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January 4, 2012

UA matchup: Highlight RB vs. Blur LB

MORE UA: Top performers | Full coverage

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Under Armour All-America game is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and the contest will feature many standout players from across the country. Today, we focus on the Team Highlight running backs and the Team Blur linebackers.

Five-star tailback Johnathan Gray, a dynamic Texas commit, is the headliner. At linebacker, Blur counters with players such as Alabama pledge Reggie Ragland.

The players

Highlight running backs: Johnathan Gray (Aledo, Texas); Randy Johnson (Miami Norland, Fla.)

Blur linebackers: Ronnie Feist (West Saint John, La.); Reggie Ragland (Bob Jones, Ala.); Michael Rose (Rockhurst, Mo.)

The breakdown

In Gray and Johnson, Team Highlight has two ultra-talented running backs. Both are very fast. Both have excellent vision. Both can get from zero to 60 in a flash. Both can be physical. Quite frankly, both are game-changers. Gray and Johnson have each had solid weeks of practice, which is about what you would expect after the standout 2011 seasons the stars just put together. The 5-foot-10,190-pound Gray, the country's No. 6 overall prospect, is the bigger of the two. Several things stand out with him, but his amazing one-cut ability is one of the reasons he is so difficult to corral - and so fun to watch. Johnson, a Miami commit and top-50 national player, is listed at 5-9,180, but looks smaller than that. Size, however, is not really an issue. He is very good at finding creases and exploding through them. And if he can get into space, the defense has a problem on its hands.

Blur's linebacking group will need to be sharp. The good news is that it has Ragland, a Rivals100 prospect, in the middle. Few players on hand look as good as Ragland does in pads. He's all of his listed 6-4, 245, and has a solid powerbase to say the least. Basically, Ragland is built like a tank, particularly in his lower body. For a player his size, he moves very well and has the ability to burst through gaps and strike a back. If Ragland is in position, it's incredibly difficult to get by him or out of his grasp. On the outside, Blur has players such as Feist and Rose, who are committed to LSU and Nebraska, respectively. Neither is particularly big, but both have good range and that will be key in this matchup. It will be interesting to see how they handle Gray and Johnson in space.

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



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