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June 11, 2014

Sizing up the best at 5-Star Challenge

The best players in America gathered in Baltimore this past weekend for the Rivals 100 5-Star Challenge. They were divided into four teams. Here is a ranking of the best of the best by the Rivals recruiting analysts who worked directly with them.


TEAM HIGHLIGHT (Eval by Jason Howell)


1 WR Trent Irwin Newhall (Calif.) Hart
The camp's wide receiver MVP, Irwin had a rough opening game but was nearly
perfect from there forward. He led his squad in receptions and racked up yards
after the catch. Irwin's reputation is built around his hyper-crisp rotes and
sure hands and both traits were on full display against some of the best
defensive backs in America. Irwin led his team to the championship and did so as
its most dangerous offensive weapon.

2 WR Christian Kirk Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro
Kirk was in the MVP discussion until the end for good reason. He scored five
touchdowns and racked up plenty of important catches, including one of the day's
best grabs, a jumping catch in the back of the end zone that required him to
high-point the ball while contorting his body and landing in bounds.

3 LB Nick Conner Dublin (Ohio) Scioto
Connor took home the MVP award in Baltimore despite splitting time at middle
linebacker. He was a key part of a championship team and covered well for a
player with relatively little 7-on-7 experience. If Connor maintains his
remarkable agility and survivable speed while he progresses, he has the chance
to be something special.

4 DE CeCe Jefferson Glen St. Mary (Fla.) Baker County
Jefferson showed some real quickness and led the way for team Highlight's
defensive linemen. He used his long arms and a wide array of counter moves. He
showed the ability to find the edge as well as work across the face of his
opponent and he made quick work of the majority of his opponents in one-on-ones.
He also recorded the fastest club rip time with a 1.25 during the big man
challenge.

5 DB Brandon Jones (2016) Nacogdoches, Texas
Jones started the day with an interception and was the team's most consistent
defensive back by far. His two interceptions came at critical times and he
deflected an number of passes, including one that saved a touchdown in a
contested semifinal game. Jones' closing speed in is his calling card but his
ability to accurately break on pass the moment it leaves the quarterback's hand
might be what makes him special.

6 OL Josh Wariboko Oklahoma City (Okla.) Casady
Wariboko continued to show strong on Sunday. He kicked off his one-on-ones with
a big win and showed off his power and strength. Once he latched on he made
quick work of his opponent. His punch was as strong as anyone in attendance and
often stopped defenders in their tracks.

7 DL Dylon Mack New Orleans (La.) Warren Easton
Mack came out a little tight on Saturday, but he did show some flashes. On
Sunday he loosened up a little bit and relaxed and put in some nice work. He was
explosive coming off the ball with a quick first step. He worked the rip move
and was able to gain inside leverage as he powered through offensive linemen.

8 RB Kendall Bussey New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman
Bussey has an impressive burst that makes him a nightmare for linebackers to
cover out of the backfield. He also has sure hands. His size will always be a
question mark, as will his straight-line speed but there's plenty to like about
his potential and the fact that he stood toe-to-toe with some of the best
players in America should get Nebraska fans excited about their
incoming running back.

9 OT Chuma Edoga Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern
Edoga had some shining moments with his strong technique helping to push him to
wins. When he was locked in he showed the ability to take on anyone. He was able
to get the best of Cowart a few times and showed some nice footwork.

10 ATH Stanley Norman Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra
Norman played wide receiver and cornerback and shined at both positions.
Norman's versatility makes him interesting, as does his speed and physicality.
Norman isn't a perfect prospect. He could stand to add size and polish his
technique, but he already does a lot of things very well, which makes him a
high-upside prospect. Norman could play either offensive or defense at the next
level. Norman as especially effective when the pressure was one, as he shined
during the afternoon's championship game.

TEAM BLUR (Eval by Adam Friedman)


1 WR Calvin Ridley Coconut Creek (Fla.) Monarch
Ridley was by far the most consistent receiver for Team Blur. He is deceptively fast and runs exceptional routes. Ridley scored at least three touchdowns throughout the 7-on-7 tournament and caught nearly every pass thrown his direction. It was impressive to see how effortless he made everything seem.

2 TE Chris Clark Avon (Conn.) Avon Old Farms
Clark bounced back very nicely on Day 2 after taking some hits on day one. He showed that he can move very well in the open field and ran crisp routes. It was good to see that Clark knows how to use his big body to shield defenders from the ball. Even though Clark is a massive tight end, he was pretty explosive and made some moves defenders weren't expecting.

3 WR Preston Williams Hampton (Ga.) Lovejoy
Williams broke out in the second game of the 7-on-7 tournament with two long touchdown receptions. His first touchdown was a 40-yarder over the cornerback with the safety coming from the middle. Williams also made the catch to win the game in overtime. His long frame and ability to stretch the field really gave defenses problems.

4 ATH Jerome Baker Cleveland Benedicitne
While the majority of Team Blur was up-and-down throughout Sunday's 7-on-7 tournament, Baker was consistently impressive from beginning to end. He plays much longer than his 6-foot-1, 208-pound frame would suggest because he reads and reacts extremely well and his speed is well above average. Baker's best play came at the end of the third game when he jumped in front of a receiver in the end zone and nearly intercepted a pass that gave his team a chance to come back. Throughout the weekend, Baker lived up to his Rivals100 billing.

5 RB Ray-Ray McCloud III Tampa Sickles
Always one of the most difficult players to cover in 7-on-7 set-ups, McCloud led Team Blur with four touchdowns on the day despite seeing his playing time dwindle toward the end while he dealt with cramps. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound McCloud is listed as an athlete because he could project to running back or slot receiver in college. He is a player an offense has to get the football to, though, because he is so dangerous in the open field. McCloud also has the ability to get open due to his quickness and agility, as he showed on Sunday.

6 OL Drew Richmond Memphis (Tenn.) Memphis University School
Richmond was the best lineman on Team Blur and one of the best on Sunday. His aggressiveness, strength and punch helped him knock many defensive linemen off balance. Richmond also showed that he has the ability to reset his hands throughout the play and move laterally to mirror defenders' moves.

7 DE Natrez Patrick Atlanta Mays
Patrick was one of the more explosive defensive ends at camp. His ability to get out of his stance quickly and beat offensive linemen to the edge was impressive. There probably wasn't a defensive lineman with quicker hands than Patrick. On one of his best reps, Patrick engaged the offensive lineman, made him overextend and then spun to the inside for a sack.

8 DE Kyle Phillips Nashville Hillsboro
Phillips had a solid day for Team Blur. He had most of his success when he stayed low out of his stance and used his hands to shed blocks. Phillips' length and strength were his best assets when going against the better offensive linemen. There was one rep when Phillips came off the line and when the offensive lineman put his hands on him, Phillips pushed both of the offensive lineman's hands up and ripped to the inside for an open route to the quarterback.

9 RB Kerryon Johnson
The overall running back MVP for the weekend did not have as impressive of a day on Sunday as he did on Saturday, but much of that was due to the fact his quarterback did not look his way often. When the quarterback did look Johnson's way he made the most of the opportunity. What we learned about the 6-foot, 200-pound Johnson this weekend is that despite having the frame of a power back, he has a soft pair of hands and is quietly dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. An Auburn commit, Johnson will be a well-rounded weapon for the Tigers.

10 DB Tarvarus McFadden Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage
Overall the Team Blur defensive backfield did not have a strong day in the 7-on-7 tournament, but McFadden was the lone bright spot. The Five-Star cornerback locked down his side of the field, giving up just one long completion on the day. As the nation's No. 21 ranked player a lot is expected of McFadden and he did not disappoint on Sunday, though compared to his performance in last year's Five-Star Challenge there were not as many jaw-dropping plays. For a cornerback, though, not having your name called is a good thing and the 6-foot-3, 190-pound McFadden kept his side cleaned up on Sunday.

TEAM RENEGADE (Eval by Woody Wommack)

1 DB Iman Marshall Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Marshall played the role of lockdown corner for Team Renegade, drawing the
opposing team's best receivers and for the most part shutting them down.
Marshall is big, physical and has excellent ball skills and showed why he's the
No. 1 cornerback in this year's class. He continues to look around when it comes
to recruiting, with schools like Notre Dame , Michigan , LSU and
Florida State all threats to odds-on favorite UCLA.

2 DL Byron Cowart Seffner (Fla.) Armwood
The nation's No. 1 player only helped solidify his top spot as he lead the way
for Team Renegade during the big man challenge. C owart is
big, strong and very athletic and excelled during both the agilities portion of the day and
one-on-ones. H e approached his trip to Baltimore with a business-like
approach and his preparation and focus paid off. Oregon , Florida and
Alabama remain in the hunt for Cowart's commitment.

3 OL Richie Petitbon Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga
Petitbon won the offensive line MVP award after dominating in one-on-ones and
showing excellent athleticism during the strength and agilities portion of the
day. Along with Cowart the Alabama commit led the way for Renegade's victory in
the Big Man Challenge and, with his skillset, he'll fit perfectly as a tough-nosed
interior lineman at the next level.

4 QB Deondre Francois Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy
Francois has really seen his stock rise over the past few months and he capped
it off by winning quarterback MVP honors in Baltimore. The talented passer took
some time to get into a rhythm with his new teammates, but once they started
clicking his game was on point. Francois had the strongest arm at the event, but
needs to continue to work on trusting his instincts when it comes to getting the
ball out of his hand. Several schools remain in the mix for Francois, with
Florida State and Tennessee both in good shape.

5 DL Antwuan Jackson (2016) Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove
Cowart played a big part in Team Renegade's victory in the Big Man Challenge but
Jackson was just behind him when it came to contributions from a defensive
lineman. Jackson is so quick off the ball and has an excellent array of moves to
go with his speed. He wrapped up the day by putting a nasty spin move on
Rivals100 offensive guard Lester Cotton and looks like he will only continue to
improve. Several schools remain in the mix for the underclassman, including
Alabama, Auburn , South Carolina and Georgia .

6 WR Sam Bruce Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
If it weren't for a leg injury that kept Bruce off the field for the better
portion of the championship game, Team Renegade may have taken home the 7-on-7
crown as well. The explosive wide receiver had several touchdowns and with his
speed and sharp route running he's a defensive back's nightmare. Working out of
the slot he's very difficult for linebackers and safeties to contain so it's no
surprise he thrived on Sunday. Bruce has a top five of Miami, Florida State,
Oregon, Ohio State and Florida .

7 WR Tyron Johnson New Orleans (La.) Warren Easton
Johnson was just as important to Team Renegade's cause as Bruce and once he and
Francois found their groove the two made quite the pair. Johnson is the No. 1
wide receiver in the nation for a reason and he made several highlight worthy
plays on Sunday. His combination of speed, size and hands make him a special
talent. Johnson is still looking at his options on the recruiting front, with
LSU , Texas Tech and Oregon all in the mix.

8 DB Levonta Taylor (2016) Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes
Taylor was one of two underclassmen defensive backs on Team Renegade but he
looked like a grizzled vet with play on Sunday. He's a physical defender who
pushes the limits of the touch football rules in 7-on-7, but he still plays
under control. His antics tend to get under the skin of opponents and if he can
continue to toe that line down the road he should continue to excel. Several
schools remain in the mix, including Virginia, Michigan, Ohio State and others.

9 DB Marcus Lewis Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy
The Florida commit was all over the field on Sunday while working at the safety
position. He was part of a stout defense that recorded a shutout during one
game, an impressive feat in 7-on-7. He's a big physical body who excels when
he's able to put the pads on, but even when he's not he's still a threat to make
a play on the ball.

10 WR John Burt Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln
Burt was drafted to be a jump ball specialist but he showed a nice, well-rounded
game in play on Sunday. He's deceptively fast and can beat you deep, as well as
excel on short and intermediate routes. He has a top three of Texas, Florida
State and Auburn and it's easy to see why all three schools are hoping to land
the prospect who could develop into a legit No. 1 threat at the next level.

TEAM CLUTCH (Eval by Adam Gorney)

1 OL Lester Cotton Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Central
Cotton is a massive man at 6-foot-4 and 318 pounds and he's super powerful. He stoned defensive linemen throughout the event. The high four-star is also surprisingly light on his feet and he moves well, too, so he can keep up with any lineman trying to use speed against him. Cotton was fantastic all weekend -- tough, powerful, physical and great with his hands.

2 ATH Terry Godwin Hogansville (Ga.) Callaway
After an underwhelming one-on-one session on Saturday, Godwin came out flying for the 7-on-7 tournament and was fantastic. He was easily the top target for Teach Clutch quarterback Brady White. He dodged three defenders after the catch on one touchdown and all day he went deep and caught long touchdown passes. At times, he was almost unstoppable in one-on-one situations.

3 S Derwin James Haines City, Fla.
After all-purpose back Taj Griffin went down with a groin injury, James stepped in at running back and thrived on both sides of the ball. Coming out of the backfield, James is athletic enough to catch passes and get up the field. On defense, James covers sideline-to-sideline so well that he can get to any deep ball.

4 DT Daron Payne Birmingham (Ala.) Shades Valley
Payne is huge and powerful and tough and big -- everything a defensive tackle could possibly be and he also plays with a lot of intensity, which makes him even tougher to slow down. Payne can bull rush for sure, but he also showed off some pretty athletic moves for someone who's 6-foot-3 and 344 pounds.

5 DB Deionte Thompson Orange (Tex.) West Orange-Stark
Thompson was excellent in coverage and his length helps him so much. Numerous times, the high four-star reached around receivers to poke the ball away and he also does a great job closing on deep passes. When a receiver goes across the middle, Thompson has an easier time than most staying close and getting his hands on the ball.

6 OL Mitch Hyatt Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett
Hyatt looks like an undersized offensive tackle who might struggle against bigger defensive ends, but he does not. He is a technician at the position, using his feet well, his hands well, everything well. The Clemson commit can handle inside moves and outside moves and for someone who can still add weight, he is physical for his size.

7 OL Javon Patterson Petal, Miss.
Patterson was absolutely phenomenal in Saturday's one-on-one session and on Sunday, he continued with another strong performance. He does not get pushed back -- ever. He stands his ground and plants his feet and drives defensive linemen back. Close to 300 pounds, Patterson moves well, but his power is what makes him stand out the most.

8 QB Brady White Newhall (Calif.) Hart
White started off really strong and did a fantastic job finding receivers deep. His long ball is strikingly accurate and he found his receivers on go routes multiple times. One of White's best assets is that he's smart and rarely forces passes. If the deep pass is there, the Arizona State commit will take it. If not, he'll dump it down and move the chains.

9 WR Dionte Mullins (2016) Miami Gulliver Prep
Mullins is a little undersized, but he goes down the sidelines, runs by cornerbacks and then does an excellent job especially for an underclassman of concentrating and bringing in the ball. Bigger cornerbacks have a tough time staying with him because of his speed and Mullins does a solid job of catching the ball in a crowd.

10 DT Rashan Gary (2016) Scotch Plains (N.J.) Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Gary was hot and cold throughout the weekend, but he showed toughness and a lot of heart during one-on-ones on Sunday. He didn't win every rep, but he was really physical and hard-nosed and did a better job on Day 2. He has excellent size, too, and once he gets more used to this level of competition, he could get better and better.



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