After four BCS bowl games in three days, blue-chip college football is taking a short sabbatical before Monday's National Championship. That pause allows us to turn our heads to blue-chip high school football, where Friday evening the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game will feature some of the best young prospects in the country.
The annual game kicks off from Tropicana Field at 5 p.m. ET Friday, January 4. As an event, it's probably best-known for seeing players make in-game commitment decisions, and rightfully so—that's one of the coolest and most exciting traditions in sport.
But the game is also a nice venue for previously committed players to dazzle their future die-hard fans for the first time. Here are three teams, in particular, who have plenty of soon-to-be stars playing in Friday's game.
Gator fans can chase the sting of Wednesday's Sugar Bowl with a glimpse at their auspicious future. Florida boasts a number of the top committed players in Friday's game, many of whom will be featured at skill positions.
Kelvin Taylor, son of NFL All-Pro Fred Taylor, should shine in the Black Team offensive backfield, while highly rated defensive backs Keanu Neal, Marcell Harris and Vernon Hargreaves III will get plenty of reps on the other side of the ball.
The real name to watch, however, might be Alvin Bailey. Projected to eventually play slot receiver in college, the speedster from Armwood High School is capable of playing wildcat QB and cornerback, too. It'll be interesting to see how he's used Friday.
There's not much to smile about in Gainesville right now, the wounds of Wednesday still fresh enough to sting in saltwater. But if the talent on display at Tropicana Field pans out the way it's projected, bowl losses will soon become an exception, not a rule.
Alabama Crimson Tide
It hardly seems fair, but the strong are pegged to get stronger in Tuscaloosa next season. The Tide boast ESPN.com's top-ranked recruiting class, and plenty of that talent will be on display Friday.
One of their most recent commitments, Robert Foster, will be particularly interesting to watch. The 6'3'' wide receiver committed to Alabama right before Christmas, choosing the Tide over his hometown Pittsburgh Panthers. He's the second-ranked wideout in ESPN.com's rankings and plays one of the only positions Alabama has a need at. If he can develop into a big, physical presence opposite burner Amari Cooper, the Tide could be unstoppable—like, literally unable to be stopped—in the near future.
Potential future signal-caller Cooper Bateman will suit up Friday, too. The bright-eyed Utah boy is one of the smartest prospects at his position—exactly the type of guy capable of game-managing the Tide all the way to a National Title.
Other names to watch include DE DeMarcus Walker, TE O.J. Howard, CB Maurice Smith and OG Grant Hill (awesome name, right?).
Ohio State Buckeyes
Believe it or not, the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game will not be an all-SEC affair. Michigan, Notre Dame and Florida State all have a number of prospects in the game, but no non-Southeastern team boasts more talent than the Buckeyes.
Two highly rated cornerbacks, Cam Burrows and Gareon Conley, will help defensive tackle Joey Bose anchor the White Team defense on Friday. All three players have high ceilings, and all three will be counted on to contribute soon after arriving in Columbus.
On offense, impressive athlete Jalin Marshall and pass-catching tight end Marcus Baugh are two more high-upside prospects the Buckeyes are counting to develop. Both players fit beautifully into Urban Meyer's unique system and could put up inflated numbers over their careers.