There are four ways to approach an all-star game as a player: quality effort, quality effort most of the time, quality effort some of the time, and half-hearted effort.
Committed football players with a quality long-term future in football tend to lean toward the higher end of the scale. You can say, “It’s an all-star game, I’m a star, I don’t need to work hard today,” or you can say, “This is a chance to showcase my skills and show how serious I am about being a great football player.”
Keep in mind these are snapshot evaluations. Most coaches will tell you that a more telling viewpoint comes during the practice sessions leading up to an all-star game. During the first week of 2015, Scout/Irish Illustrated had reporters on-site at the Under Armour All-American Game, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. They reported on the players’ performances during the week, and then wrapped up with game coverage.
Here is our Tale of the Tape/In the Film Room segments rolled into one for the Jan. 2 Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Notre Dame was represented by four verbal commitments: quarterback Brandon Wimbush (Jersey City, N.J.), linebacker Te’Von Coney (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), cornerback Shaun Crawford (Lakewood, Ohio) and kicker Justin Yoon (Milton, Mass.).
Tough game to evaluate the Team Armour quarterbacks (46-6 losers) since their offensive line didn’t stand a chance against Team Highlight’s front.
Wimbush showed much of what we’ve seen from his high school film: a powerful throwing arm with a long backswing. Has more-than-enough arm strength to forego such a long throwing motion, although his quickness from the back of his arm extension to release is pretty good.
Wimbush didn’t have a ton of time to throw, and is often typical in all-star settings, there weren’t enough snaps to go around for the quarterbacks. There was a long stretch from the beginning of the game until the second half in which Wimbush did not see action.
Rolling to his left late in the first half, you see just how long that throwing motion is as the football dips below his waist in the backswing. But on that particular play, he completed the pass with good arm strength while showing the mobility to avoid the rush. When he squares up and throws the football, it’s as powerful as anything Everett Golson and Malik Zaire throw.
On the first play of the second half, he fumbled a zone-read exchange with Nick Brossette. He showed his toughness by staying with and yanking down Malik Jefferson, who had picked up the fumble and returned it.
A decent but incomplete showing under the circumstances.
Provided the most observable film of the day among Irish commitments. Again, pretty much followed form of our pre-all-star game perceptions, which is that of a physical, in-the-box middle linebacker who’ll knock you halfway to Toledo if he squares you up.
Really brings the lumber when he can line someone up, which carried over from high school film to playing with the big boys. Put a nice hit on Blake Barnett’s read-option run early in the game. Has a real knack for being around the football, particularly when the play is in front of him. A nimble-footed, light-on-his-feet inside linebacker.
Love his pre-snap set-up – good low base and excellent knee bend, which allows him to explode out of his stance. A spring-loaded athlete. Good change of direction and light on his feet. Plays the game with a physical frame of mind. Does a nice job of fighting off blocks from offensive linemen, who would appear to have a leverage advantage over him.
A very active football player. Lost some hustle in the second half, but squared up Ronald Jones II late and slammed him to the ground. Also was held by an offensive player in the last two minutes of the game.
Some have suggested he is an outside as well as inside linebacker prospect. Personally don’t buy it. He loses his effectiveness outside the hash marks, just as he’s not as effective when he has to pass drop and move laterally. Doesn’t seem to cover a ton of ground once the football gets outside the hashes. The wider the space he’s playing in, the more it takes away from his game.
He was beaten by the tight end for a touchdown pass when he failed to react to a crossing pattern. He seemed to indicate that he expected help from the back end of the defense. Not sure what should have happened, but once he hesitated, he had no chance to defend in space.
When you see a play like that, you immediately think: a two-down player? That may be a premature judgment, but that will be his challenge as he heads to the next phase of his football career, which begins soon as an early-enrollee for the Fighting Irish.
Again, there are a couple of ways you can approach an all-star game. Crawford approached it with quality effort and hustle. He was an integral part of special teams and shined bright. He was an integral part of Team Highlight’s pass coverage and shined bright.
Comes out of break well and turns hips to chase downfield just the way you’re taught. A Cody Riggs-type prospect. Was said to have performed well with the other big-name cornerbacks during the week.
A strong pass rush, coupled with his press coverage, caused a quick throw by Brandon Wimbush and an incompletion. Showed physicality on a slant pattern that slipped through the hands of WR DaMarkus Lodge. Converged on a completion to Lodge on the next play.
Team Armour clearly began throwing away from Crawford’s side in the second half, and then went with a deep ball from Kyler Murray to Christian Kirk. Crawford was right there every step of the way. Got turned around in the open field late in the game, but recovered, used his speed, and caught up to a speedy wide receiver.
Great effort on special teams. Tenacious blocking effort on gunner, which sprung Daylon Charlot for a 54-yard punt return for a score. Made tackle from outside spot on kickoff.
Listed at 5-foot-10, which is very generous, but this is a gamer and a legit football player. Just needs to get stronger because that’s a very small frame.
Tyler Newsome is the heir apparent on the current roster to replace Kyle Brindza, but Newsome will need to show more consistency than what he displayed in the pre-season during the four open practices to the media. If what Yoon showed in the Under Armour game carries over to the college gridiron, the Irish have a potential great one.
Comfortable, relaxed, confident pre-snap routine. Relatively quick to the football. “Quiet” to the football, and then explodes upon contact. As we’ve seen on high school tape, an easy yet explosive leg swing. It looks like an effortless approach-shot on the golf course, only with a “heavy foot” through the football. Foot speed increases upon contact.
Drilled a short field goal to start the game, and then looked like a real pro on a 47-yarder with 24 seconds left in the first half. He absolutely drilled it right down the middle with perfect end-over-end ball action. It was textbook from start to finish.
The one perplexing thing was his kickoffs, which generally landed around the 10-yard line. Perhaps he’s still trying to find the happy medium between the height necessary to clear the defensive line on placekicks and the line-drive motion that gets the football to the end zone on kickoffs. They are, after all, two different kicking motions.
And yet, when a penalty moved the kickoff back to the 15-yard line, he drilled it to the opposite 18, which would have been two yards deep into the end zone had it been kicked off from the 35.
A real quality, technically-sound kicker who could very well come in and take the starting job for four years.
Here are a few other prospects of interest:
• WR-Equanimeous St. Brown: Rarely targeted in the game, but showed nice burst off the line of scrimmage and the ability to really push a cornerback into a backpedal with his long, 6-foot-5 strides. Used that stride to gain separation on a cornerback with a strong stop-route about 10 yards upfield. A red-zone target on a slant that was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
A somewhat half-hearted effort on a poorly thrown pass to him that fell incomplete, although the greatest of efforts would still have resulted in an incompletion because the ball was thrown so poorly. Threw a tenacious downfield block late in the game on a Damien Harris touchdown run.
Here’s something you didn’t hear about any other prospect at the game: Lived in Paris; knows three languages. Pretty good football player, too. It would be a real catch for the Irish if rumors of his eventual signing with Notre Dame prove true.
• RB-Soso Jamabo: Outstanding physical talent; lackadaisical effort in the Under Armour game. Committed the cardinal sin of a running back on his first carry when he did a 360-degree spin, albeit an effective spin to avoid the tackle. When he was thrown a short pass just past the line of scrimmage, he stuck up his left hand only, bobbled it, bobbled it some more when he finally brought his right hand into the equation, and then had it jarred loose for an incompletion.
Chose to keep bouncing it outside instead of a north-south path on a running play for a loss of a yard. Second best run was a run up the middle in which he showed good pad level, bounced off the tackle attempt, and then had the ball stripped from behind with a soft had to the pigskin. Best run was a 3rd-and-2 conversion in which he gained six with the ball popping out upon contact with the turf.
Little more than a passing interest in blocking. He either a) turned his right shoulder into a block instead of squaring up the defender or b) made no attempt to throw a block when the situation dictated.
• CB-Iman Marshall: What a physical stud. Tremendous size for a cornerback prospect. Unstoppable on kickoff coverage. Squared up and exploded into kickoff tackle. Exploded into second kickoff after a penalty, forcing a fumble after the return man was down. Physical on scramble throw that was dropped by receiver. See the trend? Physical at every turn.
Came from the cornerback position five yards off the receiver to make a tackle on Jacques Patrick 10 yards up and in the middle of the field. Now that’s range. Looks to be one of the most physically-prepared of the prospects in this game. Even when he’s beaten, his physicality gives him a great chance of turning a reception into a pass broken up. A prime-time talent.
• QB-Blake Barnett: Good accuracy with little to show for it starting the game. Throwing motion can be elongated, but throws a catchable ball. Threw a bullet touchdown pass from inside the 10. Can’t run away from defenders on this level the way he did as a high school player, but an agile presence at the position with excellent size. Brings considerable personality to the football field. Teammates seem to gravitate to him.
• Notes: Impressed with former Irish recruit OLB Adonis Thomas. Very active, around the football…Defensive tackle Daylon Mack (LSU, TCU top two) was unblockable, most dominant player on the field...Daron Payne a pretty special defensive lineman as well…Loved WR Christian Kirk since seeing him the summer after his sophomore season in Chicago…DT Christian Wilkins blocked an extra point, picked it up, rumbled three-quarters of the field for a score, and wasn’t that winded by the end of it. Very impressive…Great individual play by Eric Glover-Williams, picking up a bouncing punt return that looked unreturnable, and turning it into the equivalent of a scoop-and-score defensive play…WR Calvin Ridley is really good when he decides to play the game the right way…It was virtually impossible to evaluate RB Nick Brossette in this game because his squad’s offensive line gave him no opportunity to succeed running the football…Ronald Jones II didn’t always have a ton of blocking in his favor either, but his explosive 58-yard touchdown run went wide, followed by a jab step inside, and then an explosive burst up the alley…The deeper into the game it went, the more dominant DE Byron Cowart became.