Five things to watch for Saturday in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which will be televised on NBC at 1 p.m. (ET) and played at the Alamodome in San Antonio:
Defenses will rule the day: The All-Star format is a disaster for offenses, which need timing, a playbook that’s thick enough to disguise plays and communication, none of which is really likely to occur in a week of practice. That’s great news for elite defensive ends and linebackers.
“I haven’t played against (Clemson commit) Xavier Thomas and I saw a clip of him running down the quarterback and it looked pretty scary, I won’t lie,” West quarterback J.T. Daniels, a Southern Cal commit, said. “And with Micah Parsons (a Penn State commit) coming off the edge, it’s going to be interesting to play against, but I’m ready to play against them. All-American games aren’t really for the offense. It’s not easy to install an offense, so I don’t have any expectations. We have like 40 plays, but they’re all basic.”
Expect to see a lot of Luke Ford: The Carterville, Ill., tight end, a Georgia commit, can do a lot of things and the West coaches will use him at every opportunity, with the possible exception of defense.
“The coach told me I would play the majority of the time,” Ford said. “I’ll probably do a lot of blocking and a little route running, but I’m pretty versatile and I feel they can put me anywhere. It’s pretty fun playing on every play. It’s tiring, but it’s fun.”
There’s little questioning Ford’s toughness. He played his first four games of the season with a broken collarbone, but he said he’s 100% now.
My pick for the winning team: The West has a few advantages, with Daniels being able to throw to Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) teammate in Amon-Ra St. Brown and two other sure-handed receivers in Brian Hightower and Jaylen Waddle. However, the East has the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Offensive Player of the Year in future Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and all of the talent where it matters on defense, with Thomas, Parsons and the American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) terror trio of Patrick Surtain Jr., Tyson Campbell and Nesta Silvera. Even though the West might be smarting from losing last season, the vote here is the East wins again.
“The defense is really simple, we just have to do it,” Surtain said.
St. Brown will make at least one spectacular catch: The Mater Dei receiver, who is announcing his college choice Saturday, has been putting on a clinic in practices this week, including a few one-handed grabs.
“We have a jugs machine at home and we still use it and while we’re using it, we do one-handed catches all the time,” St. Brown said. “That really helps, the repetition. At school, me and C.J. (Parks) fool around to see who can do the best one-handed catches.”
Surtain won’t announce yet: Surtain, the No. 1-ranked defensive back by 247Sports and an American Family Insurance ALL-USA player, is waiting until the February signing period to announce his choice.
“I just stay humble about it and I look at every offering as a blessing,” Surtain said. He added he wants to wait until most of the coaching shake-ups are over.
“It can affect a lot of the situation, who’s going,” he said. “You get to know a DB coach real well and then they leave and then the next coach, it’s hard to build a relationship with a new person.”