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June 1, 2013
Rivals.com, the nation's leader in football recruiting coverage, is bringing more than 100 of the country's top prospects to participate in the second annual Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour. The free, invitation-only camp for the nation's elite will feature top prospects at all positions from the classes of 2014 and 2015. Each position is loaded with talent, and today we take a look at the linebackers.
Kalen Ballage, Falcon, Colo.; Dillon Bates, Ponte Vedra, Fla.; Derik Calhoun, El Cerrito, Calif.; Jamardre Cobb, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian; Kain Daub, Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood; Ricky DeBerry, Richmond (Va.) St. Christopher's; Michael Ferns, Saint Clairsville, Ohio; Clifton Garrett, Joliet (Ill.) Plainfield South; Shaun Dion Hamilton, Montgomery (Ala.) Carver; John Houston (2015), Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra; Raekwon McMillan, Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County; Joshua McMillon, Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven; Nyles Morgan, Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee; Zach Whitley, Galena Park (Texas) North Shore; Dwight Williams, Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra; Tre Williams, Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's
After being named one of the initial five-stars in the class of 2014 last fall, McMillan has been in the conversation for the nation's best linebacker ever since. After a brief lull in the winter, he's back as a five-star and looking to move up in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour. McMillan has all the physical tools, and there's a reason he's the No. 1 linebacker in the country. The Five-Star Challenge will be his chance to further solidify his grip on the top spot.
Cobb has a unique advantage because he attended the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta last summer, so he has a feel for this event and the high competition level to expect. It could help him throughout the weekend. The biggest differences are that Cobb is a year older, a year stronger (he's significantly bulked up) and a year smarter coming into the Five-Star Challenge. Because he doesn't do a lot of interviews, Cobb is a little under the radar. A strong showing in Chicago could change that.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Bates may be pound-for-pound the best coverage linebacker in the country. He covers like a safety and has the fast-twitch agility to stay with quicker backs out of the backfield. We like his closing ability and excellent football instincts. Look for him to shine once the seven-on-seven tournament starts because of his above-average cover skills and route recognition.
MOST TO PROVE
The hard-hitting Hamilton made a big jump in the latest Rivals100 rankings release after his standout performance at RCS Birmingham and reevaluation of his junior tape. Now it will be up to the downhill, second-level defender to show his lofty rise wasn't a fluke. Hamilton has a thick, muscular body frame, but he is far from a liability in space. He has a great burst and a nose for the ball. Even though his coverage skills will be heavily analyzed, we feel he will be fine and up for the challenge.
BEST CHANCE TO BOOST STOCK
Whitley has been considered among the top linebackers in the Southwest since arriving on the varsity scene as a sophomore at Galena Park North Shore. He has not attended many camps, and we will be able to get a good look at how well he moves in space and works in coverage. He has been a playmaker for North Shore, and it could be a productive weekend for the Alabama commitment.
UNDERCLASSMAN TO WATCH
McMillon comes in as one of the most unknown prospects, but he's hoping that a strong showing at the Five-Star Challenge vaults him into the national conversation. He plays for perennial Memphis power Whitehaven and is listed at 6-foot-2, 227 pounds, so the physical tools are there. It's just a matter of proving that he can play with some of the nation's top talents. If so, he could be the next big prospect to come out of Memphis.