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June 11, 2013
CHICAGO -- The Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour wasn't simply about the 7-on-7 tournament or the Big Man Challenge; it was about both days of competition, including drills, one-on-ones, competitive desire and athletic ability. To come up with the All-Rivals Challenge Team, we looked at all 104 competitors closely and chose the ones we feel had the best weekend from the moment they stepped on the field to the last horn. Here they are.
QB Kyle Allen, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain: Allen was a little inconsistent early while trying to get in a rhythm with unfamiliar receivers. By late Saturday afternoon, however, he was back to his old self. What happened on Sunday was something beyond that. Allen was nearly perfect during the event's 7-on-7 tournament as he led his team to the championship. His quick reads set him apart from the rest of the quarterback group, and the fact that he consistently threw a beautiful ball didn't hurt his cause. He successfully crammed passes through tight spots all day long, and he connected on a few deep fades that grabbed the attention of everyone watching. Allen goes through progressions better than anyone in America, and he earned Offensive Skill MVP honors because of it.
RB Joe Mixon, Oakley (Calif.) Freedom: The best day for Mixon was Saturday, when he was virtually unstoppable during one-on-one drills. Pity the linebackers, and there were great ones at the Five-Star Challenge, because none of them could keep up with Mixon. The five-star running back is an excellent route runner, so fast in and out of his breaks, and he has the speed to turn up the field and break away from anyone trying to chase him down. The Oakley (Calif.) Freedom standout catches everything just as well as any wide receiver. He was valuable during the 7-on-7 tournament, but they usually used him on short routes. He could have made an even bigger impact on wheel routes deep.
WR KD Cannon, Mount Pleasant (Texas): On Saturday the story with Cannon was speed, speed, speed, catching ability, more speed and more hands. He might not be the biggest, but he was a terror on both days. In 7-on-7 on Sunday, he created separation and turned defensive backs in circles as they tried to keep up with him. He showed the home run ability that has made him a top recruit in the country, and he demonstrated the ability to work the middle of the field as well.
WR Johnnie Dixon, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer: Before the event, we broke down film of Dixon and felt he was a dynamic vertical threat. However, we weren't sure he could create the separation needed in his intermediate routes. Dixon answered our question and more. He was one of the best playmakers for Team Rivals and a favorite target for Drew Barker. His route running was polished, and he got open consistently even when the ball wasn't thrown his way. He gained yardage after the catch even in a touch situation because he can be shifty in space.
WR Malachi Dupre, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis: Let's just say it did not take long for Dupre to catch the attention of everyone at the event. On Saturday and Sunday, he was named among the best of the best in attendance. He earned high praise for his smooth routes, his crisp cuts and his effortless ability to create separation and catch the ball. Dupre did it all, and he did it all very well. His suddenness in his routes was better than anyone else's.
WR DaMarkus Lodge, Cedar Hill (Texas) (2015): The 2015 standout just caught everything. He got open and made the catch time after time. It might sound simple, but few could replicate his production. He was consistent, and he set up defensive backs well and found the separation against whoever was put in front of him. He more than held his own among the best in the country, and he showed the best set of hands of anyone at the event.
WR Travis Rudolph, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman: Rudolph was usually the first or second option for tournament MVP Allen. He runs precise routes, and he surprised some with his big-play vertical ability. The four-star prospect has excellent hands and is a natural pass catcher. He recorded several touchdown receptions, and equally important he continued to keep play alive with key first downs by working the middle of the field and the sidelines.
TE Daniel Helm, Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood: Helm is a quiet, unassuming prospect, but his play over the weekend registered high decibels and had onlookers buzzing. He was clearly the top tight end on Saturday, then he rebounded from an early touchdown drop to become a major red zone asset for Team Yahoo! in its run to the 7-on-7 title. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Helm is exceptionally quick in and out of his breaks, creating separation from defenders, and he has the downfield speed to increase the gap. Helm also showed proficiency in jump-ball situations, grabbing several touchdowns by elevating over defenders.
OL Alex Bars, Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy: Bars is a huge kid with a great frame, and he looks like a pure right tackle. He has a nasty demeanor and is a terrific competitor. He had one of the best moments of the camp when he went against five-star Lorenzo Carter three straight times. On the first two reps, which Bars won, Carter ripped his jersey each time until it was practically torn off. Bars simply took it off, took the next rep shirtless and still bested one of the most athletic ends at the event. Bars struggled on Sunday, especially when he lost a few reps badly, but he has plenty of upside and the attitude you want in an offensive lineman.
OL Demetrius Knox, Forth Worth (Texas) All Saints Episcopal: Coming into the event, Knox wanted to deliver a message that he was one of the top offensive linemen in the country. During one-on-ones Saturday, that message was sent loud and clear as he took control of things right out of the gate. He showed power and great feet, and his intensity level was higher than anyone else's. Had he not been injured and missed the rest of the Big Man Challenge, he could have taken home Defensive Line MVP honors.
OL Damien Mama, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco: When Mama was introduced during a dinner on Friday night, there was a gasp in the room because he is just so big -- 6-foot-5 and 360 pounds. What's impressive about Mama, though, is that he's actually light on his feet and moves well for a player his size. Mama doesn't have to move much because he takes up so much room that it's tough for defensive linemen to get around him. He projects as an offensive guard, and he proved during the weekend that he can hold his own with any defensive lineman in the country. He won the Offensive Line MVP award and definitely deserved it.
OL Damian Prince, Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara: Prince had a good weekend, winning pretty much every rep against everyone not named Da'Shawn Hand. The defensive linemen had a hard time against the five-star offensive tackle because of his great lateral quickness and his strength. Prince would have been more dominant if his hand placement was better. Nonetheless, he came in looking impressive and he played that way.
DL Da'Shawn Hand, Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior: The nation's No. 1 player turned in an impressive performance on Day 1, but he didn't have as much success on Day 2. Hand showed the explosiveness and technique that have become expected of him. One of the things that made him unstoppable was the way he got low and kept his balance while quickly getting around the corner. One of the few things Hand needs to work on is staying low on his inside counter moves, but it was clear he was the most special player at the event as he took home Defensive Line MVP honors.
DL Kentavius Street, Greenville (N.C.) Rose: Street started slowly on Saturday, but when he warmed up he was impossible to stop. He looked much more aggressive than he was at the Richmond stop on the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour tour, and he reminded us of the player who wowed us in San Antonio in January. On Sunday, he was in the discussion for DL MVP after he won nearly all his reps and showed hustle and desire in all the other Big Man Challenge events. He showed a good understanding of working inside and outside against opponents, and he is developing more pass-rushing moves. We knew he was raw when we tabbed him as a five-star, but his ceiling is high and he's starting to move toward it.
DL Derrick Nnadi, Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes: Nnadi came to Chicago looking to prove he shouldn't be the forgotten defensive lineman in Virginia, and he made his point. He was explosive off the line and, while the defensive linemen weren't allowed to bull rush, he used his impressive lower-body strength and leverage to put the offensive linemen on skates and push them backward into the quarterback. Nnadi is improving his hand technique as well, and he gets better at each event.
DL Solomon Thomas, Coppell (Texas): Thomas let his play do the talking for him. He didn't need to say much, and he quietly had one of the best Sundays of anyone. He was the only defensive lineman not to lose a rep during one-on-ones, and he was among the top performers in the timed events of the Big Man Challenge. He was in the small group of defensive linemen discussed for MVP honors at that position, and he showed a great combination of size, understanding of leverage and quickness.
LB Clifton Garrett, Plainfield (Ill.) South: The Five-Star Challenge was a home game for Garrett, and he brought his A game when the nation's best descended on his home state. We have seen Garrett extensively over the last few years, and this past weekend's performance was his best in a camp setting. Garrett's length at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds makes it difficult for quarterbacks to throw into the middle of the field. He demonstrated that by breaking up passes in Sunday's 7-on-7 play, including one he tipped that resulted in an interception for his team.
LB John Houston, Gardena (Calif.) Serra (2015): Houston has outstanding size. He's long and lanky but muscular, and he runs well from sideline to sideline. The 2015 prospect had a nice weekend. He covered well during one-on-ones and was even better during the 7-on-7 portion, covering running backs and receivers on crossing routes, and making a bunch of plays. In the last year, Houston has gotten much more comfortable on the field. He understands the game much better -- he plays side-by-side with Dwight Williams in high school -- and has projected as one of the top linebackers in his class.
LB Raekwon McMillan, Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County: McMillan showed up weighing a chiseled 244 pounds, and he was light on his feet in coverage on Saturday during drills and one-on-ones. On Sunday, he was one of the best linebackers in 7-on-7 play, reading and recognizing well and disrupting passing lanes for opposing quarterbacks. The 7-on-7 portion is always tough for linebackers because there is no tackling, the quarterback is not under duress and running backs and receivers have so much free space without fear of getting their heads knocked off. However, McMillan showed again that he can cover with the best of them even with his SEC linebacker size.
LB Tre Williams, Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's: Williams was the defensive MVP for Team Flickr. When his team needed a spark, it was Williams making plays. He nabbed an interception and was rarely out of position on seam passes down the middle of the field. The instinctive defender is good in space and drives on the ball with above-average speed. He has a great understanding of route concepts, and he does a good job of reading the eyes of the quarterback to locate the ball.
DB Nick Harvey, Richmond (Texas) Travis: The Texas A&M commitment was a ball hawk throughout the Five-Star Challenge. During 7-on-7 action, he was continually in position to make a play on the ball. He showed the ability to play safety or cornerback, and his solid build and speed allow him to match up with just about any receiver on the field. His balls skills were also impressive, and he has a great awareness of routes and when to close on the ball.
DB Marlon Humphrey, Hoover (Ala.): Humphrey was the best corner on a team full of talented defensive backs. Let's start with his confidence; it borders on cocky, but he backs it up with his lockdown ability. The five-star was superb all weekend in man coverage. His excellent route recognition allows him to maintain leverage and not give up any plays downfield, and he can turn and run with almost anyone. Humphrey took home the Defensive Skill MVP award.
DB Steven Parker, Jenks (Okla.): The long defensive back was all over the field over the course of the two-day event. He used his length to close down passing lanes. He was one of the most consistent defensive backs at the event, he showed good instincts in coverage, and he was rarely out of position. Parker came in with a lot of questions to answer among the analysts, and he answered all of them.
DB Jalen Tabor, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy: It would have been nearly impossible to find a better late addition to the roster than Tabor. He made receivers work to get open, covering them like a blanket. On one occasion on Sunday Tabor slipped and allowed a long touchdown pass, but the only other passes that were completed against him were curl routes and quick slants. On the throws in front of him, Tabor showed the ability to drive on the ball with explosiveness. He tipped one pass that led to an interception and had many other pass break-ups over the weekend.
DB Damon Webb, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech: It is easy to forget that Webb has played the cornerback position for only a year, because even among the top cornerbacks in the country he is arguably the most technically sound. The term "lockdown" was used several times in Chicago to describe the 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback. He spent all weekend in the hip pocket of wide receivers, and he gave quarterbacks no room to throw the football. Webb has length and he has speed and fluidity, but it was his technical proficiency at the position that set him apart again over the weekend.
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