ORLANDO, Fla. – The 2022 UA Next All-America Game lived up to the hype with big plays and standout performances on both sides of the ball Sunday. The Icons rushed out to an early lead holding off a comeback by the Legends for a 23-17 victory. Among all the five- and four-star talents, elite players shinned at each position earning Rivals’ game MVP honors.
QUARTERBACK: AJ Swann
In a losing effort, Swann stood out among the Under Armour All-Americans in the pocket. During the short work week of practices, Swann took to the field showing more control of the offense completing 6 of 11 passes for 92 yards with a touchdown. Facing the rush against defenders like Derrick Moore, Shemar Stewart and Jihaad Campbell, Swann stayed tall in the completing passes with touch and on a rope.
RUNNING BACK: Kaytron Allen
Allen did the bulk of his damage in the early part of the game carrying the load during the Icons’ second drive. Allen capped an 18-play 80-yard drive with a five-yard plunge into the end zone. For the game, Allen ended with 71 yards on the ground off 14 carries and caught one pass for six yards. Allen showcased one of the strengths to his game, taking that initial hit and driving the pile forward for extra yards.
RECEIVER: Chris Marshall
Luther Burden started the game off with a bang hauling in a 75-yard TD pass but it was Chris Marshall who helped carry the Icons on multiple drives. Going against guys like Jonquis Hardaway and Bobby Taylor, Marshall had six receptions for 84 yards off 10 targets. Marshall is that big target with a wide wingspan quarterbacks feel comfortable targeting in the passing attack.
TIGHT END: Donovan Green
Green had a first quarter touchdown called back due to a penalty, but he got on the board late in the second quarter hauling in a 10-yard touchdown from AJ Swann. Green’s lone credited reception was a 10-yarder in the back of the end zone.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Zach Rice
The Icons’ roster was loaded with great defensive linemen, but when lining up against Rice they were neutralized. Rice kept guys like Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy, Shemar Stewart, and Justice Finkley from filing up the stat sheet. Rice even got a pulverizing tackle in on another five-star smashing Icons’ cornerback Travis Hunter on a fumble recovery.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Walter Nolen
When Nolen was on the field, there was no stopping him. Nolen was making life hard for Icons’ offensive linemen Tyler Booker and company with three first half solo tackles and a forced fumble. Not credited for his efforts, Bear Alexander was a constant presence in the Icons’ backfield as well. The game MVP went to Icons’ end Derrick Moore. Moore had two tackles, both for a loss.
LINEBACKER: CJ Hicks
Tied for a team and game-high in tackles, Hicks was all over the field on Sunday. Hicks racked up five tackles, three solo, with a half-tackle for a loss and a pass broken up. Fast and physical, Hicks was strong against the run and covered well. Hicks had some good in-game one-on-one moments going against running back Kaytron Allen.
DEFENSIVE BACK: Zion Branch and Will Johnson
Looking like two of the best safeties in the 2022 class, Branch and Johnson had big games. Branch was filling the alley early coming up with big stops and picked off an AJ Duffy pass adding to his big game. Johnson showed out during the four-day practice schedule and continued that momentum with a crowd watching on Sunday. Johnson came away with an impressive pass breakup cover Shazz Preston and produced two stops.