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June 6, 2014

Five-Star Challenge: Team scouting reports

Four teams will compete in a 7-on-7 tournament and Big Man Challenge at the 2014 Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge Presented by Under Armour this weekned at M&T Bank Stadium. Rivals will offer a live video steam of 7-on-7 games, so check back with us Sunday. Here is an inside look at each of the teams.
Strengths: From top to bottom, there may not be a better group of defensive backs on any of the four teams. Five-star Tarvarus McFadden leads the way at cornerback, and he is in his second year attending the event. McFadden is joined by the nation's No. 20 ranked player, Rashad Roundtree, at safety, but the supporting cast complements those two five-stars extremely well. Cornerback Isaiah Langley has great length and is ultra-competitive; safety Tyree Kinnel has outstanding coverage skills for his position; and cornerback Ugo Amadi is a player who has few weaknesses in his game.

Concerns: There is little doubt that Jonathan Ledbetter and stud sophomore Derrick Brown will be able to win the majority of their reps, there are some question marks on the defensive line when it comes to Kyle Phillips and Natrez Patrick. Patrick is a little undersized, and some people even think he will be a linebacker in college. The Georgia commit will have to use his speed to his advantage and show some progress in his hand technique to have a lot of success. Phillips is going to be facing the best competition he has ever gone against. The concern is that he has not had much experience against competition like this because he has been recovering from various injuries.

Headliner: There are higher-ranked players on this team, but in this setting the player to watch is all-purpose back Ray-Ray McCloud III. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound four-star is ranked as the No. 26 player in the country because he is so difficult to defend in the open field. That will make him a favorite target in the passing game and a constant headache for defenses.

Most to prove: Brandon Wimbush. He has been gunning for the top overall quarterback spot for a while, and now he will be on the right stage to prove there are none better than him. The Penn State pledge might have the strongest arm in the country, and his accuracy on short and intermediate passes has improved significantly. The most telling sign of his progress will be how quickly he can decipher coverages and throw an accurate ball to the right receiver.

2016 prospect to watch: Cameron Chambers. Chambers is already one of the top players in the 2016 class, but he has never faced defensive backs like the ones he will be up against this weekend. The combination of speed and length that some of these defensive backs have could give Chambers some problems. His ability to break free in the open field will be tested more than it has ever before.

Don't be surprised if ...: Preston Williams finishes with more touchdowns than any other receiver at the event. The 6-foot-4 pass catcher has great leaping ability and body control, and he should be targeted heavily in the red zone.

-- Adam Friedman and Josh Helmholdt

Strengths: Arizona State commit Brady White from Newhall (Calif.) Hart is the most seasoned 7-on-7 quarterback at the event, and that will be a crucial factor during that portion of camp. The one-two punch at wide receiver of Georgia commit Terry Godwin and high four-star Da'Vante Phillips out of Miami (Fla.) Central could be a difference maker. The interior offensive and defensive linemen -- highlighted by five-star defensive tackles Rasheem Green and Daron Payne and the nation's top guard, Alabama commit Lester Cotton -- will be factors.

Concerns: The youth at linebacker is an issue. Havelock (N.C.) standout Keion Joyner and Montgomery (Ala.) Carver's Lyndell Wilson are supremely talented but may not be used to this level of competition since they're both 2016 prospects. The Missouri players chosen -- wide receiver Alex Ofodile and tight end Hale Hentges -- will have to acclimate quickly to the step up in competition.

Headliner: Terry Godwin, the nation's top-rated athlete and a Georgia commit, could make an instant impact on offense for this team. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound prospect has the quickest feet in the class, and many cornerbacks are going to be flatfooted when going up against him. Team Clutch is loaded with athletic receivers and a good size/speed combination, and Godwin could be the best of the bunch.

Most to prove: It's not usual for a five-star prospect to have the most to prove, but both Clemson commit Mitch Hyatt (needs to add weight) and LSU pledge Maea Teuhema (is he a guard or tackle?) fit this category.

2016 prospect to watch: Baltimore (Md.) St. Frances defensive end Rahshaun Smith was stellar at the Rivals Camp Series New Jersey stop and has drawn early comparisons to Da'Shawn Hand, the top-rated player in the 2014 class, for his explosiveness and agility.

Don't be surprised if ...: Five-star Florida State safety pledge Derwin James is the most physical and violent of all the defensive backs.

-- Adam Gorney and Mike Farrell

Strengths: Team Highlight features proven wide receivers who have shined on the 7-on-7 stage in the past. Both Christian Kirk and Trent Irwin are seasoned 7-on-7 commodities who have won MVP awards in such settings. The duo's speed and soft hands make it an intriguing one-two punch that will provide quarterback Blake Barnett with two reliable targets throughout the tournament. Stanley Morgan has also been fantastic on the camp circuit and could easily steal the show if called upon often.

Concerns: Five-star tackle Chuma Edoga, a USC commit, is a nice headliner for the position group. His presence will certainty be felt, but the depth of Team Highlight's offensive line can easily be questioned. Even highly ranked players, such as Oklahoma-based prospect Josh Wariboko, have never seen this level of competition. That makes such players serious question marks going forward. Sterling Jenkins has not had a tremendous spring, and 2016 prospect Ben Cleveland has plenty to prove at an event populated with blue-chip prospects who have a year of experience on him.

Headliner: Kevin Toliver II. Toliver, a five-star prospect and the No. 8 prospect in the 2015 class, is the highest ranked player on Team Highlight and will carry quite a reputation into the event. Toliver has clashed with top-level prospects in the past and is one of the safer bets to shine as a result. The weekend should do wonders to help prepare Toliver, an LSU commit, for the level of competition he'll eventually face in the SEC, which works well for him because he seems to always be at his best when the stage is biggest. All eyes will be on him as he attempts to lock down future star after future star.

Most to prove: In 2013, defensive tackle Daylon Mack arrived at the Five-Star Challenge as a raw prospect. He was a stout, strong guy in the middle of the line who relied on his bulrush but really did not have a lot of his game developed. At the 2014 Dallas Rivals Camp Series event, he showed an improved repertoire of moves and hand work with his speed and explosiveness. However, he has some doubters out there looking to see that he is more than a one-trick pony. Another performance like he had in Dallas will go a long way to silence his doubters and could put him in the running for the top spot at his position.

2016 prospect to watch: This could easily go to offensive lineman Ben Cleveland, but we'll lean toward linebacker Michael Divinity. All he did during the Rivals Camp Series was grab two linebacker MVP awards, and he was a mismatch for tight ends and running backs. He could end up being at the top of his position in coverage and set himself up as one of the top linebacker prospects in the 2016 class. He has a lot of range and is comfortable in space, and he has plenty of tools at his disposal.

Don't be surprised if ...: The wide receiver group is a strong one, and Christian Kirk and Kirk Merritt make headlines with their measurables and test abilities. However, do not be surprised if Trent Irwin and Stanley Morgan steal the show with their reliability. Irwin flat out catches anything thrown his way, and Morgan will do whatever it takes to make the grab. Morgan and Stanley have their knocks, but both do whatever it takes when it comes to catching the football.

-- Rob Cassidy and Jason Howell

Strengths: Team Renegade boasts two of the top three cornerbacks in the country and three of the top eight at the position in Iman Marshall, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marcus Lewis. Throw in Levonta Taylor, one of the top prospects in the Class of 2016, and Richard LeCounte, one of only four 2017 players to be invited to the event, and Renegade's defensive backfield should be in full-on lockdown mode all weekend long.

Concerns: With a team as deep as Renegade it's tough to really pinpoint an area of concern but if there's one potential question it's on the offensive line. The team is highlighted by elite 2016 offensive tackle Gregory Little, who has been very impressive on Friday nights but has yet to compete in a camp setting against the level of talent he'll see in Baltimore. The rest of the squad is filled with Rivals250 talents such as Richie Petitbon, Austin Clark and Jerry Tillery, but all three will need to excel in one-on-ones to help bring home the Big Man Challenge crown.

Headliner: Byron Cowart. The nation's No. 1 player highlights what could be the No. 1 team at the Five-Star Challenge. While there's a emphasis on the 7-on-7 tournament, Cowart will be the favorite to dominate one-on-ones, and his size and speed should lend well to the other areas of the Big Man Challenge. Cowart will have a target on his back, but he'll be look to extend his lead on the No. 1 overall spot with a strong showing.

Most to prove: Sam Bruce. The undersized wideout will be looking to show that he belongs among the elite talent in the 2016 class and specifically at the wide receiver position. Bruce is explosive and is a standout for the South Florida Express, one of the nation's top 7-on-7 teams. His game should fit in well, but he'll be blanketed by some elite defensive backs and will need to show that he can not only get open but deal with the physicality of bigger defenders.

2016 to prospect watch: Demetris Robertson. The lanky wide receiver can also play some defensive back, and he stole the show at the Atlanta Rivals Camp, one of the most talent-rich camps on the entire Rivals Camp Series. Now he'll be looking to do the same in Baltimore. As one of only four wide receivers on the team, Robertson will have to pull his weight for Renegade to bring home the crown.

Don't be surprised if ...: Deondre Francois helps his stock with a strong showing. Francois will be the man at the helm for a team that features weapons all over the field. He'll be playing with club 7-on-7 teammate and five-star running back Jacques Patrick, as well as Tyron Johnson, the nation's No. 1 wide receiver. If Francois is going to be among the nation's top quarterbacks, there's no better place to prove it than at the Five-Star Challenge.

-- Woody Wommack

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