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March 23, 2012

Rivals.com/VTO Alabama: Top story lines

MORE: Rivals/VTO page | Alabama D | Alabama O

Saturday's Rivals.com/VTO Sports Alabama Elite 100 in Leeds will feature many of the region's elite players. Coming into the event, here are five things Rivals.com Southeast analysts Keith Niebuhr and Chris Nee are most excited to watch:

1. Four-star vs. four-star

The one-on-one sessions are always the most anticipated part of any camp, but that is especially the case here. In the offensive line-defensive line segment, we expect to see a big-time showdown between a pair of Rivals100 prospects - strongside defensive end Dee Liner of Muscle Shoals (Ala.) and offensive tackle Austin Golson of Prattville (Ala.). Among all Alabama players, only tight end O.J. Howard is higher in the national rankings. Despite their lofty ratings, neither Liner nor Golson is satisfied. Liner, an Auburn commit, is out to prove he's five-star worthy. Golson, who has pledged to Florida State, is firm in his belief that he is the state's No. 1 player. Both are hungry to compete. Whatever happens Saturday, no matter which one gets the better of the other, each is sure to come out a better player on the other side of their epic high school matchup.

2. Who's the man in metro Memphis?

Mark Dodson Jr. of Memphis Whitehaven and Jordan Wilkins of Cordova (Tenn.) St. Benedict just might be the top two players in the Memphis area. Both are four-star prospects. Both are members of the Rivals250. Both have solid offers. On Saturday, these two standouts will be in the same position group. Not only will they be trying to fine tune their respective skills, but they no doubt will want to show the other what kind of game they have. Dodson is an all-purpose back with great speed and terrific instincts. At the high school level, he is deadly in the open field. The 6-1, 193-pound Wilkins, who is put together as well as perhaps any running back in the Southeast, is a patient runner with excellent strength and very good acceleration.

3. Mr. Robinson's neighborhood

This event will feature several excellent receivers, but without question the headliner is Auburn commit Earnest Robinson of Pinson Valley (Ala.), who at 6-3, 200 pounds is quite a lot for a defensive back to handle. Robinson knows how to use that frame to his advantage, but he also runs well, has great leaping ability and solid hands. For good measure, he's not exactly easy to tackle. Robinson just missed making the recently released Rivals100. It will be interesting to see how the defensive backs on hand try to defend him. You can bet the ultra-competitive Darrius Sims of Memphis Whitehaven will be among the first in line to challenge Robinson. The question is, can he - or anyone else for that matter - contain him?

4. The versatility of Howard

Autauga (Ala.) Autauga Academy four-star tight end O.J. Howard has already demonstrated his ability at other camps and combines over the past few months. In a camp setting, the 6-5, 221-pound prospect is a pleasure to watch because he can be used in a number of ways. He can line up at tight end, the position we project him to play in college, and is a complete mismatch for linebackers and safeties due to his height, length, and athleticism. Those same qualities allow him to be spread as a wide receiver and go against the most athletic cornerbacks you can find, but he is able to use his size to his advantage to make plays. Howard isn't just physically impressive, he is also good at his job as he consistently makes the catch and can make things happen downfield with the ball in his hands.

5. Introducing the Super Sophs

At last year's event, Liner burst onto the scene with a dominant performance. Which sophomores will step forward Saturday? Two to watch might be running backs Bo Scarbrough of Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Northridge and Racean Thomas of Oxford (Ala.). The 6-2, 215-pound Scarbrough, who already sports Alabama and Mississippi State offers, has an awesome combination of size, speed and power. Not only is he an excellent ballcarrier, but he's a very good pass receiver. In a nutshell, he's a special talent. The 5-11, 195-pound Thomas also has some serious potential. He's a guy with quick feet and great balance, and he's a patient runner who seems to know exactly when to burst through a hole. These two will add a great punch to an already stacked running backs group. It should be fun to see how they stack up with Dodson and Wilkins

If you are the coach or parent of a prospect with D-I offers or likely to receive D-I offers, or the prospect himself, contact Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell at mike@rivals.com, via Twitter at @rivalsmike or via Facebook.

These camps are INVITE ONLY and you must pre-register to attend, there will be no walk ups allowed.



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