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Garcia's Takeaways: Rivals Camp Series Atlanta impresses with talent, depth

ATLANTA – Prospects from nine different states registered for the 2024 Rivals Camp Series stop in Georgia’s capital city on Sunday, making for a more intense competition setting along with the cool, rainy backdrop at Lakewood Stadium.

It started with the trench talents and the skill prospects carried the event into the afternoon. Rivals.com national recruiting analyst John Garcia Jr. shares five quick takeaways after the latest stop.

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MORE FROM ATLANTA: Position MVPs | Christian Garrett interview | Julian Lewis interview | Darrell Johnson interview | Top performers from the Rivals Combine Series

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WAR EAGLE ON THE INTERIOR

Malik Autry
Malik Autry

One couldn’t miss the Auburn Tiger commitments checking in, with blue-chip defensive line commitment Malik Autry sporting the logo on his jacket despite plenty of other programs trying to make a run at him. Four-star 2026 offensive line commitment Kail Ellis arrived and was quick to shout out ‘War Eagle’ to those around him, sporting an Auburn towel during his strong MVP performance workout.

When it came time to compete, the duo again turned heads at just about every turn. Autry’s immense power and dominant wins were hard to ignore, though he utilized some improved technique and finesse to beat blockers as well. Ellis worked up and down the offensive line, taking reps at center, guard and tackle en route to winning nearly every rep he took. The only defender to slow him was Daverin Geralds, the eventual winner of the Defensive Line MVP award.

Both Autry and Ellis are being courted by other programs going into their senior and junior seasons, respectively. Autry has Florida, UCF, Oregon, USC and others trying to change his mind while Ellis says Florida State continues to pick up steam with him after a recent trip to Tallahassee. Still, moving either off of their Auburn pledge won’t be easy in the end.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH AUBURN FANS AT AUBURNSPORTS.COM

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JULIAN LEWIS DOES WHAT HE DOES

Julian Lewis
Julian Lewis

The No. 1 prospect in the 2025 Rivals250 came into yet another event with all the expectations and pressure and he simply delivered. Julian Lewis, who appears to have added some weight to his frame, spun it through the cold and rainy setting with relative ease, throwing accurate and catchable balls to all three levels. Whether asked to be stationary or pushed to make plays on the move, the USC commitment was on time and sound well more than not.

As the event progressed, Lewis got to show off the arm talent with some wide receivers he is familiar with, working the ball to the third level seemingly with ease. While not known for raw arm strength, Lewis continued to answer more questions about his overall physicality, especially from a mechanics and timing standpoint. It’s like he’s a point guard out there playing distributor to targets, and some even tried to align with him in the one-on-one portion of the event for those reasons.

Lewis is probably set for a big 2024 on the field, but his recruitment may become the more interesting storyline. He is still incredibly coveted coast to coast and touched on the pushes from programs like Colorado, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia despite his solidity to Lincoln Riley and company.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH USC FANS AT TROJANSPORTS.COM

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ERIC WINTERS STEALS THE SHOW

Eric Winters
Eric Winters

Beyond Lewis, there were considerable expectations on the back-seven names on the roster and from the outset of the afternoon session, the linebackers (more on them later) and the secondary players did not disappoint. Head-turning prospects like Faheem Delane, Anquon Fegans, Lagonza Hayward, Shamar Arnoux, Jett White and others littered the field and put in a solid day’s work – but the buzz shifted toward Eric Winters soon after one-on-ones broke out.

Initially, the do-it-all athlete was impressing by contending with smaller players who worked out at wideout considering Winters is projected most consistently at linebacker come college. He just didn’t stop winning, and then it turned into interception after interceptions. It wasn’t just that the big safety came down with the interceptions, it was how he was winning reps against smaller and (we thought) faster types. He was in phase, not over-aggressive with the ball in the air and either cut off or out-jumped intended targets to the football.

Winters edged a great group for Defensive Back MVP honors at more than 200 pounds and later said more SEC programs are coming around on him as a safety projection. After Sunday, Rivals is likely to consider the same.

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LOADED LINEBACKER GROUP

Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis

If not for Lewis and Winters, most of the looking back from Atlanta would have been focused on the linebacker group. From the outset, in drills and certainly on the hoof, this group had a college look about it. Then when competitions began against the running back group, it hit another level. The competitiveness, audible energy and physical play of backing it up – rep after rep – literally drew a crowd that would pay closer attention to the position than most others.

Splitting hairs was an understatement with this group. Four-star Anthony Davis edged out Luke Metz, Quatorius Walker and Darrell Johnson for the Linebacker MVP award, but it was by a thin margin. Davis was the most consistent in coverage to all three levels and he flashed elite quickness as a rusher. Metz worked with the best base and was always in position, showing true balance and range with his wins. Walker stole more reps than any and backed it up with quick twitch and sometimes a too-aggressive motor. Johnson’s length and speed frustrated blockers and pass-catchers alike.

But there were several other ‘backers were flashing on their own along the way. Chad Fairchild was stout, Tavion Wallace backed up his blue-chip rating, Jaquez Wilkes made some plays, Max Brown showed promise and technique and the list goes on and on. We’ll look back at this linebacker group for quite some time.

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NEW PASS-CATCHERS TO KNOW

Samuel Turner
Samuel Turner

The Atlanta event often draws talent from far and wide and it allowed for lesser-known names to make an impression as the event wore on. It seemed like the most ‘who is that?’ questions were about the pass-catchers despite great talent across the board.

The most impressive from this bunch was easily Samuel Turner of Decatur (Ga.) Southwest Dekalb. The rising-senior, who recently hit double-digit offers, looked like one of the most complete wide receivers at the event. Checking in at 6-foot-1 and just under 200 pounds, Turner had wins at all three levels due to his ability to break at the top of the route and finish with strong hands. There’s a smoothness about him that colleges will continue to covet and it will help him rise up the ranks.

A prospect with even less offers who commanded attention was tight end Brandon Kubay. A Canada native, he worked linebackers and bigger cover players as well as any big body at the event, flashing good long speed and strong hands along the way at nearly 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. His first few offers are coming in but more may be on the way this spring, especially given the modern style he brings to the tight end spot.

Other pass-catchers not yet nationally coveted, yet impressive, included Tristan Payne, Bryce Brown and Julio Santiago, among others.

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