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June 12, 2013

Challenge: Team Yahoo! what we learned

MORE: Complete Five-Star Challenge coverage

The Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour featured the top prospects in the country on the field at Soldier Field in Chicago. Here is what we learned about Team Yahoo! at the event.

Allen posts career day

Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain star Kyle Allen was expected to be the top-performing quarterback coming into the Five-Star Challenge. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound passer has lit up every camp he has attended this off-season, and he started with a solid though unspectacular day during Saturday's camp portion of the event.

When the 7-on-7 competition began Sunday, however, Allen started hot and finished with one of the best individual performances we have seen in a camp setting. The Texas A&M commit completed all but two passes -- both drops by wide receivers -- in the first game of the day, a 28-0 rout of Team Flickr. He finished by going 12-of-17 for 176 yards and four touchdowns in the championship game.

What made Allen's day so spectacular was not just the numbers, however, but the precision of the passes he threw. He dropped the corner route in perfect position time after time, and he was expertly placing passes down the middle of the field over the linebackers and underneath the safeties. His accuracy was pinpoint, his velocity was strong, he moved quickly through his progressions, and he saw the field extremely well. It was a clear MVP performance.

Defensive backs meet the hype

If we had had to pick one strength of Team Yahoo! going into the weekend, it would have been the defensive backs. Cornerbacks Damon Webb and Marlon Humphrey and safeties Jamal Adams and John Smith are rated among the top 50 prospects in the class of 2014, while class of 2015 cornerback Iman Marshall boasts an offer list that is close to 20 schools deep.

By weekend's end, the hardware in the Team Yahoo! trophy case proved the defensive back group met the hype. Webb, an Ohio State commit, was named the top defensive back out of Saturday's action, while Humphrey took home defensive skill MVP honors on Sunday. Both were named to the All-Challenge team, while Smith and Adams made strong cases for inclusion. Marshall, meanwhile, helped his team on Sunday by registering an important interception.

Besides making an interception and breaking up several passes on Sunday, Adams was the vocal leader of the squad and displayed strong leadership characteristics. Smith, meanwhile, goes about his business more quietly but speaks volumes with his play. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Smith has great range in the secondary. Combining those two in center field with Humphrey, Marshall and Webb on the outside, Team Yahoo! boasted one of the greatest collections of defensive backs ever assembled for a 7-on-7 team.

Young linemen works in progress

Team Yahoo! featured the most underclassman linemen -- five -- of any of the four teams, yet it managed to finish second in Sunday's Big Man Challenge. The talent and the youth of the underclassman linemen on Team Yahoo! were evident at different times.

The most consistent performer out of the five underclassmen was Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound junior-to-be came out of the gates Sunday with a big one-one-one win against the nation's No. 1 overall player, Da'Shawn Hand, and was a solidly impressive performer throughout the weekend.

Despite just finishing his sophomore year, 6-foot-8, 307-pound Sterling Jenkins was the biggest prospect at the Five-Star Challenge. He showed surprising leadership and poise for a youngster, but he has plenty of technical development ahead of him. The same can be said for Petal, Miss., offensive tackle Javon Patterson, who will be good one day but is not there yet.

On the defensive line, East St. Louis, Ill., defensive end Terry Beckner Jr. matched up well physically with the upperclassmen but did not find as much room to operate as he did at an early Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour event in St. Louis. There were individual reps on which he flashed his brilliance; he just needed to find consistency. Meanwhile, Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra defensive tackle Rasheem Green showed he needs maturing on and off the field.

Pass catchers are playmakers

While Allen grabbed the headlines, the corps of wide receivers on Team Yahoo! also had outstanding performances Sunday, with four players catching three or more touchdowns. Mount Pleasant, Texas, wide receiver KD Cannon, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman receiver Travis Rudolph and Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood tight end Daniel Helm landed on the All-Challenge team for the weekend.

The fourth member of that group who stood out was Indianapolis (Ind.) Speedway's Justin Brent, who was a top five performer at wide receiver on Saturday and caught two touchdown passes in the championship game on Sunday, including the game winner. Brent's game sits almost halfway between Cannon's big-play ability and Rudolph's sure-handed possession receiver role.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Helm was arguably the most effective red zone weapon at the event. He found the soft spots in coverage, made tough catches with defenders around him and outmuscled opponents for jump balls. Allen looked for Cannon and Brent down the field and Rudolph and Helm when he needed to make a first down or convert a score in the red zone.

Solomon's Temple

Coming into the Five-Star Challenge, it would have been hard for Coppell, Texas, defensive end Solomon Thomas to raise his stock even more, considering he is ranked as the No. 30 prospect in the country, but the 6-foot-3, 259-pound prospect decided to make Soldier Field his own personal playground and put together an outstanding weekend.

Thomas was a big reason Team Yahoo! finished an improbable second in the Big Man Challenge on Sunday. He went 5-0 in the one-on-one portion of the Challenge, beating Alex Bars twice and Damian Prince once, and Bars and Prince were two of the four offensive linemen who finished the weekend on the All-Challenge team.

The strength of Thomas' game is no doubt his first step. In a camp in which seemingly every defensive linemean had an explosive first step, Thomas' was just that much more impressive and offensive linemen spent all weekend trying to adjust. Thomas then comes back with good hand work and effective counter moves that should make him an effective pass rusher for years to come.



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