sticky in coverage during 1-on-1s, which isn’t all that surprising seeing as how he spent much of his senior campaign deployed as a two-high safety. UGA has an abundance of riches coming in on defense and the younger Bowles is yet another chess piece for Kirby Smart.
DL Rueben Bain (Miami signee) – Is he an edge player or an interior pass rusher? Who cares. Bain lined up on both the inside and outside on Sunday and found plenty of success as he maneuvered his way into the backfield for multiple sacks during 1-on-1s. Bain owns a unique build, but he makes it work, and he’s starting to remind us a little bit of current Melvin Ingram given his dimensions. Bain has made it clear that he wants to take home defensive MVP honors on Tuesday. His motor could make that happen.
CB Ethan Nation – Nation isn’t as big as the other defensive backs on Team Speed’s roster, but he took more reps than any other one of them on Sunday and made a difference as he broke up pass after pass during 1-on-1s. A two-way player this past fall in one of the Peach State’s higher classifications, Nation is rather technically sound as he understands how to play angles and take away throwing windows even with his smaller stature. Nation is set to make a commitment during the ESPN broadcast on Tuesday.
More from Sunday’s session
–New York Harbor once again illustrated what makes him so unique as he rolled past Oregon signee Daylen Austin and into the end zone for a score. Too many people want to focus on what Harbor isn’t right now as a football player instead of trying to entertain the idea of what he is could be one day Austin, by the way, is a 10.9 guy in the 100-meter dash.
– Alabama wide receiver signee Jalen Hale put a defender on skates during 1-on-1s with a sharp cut. He was definitely another eye-catcher during 1-on-1s as he was a USC signee Zachariah BranchColorado signee Adam HopkinsSouth Carolina signee Kelton HendersonUSC signee Makai Lemon and Western Carolina signee Santana Fleming.
-There’s a lot to like about tight end/h-backs Khamari Anderson and Luke Hasz as both appear to be natural pass catchers and advanced route runners. There are some size limitations, but should be able to make an impact in the SEC with Anderson headed to Kentucky and Hasz headed to Arkansas.
-It was another promising showing for the Texas A&M defensive line signee David Hicks, who was our “Alpha Dog” on Saturday. Alabama signee Jordan RenaudOklahoma signee Adepoju AdebaworeFlorida signee Will Norman and UCF signee John Walker are some other pass rushers that – once again – flashed.
-Kansas State quarterback signee Avery Johnson has struggled at times with accuracy, but he reminded everyone that he’s a dynamic runner when he scrambled over 20 yards for a touchdown.
–Ja’Keem Jackson had a nice interception during 1-on-1s. It’s had to believe that the Florida signee has only been playing cornerback for less than a year as he’s got all the tools to eventually shut down one side of the field on Saturdays.
– LSU cornerback Javien Toviano is another large cornerback that had a favorable day as he was tasked with covering a full spread of offensive weapons.
– Team Phantom has had plenty of issues just snapping the ball. One interior lineman, however, that deserves some recognition for his efforts Sunday is a UF signee Roderick Kearneywho did a nice job of setting his base and engaging in combat.
247Sports’ Greg Biggins, Brian Dohn, Allen Trieu, Bud Elliott, Sean Bock and Gaby Urrutia all helped contribute to this report..