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Tuesday, January 1, 2013
#UAGame practice: Day 2 notebook

By Derek Tyson



LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There were several standouts at Tuesday's Day 2 practice for the Under Armour All-America Game (5 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN). Two players -- one for Team Nitro, the other for Team Highlight -- said they are closing in on their college decisions and will make their announcements Friday. Meanwhile, the nation's No. 1 player left the field at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports with an injury.

Folston closing in on decision

Four-star athlete Tarean Folston (Cocoa, Fla./Cocoa) is set to make his college decision Friday. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound ESPN 150 will chose between Notre Dame, Florida State and Oregon.

Folston has been a standout defensive back during the first two days of practice, but he's being recruited by all three of his final schools to play running back.

He said he likes the familiar feeling he gets from Notre Dame and Oregon.

"It's just a home feeling, the fans around there are great fans. The community is all involved in football. It's just a nice town and a home feeling environment. With Oregon, it's pretty much the same as Notre Dame. They are two different schools but I call it 'the village,' just everybody in that place comes together and helps support the team."

Florida State is the only school Folston is considering from his home state, but he insists distance won't be a factor in his decision.

"It's the capital of my state; I come from Florida," Folston said. "There's a lot of talent down here in Florida, and it would be a good situation if I went there. But distance won't be a factor for me."

Folston, ranked the No. 79 overall player in the country, said he has already made his decision.

"I made my mind up about what school I'm going to," he said. "I knew a while ago, but I actually knew 100 percent when I was on the way up here. I let one coach know, but I'm keeping it a secret until the game."

Newsworthy: Johnson ready to announce

ESPN 150 linebacker Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett) says he intends to announce his commitment Friday during the UA Game. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound prospect, formerly committed to Auburn, has now narrowed down his choice to Florida, Ohio State and Tennessee. All are on equal footing, he said, as he discussed each program.

• Florida: “They have a really good defense right now under Will Muschamp. That is the main thing that has them in the mix: their defense.”

• Ohio State: “When I took a visit up there it was different. I kind of like the feel up there, the depth chart and there are many factors that make it a good fit there.”

• Tennessee: “I have a connection with Tommie Thigpen, who was at Auburn before. Also the scheme they run is very similar to what we do at my high school and I liked it when I visited there last year.”

The Buckeyes could have the inside track for the nation's No. 2 inside linebacker recruit, as they were the last to talk to Johnson as of Tuesday afternoon.

“I spoke to Urban Meyer on Christmas and he told me he will be here after the game to see me,” Johnson said.

While he is looking forward to announcing his commitment, he left the door cracked for possible visits before signing day.

“I am excited about making this decision and stopping the calls,” Johnson said. “I have to get back home and talk to my parents to see if we will have time to take any official visits after I make my commitment.”

Trending: 'Prime Time' talks DBs

Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders was on the field for Tuesday’s UA Game practice, and Sanders said afterward that he was high on the Team Nitro secondary.

“I like this group of defensive backs,” Sanders said. “It looks like a physical group.”

The eight-time Pro Bowl selection singled out two cornerbacks and two he feels will excel at safety.

“I like Shaq Wiggins and Cam Burrows at cornerback,” Sanders said. “Wiggins has aggressiveness and I like him because he takes chances. He has a lot of athleticism. I think Cam Burrows is a little more physical at cornerback and I like him a lot.

“I think Artie Burns is going to be a tremendous safety in college. I love that he makes plays on the ball and competes every snap. The big fellow Antonio Conner is a banger. I think it is amazing to get a big fellow that is accustomed to playing in the box that is able to get out there and compete with wide receivers one on one.”

Herm likes No. 1

Black Team coach Herman Edwards said he was highly impressed with top-ranked prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) and believes he’s the best player at the Under Armour All-America Game.

“He’s good, he’s a special athlete and he asks really good questions,” Edwards said. “That’s real important to me because it shows he’s already looking beyond just being the best athlete. He also wants to be the smartest player on the field.”

Last year, Edwards also had the opportunity to coach the ESPN 150's top-ranked prospect, Mario Edwards.

Nkemdiche briefly sidelined

Nkemdiche showed flashes of dominance in pass-rush drills, displaying his speed off the edge to school a few offensive tackles.

He also took his lumps -- one in particular on a pancake courtesy of Texas pledge Darius James.

Nkemdiche, atop the Class of 2013's ESPN 150 since its initial release, also suffered a groin injury. He walked slowly to the sideline during the second half of the three-hour workout and received an ice pack and attention from trainers, leaving him day-to-day with two practice sessions left before the game. The defensive end did not return to the practice after he received treatment.

Nkemdiche appears undeterred, though, as he watched the final segments of the workout from the bench.

“I’ll be back,” he said.

Look for his return Wednesday.

Day 2 awards

Ballhawk: Safety Keanu Neal (committed to Florida)
Neal struggled in one-on-one drills Monday, but the four-star prospect had a solid day Tuesday. Neal had a nice interception deep over the middle during team drills and returned it for around 25 yards.

Demarcus Walker, Rod Johnson
OL Rod Johnson (right), a late add to the UA Game roster, made his presence felt quickly Tuesday when he squared off with DL DeMarcus Walker.
Player of the Day: Offensive lineman Grant Hill (committed to Alabama)
Hill dominated the one-on-one drills. Bloodied by a cut on his leg, he went up against Greg Gilmore, DeMarcus Walker and other Team Highlight defensive lineman and won just about every battle. A humble Hill said after practice that he's just trying to get better.

"I think I improved," Hill said. "Yesterday, I had some miscues and things, but today I feel like I came out here and improved a little bit. It's great getting competition from guys like Robert Nkemdiche and those guys."

Best Matchup: Offensive lineman Rod Johnson vs. DeMarcus Walker
Johnson, a late addition to the UA game, had a nice battle with four-star Alabama DE commit Walker during one-on-one drills. After they played to a draw, a small skirmish broke out between the two. Walker said after practice he and Johnson are good and have no problems with each other.

Mr. Versatility: Athlete Dontre Wilson (committed to Oregon)
Up until he aggravated an ankle injury, he was Mr. Versatile on Tuesday. The talented playmaker was lining up at wide receiver and running back and looked good doing both. Unfortunately, Wilson is done playing for the week because of the injury.

Best Hands: Uncommitted wide receiver Laquon Treadwel
He continues to prove why he is the top wideout in the country. The athletic pass-catcher continues to get open and catches just about everything thrown his way.

Skills Challenge qualifiers: QBs -- All quarterbacks qualified. RB/LB -- Reuben Foster, Ben Boulware, Alex Anzalone and Matthew Thomas. WR/DB -- Max Redfield, Tarean Folston, Jeryl Brazil, Vernon Hargreaves III. OL/DL -- Chris Jones, Marcus Baugh, Kelsey Griffin, Ebenezer Ogundeko.

The Skills Challenge finals will be held Wednesday afternoon.

Top Tweets of the Day
Which autograph do you guys prefer?? instagr.am/p/T9Z7BhGEAc/

— Shane Morris (@S_Morris12) January 1, 2013

 
ESPN 150 CB @shaqwiggins21 with @deionsanders at #UAGame practice. #primetime twitter.com/KippLAdams/sta…

— Kipp Adams (@KippLAdams) January 1, 2013

 
Texas getting a good one in Darius James - Agile Big man - showing the ability to play any position along the OL & be very good #Longhorns

— Craig Haubert (@CraigHaubert) January 1, 2013

 
@thevonnbell7 and I playing "rock paper scissors" to see who gets the first rep ! I'm 2-0 !!! twitter.com/Tres_III/statu…

— Vernon Hargreaves(@Tres_III) January 1, 2013