The Under Armour All-American Game features some the best and brightest future stars of the college football gridiron. Each year dozens of elite prospects go head-to-head all week in practice trying to showcase their talents for former NFL coaches, the fans, their fellow recruits and college coaches. The Black Team — named Team Highlight — defeated the White Team — named Team Nitro — 16-3 in a defensive "showdown." So after a week of tough practice and 60 minutes of brutal football, who were the winners and losers in St. Pete?
Under Armour Winners:
Penn State Nittany Lions
Not only did head coach Bill O'Brien announce that he will be returning to Penn State, the best quarterback in the event now appears locked into his verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions. Athlon Consensus 100 quarterback Christian Hackenberg wrapped-up his high school career as the winning quarterback after starting for the Black Team. The elite signal caller from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia is considered by some to be the best QB prospect in the nation. He is all of 6-foot-4 and should easily grow into a 230-pound frame and he was regarded by many as the best quarterback in the event. He was poised and smooth all week in a defense dominated atmosphere and has PSU fans elated about the future.
The Tigers picked-up a verbal commitment during the game from nose tackle Ebenezer Ogundeko. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound interior lineman hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., and picked the Tigers over Syracuse and Florida. But not only did the Tigers land one big name in the game. Linebacker Ben Boulware from Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna was one of the stars of the show playing physical football all week long. Drawing Zach Thomas comparisons due to build and skillset, the Clemson commit gave Tigers faithful a glimpse of what he can do on the next level.
Star defensive end Kendell Beckwith from Jackson (La.) East Feliciana announced at the game that he would be headed to LSU over Alabama. This commitment came on the heels of a big verbal pledge from massive Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Nova South defensive tackle Maquedius Bain earlier in the week. Bain checks in at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds and the duo gave Les Miles an excellent week of action in Tampa Bay.
It is virtually impossible for offensive lines to play effective football in an all-star game setting like the Under Armour Game. So it should come as no shock that the defensive lines won the day. Big-time names like Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's top prospect, Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and DeMarcus Walker helped the defensive lines control the line of scrimmage with ease. The game featured 227 total yards of offense on 111 offensive plays.
Ole Miss Rebels
Speaking of Nkemdiche, many left The Trop with the vibe that the Grayson High School prospect will likely pick Ole Miss over LSU when he ultimately signs his letter of intent. His older brother, Denzel, is currently on the roster finishing his freshman year in Oxford and Huge Freeze has his Rebels surging on the recruiting trail. Look for Ole Miss to close the cycle with a flurry and possibly be the surprise team of the 2013 recruiting class.
A man among boys, the 6-foot-1, 250-pound linebacker from Auburn (Ala.) High showed the nation why he is the No. 1 linebacker in the nation. He is a physical presence on the inside and has elite upside on the next level. He claimed the co-MVP honors with Florida Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Foster has been committed to both Alabama and Auburn but is not committed to anyone at the moment. Washington, Florida State and Georgia are also in the final mix for the talented tackler.
Related: The Athlon Consensus 100
Under Armour Losers:
The Running Game
The two teams combined for 25 yards rushing on 38 total carries on Friday night. That is downright pathetic. However, it had much more to do with the offensive lines than the talent at tailback. Alvin Kamara showed excellent burst and quickness and no one is concerned about the future potential of NFL legacy Kelvin Taylor. However, something needs to be done about allowing these talented players to showcase their talents more effectively. Give the offense two weeks to prepare? Force nickelback situations on every play? I don't know what the answer is, but I know I want to see more from the game's best ball-carriers.
Other than Hackenberg, the talent on the field at quarterback appeared to be less than stellar. Cooper Bateman (Alabama) had a few solid plays but also turned the ball over. Kevin Olsen (Miami) won the starting job in practice but was average in the game. Certainly, the style of play lends itself to tough-sledding for all signal callers, but this stat line is fairly pathetic for 60 minutes of play between two all-star rosters: 22-of-73, 202 yards, 4 INTs.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Elite safety Tony Connor didn't announce as possibly expected and end Kendell Beckwith picked LSU over the Tide. Bleeding recruiting hearts shouldn't go rushing to comfort Nick Saban, who boasts one of the best classes in the nation. But missing out on both of these two players amide rumors that current verbal pledge DeMarcus Walker might be leaning towards Florida is a small disappointment.
Seriously? Team Highlight and Team Nitro? I love recruiting and following elite prospects as they commit, decommit, take visits and eventually blossom into the stars of tomorrow. But it sounds like they allowed 17-year olds to name the two rosters in Tampa-St. Pete. Weaksauce.