Once again, the top high school players from across the country will be on display during NBC’s broadcast of the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl this Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. While the East squad tilts heavily towards Florida and Georgia prospects, the West side features a wider representation of the U.S.
Of the 56 players listed for the West squad, the states represented include Missouri, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Nevada and Idaho. Similar to the East, however, the West is dominated by two states in particular as California (16) and Texas (12) combine to make up half of the roster.
Year after year, the top states for college football recruiters are Florida, Texas, Georgia and California. The amount of talent overflowing out of these states fills rosters across the country and produces numerous all-conference- and All-American-caliber players. Exhibitions like the U.S. Army All-American Bowl provide high school players with one final opportunity to showcase their talents against their highly regarded peers.
Looking at the West team, it should come as no surprise that California is providing the most players with an emphasis on Southern California prep stars. That’s especially the case at quarterback where the West is loaded with Golden State talent in the form of five-stars Tanner McKee and J.T. Daniels and four-star Matt Corral. Of the three, only McKee remains uncommitted, Corral has committed to Ole Miss and Daniels to USC.
McKee is as smooth as it gets for a statuesque (6-6) dual-threat quarterback with a cannon for a right arm. He led his Centennial (Corona, Calif.) Huskies to back-to-back MaxPreps top-10 finishes. Daniels (Mater Dei in Santa Ana) and Corral (Long Beach Poly) are no strangers, as the former got the better of the latter on the way to capturing an overall California state title and MaxPreps national title. Daniels started the season as a Class of 2019 recruit but reclassified so he could enter college early.
Whoever is at quarterback, he will have plenty of targets to throw to, including five-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. A teammate of Daniels at Mater Dei, St. Brown (right) finished the season with 72 catches for 1,320 yards and 20 touchdowns. Corral also will have a familiar face to throw to in Jalen Hall, a four-star from Long Beach Poly. Both star wideouts have yet to announce their college decision.
The West offense also boasts plenty of talent up front in the form of perhaps one of the best guard/center combinations Justin Dedich from Chaparral High School in Temecula, California. A true trench hog warrior who uses his raw strength, power, leverage, and technique to move would-be defenders out of the way, Dedich played guard in high school but is projected to move to center when he makes his way to USC. Another 4-star lining up in the trenches is Mater Dei guard Chris Murray. He will be one of several players on the West team that college coaches and recruiters will be paying special attention to as he has already received close to 20 scholarship offers.
The West team’s defense also is loaded with plenty of California talent, especially at linebacker. The combination of Raymond Scott (Narbonne, Harbor City),Bo Calvert (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village), and Solomon Tuliaupupu (Mater Dei) at linebacker is a defensive coordinator’s dream. Scott and Calvert will square off against each other this fall with the former headed to USC and the latter committing to UCLA. Tuliaupupu is undecided on his college choice.
While a debate can be had over three players on the West’s squad belonging to Florida or California, make no mistake that wide receiver Brian Hightower, cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles, and running back T.J. Pledger are Los Angeles area talents. This trio of four-star prospects all hail from the San Fernando Valley with Hightower and Radley-Hiles playing for Calabasas High School in 2016 and Pledger for Chaminade. Although the trio came together for their senior year to play at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, as of now each is going their own way with Hightower signing with Miami Hurricanes and Pledger with Oklahoma. Radley-Hiles recently reopened his recruiting process.
Arguably the most sought-after player still left on the board is five-star cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart. Stuart has the size (6-2, 187) and speed (sub-4.4 40-yard dash) that coaches covet in defensive backs. Seemingly every Power 5 program is seeking Taylor-Stuart’s national letter of intent as he reportedly has 50 scholarship offers.
Unlike the East squad, nine of the players from California remain uncommitted (see list), so there could be some off-the-field excitement on Saturday to go with the action on the field. This U.S. Army All-American Bowl should end with a few uncommitted players announcing their decisions on national TV.
California U.S. Army All-American Bowl Participants
QB Matt Corral, Long Beach Polytechnic, Long Beach – Ole Miss commit
QB J.T. Daniels, Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana – USC commit
QB Tanner McKee, Centennial High School, Corona – uncommitted
*WR Brian Hightower, IMG Academy, Bradenton – Miami
WR Jalen Hall, Long Beach Polytechnic, Long Beach – uncommitted
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana – uncommitted
*RB TJ Pledger, IMG Academy, Bradenton – Oklahoma commit
OL Justin Dedich, Chaparral High School, Temecula – USC commit
OL Chris Murray, Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana – uncommitted
DB Jaiden Woodbey, St. John Bosco, Bellflower – uncommitted
*DB Brendan Radley-Hiles, IMG Academy, Bradenton – uncommitted
DB Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Helix High School, La Mesa – uncommitted
LB Bo Calvert, Oaks Christian High School, Westlake Village – UCLA commit
LB Raymond Scott, Narbonne High School, Harbor City – USC commit
LB Solomon Tuliaupupi, Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana – uncommitted
DL Tyler Manoa, St. Francis High School, Mountain View – uncommitted
*Played for IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) in 2017
— 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 and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.
(Photos courtesy of www.usarmyallamericanbowl.com)