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January 3, 2012

Under Armour matchup: Blur DE vs. Highlight OT

MORE: Under Armour storylines | Full coverage

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Under Armour All-America Game is set for Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET) at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and the contest will feature many standout players from across the country. Today, we focus on the Team Blur defensive ends and Team Highlight offensive tackles. Blur's defensive line includes some of the best ends out there, starting with FSU commit Mario Edwards. Highlight counters with some serious talent of its own, starting with Andrus Peat. Who will win the battle on the edge? Here's our breakdown:

The players:

Blur defensive ends: Mario Edwards (Ryan, Texas); Dante Fowler (Lakewood, Fla.); Issac Gross (South Panola, Miss.); Channing Ward (Aberdeen, Miss.)

Highlight offensive tackles: Chris Casher (Davidson, Ala.) Patrick Destefano (Dorman, S.C.); Kennedy Estelle (Pearland, Texas); Joey O'Connor (Windsor, Col.); Andrus Peat (Corona Del Sol, Ariz.); Avery Young (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)

The breakdown:

In Edwards, Fowler and Ward in particular, the Blur squad has three extremely talented defensive ends. Edwards is a five-star prospect and the country's No. 4 overall player. Though he is listed at 6 feet 4, 275 pounds, he looks like he easily is 300 pounds. In fact, Edwards has more of a tackle than end body right now. Yet even with that size, he moves incredibly well. Edwards has cat-like quickness at the snap, and is extremely strong, too. That combination of footspeed and power makes him a difficult matchup for even the best tackles. Fowler is a lighter, quicker end. His footwork, speed and variety of moves often create problems. When Fowler is focused, he seems to play at a higher speed than everyone else up front. It's easy for Ward to get lost in the shuffle behind Edwards and Fowler, but he is a four-star prospect and Rivals100 player for a reason. Ward looks as good in pads as any player on hand this week, and he has shown great explosiveness at times when rushing the passer and in one-on-ones.

Among the Highlight offensive tackles, the 6-7, 305-pound Peat is the headliner. Peat's body is not as well-defined as some of the other linemen, but he nonetheless is a five-star recruit who gets a great amount of power from his gigantic legs and has a tremendous reach. He's also surprisingly athletic. The squad has three more tackles ranked in the Rivals100 - Estelle, O'Connor and Young. At No. 50, Estelle, the 6-7, 300-pound Texas commit, is ranked highest among the three. From that trio, Young might be the lightest on his feet. However, at times, he has been susceptible to a good bull rush. This group has been challenged often in practice thus far by a talented unit of defensive linemen on its own team, and that certainly should help when Thursday night's game rolls around.

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at Keithrivals@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KeithRIVALS.



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