A lot happened in Saturday’s Army All-American Bowl, and I was lucky enough to watch the action unfold in person from the press box at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
In the wake of a 27-17 victory for the East team, I compiled a short-list of observations and takeaways that stood out from the game and its surrounding events.
#CardClass17 gets richer as Sarell commits
First, let’s start with the fact that Stanford’s 2017 class of recruits is on fire. The Cardinal climbed to the 28th-overall spot in the Rivals rankings, after the nation’s top offensive tackle Foster Sarell gave the Cardinal his pledge at the end of Saturday’s game.
“[Stanford] has been my dream school since I was in seventh grade,” Sarell told me after the final whistle blew. “Academically, they’re amazing and I’ve got friends who are going there as recruits. They play good football out there. I think they’re gonna do big things.”
Both Sarell and West line mate Walker Little cleared running lanes and kept the West quarterbacks upright (no sacks) all game long. On Tate Martell’s 18-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, both linemen (Little is #75 and Sarell is #70, both in yellow) threw key blocks to clear Martell’s path around the left edge to the end zone.
Roommates all week, both continued to grow a friendship that started at Nike’s premiere recruiting camp, The Opening, this past summer.
“We were roommates at the Opening originally; that’s when got started with our friendship,” Little said. “I kind of felt it, just because he was hanging with the Stanford kids the whole time.”
With bookends Little and Sarell now in the fold, David Shaw and the rest of the coaching staff can move onto pitching the Stanford football experience in beautiful Palo Alto to other recruiting targets. I’d like to think that list includes four-stars Connor Wedington, Paulson Adebo (a recent Notre Dame decommit), and Chaz Ah You.
From the looks of things, this class has the chance to be even as special as the blockbuster 2009 class (which included names like Shayne Skov, Ben Gardner, Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney, Zach Ertz, Trent Murphy, Kevin Danser and Levine Toilolo), a loaded 2014 crop (Christian McCaffrey, Solomon Thomas, Keller Chryst, Harrison Phillips, Alijah Holder, Dalton Schultz and Daniel Marx headlined this one) or 2015’s stacked commit list (KJ Costello, Bryce Love, Jake Bailey, Quenton Meeks, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Frank Buncom IV).
And that already says a lot.
Fromm, Johnson look college-ready, will compete as early enrollees
Clemson commit Hunter Johnson and Georgia commit Jake Fromm both showcased why college scouts and recruiting experts have been salivating over the pair for over a year and a half. Johnson and Fromm combined to throw for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-17 passing.
Johnson’s 69-yard bomb fell into the hands of Alabama native Henry Ruggs as he raced away from Saguaro (AZ) defensive back KJ Jarrell on a deep post route. Fromm delivered a pass in the flat to Florida State commit DJ Matthews, who outran West corner and Washington commit Salvon Ahmed to the end zone.
Both top signal-callers arrived on their campuses Monday as early enrollees and look to assert themselves in their respective quarterback races. Johnson will look to replace national-champion Deshaun Watson at Clemson, while Fromm will take on “the other Jake” (Georgia true freshman Jacob Eason) this spring and possibly into the fall.
The Pac-12 is getting some good young talent
Amidst the fray of all-yellow (West team) and all-black (East) jerseys (which I happened to think were the best combination Adidas had designed for this game in a while), a trio of Pac-12 commits playing caught my eye.
- Redlands (Calif.) East Valley defensive end Jaelan Phillips - Phillips, an early enrollee at UCLA, will fill the void left by departing Bruins pass-rush specialist Takkarist McKinley (10 sacks this season). The Army Bowl Defensive Player of the Year finished with a game-high five tackles and was a disruptive force in the East backfield. He was oddly reminiscent of a young Solomon Thomas, whom I covered as a player from my high school alma mater in this same game just three years ago.
- Salesian (Calif.) athlete Deommodore Lenoir - This guy just has it. Lenoir’s blend of speed, agility and vision was put on display as a returner, after a dazzling 72-yard kickoff return and an 18-yard punt return. Though he decommitted from Oregon the day Mark Helfrich was fired, I think he’ll still end up a Duck when February 1 rolls around.
- Independence (OR) Central defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu - The 296-pound four-star run stopper had such a productive week that many recruiting experts believe Tuipulotu should be mentioned in the same breadth as elite DT recruits Aubrey Solomon and Marvin Wilson. After watching him rack up 1.5 tackles for loss on Saturday, I believe they might be right. Coach Petersen is getting his team a pretty good one up in Seattle.
In addition, five of the seven live commitments announced they were West Coast-bound.
Before the aforementioned Sarell picked the Cardinal, Cathedral (Calif.) wideout Jamire Calvin surprised everyone in committing to Gary Andersen and Oregon State over presumed favorite Nebraska.
Bishop Gorman (NV) safety Bubba Bolden reaffirmed his pledge to USC, and Calabasas (Calif.) cornerback Darnay Holmes also stayed out west tabbing UCLA as his school of choice. Wylie East (TX) running back Eno Benjamin became the highest-ranked running back of the Todd Graham era in Tempe to chose Arizona State over Texas, Baylor, Utah and Michigan.
The other two prospects to announce, Aledo (TX) offensive tackle Chuck Filiaga and South Grand Prairie (TX) safety Jeffrey Okudah, picked Big Ten institutions to continue their playing careers. Filiaga chose Michigan over Oklahoma and Nebraska, while Okudah donned a scarlet and gray Ohio State cap in committing to the Buckeyes.
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