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June 24, 2012

Best of #RivalsChallenge 7-on-7

MORE: #RivalsChallenge thread | Full coverage

ATLANTA - The Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge concluded on Sunday with a big man challenge and 7-on-7 competition. Here is a breakdown of some of the best players and moments in the 7-on-7 tournament.

Best Quarterback

Fork Union (Va.) Fork Union Military Academy pro-style quarterback Christian Hackenberg

None of the four quarterbacks at the event blew the doors off, but Hackenberg was a major reason why the Northeast squad claimed the championship. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound signal-caller was up-and-down but the strong parts of his performance were very impressive. He has plenty of arm strength to throw it down the field. His best throws on the day were when he laid it over the defense and put it over the shoulder of a receiver in stride.

Best catch

Pinson Valley (Ala.) wide receiver Earnest Robinson Robinson out-jumped West defensive back Chris Hawkins in the back of the end zone in traffic and won the ball, scoring for a touchdown. He came down while falling into the Rivals.com banner that was draped in the back of the end zone and held onto the ball. It was one of many highlight catches made by Robinson on the day. Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln wide receiver Taj Williams also made a spectacular touchdown catch on a vertical route where he had to adjust in the end zone and lay out to make the reception.

Most difficult to defend

Autauga (Ala.) Autauga Academy tight end O.J. Howard

Howard was nearly impossible for any team to counter. He is a towering prospect who has the athleticism of a wide receiver and the size of a tight end. He can stretch the field vertically and get a step on defensive backs or fight for the ball in traffic. He does a great job of getting his hands on the ball and snatching it away from defenders. A scary combination of size and speed that will help open up any college offense.

Best move in the open field

Middletown (Ohio) wide receiver Jalin Marshall

Marshall caught a 5-yard in-pattern where the cornerback had a good angle on him and was on him when he made the catch but the talented receiver shook him and sprinted away from the defense for a touchdown. Another prospect who grabbed the attention of the crowd with a move in the open field was Greg Bryant, who froze the defender and quickly juked to his right for additional yardage.

Best after the catch

Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside running back Taquan Mizzell

Mizzell had a number of examples where he took short passes in the open field and shot up the field for additional yardage. He is quick to turn upfield and has an extra gear after securing the ball. He also has the vision and wiggle to avoid defenders. Tulsa (Okla.) East Central cornerback Stanvon Taylor also did a good job of extending plays after the reception. Taylor flashed his speed when he got behind talented cornerback Jalen Ramsey of Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy, a rare sight on the day.

Best on the bomb

Sealy (Texas) wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones

Against the Southeast team, the big wide receiver showed that he is a big threat deep down the field. He had three catches where he was able to get behind the safety and, when his quarterback put it over the top, he was able to come down with it.

Best Interception

Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech cornerback Jourdan Lewis

In one of the first plays of the day, Lewis made Whitewright (Texas) quarterback Tyrone Swoopes his victim. It was a go-route down the sideline and Swoopes threw it to the outside shoulder of the receiver. Lewis showed his great closing speed and got in front of the receiver getting his hands between him and the ball securing the interception. It was a highlight-worthy play. Another nice interception on the day came from Auburn (Ala.) linebacker Reuben Foster, who kept a deflected pass off the ground by inches securing the interception while laying out.

Best coverage

Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy cornerback Jalen Ramsey

Ramsey took home MVP honors for his performance on the day and he was definitely deserving with his blanket coverage on the day. He secured three interceptions and numerous pass break-ups through four games. He showed the ability to use his long arms at the line of scrimmage to steer receivers. In routes, he has the ability to turn his hips and run step-for-step. When the ball is put into the air, he goes after it and regularly gets his hands on it. His best showing was in keeping Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek wide receiver Marquez North completely in-check in their matchup.

Top effort

Romoland (Calif.) Heritage cornerback Darius Allensworth

Allensworth put in a great defensive effort for his team early in the day. Allensworth recorded three interceptions in the game. One of them was a case of him jumping the route while another was off of a deflected ball. It was a mark of a strong day for Allensworth, who was part of a West squad that struggled mightily on the day.

Double-duty

Players such as Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln wide receiver Taj Williams, Autauga (Ala.) Autauga Academy tight end O.J. Howard and Olney (Md.) Good Counsel cornerback Kendall Fuller deserve credit for putting in work on both sides of the ball. Some did it because they are incredibly gifted while others filled in due to injuries/fatigue for their teammates. Their teamwork helped both of their squads make the championship game.

Biggest surprise

Clariton (Pa.) wide receiver Tyler Boyd

Boyd had numerous touchdown receptions on the day. His most impressive route on the day was working to the outside where he created separation out of his cuts and gave the quarterback a window to throw to that was nearly indefensible. Despite his slender build on his long frame, he was also willing to do work in the middle of the field in traffic.

Redemption

Whitewright (Texas) quarterback Tyrone Swoopes

Swoopes struggled on Saturday and starting Sunday off on a bad foot, but found redemption for himself as the day wore on and more games were played. He had a number of long connections vertically to Ricky Seals-Jones against the Southeast squad. He also began to throw a more accurate ball, finding receivers all over the field and made smarter decisions, including taking short and intermediate options when he was nearing the sack count.

Underclassmen

Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside safety Quin Blanding

Blanding has a great array of skills including good speed for a bigger defensive back and the instincts to position himself where the play is going. He does a fantastic job of closing in space and making a play on the ball. He is rarely out of position on any play. His skillset is beyond his years. Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate sophomore safety Jalen Tabor was another standout defensive back who made his presence known early and often on Sunday.



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