SAN ANTONIO — The West squad might have officially won the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but there were two more significant long-term winners: The University of Texas and University of Southern California.
The Longhorns earned surprising commitments from two of the top players in South Florida when Booker T. Washington (Miami) tight end/defensive end Devonaire Clarington and three-position Westminster School star Tim Irvin, also from Miami, both committed to Charlie Strong’s team. The duo brings added status to a recent Texas surge in recruiting, adding some potentially dynamic offensive players to high-profile defensive pledges.
“I felt that Texas would give me the best chance to make the most of my abilities and get a great education,” Irvin said after his team fell just short in the Bowl. “We’re bringing some South Florida talent there. It’s exciting.”
“A wise man once told me everything is bigger in Texas. … There’s a better opportunity for me to start there. Texas is the biggest school in America.”
Trojans fans had plenty to be excited about as well following two second-half commitments from top defensive prospects. First Ykili Ross, a dynamic wide receiver and defensive back from Riverside (Calif.) Polytechnic High, took the plunge for USC. Nearly exactly a quarter later, he watched defensive back Marvell Tell from Crespi (Encino, Calif.) join him. Both Trojans made a splash with their self-assured — call it swaggy, perhaps? — proclamations; Ross said,”For the next three years, I’ll be attending the University of Southern California.” Note three, not four. As for Tell, all he did was say,”you know,” USC will win a national championship.
No pressure guys.
MAKING THE MOST OF PROPS
Two other top prospects made the most of some extra material brought into the commitment booth.
D’Andre Walker, one of the nation’s top defensive end recruits, cut his final choices down to Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee before announcing that he would attend Georgia by holding aloft a stuffed bulldog puppy.
That would make it seem like his pick of Georgia was a fait accompli. Not so, he says.
“Honestly, I had a Smokey (University of Tennessee) doll down there, too,” he told USA TODAY High School Sports. “I decided to go with Georgia because the fans in here were chanting, ‘Georgia, Georgia.’ That made a big difference.”
Was the decision really that close?
“It was that close,” he said, although his family had gotten the word in advance because they unveiled Georgia T-shirts. “But I knew I could get a great education in my home state and I wanted to do that.”
Now he gets to pair with fellow incoming freshman phenom Trent Thompson, another of the nation’s top defensive line prospects, in Athens.
Walker wasn’t the only top recruit to take advantage of innovative props.
Stanley Norman ended the suspense about his future in the second quarter, choosing to attend Arizona State with a bit of flair, not only donning a Sun Devils hat but also stripping to reveal a personalized “Scrappy” Arizona State jersey; Norman’s nickname is Scrappy. He was all too happy to throw up the forks sign repeatedly thereafter.
CAGER THROWS UP THE “U”
The “U” might have missed out on Clarington, but it landed wide receiver Lawrence Cager selected the Canes over strong pursuit from Alabama and a host of other top programs.
“I’m blessed to say that I will be committing to the University of Miami,” he said. “Building a relationship with Al Golden and Brennan Carroll, the wide receivers coach, made me feel good about going there.”
Cager told USA TODAY High School Sports that Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaye had a huge impact in his recruiting, even calling him Friday on the eve of his commitment. Cager said he did not make up his mind until Saturday morning.
“He’s an established quarterback, a freshman All-American,” Cager said. “I know I’ll be able to work with him for the next three years and build things there. That was really important.”
And, right on cue, he finally got the East squad a touchdown after re-entering the game on a wide receiver reverse pass from fellow wideout Deon Cain. Timing is everything, after all.
CANADA’S BEST GALLIMORE GOES WITH SOONERS
Neville Gallimore is an Oklahoma Sooner. The big defensive tackle from Canada made his selection in the first quarter and picked the Sooners in front of Ohio State, Florida State, Auburn and California, among others. Gallimore is the second defensive line prospect who is at least a four star to commit to the Sooners, ensuring that Bob Stoops’ class is as robust as ever, even coming off a disappointing season in Norman.
“Oklahoma just recruited me the right away,” Gallimore said. “It’s a great program, Coach Stoops does a great job and I’m really excited about being part of it. I want to go in and have an impact. I’m confident I’ll improve there and can make a major contribution.”
PHILLIPS PICKS VOLS HOURS AFTER WATCHING BOWL WIN
No sooner than the game hit its first commercial break than stud defensive end Kyle Phillips came off the board. The Nashville native from Hillsboro High picked his in-state Tennessee Volunteers, giving Butch Jones two absolute bears of incoming defensive ends in the form of Phillips and Khalil McKenzie.
More for the Volunteers to celebrate as Jones and his staff bask in the glow of a Taxslayer Bowl rout of Iowa. And, right on cue, Phillips came off his orange hat proclamation to make two huge plays for the East squad. Impressive.
Phillips cited his comfort level with the entire school as the main driving impetus behind picking Tennessee above LSU and other programs.
“I just felt like that was the best place for me overall,” Phillips told 247 Sports and NBC Sports in his announcement. “I felt the most at home there out of those three schools. That was probably the biggest factor.
“Really, just knowing that I kind of felt like the other schools I was going for were for the coaches, not the school. With Tennessee, I still had a good relationship with the coaches, but the whole school felt right. I had a better relationship with Tennessee than the other schools.”
One of his future teammates was very excited to add Phillips to the fold.
“Getting Kyle, he’s a great player,” McKenzie said. “He’s going to be great on the line and it’ll be really fun to play together.”