SAN ANTONIO, Texas - It's hard to find too many bright spots Saturday for the East squad at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as the West squad dominated the game 35-3, but there was one defensive player that dominated the game. That player was Randallstown, Md., defensive end Melvin Alaeze.
He was unstoppable in practice all week and it carried over to the game on Saturday. Alaeze was simply awesome Saturday and there is no doubt which player gets Rivals.com's defensive most valuable player honor.
It didn't matter who the west team rotated in and out, Alaeze won the battle.
Virtually every snap Alaeze was off the ball and in the backfield before the offensive line had time to develop a play. In an ironic twist of events Alaeze did not even start Saturday's game as defensive ends Ryan Bain and Earl Heyman were given the nod instead.
The 6-foot-2, 277-pound Alaeze is ranked as the nation's No. 13 player overall and the No. 1 strongside defensive end in America by Rivals.com. He used 4.54 second 40-yard dash speed to give chase the west quarterbacks all afternoon. The play of Alaeze on Saturday was not much of a surprise considering his performance in practice all week long.
Alaeze is a consensus first team all-state selection in Maryland and the Baltimore Sun's Defensive Player of the Year. His combination of size, speed, explosion and brute strength are a rare confluence of traits that make him one of the nation's most sought after players. Alaeze had a good junior year and blew up on the off-season circuit where he demolished a rack of the nation's best offensive line prospects at various sites.
He has dominated the competition at the high school level the past two seasons as well collecting 50 tackles and 15 sacks as a junior and 60 tackles and 19 sacks as a senior. During Saturday afternoon's game Alaeze announced his college choice between Maryland, Virginia Tech, USC, Penn State and Miami.
"I just felt like staying home was the best decision all along," Alaeze said. "I had a lot of other great options, but I want to play for the Terrapins. It's just the smart decision for me to make. I can stay close to home, be close to family and play in a very good conference against the best of the best."
Winston Salem (N.C.) Mt. Tabor linebacker Derek Nicholson was the other strong candidate in the game to earn MVP honors, but was just not quite as dominant as Alaeze.
Nicholson performed much the same way he did at the North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl in December, starting the week slow, but getting better throughout the week of practice and posting an impressive performance during the game.
Other east defenders who turned in a solid performance were Miami (Fla.) Killian and Tennessee commitment defensive back Demetrice Morley, Louisville (Ky.) Ballard defensive end Earl Heyman and Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville safety and Ohio State commitment Jamario O'Neal.