Some of the best high school football recruits in the nation will converge on Tropicana Field for today's Under Armour All-America Game. The event, which rivals the long-established U.S. Army All-America Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, is just three years old, but it has big-money backing and a national TV audience from co-organizer ESPN. It includes alumni such as Matt Barkley (Southern Cal) and Julio Jones (Alabama). But truth be told, if not for a scheduling conflict with the Capital One Bowl at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the game would likely not be played here. Regardless, it will be the one of the best gatherings of high school football talent the Tampa Bay area has seen. Of the 89 players participating, 60 are ranked among ESPN's Top 150 in the nation. To get you ready for the game, some things you need to know:
The local star
Tampa Catholic tackle Chaz Green, a Palm Harbor resident, is one of the top offensive line prospects to come out of the area. At 6 feet 5, 290 pounds, Green is a dominating presence with the rare package of overwhelming size, quick feet and a strong base. As a run blocker, he can push a defensive lineman with ease. He's ranked as the third-best offensive tackle prospect in the nation by ESPNU. Rivals.com rates him the ninth-best overall prospect in the state. He's uncommitted, but his finalists include Tennessee, Florida, Southern Cal and Ohio State. Gulf tight end/defensive tackle Leon Orr, a Florida commitment, was invited to play but is out as he recovers from a broken leg.
A familiar name
Nick Montana could have followed the footsteps of his father, former NFL star Joe Montana, and committed to Notre Dame, but the younger Montana clearly wanted to create his own legacy and committed to Washington. Nick Montana, ranked the No. 10 senior quarterback recruit by ESPNU, is used to the attention. On his Oaks Christian School team in Westlake Village, Calif., he shares the sideline with receiver Trey Smith, son of actor Will Smith, and quarterback Trevor Gretzky, son of former hockey star Wayne Gretzky, earning the high school the nickname "Hollywood High." This season, the 6-2, 180-pound Montana threw for 2,634 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The long and short of it
The two smallest players on either roster were high school teammates on one of the nation's best secondaries. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas cornerbacks Lamarcus Joyner and Cody Riggs are each 5-8, but they boast superior speed and man coverage skills. Joyner, ranked as the top cornerback recruit in the nation by ESPNU, has committed to Florida State, and Riggs, the seventh-best recruit at the position, has pledged to Florida.
The tallest All-American stands out on his own. Six-foot-8, 250-pound defensive end Bronson Kaufusi of Provo, Utah, committed to Brigham Young more than two years ago. He projects to be a defensive end in college, and he has uncharacteristic speed (4.7-second 40-yard dash) for his size, but with his footwork and strength, he could fill out to be an offensive tackle. He might not play after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in early September. Also, 6-7, 225-pound defensive end Adrian Hubbard of Norcross, Ga., recently committed to Alabama. Hubbard was a football late bloomer. He didn't play as a junior to concentrate on basketball. He might be able to play hoops at Alabama.
Bradenton Southeast safety Jonathan Dowling is 6-3, 180 pounds. Long and lean, he's a wide receiver's worst nightmare. With long legs and long arms, he craves the opportunity to outrun and outjump an opponent and is a roamer who has great instincts when the ball is in the air. Dowling chose Florida over Miami, FSU and USF.
Ohio outside linebacker Jordan Hicks ranked No. 2 overall in this year's ESPNU Top 150. He was named the Ohio state Gatorade player of the year and this year's high school Butkus Award winner, given to the nation's best linebacker. He's also the top-ranked player in this game still uncommitted. Every pressing whim for the 6-2, 210-pounder from Lakota West High has filled Internet message boards. He made official visits to Ohio State and Texas. He was scheduled to make a third to Southern Cal but decided against it, then made his third and final visit to Florida. The Gators put UF commitment and Venice quarterback Trey Burton in Hicks' ear during his official visit last month, the Gainesville Sun reported. There is so much interest in Hicks' recruitment that he holds a weekly teleconference to discuss it.