Rivals.com is counting down the top 10 match-ups we can't wait to watch at the second annual Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour heading into the event at Soldier Field in Chicago. Today, it's Joe Mixon vs. Dillon Bates.
RB Joe Mixon, Oakley (Calif.) Freedom
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LB Dillon Bates, Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Why Mixon has an edge:
Mixon proved at the RCS Los Angeles that he's not just a solid running back who can catch the ball if needed; he can be a legitimate threat in the passing game and is awfully difficult to defend in one-on-one situations. He has the size at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, he's super shifty and athletic for his size and he has an extra gear to separate from linebackers or even defensive backs to catch the ball. Mixon has soft hands and even though he isn't a fantastic route-runner, he finds ways to get open and catch the ball. He won't get pushed off the line or off his route by any linebackers and it will be difficult for any of them to keep up with Mixon once he gets going.
-- Adam Gorney, West recruiting analyst
Why Bates has an edge:
We feel Bates can cover some wideouts without being a liability in coverage, therefore defending Mixon shouldn't be much of a problem. We've seen Bates multiple times this spring and he has been flat-out amazing as a cover linebacker. He is comfortable in space and his route recognition is off the charts. At times it looks like he is running the routes for his opponent and he is always in good position. He doesn't panic when the ball is in the air and gets his head around avoiding any type of pass interference. His instincts are outstanding and his high football IQ should serve him well in this matchup.
-- Kynon Codrington, Southeast recruiting analyst
Usually the running back has the edge in these matchups and Mixon has proven that he can be tough to cover from the backfield, the slot and even outside. However, Bates is arguably the best coverage linebacker in the country due to his work as a safety, great genetics and football IQ and simply the way he doesn't overreact or try too hard to jump routes. It's hard to give an edge to anyone over a five-star running back at an event, especially when it's a linebacker, but in this case I think Bates can get the better of Mixon.
-- Mike Farrell, National recruiting analyst
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