While it is easy to get locked into focusing on the could-be commits like linebackers Osa Masina, Porter Gustin or defensive backs Ykili Ross and Marvell Tell, it was a long time USC pledge standing out the most for the West.
Every performance comes with context, and it's been a long time since Clovis (Calif.) four-star defensive tackle Jacob Daniel has played healthy. Monday, Daniel took the practice field at St. Mary Hall High School at 6-foot-4, 320-pounds. Daniel, once listed at 6-4, 295-pounds, has always been viewed as a three-technique defensive lineman or a four-technique inside shade defensive end.
Although Daniel is trying to still work himself into shape after ACL surgery last season and leg hyperextension two games into his senior season, his pure mass and quickness provided a preview of a different type of defensive lineman for USC. While Daniel is undoubtedly under conditioned, his added weight really adds value to his potential impact at the next level.
With the Trojans running a 3-4 defense, the one-shade and nose guard positions are vital to a successful scheme. Players like Terrance Cody and Louis Nix have been anchors for great 3-4 defenses. Daniel shared the interior line with Concord (Calif.) five-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who is regarded as possibly the best prospect in the nation.
As impressive as McKenzie was with his power and brute strength, Daniel also won a majority of his one-on-one reps by overpowering his man and collapsing the interior of the line with the bull rush. Daniel's transformation, intended or not, is a bit of a revelation for USC and the Trojans' needs to develop depth at defensive line.
While Daniel might have been overlooked despite his massive size, Utah linebacker Osa Masina and Porter Gustin were two of the most keenly watched players taking the field for the West squad Monday. Masina continued to display the fluidity and instincts college coaches covet in a linebacker playing around the line of scrimmage. For USC fans, Masina can be described as a bigger, meaner Su'a Cravens. At 6-foot-4, 240-pounds, Masina retains uncanny awareness in space.
Masina had a tremendous almost-interception Monday when he stepped in front of West running back Mike Weber and attempted to tip the pass to himself skirting the sideline. Masina played outside linebacker Monday while Gustin played MIKE linebacker.
That was significant because Gustin is being recruited to play MIKE linebacker by USC -- one of the only schools to do so. At times, Gustin looked a bit stiff in space, stomping his feet in place and not flowing to the ball with his eyes. However, other times, Gustin locked into his assignment and made some surprisingly athletic plays for a 6-foot-4, 240-pound inside linebacker. Gustin had two nice pass breakups downfield against running backs in one-on-one drills. Once Gustin turns and goes, he goes fast.
Recruiting wise, Gustin admitted Monday that USC and Arizona State are leading the pack for his commitment, with his official visit to Los Angeles coming sometime in January and a decision possibly coming as late as Signing Day.
Riverside (Calif.) Poly four-star cornerback Ykili Ross took the No. 87 reluctantly Sunday at the Army All-American check-in. While Ross is a very good receiver and does have interest in playing that position beyond high school, he also sees himself being the type of player who can play defensive back on a whim.
Ross showed some of the most solid hands as a wideout Monday, getting in and out of his routes quickly. But USC fans would like to see those ball skills put to use as a defensive back. Especially after the Trojans secondary had trouble wrangling in several interception opportunities Saturday night in the Holiday Bowl.
Ross was consistent receiving the ball Monday, showing a good first step pivoting up field after the catch. Despite the No. 87 on his back, Ross also took a few reps as a cornerback. However, his foray from offense to defense was not quite as successful as Jefferson (La.) Riverdale four-star cornerback Donte Jackson's.
Maybe the quickest, most explosive player on the West squad, Jackson has that it factor even on the most mundane of plays. While Jackson didn't play much receiver Monday, his dabbling was fun to watch. The USC coaching staff has compared Donte to Adoree Jackson and that comparison is accurate.
Jackson has narrowed his college choices to USC, Georgia and LSU. At this point, he feels Georgia needs him the most, so the Bulldogs may very well be the school to beat. Jackson will officially visit Athens Jan. 16.
Edoga holding it down for the East
According to Scout Midwest recruiting Analyst Allen Trieu, Powder Spring (Ga.) five-star offensive tackle Chuma Edoga had a standout practice Monday.
"Edoga is an athletic kid who can play tackle, but was inside today and is likely headed there in college," said Trieu. "He has really nice feet and good technique and was the only offensive lineman who had consistent success against monster defensive tackle Trenton Thompson.
"Edoga likely plays early and often at USC. He's a very talented kid. I've seen him before and liked him, but he was really, really good Monday."
Up and down
USC quarterback commits Sam Darnold and Ricky Town had inconsistent days Monday. While Town garnered praise during the morning session, he had several passes sail badly on him in the afternoon. It's not accurate to call Town a streaky passer, but going back to the camp circuit last summer, the five-star signal-caller can dig himself some big holes at times, only to dig himself back out of them.
Darnold is suiting up for the East this week, and his day was best described by Scout Midwest recruiting Analyst Trieu as "unspectacular although not bad either." Darnold's running capability is an added dimension that observers won't see until the game Saturday.
While Darnold has the added dimension of running the ball, Town is a weapon for USC off the field with his leadership and salesmanship abilities. He spoke extensively about reaching out to recruits about officially visiting USC. Town mentioned his confidence in landing Under Armour All-American running back Ronald Jones Friday, as the two officially visited USC together in December.
When asked about recruiting Las Vegas (Nev.) five-star tight end Alize Jones away from UCLA, Town was less confident. While it has been reported that Jones may officially visit USC Jan. 16, it appears the nation's No. 2 tight end is really down to considering the Bruins and Notre Dame.
The Army All-American Bowl is a showcase of the best of the best. Here are Monday's top performers from a pool of players USC recruited in the 2015 class. Targets, commits and misses.