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June 13, 2013
The second annual Rivals100 Five Star Challenge presented by Under Armour took place this past weekend in Chicago with more than 100 of the top prospects in the country competing in drills, one-on-ones, 7-on-7 play and the Big Man Challenge. Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell was on hand for the all the action and, as has become customary for big events, he breaks down the best and the worst in his Farrell Awards.
Lightning in a bottle
KD Cannon, Mount Pleasant, Texas: This award goes to the most dynamic and exciting player at the event, the guy who gets everyone's attention when he touches the ball. While there were many players who fit the category, Cannon was simply electric.
He was so sudden in his cuts and movements and created so much separation that he was nearly impossible to check and he did everything at top speed.
Honorable Mention: Malachi Dupre from River Ridge (La.) John Curtis arrived on the field on Saturday. From that point, everything he did was at top speed and brought excitement to the camp. Artavis Scott from Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake was also explosive and exciting and Joe Mixon from Oakley (Calif.) Freedom was arguably the best player overall at the event.
Bo Scarbrough, Northport (Ala.) Tuscaloosa County: This goes to the player who looks the best getting off the bus (or in this case coming through registration) and Scarbrough is the man hands down. He looks like an NFL player physically and was the one guy who turned everyone's head, especially since he was at the event last year and looked nothing like he does now.
Honorable Mention: Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand showed up at a chiseled 261 pounds and showing added bulk, even from the last time we saw him in April. Pittsburgh (Pa.) Baldwin offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins has the size of a college senior, Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor defensive end Jalyn Holmes has bulked up since April and Detroit (Mich.) Loyola defensive end Malik McDowell is as good-looking as it gets at his position.
Christian Kirk, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro: This goes to the smallest player who made the biggest impact, and that's Kirk, hands down. He looks smaller than his listed 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds and is very quick and sudden in the open field. He was outstanding on Saturday and did well on Sunday despite poor quarterback play. He reminds me of a thinner but faster Davonte Neal, who was also an Arizona standout a few years back.
Honorable Mention: Richmond (Texas) Travis cornerback Nick Harvey isn't very tall, but he plays much bigger than his size. There's no way he's taller than 5-foot-10, but it doesn't matter much because he's compact, strong, explosive to the ball and a playmaker.
Demetrius Knox, Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints Episcopal: The winner of this award is the prospect who plays with the most passion and anger, and Knox was an animal on both days. He came in with something to prove and was physical off the snap, dominated with his arm extension and wanted to put prospects into the ground when he could.
While many of his reps didn't end with anyone in the dirt, it was clear that he was playing with an edge others were lacking.
Honorable Mention: Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith defensive tackle Andrew Brown had their moments. Nnadi took more reps than anyone and loved to engage physically and Brown was practically frothing at the mouth during his rematch with Knox after he finally got the best of him.
Jamal Adams, Lewisville (Texas) Hebron: This award goes to the biggest trash-talker at the event and Adams was quite chatty. He also backed up his talk with excellent play and he got in the head of a few different opponents. Oddly enough, there weren't many talkers at this event but Adams was one of them, especially according to opponents.
Honorable Mention: Demetrius Knox and Derrick Nnadi were both very boisterous after big wins in the one-on-ones, although it didn't seem directed at anyone except for the opponent they just dominated.
Jalen Brown, Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe: This award goes to the prospect who hurt his ranking the most and the tough choice here is Brown for one reason and one reason only -- he seems to be hurt way too often. Brown was one of the few injured prospects to be invited from our RCS regional camps when he was tabbed in early March, but he was supposed to be healthy by June. He showed up banged up again, participated here and there on Saturday and never gave it a go on Sunday. The talent is there but the reputation of being injury-prone is making the rounds and makes his top 50 status a bit of a reach.
Honorable Mention: Steven Moss from Fredericksburg (Va.) Chancellor is an example of "be careful what you wish for." No one wanted an invitation to Chicago more than Moss did but there is a risk/reward ratio when it comes to going against the best in the country. You can be rewarded for a great performance or downgraded for being outmatched and the latter was the case for Moss. Ponte Vedra, Fla., linebacker Dillon Bates came in with high expectations as a cover linebacker and really struggled all weekend, Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe offensive guard Natrell Curtis sat out Sunday with his teammate Brown and was out of shape and beaten easily in limited play, and Saint Clairsville, Ohio, linebacker Michael Ferns didn't show great flexibility at the Pittsburgh RCS and showed less in Chicago before an injury ended his day.
Malachi Dupre, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis: This goes to the player who raised his stock the most and it seems Dupre made a case for being better than the No. 7 wide receiver in the country. In fact, the difference between Nos. 1 and 2 (both on hand) and Dupre didn't seem to be much at all. Dupre needs to fill out a bit but he has everything you want in a receiver -- size, quickness, polish, good hands and a great motor.
Honorable Mention: Jenks, Okla. safety Steven Parker impressed with his instincts and read-react ability in 7-on-7 play while Indianapolis (Ind.) Speedway receiver Justin Brent showed that perhaps No. 26 at wide receiver is a bit low for him. Plaquemine, La., defensive end Davon Godchaux came in outside the top 150 and outside the top 10 at his position and both of those rankings could be low, and Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco offensive guard Damien Mama is clearly better than No. 5 at his position.
Shot of Jolt
Derrick Nnadi, Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes: This goes to the prospect who showed the most energy and pep in his step and Nnadi was shot out of a cannon.
He took as many reps as possible, was constantly in motion in drills and during the Big Man Challenge, and he looked like he was on a mission or at the very least trying not to be the forgotten defensive lineman in Virginia. He certainly made his point.
Honorable Mention: Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton defensive end Qualen Cunningham was very active on both days and had more energy than anyone during the timed events of the Big Man Challenge, while Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra cornerback Adoree Jackson wouldn't stay off the field, playing both defense and offense both days.
Josh Rosen, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco (2015): This goes to the quarterback who throws the prettiest ball and "spins it" better than anyone else and surprisingly, it goes to an underclassman. Rosen only participated on Saturday but he threw the best ball of the six quarterbacks in action that day and it's safe to say he has a better release and arm than some of the older quarterbacks who competed on Sunday.
Honorable Mention: Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain quarterback Kyle Allen started slowly on Saturday but got better, especially when 7-on-7 play began. He was in a zone on Sunday and the ball came out without effort and on the mark, but also with some zip. Denton (Texas) Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard throws a nice ball with a tight spiral and he was on point all day Saturday. Unfortunately on Sunday, his nice spirals were off the mark quite often.
Sony Michel, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage: This goes to the prospect with the best footwork, regardless of position, and Michel showed off excellent footwork in drills. His ability to plant and cut to gain extra yardage in 7-on-7, where it's touch football, was impressive. All the running backs on hand had great feet, but Michel had the niftiest.
DaMarkus Lodge, Cedar Hill, Texas (2015): This award goes to the player with the best hands and Lodge gets the nod here. He catches everything thrown his way and adjusts so effortlessly to badly thrown balls he looks much older and more experienced. Remember this is the guy who played behind a bunch of D-1 prospects last year and caught fewer than 10 passes. He's one of the most natural pass catchers you'll ever see.
Honorable Mention: KD Cannon made a ton of nice catches and showed off great balance and the ability to maintain top speed while pulling in the ball. West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman receiver Travis Rudolph also caught the ball with ease. Joe Mixon has rare pass-catching ability for a running back and made some amazing catches at the end of Saturday in 7-on-7 prep.
Poise under pressure
Kyle Allen, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain: The quarterback that doesn't get rattled gets this award each time we hand it out and this was an easy choice. Allen was on point all day Sunday during the 7-on-7 tournament and when the game was on the line, he always delivered. He looked off defenders, never seemed to rush things and every time his team needed a big completion, he was there to deliver.
Honorable Mention: Deshaun Watson from Gainesville, Ga., was up and down during the weekend but he got better as the 7-on-7 tournament progressed and he led his team into the finals. He also marched his team down the field for a touchdown as time ran out and came a few seconds away from being able to tie the title game.
Watson wasn't as on point as Allen was Sunday, but he delivered some key passes when needed.
Jerrod Heard, Denton (Texas) Guyer: This isn't an award you want to win, as it goes to the quarterback who locked in on his targets way too often. Heard was very impressive on Saturday, throwing the ball with zip and confidence and leading his receivers well, but when there were more bodies on the field, he didn't look off his first option enough and locked in on way too many of the same players without spreading the ball around.
Honorable Mention: Drew Barker from Burlington (Ken.) Conner hooked up with fellow Team Rivals wide receiver Ermon Lane early and often in his team's only win, but he seemed to forget about many of the other receivers after that until it was too late. By the time Barker started to look for Mixon more consistently, the sure-fire most dangerous prospect at the camp in 7-on-7 play, it was too late for his team.
Marlon Humphrey, Hoover, Ala.: We could call this award "the blanket," but it doesn't sound as cool. This is for the defensive back who provided the best overall coverage at the event. Humphrey was on the hip of every wide receiver and made some terrific plays. He was beaten only a few times, but beyond that testing his side of the field was a mistake.
Honorable Mention: Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy defensive back Jalen Tabor made some big plays and seemed to be around the football often except for a few mistakes, while Damon Webb had a great Saturday and a solid Sunday overall. Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage defensive back Tarvarus McFadden is a 2015 prospect, but he played like he was much older and came away with some of the biggest plays in the tournament itself.
Tarvarus McFadden, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage (2015): This goes to the player who had the most interceptions at the event, and McFadden had two in 7-on-7 play, which puts him above the rest because they meant the most. He is a tall kid who has the hips to play cornerback but the size to be a great free safety. His ceiling is very high.
Honorable Mention: Steven Parker had a nice diving interception in 7-on-7 prep on Saturday and another pick in the actual tournament on Sunday.
While he struggled a bit in the one-on-ones, as any safety would on an island against receivers running triple moves, in game play he was outstanding and showed great instincts and ball skills.
Trent Sherfield, Danville, Ill.: It's hard to find a sleeper when you invite 104 of the best prospects in the country, but when someone cancels at the last minute there is a great opportunity for a local prospect such as Sherfield to step up. He more than held his own with some of the best defensive backs in the country and even drew praise from the defensive back coaches who had no idea he was the only three-star at the event.
Honorable Mention: Falcon, Colo., athlete Kalen Ballage is ranked in the national top 150 so it's hard to label him a sleeper, but there were a few cynics who didn't think he could hang in. Ballage was invited as a linebacker but worked out as a running back and wide receiver and showed excellent ball skills. Travis Rudolph was made a four-star in our most recent rankings and showed he belonged in that group, and Justin Brent showed he might not play against the best competition, but he held his own.
Jekyll and Hyde
Jerrod Heard, Denton (Texas) Guyer: This award goes to the prospect who looked great on one day and simply overmatched on another. In most cases, as with Heard, it's someone who starts off very quickly on day one and comes crashing down to earth the next. He was on point Saturday and his play, along with a talented group of wide receivers, made his team the favorite going into Sunday. However, his play fell off badly and he didn't look like the same player.
Honorable Mention: Homestead, Fla., wide receiver Ermon Lane looked disinterested on Saturday and wasn't fighting for the ball but showed off why he is ranked No. 2 at his position early on Sunday. Norcross defensive end Lorenzo Carter looked lost on Saturday and frustrated but on Sunday he was much better in the one-on-ones. New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette caught the ball very well on Saturday and ran some solid routes but on Sunday he fought the ball quite a bit. Finally, Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy offensive lineman Alex Bars had one of the moments of the weekend on Saturday when he beat Carter three straight times -- one of them shirtless -- but on Sunday he got beaten quite often and seemed to be flat-footed.
All or nothing
Malik McDowell, Detroit (Mich.) Loyola: You don't want to win this award as it goes to the player who seemed to give up a bit when faced with adversity. McDowell looked like a million bucks physically and had some nice moments, but when he got beaten in the one-on-ones he would simply stop working toward the cone. He did this on numerous occasions and seemed to be defeated emotionally as well as physically on a few reps.
Honorable Mention: Ermon Lane came alive when the ball was thrown his way and was in a good position for him to make a play, but when it wasn't he seemed not to care. Coconut Creek (Fla.) Monarch defensive back Shawn Burgess-Becker became so frustrated after being beaten a few times on Saturday that he asked to move to offense, and Artavis Scott took a long time to rebound after each dropped pass.
Derrick Nnadi, Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes: Not only was Nnadi the most energetic prospect at the camp, he was also the hardest worker. He took the most reps, he worked the hardest in all the drills and timed events and he never seemed to slow down. He has tremendous inner desire and such a competitive nature it belies his quiet off-the-field demeanor.
Honorable Mention: Malachi Dupre showed an infectious work ethic, Adoree Jackson looked like he never wanted to leave the field and Damien Mama jumped into as many reps as he could and never slowed down despite being the biggest and heaviest player at the event.
Gotta wear shades
Josh Rosen, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco (2015): The future is so bright ... you get the message. This is about the 2015 prospects and who has the highest upside. Rosen has five-star ability at quarterback based on the small sample size we saw, and he carries himself with such confidence that it's clear he's got that gunslinger mentality. His frustration watching a few other quarterbacks he knew he was better than on Sunday speaks to his confidence level.
Honorable Mention: DaMarkus Lodge was outstanding and has a chance to be a great receiver, Suwannee (Ga.) North Gwinnett offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt beat five-stars such as Hand and Carter, and Tarvarus McFadden had more picks than anyone. These are just a few of the top 2015 prospects to keep an eye on.
Jalen Brown, Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe: The training table was filled with black jerseys as Team Rivals took hit after hit, especially on Saturday. Brown was getting his ankle looked at as often as he was on the field and didn't test it on Sunday at all. He was a key cog for Team Rivals, the outside complement to Lane and Johnnie Dixon, but never made an impact.
Honorable Mention: Natrell Curtis sat out Sunday and Joshua Casher from Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's was bothered by injury for Team Rivals. Michael Ferns hurt his quad on Sunday and missed much of the tournament and Adonis Jennings was the only one who seemed to have a serious injury as he hurt his shoulder and hit his head on Saturday and missed Sunday's action.
Speedy Noil, New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr: How can a player who doesn't even play end up as the most disappointing? Noil signed up for the event, had his travel booked and his attendance was confirmed all the way up until Friday when everyone else flew in and no one could get in touch with him, his family or anyone else. There were only three last-second cancellations and two called ahead with family issues, but never hearing a word from Noil was not only worrisome, but disappointing.
Honorable Mention: Dillon Bates had been so good in coverage that maybe we expected too much from him, Jalen Brown and Natrell Curtis are friends and teammates and might have mailed it in after Saturday, and Andrew Brown and Lorenzo Carter flashed five-star talent but also struggled at times.