When: Saturday, January 2nd, 10 am CT (ESPN)
Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersberg, FL
Who: Under Armour Rosters
Texas commits: Adrian White, Mike Davis, Taylor Bible, Ashton Dorsey, Aaron Benson, DeMarco Cobbs
Texas targets or others of note: Jordan Hicks, Darius White, Corey Nelson (soft verbal Texas A&M), Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M), Evan Washington (LSU), Chad Lindsay (Alabama), Blake Bell (Oklahoma)
As mentioned above, there is plenty of free information from ESPN covering the several days of practice. Here are a few notes from practice and about the game:
- Not all of these high school kids take these All-Star games seriously, but my impression is that they do take it more seriously than the All-Star games in basketball. A major part of the reason may be that the football games, and more especially, the practices, have a greater impact on the eventual rankings, as these games provide a final evaluation for these players before Signing Day and can have an impact. For instance, partly as a result of a mediocre showing in practice and during the US Army game, Jamarkus McFarland lost his fifth star last year.
- DeMarco Cobbs will not play for the White team due to the calf injury he sustained in Tulsa Central's playoff loss. There are no long-term concerns with the injury, but it would have been helpful to see a little bit of his route-running ability and how natural he is catching the football. Or at least reports on how well he did those things in practice.
- Darius White will announce his decision during the game, expected to come down to Oklahoma State and Texas. After White's visit and spurn of Oklahoma several weeks ago, the Cowboys look like they could be the favorite because of their ability to offer early playing time, a priority for White that he made clear this week in Florida. It's the same reason that Texas could be in trouble. The good news for Longhorn fans is that White reportedly spent the week hanging out with the Texas commits on his team, perhaps establishing a bond with them that could be strong enough for him to don a Texas hat early Saturday morning.
- Jordan Hicks said this week that he is planning on announcing his decision on Signing Day, but there are rumblings that it could come sooner. There are rumors that White's mother and sister like Austin, but Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel will have the final say, as they will have their in-home visits in the next several weeks. No definite word on if the uncertainty surrounding Meyer will ultimately eliminate Florida from contention with Hicks, but the star linebacker did say that the whole situation was "confusing." Things look good for Texas right now, with the depth chart and limited potential for playing time next season the biggest impediments, though Hicks does not seem like a player overly concerned with playing early.
- In practice Hicks has been every bit as good or better than advertised, showing off his physicality coming dowhill in the running, his speed going sideline-to-sideline to make plays, and his well-rounded game with his ability to drop into coverage and disrupt passing lanes, evidenced by an interception return for a touchdown when he jumped a slant route.
- In perhaps one of the most interesting developments in the game, Hicks, Benson, and Nelson will all play together at linebacker for the Black team. With the departure of Marcus Davis, there may be room for Nelson if he continues to show interest, keeping open the possibility, however slight, that all three could eventually play for Texas. What will be exciting is seeing Benson and Hicks play together, as there is a strong possibility that they could end up as teammates.
- Benson has reportedly added a great deal of strength since the beginning of the season, now checking in at around 220 pounds, up from 205, where most recruiting sites still have him listed. According to reports, Benson hasn't lost any speed with his increased strength and is effective dropping into coverage, showing an overall polish to his game. In that respect, his consistency may eventually draw comparisons to Roddrick Muckelroy.
- The reports from practice about Mike Davis were glowing all week, hitting on his route-running and playmaking ability. Davis has also been extremely consistent and is said to be the most polished of the receivers on the Black team, a group that includes and Darius White, and had an impressive slant-and-go touchdown catch in practice that showcased his renowned route-running ability. He has played more flanker and in the slot during practice, but is expected to start at flanker for the game.
- Adrian White was outstanding in his first day of practice, showing off his physicality and ability to get up in press coverage. Although he did not perform at the same level on this second day, no surprise given his inconsistencies and the wide receivers probably being better acclimated to dealing with a tough cornerback. According to Jeff Howe, his performance in practice is enough in his estimation for White to once again be consdered an elite cornerback prospect. White has reportedly done a better job looking back for passes, something he struggled with as a junior and admittedly worked hard in developing.
- Taylor Bible and Ashton Dorsey have both been impressive, as befits their status as the top two defensive tackles by ESPN, with Dorsey looking like the most explosive defensive tackle. Both have struggled at times facing off against double teams, but will improve in that area with better coaching, though both probably project as three techniques in college. Both are also working on developing more pass rushing moves and more consistently using their hands. Dorsey reportedly still has some issues with playing too high at times, resulting in him being blown off the ball on some running plays. The bottom line is that going against good interior linemen this week will help provide them a better understanding of where they are in their development and what they need to do to compete at the collegiate level, as one or both will need to contribute next season for the Longhorns.