The Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour rolls into the Southeast this weekend with stops in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Saturday and Birmingham, Ala., on Sunday. With nearly every top player from the state of Alabama expected to be in attendance at Hoover High School on Sunday, here are five top storylines to track heading into the event.
1. The Daron Payne vs. Lester Cotton rematch
There's a chance Payne and Cotton might end up playing for the same school at the next level, but for now it's a camp-stopping event anytime the two big bodies meet head-to-head. Payne, a five-star defensive tackle from Birmingham (Ala.) Shades Valley and Cotton, a four-star guard from Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Central, last matched up at the Under Armour Combine, with split opinions on which player actually won the contest. Now, with both set to attend Sunday's camp, there's a big chance to settle the score. If Alabama has its way, both in-state players will end up matching up for the next few years on a daily basis in practice. Cotton is already committed to the Tide, his hometown school, while several major programs are battling for Payne. Even if they don't end up as teammates, there's no doubt that Sunday's battle is the most anticipated event of the camp.
2. Which linebacker will emerge as Alabama's best?
At last year's RCS Birmingham, the linebacker position was among the most competitive at the event, with eventual five-star Tre Williams and Rivals100 linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton going toe-to-toe for the defensive MVP award. This year, there should be no shortage of talent at the position either. Three-star Keaton Anderson has seen his recruitment explode over the past few months, with major offers rolling in on a weekly basis. Rivals100 linebacker Darrell Williams will be looking to show out on his home field for the second consecutive year. Also in the mix at the position are four-star linebacker Richard McBryde and unranked sleeper Amonte Caban. Last year, Tre Williams vaulted himself to five-star status with his showing. Can Darrell Williams do the same this year? With a deep crop of tight ends and running backs the one-on-ones should be pretty eventful.
3. Coming out of nowhere
At nearly every RCS event, it seems an unknown prospect turns in an excellent performance and jump-starts his recruitment. On the previous stops this year, we've seen players with little to no offers win MVPs and see interest spike shortly thereafter. Last year in Birmingham, eventual four-star and Ole Miss signee Breeland Speaks came out of nowhere to win the defensive line MVP award. This year there are several candidates to surprise. Among them are Caban, who has collected several offers from smaller programs but could turn a standout showing into big-time interest. Other intriguing players include 2015 offensive linemen Brandon Kennedy and Darryl Williams as well as defensive end Kendall Jones. Several underclassmen with offers will also be in attendance and with a good showing could vault themselves onto the radar for the 2016 rankings. Among the underclassmen to watch are 2016 prospects Malik Miller, T.J. Simmons and Tyler Pritchett, as well as Class of 2018 defensive end Kelvin Stokes, who as already started collecting offers before his high school career has even started.
4. Which running back will star?
The running back position is set to be as stocked as any in terms of high-end talent. Four-stars Nick Gibson, Kerryon Johnson and Desherrius Flowers are all expected to attend, as is explosive all-purpose athlete Traveon Samuel and three-star back Keith Mixon. Camp settings are all about showing how well-rounded backs are in terms of catching the ball out of the backfield and moving in open space. With the aforementioned high-quality linebackers set to attend, the backs should get quite the challenge during one-on-ones. Every year, it seems the state of Alabama produces top-notch backs and 2015 is no exception. The question is who will be the top prospect at the position after it's all said and done. With Gibson, Johnson and Flowers all vying for top position, Sunday's action could go along way in separating one from the pack. Class of 2016 running back Tre Nation, who has already added an SEC offer from Mississippi State, will also be looking to get a head start on the state's top back for his class.
5. Can Tennessee steal the show?
While many of Memphis' top players will compete on Saturday in Hattiesburg, the bulk of the players from the Volunteer State will compete on Sunday in Birmingham. Among the biggest names are Rivals250 members Jack Jones (offensive tackle) and Ugo Amadi (cornerback). The two Nashville-area natives will be the most marquee members from Tennessee to compete in Alabama and come into the event ready to prove that they can compete with anyone. Another Tennessee prospect whose star is on the rise is defensive back Cameron Ordway. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound prospect from Pulaski (Tenn.) Giles County has been adding offers on a regular basis over the past month, with Alabama, Auburn and several others now on his list. Among other intriguing prospects from the Volunteer State set to compete are 2017 running back Maleik Gray, who already has multiple SEC offers, and 2016 tight end Gabe Angel, who also has several early offers.