Thoughts on 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Thoughts on 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl

January 8, 2017

Donovan Peoples-Jones (image via USA Today)

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl took place yesterday, and there were several Michigan-related players involved – including offensive tackle Chuck Filiaga, who committed to the Wolverines during the broadcast (LINK). Here are my thoughts on the game, which was won 27-17 by the East.


Cheshire (CT) Cheshire Academy wide receiver Tarik Black was a backup wideout for the East team, but he was the first receiver in off the bench. He earned positive reviews throughout the week of practice for his route-running abilities, something that I noted in his commitment post. The East quarterbacks targeted him a few times, but he ended the game with just 1 catch for 9 yards. One of the incompletions was a back-shoulder fade on which Black failed to adjust (a tough play that almost never works with such little time to build chemistry), and the other was a post route that was thrown too high and broken up by the defensive back. He played about as expected.

Aledo (TX) Aledo offensive tackle Chuck Filiaga was the backup right tackle for the West. To be honest, I did not keep an eye out for Filiaga. He was the backup right tackle, and there were too many other players to watch.

Flint (MI) Southwestern defensive end Deron Irving-Bey was a backup defensive end for the East squad. He’s another player that I did not notice, except for 1 QB pressure. I did record the game, and I’ll go back and take a look before finalizing the TTB Ratings, but for now I have nothing significant to report. I can say that he did not stand out, because if he had, I would have noticed.

Hit the jump for more.

Littleton (CO) Valor Christian quarterback Dylan McCaffrey was the third-string QB for the West team after missing the first day of practice last week. When he entered the game, he led the squad on its best drive of the first half. It started off with a 38-yard completion on a screen route. He looked crisp and in control, but the center had a few bad snaps that were down at McCaffrey’s ankles or rolling back to him on the ground, so there were some glitches. By my count, he finished the game 2/4 for 40 yards and 3 carries for 10 yards. A deep ball was underthrown, but McCaffrey was rolling right and under pressure. There were questions throughout the week about his arm strength, and he does need to get bigger/stronger, but I think he has plenty of arm strength to be successful in the Big Ten.

Detroit (MI) Cass Tech wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones had a solid game and was one of the East team’s top targets. He started at wide receiver and played a majority of the game, at least until the East grabbed a comfortable lead. He ended up with 2 catches for 22 yards, one a 3-yard in route on which he fell to the ground immediate, and the other on a 19-yard catch-and-run slant. He also had a very nice catch on a poorly thrown ball that was tipped before it got to him, but as he gathered it in, his knees were landing on the sideline to cause an incompletion. He did a solid job of blocking a couple times, but he did get called for a holding penalty (which was declined to force a 4th down).

Detroit (MI) King cornerback Ambry Thomas (East team) earned the start at left cornerback. He wasn’t tested much because the West offensive line couldn’t protect the passer, but he did notch 1 pass breakup. He earned good reviews throughout the week, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a high-impact player in Ann Arbor.


I was very interested to see what the running backs would do in this game, because the offensive lines are always subpar. It confirmed what’s been in the back of my mind for a while, and that’s the idea that Cam Akers (Florida State) is a better pure runner than Najee Harris (Alabama). I don’t think Harris is the #1 player in the country, let alone the top running back. Harris is the type of guy who needs an offensive line to create some room. When he gets going downhill, he can run and he can lower his shoulder to truck some people, but a weak OL is going to cause him problems. Akers is the type of kid who has the quickness, strength, vision, and speed to create something out of nothing. I’m not insulting Harris, but out of these two elite players, I would take Akers first.

I hate to say it, but I really like Ohio State’s class. Quarterback Tate Martell can run and throw the ball, defensive end Chase Young is quite a speed rusher, and cornerback/safety Jeffrey Okudah looks like a very solid ‘tweener type that the Buckeyes have had a ton of success with in recent years.

Florida State wide receiver commit D.J. Matthews can fly. Every team wants that type of speed, but it’s hard to find.

Overall, I was much more impressed with the talent at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl than the Under Armour All-American Game. There were some solid players at the UA game, and some had good performances, but I think the Army game had better players and more depth at every position group.


  1. Comments: 359
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Jan 08, 2017 at 6:50 AM

    I thought McCaffrey showed he can move the ball and considering how skinny he is relatively fearless when running the ball. He needs to fill out physically, red shirt for sure. I actually liked him better than Peters comparing all star performances.

    FSU is gonna love Cam Akers’ and Mathews’ quickness, athleticism and speed.

    Unfortunately, my reaction to Tate Martell was “Oh shit!”. OSU got a good one.

  2. Comments: 191
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Jan 08, 2017 at 10:59 AM

    My thoughts are that the future OSU vs Alabama games for the title will be pretty epic. Mrs. Filiaga looks like quite a physical specimen herself, definitely passes the OG or NT eye test.

    • Comments: 22
      Joined: 11/23/2015
      Jan 09, 2017 at 4:05 AM

      God Bama and OSU are going to be terrifying!

  3. Comments: 22
    Joined: 11/23/2015
    Jan 09, 2017 at 3:56 AM

    Hi Thunder,

    Thanks for the breakdown, as usual I love how impartial you are and you call it like you see it. Regarding Najee Harris, I know you often reduce your ranking score for players who show character issues. Would you see his odd behaviour as a character issue? The whole thing seems entirely bizarre, but I have to question his accountability and leadership. Sending friends out to answer questions for him, misinformation this way and that, being both a commit and a silent commit… I am curious what the TTB ranking on him would be. Personally, I have to assume he will struggle with increased demands and might not be mature enough for the stage he is entering. Hopefully he will mature over the years or be allowed to hide until he does, but very strange behaviour. I have no experience in this area though and I am curious what your thoughts are.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 09, 2017 at 6:19 AM

      His behavior would probably knock him down a point or two, but not by much. His behavior was strange, but he’s a kid halfway through his senior year of high school who happens to be the nation’s #1 recruit. If he were the #178 or #352 player in the country, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. People wouldn’t have been pestering him, trying to find out his flight plans, etc. And there have been kids over the years who have been “committed” somewhere but have then dragged out the process without clarifying for everyone. It’s just different when it’s the #1 recruit. Instead of, say, 2 people pestering him, he had 2 entire fanbases.

      I do think someone in his life (coach, mom, someone) should have taken him aside and said, “Look, you’re putting undue pressure on yourself and you’re going to garner a lot more attention if you keep to yourself. Just tell everyone publicly you’re sticking with Alabama, and nobody will question it.”

      • Comments: 191
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Jan 09, 2017 at 9:35 AM

        I agree with you that someone close to him should have advised him to be less cloudy about things. It was obvious that the media would have a field day with this and the fallout could have been reduced. He let media do all the talking for him, and that is not a good idea because it was pretty obvious that 1 fan base would get irate. On another note, this type of recruitment is what keeps me interested in the recruiting process, it’s entertainment at its best. Now onto Solomon who’s recruitment is even more entertaining!

  4. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Jan 09, 2017 at 9:46 AM

    It’s the exact opposite for me: this is one reason why I don’t slobber over these guys

    I get site owners-who provide a service-follow, but some fans are just over the top

    Thanks for all you do Thunder; you keep “average fans” like me from getting out of hand!

    Go Blue

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 09, 2017 at 9:56 AM

      I’m glad you guys appreciate it. I do the best I can. I know I probably contribute to the craze a little bit since I cover the topic, but I don’t pester recruits with DMs, follow back requests, etc.

  5. Comments: 295
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Jan 10, 2017 at 1:43 PM

    This hasn’t been touched upon yet (I don’t think) but what are your thoughts about Dylan McCaffrey’s progress from last year to this year. I saw an early season game on ESPN and thought he looked decent, but didn’t see any 5-start potential like was being passed along. Subsequently, it seemed like his rating also fell. After watching the AAAG I think he looks even more raw than I anticipated. Granted, he will redshirt and gain weight and learn the playbook but he also looked really slow and lacked arm strength. Even the reports from the practices said he seemed hesitant and not as ready as the other QB’s at the game.

    I know we need to give these guys time but I don’t see us reaching championship levels with Speight. I’m hoping that Peters could be that guy but I have a strange feeling about him and his leadership abilities. I was putting most of my hopes on McCaffery and now that seems like a longer wait than anticipated. I’m hoping his football upbringing brings some of those intangibles but I just haven’t seen that “special” factor for him.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 10, 2017 at 3:54 PM

      I didn’t think he looked like a 5-star to begin with, and I don’t think he looks like one now. He’s a good prospect, but he’s not a great high schooler. He’s not a physical specimen. He has a good array of skills (leadership, arm, accuracy, athleticism, etc.), but they need to be employed correctly. He’s not a guy I would expect to start as a freshman. He’ll probably redshirt this fall. I think that’s Harbaugh’s plan, though. I think he wants to get guys in the system, and groom them to take over two or three years down the road. That’s how pro-style QBs play best, IMO, because it’s based more on experience/mental preparation than athleticism.

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