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June 26, 2012

Rivals Challenge: Northeast lessons learned


MORE: The inaugural Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge

ATLANTA -- Over three days, 25 of the Northeast's best prospects collected in Atlanta to showcase their ability at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge. Here are five things we learned about the Northeast squad during the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.

1. Five-stars don't disappoint
No team had more five stars than the Northeast team and each of them had different levels of success. Cornerback Kendall Fuller from Olney (Md.) Good Counsel was outstanding on Saturday and got better on Sunday as the 7-on-7 progressed. He had a huge pass breakup that led to points for his team, as well as an interception in the title game. Fuller was joined by Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers linebacker Jaylon Smith on defense for the Northeast. Smith was excellent on Saturday in drills and one-on-ones and on Sunday his length and ability to drop made it hard for quarterbacks to find soft spots in the defense.

On offense, Richmond (Va.) Hermitage running back Derrick Green isn't really made for 7-on-7 play and was outdone by fellow Virginia running back Taquan Mizzell, who played running back and slot, but Green was impressive Saturday and contributed to his team's win Sunday with some key catches. If this were full contact, Green would have destroyed quite a few people.

Finally, Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy defensive end Kenny Bigelow won most of his reps, once again relying solely on outside moves. He would certainly benefit in these camps if he mixed things up and used a counter or inside move, but Bigelow is still hard to handle because he's so fast and agile for a massive defensive end.

2. Penn State combination?
We thought we would see Fork Union (Va.) Fork Union Military quarterback Christian Hackenberg hooking up with fellow Penn State commitment Adam Breneman from Camp Hill (Pa.) Cedar Cliff for the Northeast team, but that was scrapped with Breneman's season-ending knee. However, Hackenberg found another top target in Clairton, Pa., wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Word is that the two clicked so well during the camp that the Nittany Lions could now be the team to beat for Boyd. Hackenberg also hooked up with Breneman's replacement Josh McNeil from Durham (N.C.) Hillside quite often, and the talented tight end will choose between Georgia and Alabama, perhaps as soon as July 5.

3. Marshall makes successful transition to wide receiver
Jalin Marshall has played quarterback during his career at Middletown (Ohio) High, but he will head to Ohio State to play a Percy Harvin-type role in Urban Meyer's offense. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Marshall was tabbed to play a slot receiver role for the Northeast squad in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, and proved to be one of the most electric players on the field. Marshall is so explosively quick, even the best defensive backs had trouble staying with him man-to-man, and he showed outstanding hands for having limited experience at the position.

Marshall's running mate in the Northeast's wide receiver corps, Laquon Treadwell, came in ranked as one of the top five wide receivers in the country, and backed up his lofty ranking with consistently impressive play. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound Treadwell had more success than most big wide receivers at the event creating separation from defensive backs because he is both physical and fast.

4. 2014 d-backs rule
The Northeast team has some great cornerbacks in Fuller, Eli Woodard and Jourdan Lewis, but it was the safeties that made a huge difference and both are only sophomores. Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside safety Quin Blanding was the top 2014 prospect at the entire event, dominating on Saturday in 1-on-1s despite being a safety playing press corner, and on Sunday he was all over the field. Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy safety/cornerback Jalen Tabor was also excellent, flashing his excellent ball skills and an uncanny knack for ripping the ball out at the last second. Both players are playing well above their age group and were keys to the victory for the Northeast.

5. McDowell backs up the hype
There has been plenty of excitement in the Midwest over the potential of Detroit Loyola 2014 defensive end Malik McDowell, but nationally, the rising junior has not garnered as much attention as defensive line classmates Da'Shawn Hand and Andrew Brown of Virginia. This past weekend all three backed up the hype, and McDowell showed he belonged in that conversation. Measuring in at 6-foot-6 and 292 pounds, McDowell still had the quickness to work over offensive tackles at the event, and he got better each and every repetition.

McDowell roomed with fellow Detroit native David Dawson during the weekend, and Dawson did plenty of damage of his own. The 6-foot-4, 282-pound offensive guard displayed a strong first punch that held up against the biggest of interior defensive linemen. If he was able to get his hands on a defender, he won the matchup and several top defensive tackles ended up on their backs when facing Dawson.



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