The Under Armour High School All-Star Game brings prep football players from all over the nation to show off their talents into the state of Florida each year — many of whom have notoriety equal to celebrities due to the explosion of recruiting coverage for college football. But there are always a handful of players that come into town virtually unknown but after a great performance in the game, leave with more attention.
Two of those players, Jeff Jones and Sean White, ended up winning Most Valuable Player awards for their respective teams as Team Highlight defeated Team Nitro 31-21 in the 8th installment of this all-star game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg FL.
Jones of Minneapolis MN, a Minnesota Golden Gopher commit, came into the game as the 14th rated running back in the nation per ESPN.com and only had offers from the likes of Kentucky, Wisconsin and Michigan State. But in Thursday night’s game Jones, a 5’11 196lbs back, showed the toughness and balance equivalent to a recruit that was worthy of scholarship offers from higher profiled schools and his 72 yards and one receiving touchdown.
update: Jones is starting to reap the benefits of playing well and has been recently offered by the University of Michigan
White, who is the 16th rated drop back passer and is currently committed to the Auburn Tigers, passed for 156 yards on 10 of 12 attempts. Like Jones, White of F. Lauderdale was not heavily recruited and selected the Tigers over USF, West Virginia and Cincinnati. While small in stature, he is barely 6’1, White possesses high accuracy and decision-making skills that should make him an asset to Gus Malzahn offense in the future.
While many like Jones and White came into the game committed to a school, there were many players who had yet to make their decision public and used the game as a platform to tell the world where they would be attending college.
Receiver Devante “Speedy” Noil of New Orleans LA chose the Texas A&M Aggies over home state school LSU. Noil lived up to his nickname by creating great separation from defensive backs and should be an instant weapon for whoever replaces Johnny Manziel at quarterback next year for the Aggies.
Receiver Travis Rudolph decided to stay in-state and play for the Florida State Seminoles over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Rudolph, a West Palm Beach FL native, had four receptions for 48 yards and showed a toughness that could land him early playing time for Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles as they look to replace their three top receivers after the season.
Safety Jamal Adams of Lewisville TX sent Twitter into a frenzy when he used his baby niece to announce his commitment to the “university of LSU tigers” over the Florida Gators. While defensive backs were at a disadvantage in this all-star game due to no press coverage, at 6’0 200lbs Adams has the size to continue the lineage of great LSU defensive backs.
Defense end Gerald Willis of New Orleans continued the family tradition of disappointing mom as he selected the Florida Gators over the LSU Tigers. Willis is the younger brother of safety Landon Collins, who two years ago on the same field announced he would be attending Alabama over his mother’s choice of the LSU Tigers. And once again April Justin made it known that despite neither of her sons choosing them, that the LSU Tigers were still #1.
Cornerback Jalen Tabor of Washington DC surprised many by selecting Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Many believed that if he recruited defensive talent like this for Michigan, he still may have been the coach there.
But the Crimson Tide fans weren’t upset for too long as Tony Brown, the #1 cornerback in the nation, from Beaumont TX choose Alabama over the heavily favored LSU Tigers. Brown was unable to play in the game due to injury but showed great feet and recovery speed against top talent on the summer camp circuit to be worthy of the high ranking.
After having struck out on many of its top targets, LSU fans began to wonder if Les Miles had lost his recruiting touch. But hope was restored, somewhat, when the #1 recruit in the nation, running back Leonard Fournette, pledged his commitment to the Bayou Tigers over everyone else in the country. The talented back gave LSU fans a glimpse of what could be in baton rouge with his tough running in between the tackles and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Other top performers:
Running back Dalvin Cook of Miami FL: Cook, who was once a Florida Gator commit, switched to Florida State on New Years Eve and broke the heart of Gators fans in attendance by showing great quickness in running for 76 yards.
Defensive Back Jabril Peppers of Paramus NJ: While listed as a cornerback, Peppers is a triple-threat athlete that could see time in all three aspects of the game; offense, defense and special teams for the Michigan Wolverines next year. On the night he blocked a field goal (it was negated by a penalty), lined up in the “wildcat” formation and completed a pass, had a long run as a punt returner, and made multiple tackles on defense.
We caught up with Peppers after the game to get his thoughts on how he played as well as his plans once he gets up to Ann Arbor this summer.