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Under Armour notebook: Fabulous five rise to the top on Day 1

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Mon. December 31, 2012 | Times Staff

Under Armour notebook: Fabulous five rise to the top on Day 1

KISSIMMEE — Part of the allure of the Under Armour All-America Game comes from finding the standouts on a field loaded with the nation’s biggest high school stars. When practice opened Monday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, these five prospects jumped out at us:

Robert Nkemdiche: The 6-foot-5, 265-pound pass rusher is the consensus top recruit in the country for a reason. The defensive end from Loganville, Ga., terrorized offensive linemen Monday, blowing teammates up on back-to-back plays during one-on-one drills.

He shined again during scrimmages with a blend of speed and power that’s drawn comparisons to another former Under Armour standout — South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. Nkemdiche originally committed to Clemson but is now strongly considering Ole Miss and LSU.

“I really wanted to see what he was about,” Armwood wide receiver and Team Highlight teammate Alvin Bailey said. “I’m glad he’s on my team. I had to go hug him up, give him some love because he’s the real deal, man.”

Alex Anzalone: The 6-foot-3, Notre Dame-bound linebacker made two big plays early in the day. He backed into pass coverage on one play and snared an interception. Moments later, the Wyomissing, Pa., product bounced into the middle of the field and snagged another pick.

“The Fighting Irish!” one of his Team Highlight coaches yelled. “I see you, Quasimodo!”

Anzalone is ESPN’s No. 64 overall prospect.

Sebastian LaRue: Forget a stature that seems generously listed at 5-11, 185 pounds. The four-star USC commit from Santa Monica, Calif., starred at receiver for Team Nitro. He made a pair of one-handed grabs during individual drills, extended for a sliding catch in 7-on-7 practice and made another highlight-reel catch later in the day.

Laquon Treadwell: Yes, we’re putting two Nitro receivers on this list, and that might be bad news for locals Vernon Hargreaves III and Leon McQuay III, since they’ll have to cover them Friday night.

But Treadwell (Crete, Ill.) was quite impressive Monday, showing great hands in catching everything thrown his way. It was his ability to shed tacklers or blockers, however, that really caught our attention.

He used his 6-3, 195-pound frame to block No. 5-rated defensive back (according to ESPN) Shaq Wiggins right off the field, and his vicious stiff arm of New Orleans’ Noel Ellis had his teammates cracking up on the sideline.

Treadwell will visit Oklahoma State next week before deciding between the Cowboys, Oklahoma and Ole Miss.

Priest Willis: The Marcos de Niza (Ariz.) product practiced at safety, where he is rated No. 4 in the country by ESPN (one spot behind Armwood’s McQuay). But despite being 6-2, 200 pounds, he can also play cornerback (where 247Sports has him rated No. 3).

Our opinion? Flip a coin.

Willis was terrific Monday and made a great play by coming up to cover St. Petersburg Catholic’s Ryan Green out of the backfield, almost picking off the pass — he blamed new gloves he was wearing — for what would have been six points the other way.

He may not have liked his gloves, but his socks were a big hit. Willis wore electric blue Sonic the Hedgehog socks with his white and red uniform.

LSU is believed to be the leader for Willis’ services, though he also visited Virginia, Florida State and Nebraska. Hometown Arizona State is also in the mix with UCLA.

Matchup to watch: Two Tampa Bay prospects and Florida commits were at the center of one of Monday’s most intriguing matchups: Hargreaves guarding Bailey.

Bailey and Hargreaves know each other well as teammates for the 7-on-7 travel squad Team Tampa. Bailey was the Times’ offensive player of the year in 2011 and Rivals’ No. 13 receiver in the country. Hargreaves was the Times’ defensive player of the year this fall and is ESPN’s No. 3 overall recruit.

“He’s a hard dude to cover,” Hargreaves said of Bailey.

Both players had moments of success against the other. Bailey made a short catch-and-run during drills. Hargreaves got revenge later by intercepting a Christian Hackenberg pass after a miscommunication between Bailey and the Penn State commit.

“That’s just giving the Florida fans a little bit of a taste of what’s going to go down when we get to Florida,” Bailey said.

Tuesday's schedule: Day 2 of practice will be aired from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on ESPNU. The first preliminary rounds for Wednesday’s skills challenge event will be held in the afternoon.

Tweet of the day: Shane Morris @S_Morris12 (Team Nitro QB and Michigan commit): Just realized we have a police escort going to the Miami Heat game …#UAGame

Under Armour All-America Game
When: 5 p.m. Friday
Where: Tropicana Field
TV: ESPN
Tickets: General admission tickets are $18, and four-ticket bundles $48. Call 1-800-745-3000 or visit TicketMaster.com.

Photo: WR Laquon Treadwell, of Crete, Ill., stiff arms another all-star on Day 1 of Under Armour practice.

Compiled by staff writers John C. Cotey and Matt Baker.

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