The nation's premier showcase for high school football talent kicks off this afternoon in San Antonio, and it'll have a distinctive red and black flair to it. While it's not uncommon for future Bulldogs to play in the game, this year sees an unusually large crop of players who either already pledged to the Bulldogs or might do so in the next month.
The East squad is being quarterbacked by Jacob Eason, who'll leave the game to get settled in Athens. Protecting him up front (hopefully for the first of many wins) will be Stephens County offensive lineman Ben Cleveland. Eason's targets will include IMG Academy tight end Isaac Nauta. Nauta, the nation's top tight end, is also expected to announce his college choice during the game from among the 'Dawgs, Michigan, and Alabama. Nauta will be joined in the pass pattern by Savannah Christian wide receiver Demetris Robertson. Robertson has listed Stanford as his leader since decommitting from Alabama last year. But he's also admitted that Eason and the other UGA commits in San Antonio have been leaning on him hard. My sense is that Georgia isn't out of the mix at all, and that this week may have really helped the 'Dawgs with Robertson.
Defensively the East will rely on big defensive tackle Julian Rochester, who's also been a huge recruiter for the Red and Black since he committed. Behind him Oconee County linebacker and UGA commit Jaleel Laguins will be among a talented group of linebackers. Joining Richester up front for the East will be a pair of big Bulldog targets: interior tackle Derrick Brown from Lanier and Florida defensive end Brian Burns. Brown has been a priority for Georgia since day one, and #90 has really shown why during practice this week. He's got the total package, with strength, speed, and pass rushing moves you don't often see from a high school tackle.
Burns looked like he might be bound for Florida when Coach Richt was dismissed, and the American Heritage star may yet end up in Gainesville. But the Georgia commits in town have apparently been giving him something to think about this week. Burns is scheduled to visit Athens officially next weekend, Gainesville on January 22nd, and Tallahassee on the 29th.
The East secondary features Peachtree Ridge safety Nigel Warrior, a consensus top 10 player in the state. Tennessee and Alabama have been ahead of Georgia in the sweepstakes for Warrior's signature. But the hiring of Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker, who recruited him to Alabama, might have given the Bulldogs new life in that competition. Warrior's joined on the back end by Elbert County speedster Mecole Hardman, considered by many to be the top overall athlete in the class of 2016. Hardman looks to be headed to either Athens or Tuscaloosa, but the decision may not come out until National Signing Day.
The West squad is all but bereft of Bulldog prospects. Only California receiver Tyler Vaughns has expressed an interest in Georgia, though it doesn't exactly sound like the USC commit is a threat to flip to anywhere else, much less UGA.
You can watch the U.S. Army All-American Bowl live on NBC at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.