The world got a glimpse of the future of college football on Thursday, Jan. 2, as Team Highlight beat Team Nitro, 31-21, in the Under Armour All-American game.
It was a thrilling contest all around, and the night was extra special for Alabama, LSU, Florida, Florida State, Texas A&M and Arizona, all of whom scored major commitments.
Team Highlight got the scoring started in the first quarter when a couple of future SEC opponents—Auburn commit Sean White to future LSU tight end Jacory Washington—hooked up for the touchdown:
It appeared as though Team Nitro had tied the game on two separate occasions, but a touchdown grab from Florida commit Ermon Lane was overturned, and a defensive touchdown stemming from No. 2 prospect and Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers' blocked field goal was called back on a penalty.
Adam Centers would knock in the re-kick, giving Team Highlight a 10-0 lead at half.
Team Nitro climbed back into it when No. 2 running back Dalvin Cook, who recently switched from Florida to FSU, scored from 12 yards out thanks to a key block from Lane.
From there, it was all Team Highlight, thanks to a couple of newly committed players.
Travis Rudolph, who pledged to FSU earlier in the game, hauled in a touchdown grab before new Texas A&M commit Speedy Noil showed off his jets with a long haul down the sideline to make it 24-7.
Future Miami Hurricane Braxton Berrios responded with a touchdown for Team Nitro, but then just moments before announcing his pick of LSU, No. 1 prospect Leonard Fournette scored on a touchdown throw from White to cap the victory.
Leonard Fournette (No. 1 prospect, No. 1 RB): LSU
LSU had a chance for a monster day, and although the Tigers missed out on a couple of other top recruits, they came away with the No. 1 player in the land.
Bleacher Report provided some of the impressive stats from the New Orleans native:
Leonard Fournette commits to LSU. Class of 2014’s No. 1 overall recruit rushed for 1,729 yds, 16 TDs in 2013 per @247Sports.— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) January 2, 2014
Amazingly enough, though, his stats don't really tell the entire story. Fournette is built like a seasoned NFL back at 6'1" and 226 pounds, but he also adds some scary speed and explosiveness to that power and tackle-breaking ability.
Throw in his ability to catch passes out the backfield, as evidenced with his touchdown, and this is a rare prospect who is deserving of the No. 1 distinction.
Tony Brown (No. 9 prospect, No. 3 CB): Alabama
Alabama lost cornerback Jalen Tabor to Arizona, but securing the commitment of Tony Brown should help cushion the blow for Nick Saban and Co.
Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports helps sum up the appeal of Brown, who is also a 2016 Olympic hopeful:
In addition to dynamite speed and awesome hair, Brown has solid size and length that make him an ideal fit in the physical SEC. Although he wasn't able to put his talent on display because of an injury, it's clear the Tide are getting a stud in the Texas native.
Speedy Noil (No. 11 prospect, No. 1 WR): Texas A&M
Many believed that Speedy Noil was going to LSU, but the New Orleans native threw a slight curveball and announced that he will instead head to College Station to play for Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M:
This is a huge get for the Aggies, who now have the commitment of three top-15 players between Noil, defensive end Myles Garrett and quarterback Kyle Allen.
As he proved in this game with one of the most impressive performances of the night, Noil is an electric playmaker who has the the speed and elusiveness to hit a home run every time he touches the ball. With or without Johnny Manziel under center as his quarterback, he'll be a dangerous slot option for the Aggies.
Gerald Willis (No. 21 prospect, No. 2 DT): Florida
April Justin: not a very good recruiter.
For those who have forgotten, Justin is the mother who wasn't exactly happy when her son, Landon Collins, selected Alabama over LSU. It happened again on Thursday night, as her other son, Gerald Willis, picked Florida over the Tigers:
Florida doesn't care for Justin's displeasure, however. The Gators are getting a terrific recruit in the 5-star Willis, a versatile player across the defensive line who will be able to create plenty of penetration.
Jalen Tabor (No. 24 prospect, No. 4 CB): Arizona
It doesn't get much bigger than this for Arizona, as Rich Rodriguez and his staff secured the commitment of top-25 prospect Jalen Tabor, whose final decision came down to the Wildcats and national powerhouse Alabama:
Rivals' Adam Gorney pointed out an interesting stat:
Jalen Tabor is the first five-star commit in the Pac-12 #Arizona— Adam Gorney (@adamgorney) January 2, 2014
Tabor is a big, athletic, versatile corner. He's good in both zone and man-to-man coverage but can also make an impact in the run game. This is one the most highly rated commitments for Arizona in program history.
Jamal Adams (No. 27 prospect, No. 2 S): LSU
The No. 2 safety in the class selected LSU over Florida:
"I just felt more comfortable there and the opportunity is there for me, and I'm ready to go win some national championships," Adams said, via The Times-Picayune's James Smith.
Adams is capable of making plays on every level. He's a smart, instinctive player who is able in coverage, but he also possesses the size, explosiveness and burst to crash the box and make tackles in the running game.
That versatile skill set makes him a really nice fit in Les Miles' defense.
Travis Rudolph (No. 69 prospect, No. 7 WR): Florida State
Choosing between the current Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams in the BCS—Florida State, Auburn, Alabama—Travis Rudolph went with the No. 1 Seminoles:
It has been a pretty impressive week for Jimbo Fisher's squad, as elite running back Dalvin Cook flipped his commitment from Florida a couple of days ago, 4-star defensive end Lorenzo Featherston committed the next day and now Rudolph is also headed to Tallahassee.
Rivals' Mike Farrell explained why Seminoles fans should be excited about this one:
Love Travis Rudolph, kid has been awesome all week long. #FSU getting a difference maker.— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) January 2, 2014
Rudolph is a skilled all-around receiver, and he showed his talent with a big gain against top corner Jabrill Peppers in the first half and a touchdown in the second.
*All rankings via 247Sports' composite rankings.