Under Armour All-America Game 2014: Complete Breakdown of Each Team
The 2014 Under Amour All-America Game gives the nation's elite high school seniors a final opportunity to showcase their skills before taking a leap to the collegiate level. Action begins on ESPN at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Premier prospects from across the country will compete in the annual showcase, suiting up for Team Highlight and Team Nitro. Future conference foes and teammates put their skills to the test, while several players are expected to announce commitments during the event.
Here's position-by-position analysis of playmakers to watch on each squad. National stars are out in full force.
Quarterbacks: Team Highlight
Georgia standout Deshaun Watson surpassed career state passing yardage records as a junior at Gainesville High School. He committed to Clemson during his sophomore year and appears poised to compete for the Tigers' starting job in 2014.
Brandon Harris is the latest dual-threat Louisiana quarterback headed to LSU. He committed to Les Miles in July after weighing offers from several SEC opponents, including Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss.
Michael O'Connor will have a tough time earning early reps in Happy Valley after the success of star Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg. Still, the 6'4" standout intends to sign with the Nittany Lions over the likes of Michigan State, Missouri and Rutgers.
Alabama commit David Cornwell is a strong-armed Oklahoma product who impressed with polished skills throughout a successful high school career. While he is on the team roster, the 6'5", 240-pound passer is sidelined with a knee injury suffered midway through his senior season.
Rafe Peavey was a late addition to Team Highlight. The Missouri standout committed to Arkansas prior to last year's hiring of Bret Bielema, who made it a top priority to keep the quarterback on board.
Quarterbacks: Team Nitro
Palo Alto (Calif.) product Keller Chryst is staying home to suit up for Stanford at the next level. The 6'4", 220-pound passer headlines a loaded crop of quarterbacks on Team Nitro.
Wilton Speight committed to Michigan in February and features one of the strongest throwing arms in America. The Richmond, Va., recruit is joined on the roster by Oregon pledge Morgan Mahalak, who follows in a long line of dual-threat playmakers who fill the Ducks' backfield.
Mahalak could emerge as a front-runner to start at Oregon in 2015 after a year of tutelage under returning starter Marcus Mariota.
Oklahoma commit Justice Hansen was selected to the team roster but is not expected to suit up after suffering a midseason ankle injury. In the absence of Hansen, Florida prospect Sean White landed on Team Nitro.
White, a 6'2", 204-pound passer from Fort Lauderdale, is committed to Auburn.
Running Backs: Team Highlight
New Orleans native Leonard Fournette is rated the nation's No. 1 overall player in 247Sports' composite rankings and ranks among the most coveted uncommitted prospects. That will change Thursday, when he is expected to choose between Alabama and LSU.
Racean Thomas ranks among the most physical runners in America and is simply a scintillating talent to watch carry the ball. The Alabama star committed to Auburn in August.
Between these two battering rams, the Team Nitro defense will have its hands full.
Crimson Tide commit Bo Scarbrough could also be a factor in the backfield, but he is more likely to contribute as a receiver.
Running Backs: Team Nitro
Miami Central star Dalvin Cook remains one of the most intriguing running back recruits in the land. He committed to Florida in April, but there's a growing sense that FSU will end up with the dynamic rusher.
His high school teammate, Joseph Yearby, was slated to join him in the backfield for this game but suffered a broken leg late in the season. The injury creates an opportunity for under-the-radar recruit Jeff Jones, who hails from Minneapolis, Minn.
Jones committed to Minnesota in March but still holds interest from Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa State.
Wide Receivers: Team Highlight
Plenty of eyes will be on Speedy Noil in St. Petersburg when he steps up to announce his collegiate intentions. The sensational New Orleans athlete likely lands with LSU or Texas A&M.
Noil is rated the nation's No. 1 wide receiver in 247Sports' composite rankings.
De'Andre Thompkins is also a Nittany Lions commit and will share reps with his future teammate.
There's a strong possibility that Florida playmaker Travis Rudolph will join Sims in Tuscaloosa, but Auburn, Florida State and Tennessee are among teams still in the picture.
Wide Receivers: Team Nitro
Malachi Dupre is another star New Orleans prospect still searching for the right fit at the next level. He is an extremely athletic receiver with excellent leaping ability.
Dupre is currently considering offers from Florida State, LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M and UCLA, among others.
Fellow Nitro weapon Ermon Lane is arguably the most explosive offensive player from Florida. He is committed to the Gators, but Miami and Florida State are seemingly still possibilities.
If the Gators lose grips on Lane, the team still expects to bring in J.C. Jackson, another Nitro receiver. Michigan commit Drake Harris, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., represents the Great Lakes region in a receiving corps predominately made up of Southeast stars.
Tight Ends: Team Highlight
California prospect Tyler Luatua looks to become the latest in a long line of productive tight ends at Notre Dame. He picked the Fighting Irish over Alabama with a mid-December commitment.
Luatua is joined on Team Highlight by LSU commit Jacory Washington. The 6'5" target chose the Tigers last January, spurning offers from several rival SEC programs.
Tight Ends: Team Nitro
North Carolina prospect Jeb Blazevich provides Georgia with a sizeable receiving target for years to come. The Charlotte standout moves well at 6'4.5", 230 pounds.
Offensive Line: Team Highlight
Alabama fans can get a good look at what awaits in Tuscaloosa by watching the Team Highlight offensive line go to work. The unit features four Crimson Tide commits, including top-ranked tackle Cameron Robinson.
Maryland product Damian Prince provides another elite bookend. The coveted offensive tackle is considering Florida State, South Carolina, Miami, Florida, Maryland and others.
Casey Tucker is a valued uncommitted tackle who was once a USC pledge. His short list includes Stanford and Arizona State.
Team Nitro: Offensive Line
Offensive guard Rod Taylor is the top-ranked player at his position. The Ole Miss pledge is an absolute road grader, and it will be fun to watch him challenge elite interior defenders.
The Rebels hoped to pair Taylor with Andy Bauer, but those plans fell apart when the tackle switched his commitment to Missouri early in the season.
Notre Dame pledge Alex Bars and Ohio State commit Jamarco Jones also help anchor a loaded offensive front. Braden Smith, the No. 1 prospect in Kansas, is expected to chose between TCU, Texas A&M and Notre Dame.
Team Highlight: Defensive Line
Louisiana star Gerald Willis will match up against the nation's top offensive linemen with a chance to show off his skills. The defensive tackle is expected to announce his college choice Thursday, likely deciding between LSU and Florida.
He aims to blow up the interior, along with elite tackle prospects Dexter Wideman (Florida State commit) and O.J. Smith (Alabama commit). Team Highlight also packs plenty of punch from the outside edge.
Featherston, a North Carolina native, is still considering offers from Clemson, Florida State, UNC, Florida and NC State.
Team Nitro: Defensive Line
Carter, a Georgia product, remains uncommitted. His possible destinations include LSU, Georgia and Florida.
Team Highlight: Linebackers
Miller may ultimately end up at defensive end when he arrives at Alabama.
Team Nitro: Linebackers
Recent Ohio State commit Raekwon McMillan resides in the heart of Team Nitro's defensive attack. The nation's top-ranked inside linebacker is hardly alone as a difference-maker in the second level.
Texas native Edwin Freeman remains uncommitted. His choice likely comes down to in-state powers Texas and Texas A&M.
Team Highlight: Defensive Backs
Quin Blanding is the No. 1 ranked safety nationally. He elected to stay in his home state by committing to Virginia.
He'll patrol centerfield with Texas A&M pledge Dylan Sumner-Gardner. The duo compliments a stacked collection of cornerbacks.
Jackson, a southern California star, has his sights set on USC, Florida, LSU, Tennessee and Florida State, among other contenders. Tabor, a native of Washington, D.C., is strongly considering Arizona and Alabama.
Gifted athlete John Smith is capable of playing a variety of positions, but safety is his likely landing spot. The California star is looking closely at USC and Notre Dame.
Auburn commit Stephen Roberts also suits up for Team Highlight.
Team Nitro: Defensive Backs
Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers is arguably the most notable household name at this year's event. He could excel at either safety or cornerback for years to come.
Receivers will find it difficult to maneuver through a secondary that includes Peppers and Laurence Jones, who decommitted from Alabama in December.
Adams, a safety, is weighing offers from LSU and Florida. The Gators would like to pair him with Nitro teammate Quincy Wilson, who is headed to Gainesville.