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Takeaways from IMG Academy Football vs. American Heritage to Open the 2021 High School Season

Elite football prospects littered both sides to kick off the 2021 season and the talent didn't disappoint

PLANTATION, Fla. -- With the return of high school football this week, there were marquee matchups all over America, but there was always little doubt where SI All-American would set up shop on Friday night. As soon as Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy and Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage agreed to open the 2021 slate against one another, that was all she wrote. 

The game, littered with elite football prospects including eight Preseason SI99 selections in the class of 2022 alone, did not disappoint from a star-power perspective. 

Tight in the first half, IMG would pull away in the second behind a massive offensive line and running back duo of Kaytron Allen and Stacy Gage, who combined to blow by the 300-yard mark by night's end in the 35-15 win. 

SI All-American digs into evaluation notes on the top prospects participating.

All prospects are in the class of 2022 unless otherwise noted.

1. Allen broke three runs of 50-plus yards, showcasing great vision and burst in addition to the ability to get to top speed in a hurry. The Penn State commitment set the tone with a powerful finish on his first carry, running through Early Little, Jr. to get the IMG offense and his offensive line some extra juice on their initial possession. Allen also impressed as a blocker in blitz pickup, on occasion. 

2. Gage (2024) is in the mold of the modern, three-down back with true space savagery with the ball in his hands. The play of the night belonged to him, as he found the end zone following a head-turning spin move against coveted defensive back prospect Deamon Fegan in the alley before finding pay dirt. Not only did the move in space put Gage into perspective, but his patience and vision were also on display. It's part of the reason more than 20 programs have offered the sophomore. 

3. DE Marvin Jones, Jr. certainly looks the part, having put on good weight on his 6'5" frame. He flashed off the edge early with a sack and held his own on his side of the field, though he wasn't tested on a consistent basis. Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama and Florida State will host Jones for official visits this fall. 

4.DB Earl Little, Jr. worked multiple secondary spots throughout the night, including in the slot at nickel, where he says programs in the running for him like Alabama, LSU and Florida have talked about projection him at. Little worked well in coverage and brought physicality to the table, including on the shot he gave IMG QB AJ Duffy along the sidelines. Little played the apex for a pass breakup in the second half, too. 

5. OL Tyler Booker anchored the best unit on the field Friday night and he played with authority during his first start at left tackle for the Ascenders. His pass blocking was patient and effective, with a strong punch in protecting Duffy's blindside, but his run blocking created even more attention as he put multiple Heritage defenders in the dirt, including on Allen's final TD run. Booker is committed to Alabama.

6. TE Jaleel Skinner wasn't targeted much in the game, but the nation's top tight end showed off his Kyle Pitts-like frame and fluidity preparing for the game. The South Carolina native, committing in October, truly profiles like a jumbo wide receiver at this time, with a catch radius few nationally can contend with.  

7. DB Keon Sabb, a Clemson commitment, worked multiple secondary spots on the evening with success. More of a classic free safety on tape, he showed off some individual cover skills on Friday night that demonstrates how balanced a game and high a floor he has. 

8. DB Daylen Everette, another Clemson pledge, didn't see a lot of attention his way and helped to keep a good Heritage wide receiver group at bay without giving up a vertical route. Everette is among the most polished cornerback projections nationally. 

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9. DB Kamari Wilson didn't finish the game for IMG, as he was ejected for multiple personal foul penalties. His ultra aggression and high energy are strengths to his game but the emotions got the best of the safety projection Friday night. Before that point, though, he was of course strong in run support and captained the communication of the IMG secondary unit as far as we could tell. 

10. DE Jihaad Campbell was impossible to miss coming off the edge. He seemingly had multiple sacks and even more near stops behind the line of scrimmage with his first step quickness and bend. Campbell also lined up in space, over the slot receiver, and re-routed with success. Once he fills out his lengthy frame there may not be many knocks on the Clemson commitment's game. Campbell also blocked an extra point in his IMG debut. 

11. WR Brandon Inniss (2023) was the most steady passing target for Heritage all night, but it didn't come easy against IMG. Inniss is known for polish and he needed every bit of it to create separation underneath, including on a second-half touchdown to give the Patriots late life. Also strong in the return game and after the catch Friday night, breaking several tackles with burst and power, it was Inniss' toughness that impressed most. The star junior will commit Sunday between Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida and Miami and told SIAA his decision has already been made privately. 

12. DL James Smith (2023), who only recently transferred from Alabama down to IMG, splashed in his debut on multiple occasions. Even pregame, with so much talent and energy on the field, Smith may have had the most life before kick. He didn't disappoint after, proving stout at the point of attack and quicker than his 290-pound frame may suggest. Smith had at least one tackle for loss and made the play of the night for the IMG defense, all but ending Heritage's late comeback bid with a sack on fourth down. He split a double team with sheer leverage and power en route to smothering the passer. 

13. WR Carnell Tate (2023) immediately commanded attention on his first touch, the opening kick, and held onlookers' focus thereafter with big plays. He brought his first touch to about midfield with great vision, speed and grace while navigating tacklers and did so again on his first punt return. Tate brought that all the way back for a score but a late block in the back brought it back. The junior, who runs with a long and steady stride, would find the end zone on a 30-yard post connection with Duffy to put the game out of reach for good. Tate will commit in October and will soon release his group of five finalists. 

14. LB Jaeden Kinlock wasn't a prospect we knew much about before kickoff, but he made his presence known all evening long for Heritage. Playing middle linebacker, he proved tough up the middle against the steady IMG rushing attack and flashed as a pass rusher and blitzer, too, coming up with a big sack mid game. The senior, who committed to Harvard this spring, was AHS' best defender to kick off the season. 

15. QB AJ Duffy made his first varsity start since 2019, transferring in from California, and the Florida State pledge made plays. He was particularly effective on the move, both as a runner and to extend plays as a passer, showing true comfort navigating on the edge. A few passes sailed on him and a late interception was a true misfire, but when Duffy was right, like on the TD to Tate to all but ice the game, it looked relatively effortless. 

16. OL Aliou Bah worked at right guard for IMG and created huge running lanes for Allen and Gage on that side. He is a wide-stanced blocker who can cover a lot of ground in a zone scheme and/or in pass pro, but when he got hands on defenders they didn't move much Friday. Bah can play on a lower plane and clean up some technical aspects of his game, but the frame and power lay a strong foundation for the Florida State commitment. 

17. RB Mark Fletcher (2023) got banged up early in the third quarter with what is hopefully a minor injury, but he was the Heritage workhorse prior. The junior has an upright style but it doesn't lessen his power or surprising top-end speed for a bigger back. Fletcher earned many tough yards against a loaded IMG defense and broke scores of tackles a long the way. He is also strong out of the backfield as a pass catcher, rounding out an intriguing game. Droves of offers are already in for the big back.

18. QB Blake Murphy (2023) has made a great stride since his first year as the starting quarterback for Heritage in 2020. He is much more in command of the offense and has more zip on the ball to intermediate levels, but it's how his right arm combined with his athleticism and toughness that impressed Friday. There were at least five occasions in which Murphy looked dead in the water and in line to give up a sack, and he would snap laterally out of it on a dime. His best sample came on his only score of the night, spinning out of a sack-to-be from Campbell before finding Inniss in between a trio of defenders in the fourth quarter.

19. DB Jacolby Spells worked outside almost the entire night and held his own against the stacked IMG roster. He has a fluidity and leverage discipline to his game that many college secondary coaches could work with, along with a feel for when to play aggressive or hold back. Spells is committed to West Virginia. 

20. DB Joenel Aguero (2023) worked multiple spots in the IMG secondary and filled in as the signal-caller at safety after Wilson's ejection. The junior has good length and is already filled out and he's armed with a smooth backpedal and foot quickness, but his range was how he flashed brightest late in the game. Aguero thwarted the best scoring attempt for AHS in the game's final minutes, breaking from the hash to the pylon by the time Murphy completed a quick drop in time to dislodge a one-handed attempt from Inniss.  

21. DB Damari Brown (2023) made the defensive play of the evening for Heritage, picking off Duffy to create the last bit of momentum the team would have on the night. Pre-snap, Brown lined up inside against Tate with plenty of space given outside the hash, almost daring Duffy to target him. Brown worked back over the top after it was snapped, in time to arrive up the seam just as the ball arrived, and he out-wrestled Tate at the catch point for the pick he nearly took back to the house. More than a dozen offers have come in for the junior, including from Miami, Florida and Georgia.