High School Football

O-D All-American Bowl attracts top-flight talent

The postseason battle for the nation's blue-chip football prospects has gotten much more competitive over the last decade.

National all-star games such as the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, which will be played Saturday at Doug Shaw Stadium, have become more prevalent, making it more and more difficult to build resume-building rosters that help bring publicity and fans to the games.

The All-American Bowl, now in its fourth year, directly competes with the much more lucrative Under Armour/ESPN All-America game, which will be held for the third time Saturday, and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on Jan. 9.

Yet, Offense-Defense held its own in the battle this season, landing a bevy of high-profile prospects committed to some of the nation's best college programs. The game will feature 13 players already committed to SEC schools, two committed to Southern Cal and a bevy of others who will play in power conferences.

"I think the first year was probably the best talent they've ever had," Scout.com's Miller Safrit said of Offense-Defense's inaugural game in 2007. "The last two years there has been much more competition for players of this caliber. This year they've really stepped it up and received commitments from some big names.

"When you have names like ESPN and U.S. Army - you can't even describe the budgets they have - to have a company like Offense-Defense put a game like this on with the talent it has is [impressive]."

In an effort to revamp the game, Offense-Defense hired former Oakland Raiders front-office executive Artie Gigantino in the offseason. He decided to go toe to toe with the heavyweights in the all-star game industry.

"We were more aggressive," he said. "It's about having the guts to go up against the Army All-American Bowl to get kids. There are 300 really good high school players in the country. If every game gets 100, that's pretty good."

Offense-Defense landed four players rated as five-star prospects by one recruiting service or another, more than the game had in the past two years combined. The game will also feature more four-star recruits than the 2008 and 2009 games. Safrit believes that college stars will emerge from the past two Offense-Defense games, but he believes the depth for this year's event is much greater.

"It helps to have good scouting," Safrit said. "You can get all the five-star players that you want, but if you end up getting a major player at your game, you can have that history. Getting the right players as opposed to getting the best players is important."

And they also need to be instantly recognizable.

"In this day of instant gratification, fans want names they know now," Safrit said.

Odds and ends

Byrnes quarterback Chas Dodd pulled out of the Offense-Defense All-American game on Monday due to an arm injury. Dodd, a Rutgers commit, played in Myrtle Beach in the North-South All-Star game earlier this month and sustained the injury in that event, Gigantino said. ... The players arrived Monday for Saturday's game and will practice twice today through Thursday (9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily) and once Friday (1 p.m.). They are staying at the Marriott Resort at Grande Dunes and will practice at Myrtle Beach, which is hosting the game after one year at Coastal Carolina.

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