ORLANDO, Fla. -- On Friday, the players were dressed in shoulder pads and helmets only; it was the last real practice before Sunday's 2009 Under Armour All-America Game. This practice saw more of a focus on mental reps and precision, but the competition and energy level were sky-high.
The White squad practiced at a high tempo for most of the session during its team time-up, pass-rush drills and seven-on-sevens. Meanwhile, the Black team spent most of the day timing up plays and going at more of a thud tempo.
It was evident that both squads have jelled during the week. This practice session was very sharp with fewer mistakes and more efficiency. Both offenses had their best day, particularly at the skill positions; receivers and quarterbacks really showed good timing.
Barkley leads improved quarterback group
After the third day of practice concluded, quarterback Matt Barkley (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) once again established himself as the most polished and productive QB of the day. All six signal-callers have shown significant improvement, but Barkley appears to be a step above at this point. It will be interesting to see if he extends his performances into Sunday's matchup.
Now that the footballs have been worn in, relationships have developed between receivers and QBs and timing has been enhanced. There is less thinking and far more execution among the offensive skill players for both teams than there was at the week's outset. Passing accuracy also has improved significantly from Day 1 to Day 3.
Strong day for White receivers
One of Barkley's main targets Friday was Keenan Davis (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Washington). The Iowa-bound wideout looked smooth going up to grab several passes on seam routes. Morrell Presley (Carson, Calif.) has proved this week that he can be a dangerous weapon as a flexed-out tight end/wide receiver at the next level. He showed very good route-running ability. Presley can create separation, has good hands and is a physically imposing target.
Wideouts Debose, Carter stand out for Black team
Duron Carter (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) came up with several difficult grabs for the second day in a row. He showed his body control, leaping ability and red zone prowess. Andre Debose (Sanford, Fla./Seminole) continues to create the best separation, and is by far the Black squad's best game-breaker.
Highlights in the defensive trenches
We knew White's Gary Brown (Quincy, Fla./West Gadsden) was a good player coming into the week, but he has exceeded expectations. He has shown the ability to play inside and on the edge, especially in pass-rush situations. He uses his hands like a veteran, gaining inside hand control on the offensive lineman while showing the ability to power rush and work the outside edges on the offensive line.
Playing next to Brown, Craig Roh (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) has been very disruptive this week with his inside spin move. The heady defensive end showed a nice counter of that by coming back to the outside and having good success against offensive tackle Stavion Lowe (Brownwood, Texas).
On the Black team, Jacobbi McDaniel (Greenville, Fla./Madison County) has continued to excite everyone watching him. His quickness off the ball is phenomenal for such a big man, and his ability to separate and disengage has impressed the coaches all week.
'Backers adjust to the inside
Jelani Jenkins (Wheaton, Md./Good Counsel) and Tom Wort (New Braunfels, Texas) have been playing more inside than they have been accustomed to. Today both players showed great burst scrapping off tackle and making plays sideline-to-sideline.
Frankie Telfort (Miami/Gulliver) continues to look great in coverage with his speed and smooth hips. Eric Fields (Warner Robins, Ga./Northside) also flashed his good speed matching up with Andre Debose vertically.
Both squads' corners shine
The White team's Darrell Givens (Indian Head, Md./Lackey) had another strong showing and really had a solid week at corner. Givens has a good blend of size, speed and athleticism. On the opposite practice field, Prince Kent (Norcross, Ga.) utilized his long arms in press coverage during a red zone seven-on-seven drill. Kent has had a very solid week.
Dustin Hopkins (Houston/Clear Lake) and Anthony Fera (Houston/St. Pius X) both had solid weeks. The kickers in Orlando have handled both punting and kicking duties, showing off their strong legs and versatility. Fera missed Friday's practice session with a fever, and the training staff is monitoring his status.
Day 3 struggles
Black's Jheranie Boyd (Gastonia, N.C./Ashbrook) started the day off with some good grabs. The North Carolina commit tapered off toward the end of the practice with some drops as the result of a lack of concentration.
In general, the offensive fronts for both teams are facing challenges they've never seen before in terms of speed and quickness on a consistent basis. A good example is Dallas Lee (Buford, Ga.). After playing in a run-oriented high school offense, Lee has struggled in pass protection and got a stern test from McDaniel.
First-year offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) has exciting upside. Still, his limited experience -- he played D-line for most of his prep career -- is being exposed at times against this level of competition.