The next generation of college football stars got their first taste of the national spotlight on Saturday during the All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
Despite all of the talent in this game, the final score was extremely one-sided. The East demolished the West 48-14 thanks to some explosive offensive plays and a couple of key turnovers. While the score may have been lopsided, this game was really all about getting our first look at some of the future stars for college football's elite programs.
Not surprisingly, there was a handful of really eye-popping players who look like they could bring their respective colleges to new heights. While others may have struggled to really stand out in this game, they'll have their entire college careers to make some noise at the next level.
Let's take a look at some player grades from Saturday's All-American game before breaking down some of the biggest winners and losers.
Wandale Robinson, WR (Nebraska): Robinson made a handful of nice plays, including a great diving catch in the third quarter while getting hit. He was a bit shaken up after that reception, unfortunately, but he was able to get off the field under his own power. He continued to sacrifice his body to try to make plays as the game progressed, which is a testament to his mental and physical toughness. Coaches and players will love to see a guy with those traits on their team.
Trey Sanders, RB (Alabama): The top running back in the country had a hard time doing a whole lot in this one thanks to the West's extremely talented defensive line and front seven. Any time he got the ball, he was immediately met by defenders. That's understandably tough to watch, but I don't think Sanders is going to have that issue once he starts getting touches behind a Crimson Tide offensive line.
Tiawan Mullen, CB (Indiana): It can be hard to show out as a defensive back in an All-American game, but Mullen showed some good toughness in practice leading into the game and then during it. He did a good job recognizing a screen in the first half to prevent a big play from happening, although he did get beaten a few times by Garrett Wilson for touchdowns because of the size differential. Despite the touchdowns he gave up, the Hoosiers have high hopes for the younger brother of Clemson's Trayvon Mullen.
Ryan Sanborn, K (Stanford): Sanborn tried to cut into the East's lead in the second quarter but missed a 42-yard field goal to make it 14-3. He didn't really get a chance for redemption because of the blowout but was able to get an extra point after a touchdown to at least get on the board.
Charles Turner, C (LSU): Right near the goal line, the West had an opportunity to score a touchdown. Instead, Turner sailed the snap over his teammate Jordan Whittington's head. They were able to keep possession but couldn't put any points on the board. It was a costly mistake from a promising young player, but he still held his own against some tough competition in the trenches.
Garrett Wilson, WR (Ohio State): Wilson was able to help the West finally get on the scoreboard in the third quarter with a nice touchdown catch on a pass from Spencer Rattler. The two were able to connect for a second TD on a deep bomb near the end of the game. It was a tough couple of catches to make with a defensive back draped all over him, but Wilson is the No. 2 wide receiver in this class for a reason.
Spencer Rattler, QB (Oklahoma): Although his box score may not have shown it early on, Rattler was a fun player to watch Saturday. The future Sooners QB made a couple of really nice throws on the run outside of the pocket, showcasing some of that same excitement that made Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray stars at Oklahoma.
Cornelius Johnson, WR (Michigan): By the time Johnson was making plays, this game was already well out of hand. Still, we have to give a shout-out to the future Wolverine for getting a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including one where he was able to get wide open. He'll be a rival of his All-American Bowl QB in the Big Ten, but the two had a great connection on a pair of nice plays Saturday.
Cameron Smith, CB (South Carolina): Smith dropped one of the biggest hits of the game just before halftime, breaking up a potential completion to Austin Stogner at the point of contact. The whole sideline got fired up after the hit, and deservedly so.
Drake Jackson, DE (USC): He wasn't the biggest name playing in this game, but Jackson showed why the Trojans wanted him on their team with a big sack in the first half. USC had a nice haul of commits during the game, but Jackson is one Trojans fans will be paying more attention to after the impact he made Saturday.
Tyron Hopper, OLB (Florida): Hopper did a great job being in the right place multiple times in coverage in this one. Unfortunately, he missed two separate opportunities for interceptions and found himself doing push-ups instead of creating turnovers. The drops hurt his final grade, but I give him credit for understanding his assignments and jumping passing lanes.
Graham Mertz, QB (Wisconsin): The future of the QB position looks bright for the Badgers with Mertz heading to Madison. The East quarterback had a phenomenal first half with three passing touchdowns (an All-American Bowl record) to make him the early front-runner for the game's MVP. He finished the game with MVP honors thanks to 188 yards and five touchdowns, both bowl game records.
Dominick Blaylock, WR (Georgia): With Riley Ridley entering the NFL draft, the Bulldogs are hoping to reload at wide receiver to give Jake Fromm some help next year. Blaylock showed out and impressed Georgia fans by scoring the first two touchdowns of the game and then threw for his third TD on a trick play. He showed some nice breakaway speed and playmaking ability, and Fromm is hoping that he'll be an immediate contributor next season.
Jadon Haselwood, WR (Oklahoma): The No. 1 wide receiver in this recruiting class showed why he's worthy of that title with arguably the best play of the game. Haselwood made a terrific contested catch on a jump ball and took off for a 75-yard touchdown to help give the East a 21-0 lead. That size, length and speed are going to make him a dangerous weapon in Lincoln Riley's offense.
Sam Howell, QB (North Carolina): Howell may be listed as a pro-style quarterback, but he showed off some mobility in the third quarter by escaping the pocket and making a couple of guys miss for a touchdown. He showed some confidence in his arm on a couple of nice throws down the middle of the field as well. His teammate Mertz may have gotten all of the love, but Howell had a very solid game as well.
De'Gabriel Floyd, ILB (Texas): Football fans can appreciate an active inside linebacker, especially one like Floyd. He was all over the place in this one with a real nose for the ball, racking up plenty of tackles and plugging up his gaps. Tom Herman is building something dangerous in Austin, and Floyd could wind up being a key cog in a formidable Texas defense for the next few years.
Nick Cross, S (Florida State): A very solid game for the talented young safety, with Cross making a couple of nice plays. On third down in the first half, Cross was able to make a key open-field tackle to force a punt. In the fourth quarter, Cross was able to pick off an errant throw and nearly took it the whole way back for a touchdown.
Winner: Georgia Bulldogs
The Georgia Bulldogs needed to reload after this season with so many players graduating and declaring for the NFL draft. Trying to replace guys like Riley Ridley and Deandre Baker is never easy, but the Bulldogs should be excited about this incoming class after what they saw in the All-American Bowl.
Blaylock's three-touchdown performance gave us some good insight as to what he can bring to the Bulldogs offense next season. Fromm is continuing to develop as a passer, but losing Ridley leaves a big hole for the offense to fill. Blaylock looks like he might just be able to embrace that role and be a go-to guy despite being a true freshman.
On defense, the Bulldogs were able to get a commitment from 4-star cornerback Tyrique Stevenson out of Florida. Schools like Miami and Alabama were also in the mix, but the Bulldogs were able to lock in a much-needed commitment from a defensive back who has the potential to help replace Baker in the secondary.
With the No. 2 recruiting class in the country, Georgia should continue to contend in a highly competitive SEC. Getting big names like Blaylock and Stevenson to replace NFL talent is great news for a team hoping to win a national championship.
Loser: Defensive Backs
In a game with the opportunity to show what you're made of on a national stage, the defensive backs on both the East and West teams may not want to watch the tape on this game any time soon.
With so many extremely talented quarterbacks and wide receivers in this game, there were a lot of plays where the QBs just decided to toss up 50-50 balls. Because of the length and athleticism of guys like Garrett Wilson and Jadon Haselwood, it felt like almost every one of those 50-50 balls was caught by a wide receiver.
That's a rude awakening for these young players in the secondary, who will be facing much more talented receivers in college.
On the bright side, defensive backs naturally develop more slowly than receivers at this stage in their football careers. A bad game in the All-American Bowl might be a bummer, but that doesn't mean that these players won't succeed in college given the right coaching and development.
Winner: Oklahoma's Offense
Oklahoma fans were already relieved this week when the Sooners agreed to a contract extension with head coach Lincoln Riley. To make things even sweeter, Sooners fans got a good look at all of the new weapons that will be coming to play for the next few years.
The Sooners got a huge commitment for their recruiting class by landing the No. 1 receiver in the country in Jadon Haselwood. The 75-yard touchdown and ridiculous contested catch are the kinds of things we'll see him doing on Saturdays in an explosive offense like Oklahoma's.
Haselwood will also be catching passes in the near future from Spencer Rattler, who looks like the next in a line of elite Sooners quarterbacks. He wasn't the most accurate quarterback playing on Saturday, but he made some really exciting plays with a live arm, making a couple of creative plays that drew some comparisons to Patrick Mahomes from the announcers.
Add in two more dynamic receiver recruits in Trejan Bridges and Theo Wease, and you get one of the most explosive classes of offensive weapons we've seen in a while. Riley is an offensive guru who's produced some high-powered offenses the past couple of years, so you can imagine that he's already thinking about how he's going to get all of these playmakers involved.
Loser: Big Ten Defenses
If the All-American Bowl taught us anything this year, it's that defenses in the Big Ten should be very, very scared of what's coming down the pipeline in 2019 and beyond.
The Purdue Boilermakers landed a big commitment from 4-star wide receiver David Bell during the game. Rondale Moore has already proved to be one of the most dynamic weapons in college football, and now Purdue will have some extra firepower to try to pull off some big upsets like they did with Ohio State last year.
Wisconsin's Graham Mertz also looked like the best quarterback in a talented group on Saturday, and that's great news for a Badgers team that's struggled to air it out in previous years. His five passing touchdowns were a record for the game, and his confidence is something that will make him a great player in a tough conference.
Ohio State's Garrett Wilson also stood out with a pair of contested catches for touchdowns, as did Wandale Robinson, who will be a key playmaker for a Nebraska team trying to return to relevancy.
With so much offensive talent coming into the conference, defenses could have a hard time slowing all of these guys down.
Recruit rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.