June 6, 2013

Recruiting Roundtable Five-Star Challenge preview

MORE: Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge

The Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour takes place at Soldier Field this weekend. We asked our analysts to discuss some of the story lines they expect from the event:

Question No. 1: Which player are you most looking forward to seeing in person?

Mike Farrell, National/Mid-Atlantic: I want to see offensive tackle Alex Bars because I suspect he could be one of the top five or so offensive tackles in the country. He has great bloodlines, he's athletic but also aggressive on film and I look forward to seeing if he's as good as advertised or even better.

Jason Howell, Southwest: Zach Whitley. I have seen the tape and I have seen him in person, but I have yet to see him play in person and I could not think of a better stage to see him perform than Soldier Field in Chicago.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: The way people are talking about Norcross, Ga., five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter, I am expecting a longer, just-as-explosive Carl Lawson-type performance we saw in this event last year.

The defensive line group is so deep, I am interested to see how Carter stacks up against fellow defensive line five-stars Da'Shawn Hand, Andrew Brown and Kentavious Street, and whether he has what it takes to be the No. 1 overall prospect in this 2014 class.

Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic: I'm really excited to see the great group of running backs. Leonard Fournette, Elijah Hood, Sony Michel, Joe Mixon, Jacques Patrick and Nicholas Brossette aren't in my region, so all I've seen is highlight tapes. If they are all as good as their highlights, then we are in for a treat. I'm most intrigued by Fournette because people have been talking about him possibly challenging Hand for the top spot in the Rivals100. It will be interesting to see how they compete on the same field against elite competition.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I'm looking forward to seeing Kyle Allen the most. Allen is the No. 1 QB in the country and he recently committed to Texas A&M. So he will be the most scrutinized offensive prospect in attendance. He will follow Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel when he arrives in College Station, so expectations will be huge at the next level and this weekend. I didn't have a chance to see the four-star signal-caller at the RCS Phoenix.

Adam Gorney, West: I'm really looking forward to seeing Fournette and really the entire running back group in action. Fournette was at the Five-Star Challenge last summer in Atlanta and looked good but he's going to be tested by some outstanding backs in Michel, Hood, Mixon and others. It will be interesting to see if he's up to the test, if he's clearly the No. 1 running back in the country. This will be his chance to show whether he should be considered for the No. 1 overall spot.

Rob Cassidy, West: I haven't seen Hand since last year's Five-Star Challenge, so there's always a little excitement that comes with seeing the nation's top player in a camp setting. That excitement is compounded by talk that Hand is not a no-brainer at the top spot. He'll be motivated to prove he belongs against other top-level players. I think that will bring out the best in him.

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Question No. 2: Whose ranking could be impacted most by how he performs this weekend?

Mike Farrell, National/Mid-Atlantic: The obvious answer is Da'Shawn Hand because the only place he could move is down but I respect his willingness to compete unlike Robert Nkemdiche and some other recent past No. 1 prospects. I'd say Tyler Luatua would be the guy I'm watching. He started off in the top 50 in the nation and we all know he has a ton of skill, but his desire has been questioned. So will he mail it in and tumble out of the Rivals250 or will he show us that he belongs in that elite category of a top 50 player?

Jason Howell, Southwest: Davon Godchaux dominated at the RCS Houston and if he shows up ready to repeat against the competition in Chicago, I could see him continuing to make a surge in the rankings.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: I would keep an eye on Indianapolis (Ind.) Speedway wide receiver Justin Brent. We only got to glimpse Brent at the Chicago Rivals Camp because he had to leave early, but even in that short sample it was evident he has added a lot of polish to a game that already featured size, speed and athleticism. The 6-foot-1, 196-pound Brent is ranked as the No. 26 wide receiver in the country right now ... he could move much higher with a big performance this weekend.

Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic: Saeed Blacknall needs to come out and put on a very solid performance to justify his ranking. The nation's top pass-catchers will be on the field and this will be a perfect opportunity for him to show that he deserves his ranking. Since he hasn't done much (on the field) this offseason, this performance will be an indicator of how much work he's done.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I'm going to say Norcross (Ga.) defensive lineman Lorenzo Carter. If he outplays Da'Shawn Hand, he could make a case for the No. 1 spot overall. Carter might be the most athletically gifted player to step foot on Soldier Field. His combination of speed and first-step explosion could be too much for would-be blockers. I expect him to own one-on-ones and push for the top spot.

Adam Gorney, West: The biggest one -- Hand. I don't think there is an absolute, outright No. 1 no-brainer in this class, so Hand is going to have to deliver the goods. A bunch of other five-star prospects will be in attendance pushing for that top ranking and there will be some four-stars ready to prove themselves. Hand will have to bring his 'A' game to Chicago.

Rob Cassidy, West: Qualen Cunningham is an interesting case. The defensive end wasn't his normal, impressive self at the Rivals Camp Series stop in Phoenix. He was still effective as a whole but not the dominant force he was on Fridays last fall. I'm also interested to see if he has added significant size in the offseason. Cunningham is young for his class and could be one of those players who hits a late growth spurt. If he makes noise in Chicago, he'll certainly get his due in the rankings.

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Question No. 3: Who will be the biggest personality at the event and why?

Mike Farrell, National/Mid-Atlantic: I would suspect Joe Mixon could be that guy although Hand will also be a lot of fun to be around and watch.

There are a lot of players that will be on hand with great personalities but these two seem to draw people around them.

Jason Howell, Southwest: Without a doubt my pick is Demetrius Knox. The trash-talking, always-smiling offensive lineman has stated he plans to take center stage at the event on the field. I can see his personality being just as big off the field. He's the kind of guy who does not shy away from the spotlight and Chicago is a place I think he will shine.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: I've enjoyed the few times I've spent around Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra cornerback Adoree' Jackson. He's a fun-loving kid who can get a lot of laughs. Plainfield (Ill.) South linebacker Clifton Garrett is also a fun-loving kid with an infectious personality and I know in my talks with him he is looking forward to showing his fellow All-Americans around his hometown. I expect both those guys to be among the biggest personalities this weekend.

Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic: This is a toss up between the nation's top player, Da'Shawn Hand, and the nation's top defensive tackle, Andrew Brown. Both are from Virginia and are pretty close friends. They have been to a ton of camps together and are always joking around. It should be easy to find either one of them during the weekend -- just follow the laughs.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: Damien Mama is the easy choice. He will be the biggest person on display and I'm sure most of the players will like his easy-going personality. Look for him to win over players during the weekend.

Adam Gorney, West: Other than Mike Farrell? I'll go with Michiah Quick. He's a character and he has a lot of spunk and personality, plus he's been at the Five-Star Challenge before so he's comfortable, and could come to the field with a lot of confidence. In Las Vegas during a 7-on-7 tournament, Quick was posing for pictures right before the snap of the ball. He also punted a ball at the RCS Los Angeles, but then tracked it down. I could also go with Dwight Williams, since this spring at a 7-on-7 he wore sunglasses during play -- at night.

Rob Cassidy, West: My dealings with Mixon have been limited, but he has a sense of humor when he's in the right mood. On the field, nothing he does is cause for laughter but he's certainly capable of creating a few memorable interview moments. Honorable mention goes to Natrell Curtis for stepping up and calling out Hand a few weeks back. Curtis and Mixon are both outspoken guys who, for the most part, stay away from the usual cliches.




 

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