FULLERTON, Calif. -- Monday marked the first day of practice for Friday’s Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. While all of the players adjusted to the location and the morning practice time, more than a few hit the ground running at full speed.
For the East squad, the defensive line was slightly undermanned, but that didn’t stop it from getting off to a fast start. More often than not, the player providing the highlight was Chikwe Obasih (Brookfield, Wis./Brookfield Central).
Listed as a defensive end, the 6-foot-3, 231-pound Wisconsin commit spent time at defensive tackle on Monday and impressed with his quickness and nonstop motor. He stood out during one-on-one drills and carried his performance over to 11-on-11 work later in the day.
It was the kind of impact that new Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen hopes to get from Obasih when the defensive standout arrives in Madison. Though Obasih committed to the Badgers back in April, the coaching change at Wisconsin caused him to pause for a bit.
“After the coaching turnover and after Coach [Charlie] Partridge left I took some time away. I didn’t talk to any media and I sat with my family and waited until Coach Andersen called,” Obasih said. “If I didn’t like the feel from Coach Andersen right away, I would have reached out to some schools that had called me. But after talking to Coach Andersen, the defensive line coach and the defensive coordinator, I’m solid to Wisconsin. It’s the place I want to be and nothing is going to change my mind.”
Obasih said he was impressed with what he heard from Andersen about his vision for the future of the program and was honored that he was one of the first calls the coach made after being named to the position.
“He’s done his studies and knows exactly what he wants at Wisconsin to make Wisconsin better," Obasih said. “I take that as a good thing. He knows his priorities and what he wants to do there.”
Obasih added that he will not take official visits to any other schools.
Newsmaker: Two of the biggest playmakers at West team practice in Santa Ana, Calif., -- both of whom have been silent when it comes to recruiting -- made some noise on Day 1 when they each stated that they will announce their college decisions during the game on Friday.
Wide receiver John Ross (Long Beach, Calif./Jordan) is expected to choose between Oregon, UCLA and Washington. Tight end Thomas Duarte (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) surprised everyone with the news that his decision is looming. Duarte will announce between his four finalists: Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and Washington.
Trending: There was plenty of praise for the East defenders after Day 1, as defensive line coach John Hart (Huntley, Ill./Huntley) singled out defensive tackle and Alabama commit Darius Paige (Foley, Ala./Foley) and defensive end and Auburn commit Tashawn Bower (Somerville, N.J./Immaculata). But defensive back and Notre Dame commit Devin Butler (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga College) will likely be the guy receiving the most attention heading into the second day of practice
Defensive coordinator Shawn Raney (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) wasted no time in pointing to Butler when it came to first-day standouts.
“He’s athletically gifted,” Raney said. “He was all over the place today.”
The East team boasts a loaded secondary, with players committed to Alabama, Michigan, LSU and Oklahoma. But in the early going, it’s the Notre Dame commitment making the most noise.
Superlatives: It’s not often you can hand out a biggest hit of the day during a practice without any hitting, and it’s even more rare that the day’s biggest hit goes to an offensive player. But tight end Arshad Jackson (Lovejoy, Ga./Lovejoy) put several defenders on notice when he went across the middle during Monday’s workout.
Linebacker Landry Tullo (Birmingham, Ala./Hoover) lined Jackson up after a short completion and looked to deliver a solid pop to the tight end’s chest without delivering a full hit. Instead, Tullo took the brunt of the collision as the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Jackson didn’t give an inch from the contact, and actually sent Tullo to the turf. It was the first and only play of the day where offensive and defensive players alike let out several oohs and aahs.
On the other side of the ball, safety and Oklahoma commit Ahmad Thomas (Miami/Miami Central) deserves mention for two terrific interceptions -- the second in particular. With a wide receiver settled between him and the ball on a curl route, Thomas broke on the ball, went up and over the receiver and came up with the ball as he avoided making early contact with the offensive player. It was the catch of the day for either side.
What’s on tap: Can the West team's offense catch up to the defense? The West offense, which features just two small running backs, was sloppy all day. The offensive line was solid when it wasn't facing Washington commit Elijah Qualls (Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grande), but the quarterbacks, including Cal commit Jared Goff (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic), need to perform better on Day 2.