As noted in this space on Friday, the murky recruiting picture is becoming much clearer these days. It's looking more and more like our coaches did a great job. Further evidence emerged at the recent U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Under Armor High School All-Star Game, two of the biggest high school All-Star games in the country.
Dwayne Allen was among the participants in the Burger King Varsity Skills Challenge (corporate naming rights, catch the fever!) before the Under Armor game. Allen won the "hands" competition (description here), beating out Florida commitment Janoris Jenkins, South Carolina commit Charles Whitlock, and Oregon commit Blake Cantu. Jenkins and Whitlock will probably both play corner in college, and looked decidedly less fluid than Allen, who moved through the course better than any 240 pound tight end should. The more I see of Allen, the more I think we'll eventually be utilizing him (along with Bruce Figgins and Aron White) in an H-back role at some point, rather than a traditional tight end. These guys are just too athletic not to be moved around that way.
Ben Jones also participated in the Under Armor game, and received glowing reviews from the coaches there for his effort and enthusiasm. Jones was selected as one of the Red team captains along with Omar Hunter, Janoris Jenkins, Miami commit Sean Spence, and USC pledge Khaled Holmes. Jones' performance ultimately moved him into ESPN's list of their top 150 players for 2008.
Carlton Thomas was showcased as a kick returner, and consistently put him team in good field position. While the special teams play in these games is usually pretty poor, Thomas consistently set his team up outside their own 30. The thing that is really special about the guy is his ability to make that first gunner miss. I think Thomas may have a shot to play on special teams next season if he shows he can take care of the ball.
A.J. Green made solid catches and performed consistently throughout the week. However, he looks like he may need to fill out some before he really makes an impact at Georgia. It's one thing to make a spectacular catch on a fly pattern, it is quite another to drive an SEC corner out of the picture on a sweep. Coach Eason requires both.
A.J. Harmon didn't do anything spectacular in the Army game (besides change his commitment), but I have to ask: have you ever seen a bigger high school offensive lineman? The guy's shoulders are wider than my truck. One of the buzzwords you often hear describing high school linemen is "physically ready". Harmon is clearly ready to play from a physical standpoint. He'll probably have a year to master the mental game when he gets to Athens, as the cupboard up front is more full than it's been in recent memory.
Statesboro defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson also went out to San Antonio for the game and looks like he may have grown some since last summer. Tyson reminds me more and more of Geno Atkins coming out of high school every time I see him. He plays with good leverage, and seems to have good upper body strength. The fact that Tyson was rated the top defensive tackle prospect in the country from the beginning while Atkins flew under the radar for most of his senior year is a cautionary tale for those who go in for the whole "star system". While it's a pretty reliable guide, and gets better every year as the recruiting services bring in more former college coaches to help with their talent evaluation, it's still anybody's guess who develops into a star. That's part of the fun though.
Blair Walsh handled kicking duties for the East team, but had some trouble with center/holder exchanges that led to one ugly miss on an extra point, and a missed field goal. I wouldn't worry about that though. There's never enough time at these games to practice that stuff, and Walsh will be fine when he gets to Athens. If there's one question mark about next year's squad, it may be that we'll likely rely on a true freshman placekicker. He's a good true freshman, but still, it unsettles me a little.
Also, 2009 QB prospect Zach Mettenberger of Oconee County wowed scouts with one of the strongest throwing arms on display at the Army All-American Bowl combine. He also won the award for most prodigious 'Bama bangs (see the link). Mettenberger completed his performance by actually maiming a receiver who didn't get his hands up in time. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration. But only a slight one, as Mettenberger drew comparisons to former Michigan/current vagabond signal caller Ryan Mallett. Interestingly, Mettenberger's mother is actually a UGA employee, in the athletic department no less. Mettenberger has also struck up a competitive friendship with Indiana QB Jordan Luallen, who has tripped down to Athens for the Mark Richt camp, and wil likely come back to Georgia's camp this summer. I think there's a reasonable chance that Georgia will ultimately offer both of them, and would take both if given the chance.
Until next time . . .