Once the high school football season ends for seniors in any given year, before matriculating onto the college campuses and before signing letters of intent there is one last opportunity for players to strut their stuff – in all-star games. There are several large high school All-American games that attract some of the top talent in the nation every year and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl is one of the best.
The 2016 addition is set to be played at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Jan. 9, with NBC providing the coverage. The game will feature 90 of some of the best players the 2015 season had to offer on the high school level. Many of the recruits have already verbally committed to top programs but some remain uncommitted while others may be looking for one last opportunity to showcase their skill set in hopes of landing an offer from their dream school.
2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Location: Alamodome (San Antonio)
The following is a list of some of the top talent to watch for in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, along with the schools that are showing interest or the program each has committed to along with some highlights of their senior season.
Note: All rosters subject to change
DT Dexter Lawrence (committed to Clemson)
The recruits don’t get much better or much bigger than Lawrence. Lawrence is a 5-star recruit across the board after tearing it up for Wake Forest (N.C.) High School. Listed at 6-5, 230, Lawrence jumped onto the recruiting scene as a sophomore coming up with 56 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, and five sacks. He took a step forward in production in 2014 with 55 stops, 25 tackles for a loss, and 10 sacks. His senior year was outstanding, tallying 91 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks, and 16 quarterback hurries in just 12 games.
Lawrence had over 20 offers including Georgia, Florida State, Arkansas, Miami, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State. The finalist, based on official visits, were Florida, Ohio State, NC State and Alabama, before Lawrence committed to Clemson on Dec. 14.
RB Tavien Feaster (committed to Clemson)
Widely considered the top running back in the 2016 recruiting class, Feaster is an every-down back with gifted breakaway speed. The Spartanburg (S.C.) High School star has been consistent with his production, rushing for 1,429 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore and before adding another 1,153 yards and 15 scores as a junior in 2014. The Vikings went 12-2 in 2015 before a tough 38-35 loss to Lexington in the third round of the South Carolina high school playoffs. Feaster once again led his team in rushing coming up with 1,121 yards and 10 touchdowns off 155 carries. Flashing his all-around abilities, he also caught 64 passes for 976 yards with another 12 scores.
All colleges need a guy with Feaster’s talents and many came calling. Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Auburn and Notre Dame all tried, among others, but Feaster has been locked in with Clemson since Feb. 4.
OL Tommy Kraemer (committed to Notre Dame)
One of the many highlights of Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class is this offensive lineman from Ohio. Kraemer helped Elder High School to a 9-4 record in 2015 opening holes for his running backs and keeping his quarterback’s jersey clean as the team’s left tackle.
Kraemer (6-5, 310) had double-digit offers but could have had more had he not committed to Notre Dame so early in his recruiting process. Despite offers from Boston College, Tennessee, Penn State, Kentucky, Iowa, Duke, Vanderbilt and in-state power Ohio State, Kraemer committed to the Fighting Irish way back on Oct. 4, 2014.
LB Shaquille Quarterman (committed to Miami)
No team is complete without a do-it-all linebacker that can stop the run and defend the pass and that is exactly what Quarterman has done for Oakleaf (Fla.) High School throughout his career. Quarterman helped his squad to an 8-2 record doing a little bit of everything, including being a short-yardage running back picking up three touchdowns on five carries. Where the 6-foot, 235-pound recruit made his mark was on defense, coming up with 101 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, four passes defended and one forced fumble along with a fumble recovery.
Quarterman is another player that could have seen his offers go through the roof but he committed early to the Miami Hurricanes, effectively ending the process on June 25. Despite numerous teams like Tennessee, Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida and Auburn extending offers, Quarterman has stuck with the Canes through the Al Golden era and into the newly started Mark Richt tenure.
RB Kyle Porter (uncommitted)
Curious who the top running back for one of if not the top team in the nation was in 2015? It was Porter. Porter helped Katy High School to a 16-0 record, punishing six teams along the way to a Texas high school state title, including a 35-17 win over Manvel before topping Lake Travis 34-7 for the trophy.
Porter (5-11, 194) rushed 147 times for 1,006 yards and 17 touchdowns while adding 34 receptions for 276 yards and five touchdowns as a junior after a sophomore season when he rushed for 1,877 and 23 touchdowns on 255 carries and was named the District 19-5A Co-Newcomer of the Year.
Porter has not committed to a program yet with offers from Houston, TCU, Tennessee, Maryland, Baylor and Wisconsin among others. The recruiting race is reportedly down to Arkansas, Texas and Oregon.
CB Shyheim Carter (uncommitted)
The Kangaroos won a Louisiana state title in 2015 thanks in large part to their shutdown cornerback. Carter helped Kentwood High School to a 13-1 record topping Haynesville 40-7 in the championship game for state bragging rights.
Carter has rare size and speed listed at 6-0, 190, and clocked in the 4.3 range in the 40-yard dash. Colleges love Carter’s athleticism able to line up at corner, safety, wide receiver, and could return punts if needed. The double-digit offers have been narrowed down to a run-off between Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss and in-state power LSU.
QB K.J. Costello (committed to Stanford)
Rancho Santa Margarita Catholic High School did not have a season to remember, finishing 5-5 but that is life playing in Southern California against the likes of St. John Bosco, Servite and Mater Dei. Costello still had a solid season passing for 2,347 yards with 18 touchdowns against nine picks and added four more scores on the ground. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound, gunslinger forged a powerful one-two connection with another U.S. Army All-American invitee, wide receiver Dylan Crawford (6-1, 175). Crawford worked his way into being a 4-star recruit, catching 51 passes for 822 yards with seven touchdowns.
Crawford is in the neighborhood of 20 scholarship offers but remains uncommitted after official visits to Miami (Oct. 23), Michigan (Oct. 16), and Oregon (Nov. 20). As for Costello, his savvy, size, and big arm has him rated as a top-five quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class with double-digit offers. This prized recruit has spurred offers from other in-state powerhouse programs like USC, UCLA and Cal for a chance to play for Stanford next season.
QB Shea Patterson (committed to Ole Miss)
There are two top pro-style quarterbacks in the 2016 recruiting class and Shea Patterson is one of them. The Ole Miss commit, and one-time LSU and Arizona commit, won two Louisiana state titles with Calvary Baptist in 2013 and '14 before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., over the summer of 2015.
Patterson was an Elite 11 finalist making the list with a great throwing motion, accuracy, and footwork in the pocket. Listed at 6-2, 195, he may not be one of the biggest quarterbacks in the 2016 recruiting class but Patterson's abilities running an offense and reading defenses has made him one of the best of the best among his peers. The other top quarterback, Jacob Eason (Georgia commit), may have the stronger arm of the two but any college coach would love to have both pocket passers on their roster for the next four years.
LB Mique Juarez (uncommitted)
The U.S. Army All-American game is stacked full of players with unique talents and unbelievable storylines but few are as captivating as Juarez’s. He led North Torrance (Calif.) High School to a 9-3 record as a two-way star playing linebacker and quarterback. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound athlete had 23 touchdown passes, 36 rushing touchdowns, and even returned a kickoff for a score. He also has made his mark at linebacker, coming up with 146 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, and five sacks. Adding to the folklore, this was Juarez’s first year playing quarterback for the Saxons.
Juarez was a USC commit until things started unfolding with former Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian midseason. Once Sarkisian was dismissed, Juarez opened his recruiting back up. The four-year starter remains uncommitted but has taken official visits to Oklahoma State, Washington and Oklahoma with UCLA and Alabama also thought to be in the running for his services.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.
(Photos of players participating in 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl courtesy of www.usarmyallamericanbowl.com)