The All-American Bowl returned to the Alamodome with some of the best players from the class of 2022 playing their final games before enrolling at college programs around the country.
Here is a look at the top defensive performers from the entire week.
In recent years we have seen big weeks in San Antonio portend future greatness for defensive linemen Chase Young, DeMarvin Leal and Aidan Hutchinson. It feels like that kind of week for Penn State defensive end signee Dani Dennis-Sutton.
Already rated as a five-star prospect, Dennis-Sutton stood out among an East defensive line that featured two other five-stars. Physically, the future Nittany Lion checks all the boxes, and he uses his superior skill set to produce on the field, including a sack among several tackles in Saturday’s bowl game.
This best collection of defensive linemen I have seen on one team in this All-American Bowl was during 2011 game. That year the East team trotted out a gauntlet of tall, athletic defensive ends including Ishaq Williams, Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt and Ray Drew. This year’s East team may be the best I have seen since, and one big reason was Williams, who signed with Georgia last month.
Williams is long and athletic and brings constant pressure off the edge. The five-star could play anywhere from tackle to a standing edge rusher, and proved to be one of the most dynamic athletes at any position in San Antonio.
Notre Dame defensive end Aiden Gobaira was every bit as disruptive as his fellow five-star defensive linemen on the East team. His third quarter sack of quarterback Cade Klubnik perfectly epitomized what stood out about Gobaira all week. At 6-foot-5, he is an explosive athlete off the edge and was easily able to get by the West defensive tackle on that play. Klubnik had stepped way up in the pocket, however, so Gobaira adjusted and chased him down, ending the play in a big collision.
For all his physical gifts, Gobaira’s best attribute is his relentlessness.
A second quarter interception in his opponent’s end zone to stop a promising West drive just before the half punctuated what was an all-around strong performance for Moore at the All-American Bowl. Throughout the week observers raved about Moore’s height and length, but it takes more than just length to constantly be around the football.
The speed and athleticism are certainly there for the future Florida Gator, who is listed as a cornerback but primarily played safety in San Antonio. What really sets him apart are his instincts and overall Football IQ.
It was maybe a slow start to the week for the five-star defensive end as he didn’t dominate the first practice but once the Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage standout started going there was no stopping him. Jones comes off the edge so quickly that he routinely beat offensive tackles to the outside and then he has a stunning arm extension to push linemen back into the pocket.
The Georgia signee showed off that excellent mix of power and speed that could make him a star in Athens.
One-on-one competition is often difficult for cornerbacks because they have no help over the top. It could be really tough especially in an All-American setting. But Humphrey was outstanding showing off elite speed, top-end instincts and even though CJ Williams caught an incredible pass for a touchdown over him in the game, Humphrey was phenomenal all week. He was one of the best defensive players at the event. His pass breakup early in the first quarter in the end zone was a sign of what he did all week.
One of the bigger surprises of the week was the three-star outside linebacker/edge rusher who signed with Purdue and listed no other Power Five offers. Caraway is a great-looking prospect who moves well for his size. He can line up at outside linebacker and play in space or put his hand down and rush from the edge.
During practice, Caraway was noticeable all week and very productive. The Boilermakers definitely stole one out of Bryan, Texas.
The third Barton brother to go to Utah, Lander Barton might be the best of the bunch. From a physical perspective, there might not have been a linebacker in San Antonio. One of the best plays he made all week was out in coverage, running about 15 yards down the field and then going across his body to pick off a pass. It spoke to his athleticism.
The Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton product can play physically as well. Utah knows how to develop elite players and Barton has all the tools.
To put Wiggins’ size into perspective, he’s as tall as Kayvon Thibodeaux and 15 pounds heavier. That is Wiggins as a high school senior as Thibodeaux’s playing weight this season and Thibodeaux should be one of the first players taken in the NFL Draft. The LSU signee is just an awesome-looking prospect who is still putting it all together but when that happens he could be a menace off the edge in Baton Rouge.
He has all the physical tools, the drive and the makeup for it to happen. When he turns it on, Wiggins is almost impossible to stop.
Curry is only 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds so he’s never going to be that physical specimen along the defensive line. But what the Ohio State signee lacks in size he makes up for with an incredible motor and a knack to pick through the offensive line, diagnose the play and then go make the tackle.
Curry does a great job of getting off blocks, not engaging all the time and choosing to pick his spots to make tackles. His production stood out, especially when offensive linemen couldn’t muscle him.