SAN ANTONIO, Texas - When the best players in the nation are all on one field in pads in a competitive environment, some big hits are inevitable. On Tuesday at the US Army All-American Bowl, the biggest hit of the week thus far was doled out on the West team's practice field at the hands of Atwater (Calif.) Buhach Colony defender Aziz Shittu.
Ellis McCarthy (left), Aziz Shittu (center) and Arik Armstead were dominant on Tuesday.
Shittu has been a major presence all week in San Antonio but you didn't even need to be watching to know about his Tuesday hit. When he knifed into the backfield and laid the boom on Barry Sanders Jr. you could hear it from the press box.
That sort of play has become commonplace for Shittu. His quickness has been tough for offensive linemen to handle and as a slightly undersized interior player, that is no surprise. More surprising - and more impressive - has been his physicality at the point of attack. Shittu has been driving offensive linemen backwards on countless occasions showing that he is more than just a penetrating defensive tackle. In fact, this week Shittu is beginning to look more and more like a defensive end with power than a defensive tackle with quickness.
Defensive line dominance:
In scrimmage periods on Tuesday the West offense had a tough time getting anything going in the run game or the pass game and the physicality of the defensive line was the primary reason why. Along with Shittu's punch and quickness, Javonte Magee and Arik Armstead were both extremely disruptive forces.
Armstead began to show why he is rated as the nation's top player on Tuesday and he also showed why his desire to play defensive line rather than offensive line shouldn't be met with skepticism.
No player on either team is able to provide such an effortless punch at the point of attack than Armstead, pulling guards were met with a brick wall when they attempted to clear out some space on Armstead's right side of the defensive line of scrimmage. Armstead's play on Tuesday went a long way towards replacing visions of an NFL franchise left tackle with visions of John Henderson.
Magee's day two was no less dominating than his day one and he continues to make a recent move into the nation's top 40 prospects in the Top247 look well deserved. No player in the trenches shows more athleticism in drills than Magee and he has a great 6-6 frame to carry that athleticism.
On the offensive
Though the defensive line put together a dominating Tuesday performance, there were still some bright spots on the West offensive line, notably at the center position where Mike Matthews handled most defenders he faced. Matthews is a well-schooled blocker that really dictates effectively where he wants defenders to go. At the snap of the football, he's off and running, locking on to defensive linemen with great strength and power.
Fellow Texan Michael Starts is a player that also continues to see his stock rise. The Texas Tech commit has a frame that stands out on the field and he showed a nasty streak that you like to see out of your offensive tackle. Starts also has the athleticism and versatility to get some reps on the defensive side of the ball.
When the offensive line was able to get some movement, it often was thanks to the push of massive offensive tackle Zach Banner. The Washington native is faced with the challenge of playing with leverage at 6-9 but he has come a long way in that regard and late in the day, he began to really move the line of scrimmage with his strength and size.
New day two standouts
Taylor McNamara - For the second day in a row, Taylor McNamara showed that his pass-catching ability is a bonus to a great ability to block at the line of scrimmage. Though he's not a small tight end, he's put together in the mold of a flex tight end that will live on the seem route downfield. This week McNamara has shown that he'l be able to play that role, but he'll also be able to add weight, put his hand down and be a major advantage in the run game as well.
James Ross - Though he's not a kid with great size, Ross is a kid with great instincts, awareness, and desire to get to the football. When he gets there he's physical and in the pass game, he's comfortable catching the football and finding throwing lanes. Ross is very similar in skill set to Oklahoma State's Shaun Lewis who made an instant impact on the college level.
Trey Williams was the top performer from an offensive standpoint for the West on Tuesday. As dominant as the defense was, when Williams gets just a sliver, he makes it count and accelerates. He had a pair of touchdowns to end practice and will be the West's biggest shot at big plays on Saturday…Day two saw all three of the quarterbacks settle down and find more consistency in the pass game. Cyler Miles has had two pretty solid days but on Tuesday Zeke Pike and Tyler Matthews both joined him with some good throws throughout as they continue to get comfortable in their new offense…Jordan Simmons sat out on Tuesday with what looks to be a sprained MCL. Just Shanks saw some time on the sideline as well with injury but looks to be good to go moving forward…Cal commit Cedric Dozier was a late arrival on Tuesday and worked primarily with the offense, adding an all-purpose wide receiver, running back threat.