Similar to year’s past, many of the country’s more high-profile prospects were in recently action at the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl. This time around, it was the Class of 2017 version and West defeated East, 27-24, on Dec. 22 at Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
Iowa commit Peyton Mansell, Texas Tech commit Xavier Martin, North Carolina commit Beau Corrales, Vanderbilt commit McLane Mannix and Air Force commit David Cormier were among many marquee skill position players on the offensive side for the West.
Northern Colorado commit Billy Reagins and North Dakota commit Mikey Griebel certainly benefited from having the likes of North Texas commit Dakoda Newman and Pac-12 Conference target Johnathan Nathaniel up front and paving the way for the West.
There was no shortage of talent for the East as UCLA commit Austin Burton and Illinois State commit Trenton Hatfield ran the show on offense and had plenty of help from Alabama commit Kedrick James and Big 10 Conference target Terence Dunlap.
Along the offensive line for the East, Tennessee commit Riley Locklear, Penn State commit Robert Martin, Pitt commit Owen Drexel and Georgia Southern commit Pat Bartlett were difficult to deal with, as one could imagine given the group’s collective resume.
Defensively, for both teams, many players stood out in the crowd, including Big 12 Conference target Evan Fields, Oklahoma State commit Kris McCune, Kansas State commit Anthony Payne, West Virginia commit Exree Loe and Illinois State commit Eric Scott.
The well-known names lived up to the hype, as expected. After all, the scene was set for recruits to shine and they did so on one of the biggest stages around. Now, for most, playing major college ball on Saturdays in the NCAA Division I ranks is the next step.
Equally important, a handful of hidden gem prospects did well in the spotlight, with most earning a spot in the game after good efforts during the brand’s series of nationwide All-American Combines (Regional and Super levels). The future is also bright for them.
Once everyone recently arrived in the Lone Star State, the country’s best had an opportunity to work with our staff of NFL veterans, now turned coaches for the All-American Bowl, including the West’s Mark McMillian, formerly of the Eagles and Chiefs.
His assistants included one-time professional peers George Martinez (Raiders and Cardinals), Ernest Jones (Broncos and Panthers), J.J. McCleskey (Cardinals and Saints), Larry Centers (Cardinals), Byron Evans (Eagles) and Reggie Young (NFL veteran trainer).
Cowboys’ star George Teague led the East. His staff included Ken Stills (Packers), Ray Crockett (Broncos), Michael Myers (Cowboys), Margin Hooks (Buccaneers), J’Vonne Parker (Browns), Sameeh McDonald (Lions) and Rodney Beasley (NFL veteran trainer).
The addition of Kohl’s Kicking this year to the All-American Bowl was another benefit to the overall product of the game. To that end, Jamie Kohl, Anthony Giugliano and Casey Casper will be an integral part of the future and the selection process for specialists.
Editor’s Note: NFL Veteran Evaluations seen below were randomly chosen. Still, each participant from this year’s All-American Bowl received a personal recommendation from the one-time professionals and that info was sent to college coaches all over the country.
Jack Diamond, QB, 6-2, 185, Shawnee (OK): A one-time Ole Miss commit after deciding to go against the preferred walk-on route, his effort in this type of setting certainly opened up eyes of college coaches.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Diamond played with poise and passion against some of nation’s top athletes around,” McMillian said.
Kameron Levingston, RB, 5-8, 175, Liberty Elyau (TX): He packed a powerful punch, albeit in the form of a compact frame, and that much was evident during practice, more importantly, also in the game.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “We used Levingston in different formations and he picked up our offense with ease,” McCleskey said.
Kaylon Geiger, WR, 5-10, 175, Paschal (TX): On the radar of teams in the Big 12 Conference, the interest is warranted after watching him deliver big play, after big play. He was seemingly unstoppable at times.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Geiger is one of the most electrifying talents we’ve seen in four or five years of this game,” McMillian said.
Dylan Holt, WR, 6-2, 190, Vista Peak (CO): A target down around the red zone, and when a critical first down was needed multiple times, the coaching staff did not hesitate to look in his direction.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Holt is big, strong and physical, with speed too, and would be an asset to any program,” McMillian said.
Tyree York, WR, 5-10, 165, Shawnee (OK): Once a relative unknown on the whole recruiting landscape, the days of being an obscure commodity are over for him. He’s arrived. It’s official, his time is now.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “York, let me tell you something, he has a shake and wiggle to him, he’s ready for college ball,” McMillian said.
Dylan McCreery, OL, 6-3, 317, Valley Christian (CA): Equipped with a nasty streak, a good thing to have by most accounts, opponents who got on his proverbial bad side were uncomfortable, to say the least.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Schools looking for a dude with some dog in him that finishes plays, McCreery is your guy,” McMillian said.
Zach Herman, OL, 6-5, 290, Lake Travis (TX): A wide body, with a fair amount of agility to boot, he had the look and feel of college-ready prospect. It’s only a matter of time before he lands a big offer.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “I liked the way Herman approached the game, he’s all business and a focused individual,” Martinez said.
Tyler Alexander, DB, 5-8, 172, Hamilton (AZ): Determined to not let his often unfairly perceived lack height and weight stop him, he went out and made statement with unwavering desire to succeed.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Give me a bunch of guys, as many as you have, with the mindset of Alexander, I’ll win games,” McMillian said.
Darius Hawkins, DB, 5-11, 175, Douglas (OK): Man-to-man, or zone coverage, it didn’t matter, he went out and got the job. It comes as no surprise to learn he is a target of team in Conference USA.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “It didn’t matter what we asked, Hawkins was willing to take on any challenge, I liked that,” McMillian said.
Orlando Venegas, DB, 6-0, 175, Del Rio (TX): Often underestimated, he continues to prove the naysayers wrong. That was the case. per usual, over the course of the weekend.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “I’ve known about Venegas for a while, he has good technique, a fundamentally sound player,” McMillian said.
Gerardo Gonzalez, LB, 6-1, 230, Roma (TX): His attention to the details of the game are unmatched, therefore, he was typically always in the right position to make a tackle or assist in on the stop.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: ““With good hips, and movement overall, Gonzalez is a playmaker you need at the second level,” Evans said.
Brandon Micale, LB, 5-11, 215, Pomona (CO): Working with NFL veteran Matt McChesney has increased his stock in the eyes of the powers that be in the past, namely colleges from around the country.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Micale is hard-nosed and physical, also intense, with a great frame for life at the next level,” Evans said.
Gunnar Murphy, LB, 6-2, 230, Melissa (TX): Disciplined on most occasions, with a switch that flipped on from time to time, he also played with reckless abandon and turnovers were usually the end result.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Murphy showed the ability to play downhill and make plays when we needed them the most,” Evans said.
Teneli Tupola, DL, 6-2, 235, Orem (UT): From good stock, with a family member and NFL veteran Tevita Ofahengaue who played at the highest level, the younger version could head down a similar path.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Tupola flashed for us and played in the backfield a whole lot, that was fun to watch,” Martinez said.
Raymond Barrington, DL, 6-4, 220 Krum (TX): With a preferred walk-on scholarship all but a foregone conclusion to nearby Oklahoma, he had a target on his back. The attention did not daze him, either.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Barrington was smart, willing to learn, picked up our concepts and took care of business,” Martinez said.
Cristian Zendejas, K, 5-9, 160, Perry (AZ): A target of schools in the Pac-12 Conference, particularly nearby Arizona State, looks like he’s following in footsteps of NFL veteran father Luis Zendejas.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “He came up big in a couple of situations and will fit in once he steps foot on a campus,” McMillian said.
Jake McClure, P, 6-4, 190, East Hamilton (TN): An Oklahoma State commit, he showed the skill and ability with incredible hang time and distance. The effort was impressive, to be sure.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “McClure is outstanding who will do great things with his ability to place the ball where he wants,” Kohl said.
Connor Choate, LS, 6-1, 190, Coppell (TX): A Memphis commit, he showed off his speed and location as well. A longtime product of the program, he appears destined for success.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Choate is one of the best around, his rotation never waivers and his location is always tight,” Casper said.
Harlan Mitchell, QB, 6-1, 200, Dunlap (IL): With interest from several schools in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, it’s only a matter of time before he lands his first scholarship offer.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “He had a gutty performance, not many guys could have gone out there and did the same thing,” Stills said.
Anthony Wynds, RB, 5-6, 212, Palm Beach Central (FL): Don’t let his height fool you, just because he doesn’t measure up to some desired specifications, he was still able to provide plenty of production.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Wynds showed good vision and agility. He made some guys miss. The potential is there,” Stills said.
Langdon Givens, WR, 6-3, 180, Lincolnton (NC): He looked the part, and often times, played the part. That said, more than a few teams from the ACC have reached out to him in the not so distant past.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Givens has it all, size, speed and strength. Down the road, he’ll be a college contributor,” Beasley said.
Jarique Moore, WR, 6-0, 165, Fairmount (NC): He had a handful of scholarships on the table before the game and it’s reasonable to think his scholarship count will increase after a well-rounded effort.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Moore has some shake to him, and in the open field, he can cause some serious problems,” Beasley said.
Garth Medors, WR, 5-11, 182, Watkins Memorial (OH): If the ball was anywhere within arm’s reach, there was a reasonably good chance it would end up in his arms. His hands we made of glue, it seemed.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Don’t underestimate him, you saw what happened when the other team did, he put on show,” Beasley said.
Brody Rodgers, OL, 6-5, 300, Athens (OH): Massive, and somewhat surprisingly athletic for his build, he did a little bit of everything. Most of it well, let it be known. Overall, he did an admirable job.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Talk about a big boy, few are as massive as him. At the end of the day, he delivered results,” Still said.
Jesse Hoffman, OL, 6-4, 300, Blue Valley West (KS): A two-year participant in the brand’s All-American Combine, his participation in the system made it a no-brainer decision to invite him to the game.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Good reach, good base, Hoffman has potential. Watch out, he’s starting to realize it,” Stills said.
Johnathan Burpo, OL, 6-3, 300, Baker (AL): He passed the eye test. More importantly, with the ball snapped and in motion, he took on anyone and everyone in an effort that won’t soon be forgotten.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Burpo is a coachable kid. Ask him to do something once and the job always will get done,” Myers said.
Bryce Bertl, OL, 6-2, 275, Fowlerville (MI): Not intimidated by his peers or surroundings in the least, he went out and proved capable of competing with some of the best in the business on the prep circuit.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Bertl did well in the trenches. He understood what was expected from him by the coaching staff,” Myers said.
Carter Hangsleben, OL, 6-2, 255, Monticello (MN): A tireless worker, his determination to improve was a trait that revealed itself quickly. The school that lands a commitment from him is sure to be pleased.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “The big guys up front, with Hangsleben leading the way, they made everyone’s job easier,” Taylor said.
Cade Holmes, OL, 6-1, 270, Hartselle (AL): A diamond in the rough who is constantly working on refining his craft, he took several major steps forward during the weekend’s developmental process.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Some guys have it. Other don’t. It’s plain and simple, if you ask me. Holmes, he’s one that has it,” Taylor said.
Ahmad Lyons, DB, 5-9, 170, North Edgecombe (NC): At one point, not long ago, colleges were sleeping on him. The perception figures to change once word spreads about his effort in this environment.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “He can go. I liked working with Lyons, You can see he’s got the tools needed for the next level,” Crockett said.
Anthony Rodgers, DB, 5-10, 170, Princeton (OH): Given more than enough opportunities to show what he could do on the gridiron throughout the weekend, it’s safe to say he left a lasting impression.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “I had fun helping Rodgers. He was willing to listen and that’s something I look for in players,” Crockett said.
Tashaad Jones, DB, 5-8, 175, Lee (AL): Make no mistake about it, this young man is going places in life. His tremendous talent on the field is matched by a likeable personality off the field. It’s a perfect pair.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Some kids, you connect with, and Jones was one of them for me, you can’t take that away,” Crockett said.
Trystin Kinkade, DB, 5-11, 200, Waseca (MN): All he wanted was chance to shine out there on the big stage. With seemingly everything aligned, he delivered a memorable effort on the platform.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Someone, a school, need to take a chance on him. The program will not be disappointed,” Stills said.
Nicholas Stalworth, LB, 5-11, 220, Clarkston (MI): On the radar of several teams in the Mid-American Conference, otherwise known as the MAC, he figures to soon find a place to call his new home.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “A force at the second level, the coaching staff trusted Stalworth to make a number of plays,” Stills said.
Charles Walker, LB, 6-2, 235, Desert Edge (AZ): Under the tutelage of NFL Mark McMillian, he has taken his game to another level and several programs from the Big Sky Conference have taken a liking.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “You can tell that he’s put in the work in the past because he was a prepared individual,” Stills said.
Brandon Smith, LB, 6-1, 220, Tucson (AZ): Slowly but surely, colleges have contacted him in the not so distant past. In a more recent turn of events, teams from the Pac-12 Conference entered the picture.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “When we gave an assignment to Smith, there was nothing to worry about, he knew what to do,” Stills said.
Dane Stambaugh, DL, 6-3, 318, Lakewood (OH): With multiple feelers from teams all over the country, the path seems to be clear for him to play major NCAA Division I ball in the near future.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Stambaugh had a motor that did not stop, you have to like that with big boys on the line,” Stills said.
John Pempek, DL, 6-4, 311, Scared Heart (IL): An imposing presence, the art of intimidation worked in his favor on more than one, or two, occasions during the game. Look at the film for proof.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “I like what Pempek brought to the table, his skill set is well-rounded and that is a big deal,” Still said.
Blake Haubeil, K, 6-4, 225, Canisius (NY): An Ohio State, he might be the player at his spot in the country, with size and leg speed coaches dream and field goal range of 60-plus yards.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “I haven’t seen a kicker this year with Haubeil’s ability, freakishly talented, mature beyond his age,” Kohl said.
Jacob Parks, P, 5-11, 150, Centennial (AZ): He showed off his big leg more than one time, multiple occasions in fact, and touch with boots down toward the opponent”s 10-yard line.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Parks is remarkable, with a great future ahead of him. He will excel at the next level,” Kohl said.
Bill Taylor, LS, 6-4, 230, American Christian Academy (AL): An Auburn commit, he often times showed pinpoint location. Even better perhaps, was his agility to get down field.
NFL Veteran Evaluation: “Taylor is guy that will make an impact and benefit the Tigers for a long time. War Eagle!” Casper said.