The result of the Army All-American Bowl is always secondary to the commitment announcements, but if Saturday's game is any indication, the West Coast is the best coast in the Class of 2014.
Dominating behind game MVP Joe Mixon, the West team scored 28-6 victory at the 2014 Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, with a bevy of the top recruits in the nation proving their worth. For their victory, the West was presented with the championship trophy by Herman Boone, best known to some for being portrayed by Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans:
Mixon, who committed to Oklahoma on Saturday, scored one touchdown and was a dominant force out of the backfield. Showing chemistry with quarterback Kyle Allen, the West's star running back was able to break free on receptions as well as carries. Though the game started slowly for both sides, with the contest going scoreless in the first quarter, the West's dominance showed up once scoring commenced.
In addition to Mixon's score, which put the West ahead 14-0 in the second quarter, fellow back Royce Freeman also had himself a stellar ballgame. The bruising Oregon recruit rushed for three touchdowns for the West, which went ahead 21-0 before the East got on the scoreboard.
The only East touchdown came after an Allen fumble, which Jalen Holmes returned for a score before it was called back on a penalty. Holmes, an Ohio State recruit, had his scoop and score called back on a penalty, but the East scored to open the fourth quarter and make it 21-6.
It was one of few mistakes for Allen the entire contest, who was stellar for much of the contest. He completed nine of his 13 first-half passes for 114 yards and was integral leading the West down the field on their scoring drives—even if he didn't score himself. The nation's top quarterback also has to be feeling good about his decision to attend Texas A&M.
Frank Iheanacho, a mammoth 4-star receiver, committed to the Aggies on Saturday, giving them two elite Class of 2014 talents with Speedy Noil also heading to College Station.
Overall, the Army Bowl was one of West Coast dominance. The East struggled to create headway on both sides of the ball, with only a select few plays standing out. Florida quarterback commit Will Grier was able to connect on a couple of downfield passes late in the contest, which has to come as a relief to Gators fans, who have had trouble moving the ball for two straight years.
But every time something good would happen for the East, the West would come right back. This is the fifth straight season the two coasts have alternated victories in the Army Bowl, which every year honors the men and women serving the United States along with the nation's top recruits.
In fact, more important than the game outcome was where these young men would land. Nine different recruits chose to use the national stage as a pulpit for their decision. Here is a look at how everything shook out in an otherwise not suspenseful contest.
Brian Wallace (OL, Christian Brothers College): Committed to Arkansas
Bret Bielema's first year at Arkansas was much like the 2012 nightmare under John L. Smith. The Razorbacks finished a disappointing 3-9, including finishing without a win in the SEC for the first time in school history. With the ghost of Bobby Petrino's mistakes still looming, there has been hand-wringing about the future of the program.
Luckily, Bielema is still able to bring in top-level recruits. Wallace, a 4-star offensive line recruit from Christian Brothers College in St. Louis, Mo., committed to Arkansas on Saturday—a move that came as a slight surprise to some. With a final three of Iowa, Alabama and Arkansas, the Crimson Tide and Hawkeyes' propensity for developing elite offensive line would seemingly put the Razorbacks third in the pecking order.
Wallace, in the end, chose a chance to play early. Wallace is the 20th recruit in the Class of 2014 for Arkansas, and Trey Biddy of Rivals noted just how much of a difference hulking offensive lineman's commitment made:
Brian Wallace's commitment moves Arkansas up 8 spots in Rivals Team Rankings to No. 27 overall— Trey Biddy (@TreyBiddy) January 4, 2014
At 6'6" and 305 pounds, Wallace has the size to step in and instantly play on Saturdays. He's ranked 14th among offensive linemen and No. 118 overall in 247Sports' composite rankings.
Jamil Kamara (WR, Bishop Sullivan Catholic): Committed to Virginia
Staying close to home was one of the biggest stories of the day, with many of the young players sticking around their home states. Kamara, the second recruit to make his announcement, started off that trend by committing to Virginia.
A 4-star wideout from Bishop Sullivan Catholic in Virginia Beach, Va., Kamara is a versatile talent who could help the Cavaliers in a number of ways. Although his ultimate position is likely on the outside, 247Sports lists him as an "athlete," ranking him sixth in the state of Virginia and No. 10 overall among players who lack a position.
Kamara is listed at 6'2" and 211 pounds, a ready-made receiver whose only question is his top-end speed. He's a solid route-runner and athlete, able to bring down the ball in traffic without much trouble. Pittsburgh and Wisconsin were his other two choices.
Dwight Williams (LB, Junipero Serra): Committed to UCLA
It's not too often a football recruit cites an elite law program as a factor in where he commits. Dwight Williams is not your typical recruit. The 4-star linebacker from Junipero Serra in California decided to stay in his home state, giving his verbal to Jim Mora and UCLA.
Williams' decision was shrouded in uncertainty throughout much of the process. He brought five hats—UCLA, LSU, Florida, Clemson and Oklahoma—to the table and kept the decision secret from most down to the final moments. In their Crystal Ball results, the Bruins had only a 14 percent chance of landing Williams, with Oklahoma listed as the overwhelming favorite.
Instead, Williams decided to surprise everyone. The 6'1", 205-pound linebacker is considered the No. 249 recruit in the nation, ranking 21st at his position. He will likely need to add weight to withstand Pac-12 play, but he's a solid prospect overall and a major boon for Mora, who has continually shown his commitment to UCLA despite other overtures.
Erick Smith (DB, Glenville): Committed to Ohio State
After giving up 40 points in Friday night's Orange Bowl loss, it became obvious Urban Meyer needs help on defense in Columbus, Ohio. Defensive back prospect Erick Smith gave Meyer a reason to be happy. In a contest that featured numerous players committed to Columbus, the 4-star defensive back stayed in the state of Ohio by committing to the Buckeyes.
Smith chose Ohio State over an eclectic group of finalists that included Alabama, Michigan, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. The decision was mostly expected, with 247Sports giving the Buckeyes a 97 percent chance of keeping Smith close to home. As noted by Eleven Warriors' Twitter feed, Smith's commitment gave Meyer 20 for 2014:
Glenville DB Erick Smith commits to Ohio State, becoming the 20th pledge of Urban Meyer's 2014 class. http://t.co/e4I32pB3SV— Eleven Warriors (@11W) January 4, 2014
Almost certain to play safety long-term, Smith is the 11th best at the position, per 247Sports. He is also ranked No. 4 in the state of Ohio.
Frank Iheanacho (WR, Westside High School): Committed to Texas A&M
Kevin Sumlin strikes again. Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans may be on their way to the greener NFL pastures, but the Texas A&M coach may already have their replacements already in place. Four-star wide receiver Frank Iheanacho announced his commitment to Sumlin and the Aggies, spurning Oregon and LSU.
Sumlin already had arguably the best overall prospect in this class with quarterback Kyle Allen, who 247Sports considers the best pro-style quarterback in the nation. With 2013 5-star recruit Ricky Jones-Seals and now Iheanacho, Allen might have a better array of skill-position talent than even Manziel surrounding him.
Iheanacho, a noted basketball player who didn't have a scholarship offer going into his senior season, is listed at 6'7" and uses his time on the court to develop elite ball-skills. He can rise up and grab jump balls at the top of their arc, making him a difficult matchup regardless of competition. Because Iheanacho focused on basketball, he's still a bit raw and will need to work his body into football shape.
Still, Sumlin has to be thrilled about his growing stable of players.
Bryce Dixon (TE, St. Bonaventure): Committed to USC
It's been a time of strife at USC, with Ed Orgeron's departure casting a shadow of doubt about the Trojans' stable of 2014 recruits. If Bryce Dixon's commitment is any indication, Steve Sarkisian isn't too shabby at this recruiting thing either.
The 4-star tight end indicated that he'll be heading to USC, picking the Trojans over UCLA and Miami. Dixon is widely considered the second-best tight end recruit in the nation. A standout at St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.), Dixon has dropped 40 pounds to work himself into a 6'4", 220-pound chiseled receiving threat from the down line.
Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News noted that Dixon was particularly interested in keeping the lengthy tradition of Trojans tight ends going:
New #USC commit Bryce Dixon: ``I think I can keep the tradition going of good tight ends.''— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) January 4, 2014
Dixon is the 14th recruit committed to USC in the Class of 2014. The Trojans are allowed to sign 25 players, but they are still limited to 75 scholarship players due to NCAA violations. While that puts Sarkisian at a disadvantage, having those players be at Dixon's caliber will help matters.
Nyles Morgan (LB, Crete-Monee): Committed to Notre Dame
Brian Kelly came to Notre Dame to rebuild the program in his image, and he's done just that with a series of elite linebackers coming through South Bend. Nyles Morgan hopes he can join the Manti Te'os of the world and become the next linebacker to excel with the Irish.
Morgan chose Notre Dame over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt on Saturday and could play earlier than expected if he impresses in camp. Listed at 6'1", 225 pounds, Morgan is an elite athlete at the inside linebacker spot who fits in well with Notre Dame's scheme. He finished his senior season with 115 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and four sacks and led Crete-Monee to a state title in 2012, per the Chicago Tribune's Bob Narang.
He's considered the No. 3 inside linebacker in the nation and second-best player in the state of Illinois, per 247Sports.
Marshon Lattimore (DB, Glenville): Committed to Ohio State
By the time Marshon Lattimore stepped up to the podium, most of the uncertainty had been taken out of his destination. Smith, Lattimore's high school teammate at Glenville, indicated he always wanted to play with his good friend at the next level.
A couple of hours later, Meyer had landed his package deal of defensive backs. Lattimore announced his commitment to Ohio State, giving the rebuilding secondary in Columbus two elite recruits. Considered the No. 1 recruit in the state of Ohio by 247Sports, the 6'0", 175-pound cornerback is one of the best in the entire nation.
Playing on both sides of the ball at Glenville, Lattimore is a talented ball hawk who uses his skills to mirror opposing receivers. He has excellent hands and could probably step in instantly and contribute as a freshman.
Alabama and Oregon were his two other choices.
Joe Mixon (RB, Freedom): Committed to Oklahoma
Unquestionably the most touted recruit making his decision at Saturday's contest, the entire day was built around Mixon's fourth-quarter announcement. With four hats—Cal, UCLA, Wisconsin and Oklahoma—adorning the table, Mixon gave Bob Stoops his second big win of the week by choosing the Sooners.
Mixon, a 5-star recruit from Freedom High School (Oakley, Calif.), is the top running back in the nation, per 247Sports. A scintillating combination of size and speed, most expected Mixon's decision to come down to the Sooners and Bruins. The Crystal Ball at 247Sports gave both schools a 43 percent chance of landing him.
Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman notes that Mixon was watching Oklahoma's surprising upset of Alabama from home on Thursday:
Suffice it to say Stoops' long run of coaching NFL-level running backs played a factor. But now that Mixon has decided he's coming to Norman, it will be interesting to see if that plays any factor in whether Stoops sticks around or takes his talent to Sundays.
With the way Mixon ran in San Antonio, sticking around won't be a bad choice.
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